Saturday, January 23, 2016

Triplets of Testing: Mary, Mother of Jesus


Even before Jesus is born, Scripture illuminates the character of His mother Mary by showing her response to three challenges: would she accept God’s mission to carry His Son; would she praise God even in times of uncertainty, and how would she react to frightening circumstances?

As we have seen previously, Mary, handmaiden of the Lord, willingly submitted to God’s plan for her to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bear God’s Son, and to call Him Jesus, acknowledging that He was the promised Messiah Who would save His people from their sins  (Luke 1:31,35,38).

In retrospect, we can appreciate this as a spectacular, unique, and unprecedented blessing, because she would be the mother of the One Who would be great, the Son of the Highest, and the eternal Ruler on the throne of David, reigning over the house of Jacob and His everlasting Kingdom (Luke 1:32-33).

Yet often we understand God’s purpose behind our greatest trials (Romans 8:28) only in retrospect, if at all (Job 2:3.6). Most young girls in that setting, if  presented with such an amazing opportunity, would decline the offer, fail to believe its meaning, and run away in fear, and with good reason. Unwed pregnancy would likely result in rejection by the betrothed (Matthew 1:18-19), ostracism by the community, and even death by stoning (John 8:4-5).

In contrast, Mary committed to God’s intentions, believed His revelations, and followed His instructions. As soon as the angel Gabriel left her with God’s astounding news, Mary traveled to visit her cousin Elisabeth, whom Gabriel had told her was miraculously pregnant in her old age with John the Baptist (Luke 1:36-40).

Mary’s journey to Juda, where Elisabeth lived (Luke 1:39-40), must have been difficult, dangerous and frightening for a young woman who was pregnant, unwed, and alone. The distance of approximately 80 miles through the hill country (Luke 1:39) would have taken about a week, even on a donkey or camel, and every bump on the rocky road would have aggravated morning sickness.

But when Mary arrived at her cousin’s, did she complain about her uncomfortable trip, her compromising situation, or her lingering doubts, as many of us do with far less provocation? Did she demand rest, refreshment, or food after her long journey? Did she respond pridefully when Elizabeth called her blessed among women, the mother of her Lord, and the faith-filled recipient of God’s promises? (Luke 1:42-45)

No, Mary’s first words spoken to her cousin were a song of faith, praise, and worship to God (Luke 1:46-55). For three months, Mary stayed with Elizabeth, most likely serving her older relative who was already six months pregnant when Mary arrived, and rejoicing with her when John was born (Luke 1:36,-56-58).

Then came the second of three arduous journeys between the time Gabriel appeared to Mary and the time Jesus was born. Mary had to return to her house in Nazareth (Luke 1:56), still alone, but now three months pregnant and possibly starting to show that she was an unwed mother.

The third of these journeys was when Joseph traveled with her to the city of Bethlehem, as mandated by Caesar Augustus to tax everyone in his city of origin, thus fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-6).

Now Mary was near term, her pregnancy obvious to everyone, her belly painfully enduring every step of jostling from the donkey, and the uncertainties of travel fueling her fears that she would deliver in the middle of nowhere, with no midwife to help her.

At last, they arrived in Bethlehem, and not a moment too soon, for Mary’s early contractions were most likely beginning. But there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7). Did Mary wonder why God would allow His Son, the promised Messiah and King, to enter the world in such poor conditions? Why would Jesus be born in a stable crowded with animals instead of a warm room, laid in a manger filled with scratchy hay instead of a comfy crib, and wrapped in grave clothes?

But Mary’s humility, faith in God, and willingness to follow His perfect plan (Jeremiah 29:11; Proverbs 3:5-6) must have helped her to undergo this time of testing, challenges and tribulation with acceptance, grace, and peace (Philippians 4:7,13; James 4:6; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:5).

May all of us who have trusted God by believing in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) do the same, no matter what trials God allows to cross our path!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Denise! You are a great blessing! God bless you too!
      Laurie

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  2. Dear Laurie,
    Mary is one good example of how faith in God can make any person strong, courageous and unafraid - especially as an unwed mother-to-be who could have been stoned to death by Joseph and his family, with the full sanction of the Levitical priests.
    As for her first journey to Elizabeth's home, whether she traveled on her own or with a couple of accomplices to help keep her safe on her journey, the Bible does not say. But assuming that Joseph had already received the revelation of her pregnancy by the Holy Spirit, and encouraged in his dream to marry her, it seems odd that he allowed her to travel for a week through the desert without anyone with her to ensure her safety. On the other hand, if Joseph was still unaware of her condition, then I believe that she might have journeyed on her own, but that would still seem odd if she was already betrothed to him, who would have been naturally concerned for her personal safety.
    That is why I prefer the idea that she traveled accompanied by at least one other person, but more likely two, who stood by and watched the two women greet each other as recorded by Luke. Just my thoughts.
    Again, a well-written triune-based blog. God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      Great discussion of whether or not Mary traveled alone -- as you rightly point out, the Bible does not specify. But one thing we know for sure -- God was with His handmaiden every step of the way, for He will never leave nor forsake us.
      Thanks as always for your instructive and encouraging comments. God bless,
      Laurie

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  3. Both Mary and Joseph exhibit a tremendous amount of faith, to believe God would miraculously provide a child against all normal processes, and follow what he said. Only God could give them such faith.

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    1. Amen! With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.
      Thanks as always for your comment & God bless,
      Laurie

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