The Lord's Servant
“Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
I have read Mary’s statement many times as part of the Christmas story, but for some reason this year I am struck with a unique sense of wonder and conviction. I cannot fathom how utterly shocking the news of a divine pregnancy (from the angel Gabriel no less) was to a young, engaged Jewish girl. I say girl because by all accounts she was barely a teenager. Take a moment and try to imagine what it was like to be Mary. Guys, play along!
Mary was at home, probably in the evening. All of a sudden the angel Gabriel appears and says, “Greetings, favored one. The Lord is with you!” No wonder the Bible said she was confused and disturbed. I mean, angels were not known for making house visits! It was obvious she was fearful because the next thing out of Gabriel’s mouth was, “Don’t be afraid, Mary.” He reassured her; everything was going to be okay for she had found favor with God. If that wasn’t shocking enough, consider the impact of the next words from Gabriel.
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be 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!”
Had I been Mary, I probably would have passed out, but Mary kept her wits about her. It was obvious she was receptive, but she didn’t quite understand. “How can this happen? I am a virgin.” Her response intrigues me. Mary could have doubted Gabriel’s message like her relative, Zacharias. She could have laughed at the thought like Sarah. But she didn’t. Instead, she sincerely accepted the message.
Her question was simply one of curiosity; she just wanted to know how it was all going to take place. As I reflected on this interchange between Mary and Gabriel, it occurred to me that God did not have to explain anything to Mary at this point. However, I personally feel this is another example of His goodness and grace. He knew Mary’s heart, and he did not hesitate to answer her question.
“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 born holy, and he will be called the Son of God……For the word of God will never fail.” (Luke 1:35-37)
This proclamation sounds so mysterious to me. I wonder if Mary had the same thought. In Old Testament times under the Old Covenant Law, the relationship with God was performance based. Because no one was perfect like Jesus, the Holy Spirit rested upon people for limited amounts of time. Under the New Covenant Grace brought by Jesus Christ, we receive the permanent residence of the Holy Spirit inside us. (John 14:26). Given Mary’s upbringing, I feel certain she knew about the Holy Spirit as it is referenced often in the Old Testament; however, to experience the Holy Spirit “come upon” a person was altogether different. Not only would she experience the Holy Spirit resting on her, but the Amplified Bible says the power of the Most High would overshadow her like a cloud and, as a result, she would give birth to a pure, sinless child called the Son of God.
Can you imagine receiving a message like this? Could Mary have possibly understood? Regardless, her faith was revealed in her response: “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.”
Let that soak in for a moment. Mary’s words are profound. She was given an incomprehensible purpose for her life, and her response was simple acceptance and obedience. No wonder Mary had found favor with God.
As I mentioned earlier, when I read this familiar verse I was struck with wonder AND conviction. The wonder part—the angel, the message, the response of a young girl. The conviction—the response of a young girl.
While we don’t typically receive messages and declarations from angels these days (although I still believe God can deliver messages however He chooses), we do hear from God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus clearly explains in John 14 that the Holy Spirit lives in believers—helping, teaching, and guiding. This often happens as we draw near to Him through His Word and prayer. When God speaks His truth, His direction, His declarations to us, will we say, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be done to me according to your word,” or will we question, doubt, laugh in unbelief, and/or ignore His voice?
Just imagine what Mary would have missed out on had she responded to the angel in any other way. While being Jesus’ mother yielded pain and suffering, I have no doubt Mary felt honored to fulfill God’s calling on her life and was blessed for her obedience.
What is God calling you to do today? Sometimes God asks us to do a simple task. Other times the request may be life changing. It is at that moment we have a choice. Will we respond in complete trust and simple obedience as Mary did?
As Christian educators, are we willing to say, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be done to me according to your word”? God’s blessing awaits you and those around you. It may not be easy. We may experience trials like Mary, but God will use our obedience to accomplish great things. As Christmas approaches, I pray Mary’s example will serve as a powerful reminder of what can happen when we simply say, "I am the Lord’s servant; may it be done to me according to your word.”