And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. – Luke 1:38
Imagine you’re a young Jewish woman between the ages of 14-16. You’re engaged to be married to a man named Joseph who is a god fearing man of noble character. As the day draws nearer your mind begins to wander to the adventure that this new chapter will hold. But then the most unexpected thing happens, an angel appears and delivers a message that changes everything. The angel Gabriel says to you:
“Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” – Luke 1:30-33
What? Did this angel really just say that you are going to become pregnant and give birth to the Messiah? As you can imagine, Mary is in a state of confusion. How is this even possible, she’s a virgin and not married. Here is where this story takes a dramatic turn, the Angel Gabriel tells her that a miracle is going to take place. Mary will become pregnant without any sexual relations with a man because the Holy Spirit will supernaturally cause her to be pregnant.
While all this seems astounding (and it is), have we ever stopped and just processed what this would mean for Mary? Sadly, in our culture, today teen pregnancy is so common that no one bats an eye, but that wasn’t the case back then.
Mary would need to tell Joseph. Would he believe her or think she had run around on him behind his back? Would he divorce her? Would he report her? We do know that Joseph did, in fact, consider divorcing her (Matt 1:19) but by God’s intervention he did not. Would Mary tell her parents? Would they believe her? Would this bring shame upon her family name? What about all her friends and the people in the community? According to Jewish law, adultery was punishable by death!
“If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” – Deuteronomy 22:23-24
As great an honor as this will be, do not miss that it comes at great cost.
So how does this young woman respond to the angel Gabriel?
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38
With that profession, everything that Mary had ever hoped for or dreamed about died. With that profession, Mary quietly submitted to the sovereign hand of God, even though she had no idea what that would mean for her future.
Every time I read this passage I am left in awe at the faith of this young woman. She doesn’t question. She doesn’t complain. She doesn’t express fear or concern. She simply trusts God and submits to His word.
How about you and me? When God brings about a thing in our lives that throws off our hopes, dreams, and desires, do we like Mary say, ““Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” In the face of potential suffering and alienation because of what God is doing, do we step back and ask “Why God?” Or do we say, ““Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
Mary saw herself as a slave of God. Slaves are consumed with one thing, doing the will of their master. We are also slaves of God (Roman 6:22). God is our master and He’s a good master but that doesn’t mean that He will not command us to walk paths wrought with difficulty and suffering. Mary humbly submitted to the will of God and was blessed to give birth to the Messiah.
As that old hymn by John H. Sammis reads:
Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.