Summary: A look at Mary from the view point of her as a woman of faith.
THE KIND OF FAITH THAT ACCOMPLISHES GOD’S PLAN
Through out church history Mary, the mother of Jesus, has not been given her proper place. Some want to make her divine and thus take away her human nature which belittles her great accomplishment. Some Protestants have over reacted and want to ignore Mary. But we should not criticize or insult Mary. Her being worshiped and made an idol is not in any way her fault. Yet God chose her for a great and significant event in redemption history, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. In spite of human fears and struggles, Mary successfully accomplished this special calling of God. Humble Mary’s wondrous faith in her God can teach us powerful lessons, if we will learn from her.
Today, I will not attempt to explain why Mary was chosen for this great work but rather I want to share with you why the incarnation could be experienced through Mary (CIT). I want to draw your attention to the faith of Mary. It is a faith that brings forth the accomplishment of God’s plan (CIM). It is a faith that God’s faithful are called to experience also.
First it is:
I. A FAITH THAT RESPONDS TO GOD’S BLESSINGS WITH HUMILITY (28-29).
God again takes the initiative and sends Gabriel with His message (v. 26). The angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary (v. 27) and greeted her in verse 28; "Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee." Mary was "greatly troubled at the saying, and wondered what manner of greeting this might be." From the words of Gabriel in v.30, we learn that Mary’s initial respond is one of fear.
Why does Mary have such a response? Is it because she is afraid of being a virgin as she is, being unmarried but engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David, yet going to conceived and give birth to Jesus, the Son of God? This seems to be a legitimate explanation of her troubled-heartedness and fear. In that culture the engagement period was regarded as a definite promise of mutual fidelity and its violation was looked upon as adultery. However, when we study the text with care, I don’t think this can be an acceptable explanation. For Mary still did not know what God is going to do on her by that time. Her response in verse 29 is, "she kept pondering in her mind what manner of salutation this was." It is a clear indication that she doesn’t know what Gabriel’s greeting means.
[Another explanation is given by Roman Catholics. They teach that Mary’s response is due to her being divinely elected by God, that she is "full of favor" that she will be able to "confer favor," and that she will be "a fountain to dispense" grace. I agree that Mary is agitated by the words of the angel because she feels that such greeting is not suited to her. But her feeling of the unsuitability of the greeting to her is absolutely not due to the "divine election of God" that she will be the source to "confer favor" or the "fountain to dispense" grace. For no evidence exists in the scriptures that Mary is so elected. I think the misinterpretation of the verse is due to the ambiguous translation of the Vulgate, rendering "highly favored" as "gratiae plena" (which means "full of grace").
The Catholic Mariology must be rejected, because:
(1) The original Greek language of this verse does not have this meaning.
(2) "The Lord is with you" in v.28 is a further indication that Mary is just a vessel to receive, not a fountain to dispense.
(3) Mary, throughout her life, never acted as a person to "confer favor".
(4) The Apostolic church has never regarded Mary as a "fountain to dispense" or a "person to confer favor."]
Mary is perplexed or greatly troubled by the words of the angel because she feels that such greeting is not suited to her. But to what reason does Mary feel that the angel’s greeting is not suited to her? It is simply because Mary realized her unworthiness, her low estate, she also realized that she is just a "slave-maid"(v.48) of God, though God still regarded her and chose her. The faith she has is a faith of fear and humility.
This attitude is one that all of us should have toward the grace of God. The Psalmist (8:4) says, "What is man that You take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?" We need this realization as we accept the Lord’s call also. A realization and acceptance of fear that we’ll not be able to accomplish our Lord’s divine plan, and that we’ll not be able to glorify His name. This fear necessarily drives us to a total dedication to Him and to the work He has chosen us to do. This fear is also necessary to keep us from being lazy, wordily, or immoral. The humility and fear of Mary drives her to keep on abiding in the Lord, that is why "the Lord is with her" all the time (v. 28).