I get a little nervous every time I read the story of Mary getting the news that she will be the mother of Jesus. It’s a nervous excitement, like when something big is about to happen—and you know it will be hard and nothing will ever be the same again. It is a birth announcement, after all, albeit a birth announcement like no other.
But I also get nervous for another reason. I am sure Mary feels honored to have been chosen for this. Surely there were other women who could have been chosen, but God chose young Mary. I imagine she felt a nervous excitement about a visit from an angel and about being commissioned with such a valuable role. This young woman has been chosen to be the mother of the One who will sit on the throne of David, and He “will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
But even so, trouble is coming.
Mary will almost lose her fiancé. Who’s gonna believe she’s pregnant because of the Holy Spirit—unless they, too, are visited by an angel confirming the incredible? She will have to endure a trek to Bethlehem while expecting, and when she arrives, she’ll give birth to her child in a stable. They will have to flee to Egypt because the government will want to kill Him. And although they’ll escape in time, what mother wouldn’t weep over the death of so many babies, knowing it is because of the child nursing at her breast?
Then she will watch Him grow with wide-eyed wonder, before watching Him maligned, mocked, tortured, and eventually killed as a criminal.
As I write all this down, it dawns on me why I get so nervous when reading this story. Yes, Mary is chosen to do the work of the Lord, but integral to that work is suffering. It is not tangential. The suffering is not merely due to the proximity to suffering. This is a situation where you cannot have one without the other.
Far too often I want to be the one chosen, but I am surprised by, and even miffed about, the suffering involved. I want the position of one who is chosen, redeemed, and a beloved child of God, but I am reticent about the cost. A pound of flesh? My comfort? My life?
I want glory without the cross.
Not only am I unlike Mary, who rejoiced knowing she was stepping out of her front door onto a hard road, but I am also unlike her Son. With each step He took, Jesus chose the cross over the glory He had left behind. When I’m gut-level honest, I know I would have probably asked the angel, “What will this ‘honor’ benefit me?” Thankfully, Mary did not ask that question. And thankfully, Jesus has saved us from the sin from which those questions spring so easily.
Thanks be to God that, because of Jesus, we are able to embrace present suffering knowing the glory that is promised to us.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond