Hollywood has produced movies about Moses, Noah, and of course, Jesus, but the movie I would like to see is the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Bible doesn’t give us many details about Mary’s life outside of her role in Jesus’ birth and her presence at his death. She was poor, young female—all characteristics that, to the people of her day, would make her unusable by God for any major task. But, as the study notes of the Life Application Study Bible (New Living Translation) indicate, “God chose Mary for one of the most important acts of obedience he has ever demanded of anyone.”
As you read the story of how the angel Gabriel approached Mary, note Mary’s response. Does she laugh, as Sarah did in the Old Testament when told she would have a child? No. Does she doubt, as Zechariah did when told his wife Elizabeth would have a child? No. She asks basic questions and accepts the answers.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Could Mary have possibly known—as a young girl—what difficulties she would probably be facing? As the study note to this story indicates, “A young unmarried girl who became pregnant risked disaster. Unless the father of the child agreed to marry her, she would probably remain unmarried for life. If her own father rejected her, she could be forced into begging or prostitution to survive. And Mary, with her story about becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit, risked being considered crazy as well.”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Does Mary tell the angel she would like to talk it over with Joseph first? No. Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
Isn’t Mary’s response absolutely amazing? No laughter. No doubt. No uncertainty. Mary simply says yes.
I often wonder why the Bible doesn’t give us details about Mary’s pregnancy or her raising of Jesus. The Hollywood-ized part of me would love to see Jesus working in the carpenter’s shop with Joseph or see Mary putting him to bed. What were their mealtime or bedtime prayers like, given the fact Jesus was talking to his own Father? How did other women regard Mary when she was at the market with a gangly teenage Jesus? We, of course, catch a glimpse of Mary’s parenting role when Jesus is twelve and spends three days in the temple while Mary and Joseph frantically search for him. She scolds him, saying, “Why have you done this to us?” to which Jesus replies, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49). Jesus’ isn’t being cheeky here. They are his first recorded words in the Bible and are full of spiritual meaning, although Mary and Joseph don’t understand what he means.
I’d like to know Mary’s thoughts during Jesus’ growing years. Did she ever wonder if the events surrounding his birth had been a dream? Or did she wake up every day and think, “I am the mother of the Messiah?!”
Perhaps one day we will learn these details when we ourselves go to be with Jesus, but for now the Bible doesn’t let us see behind the scenes. Mary’s life isn’t for an audience. Like many other characters in the Bible, she slipped from view after fulfilling God’s purpose, and in this regard, is no more important than you or I who are also asked to fulfill God’s purpose on this earth.