I get a little nervous every time I read the story of Mary, standing before the angel, receiving 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 difficult, that 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. While young Mary may have felt honored to have been chosen for such an incredible calling, I imagine she also felt a nervous excitement. After all, she’s been chosen to be the mother of the One who would sit on the throne of David, the One who “will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). But even so, trouble will arise.
In the coming months, Mary will almost lose her fiancé, because let’s be honest, who’s gonna believe she’s pregnant because of the Holy Spirit?—unless they, too, are visited by an angel confirming the incredible? (No worries, God takes care of that, too, [Matthew 1:18–24].) 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 (Luke 2:1–7). They will have to flee to Egypt because the government wants to kill Him (Matthew 2:13–15). And although they’ll escape in time, what mother wouldn’t weep over the death of so many lost babies (Matthew 2:16–18), knowing it is because of the child nursing at her breast?
Then she will watch Him grow with wide-eyed wonder, before watching Him be maligned, mocked, tortured, and eventually killed as a criminal (John 19:25–27).
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. And it is not tangential suffering due to her proximity to Jesus’s suffering. This is a situation where she cannot have one without the other: the joy of mothering Him and the sorrow of watching Him suffer are intertwined.
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 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. Instead, she offered, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Thanks be to God that, because of Jesus, we are able to embrace our present circumstances, knowing that Jesus became the ultimate Suffering Servant who endured the cross for the joy set before Him—our reconciliation to God (Isaiah 53:3–5; Hebrews 12:2). He is our only hope for salvation. We can trust Him and not be afraid (Isaiah 12:2).
Written by Matt Redmond