It is easy to think of Mary as a beatific saint, a luminous figure who is borderline supernatural. To view her this way, however, is to so sensationalize her and disconnect her from reality that we dishonor her place in God’s Word. Mary played a pivotal role in the story of redemption, but not because she was extraordinary.
She was from Nazareth, a tiny town just this side of nowhere. She was a virtuous young woman, a follower of God’s law who was soon to be married. Her fiancé, Joseph, was from the line of King David. While this may sound special, in his day-to-day life he was just a carpenter, not royalty. But he was an honorable and good man, so all signs pointed to Mary having a decent, normal, small-town future raising her family.
When the angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary, everything changed, but she didn’t become a different person. She had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. Gabriel called her “favored woman” and told her she would have a son who would be of the line of David and whose kingdom would have no end. He would be called Jesus.
Mary’s response gives a glimpse into why she “found favor” in the eyes of God (Luke 1:30). She was troubled when Gabriel called her favored one. She asked, “How can this be?” after being told she would be a mother, but not with the doubt and skepticism of her cousin Zechariah when the angel told him his wife would have a son. He was struck dumb for over nine months (vv.19–20). The angel welcomed Mary’s question and answered, explaining that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and something transcendent and miraculous would come about (v.35). When she heard this she did not question further or challenge, she simply replied, “I am the Lord’s servant… May it happen to me as you have said” (v.38).
Mary gave birth to Jesus in the meanest of circumstances: a newborn King sleeping in a feeding trough with shepherds as courtiers. But Mary treasured up those things in her heart (Luke 2:19). She raised her son, the Son of God. She knew His business, and when the time came, she gave Jesus the motherly nudge He needed.
They were at a wedding in Cana, and the wine had run out, meaning the party would be over prematurely. Mary knew her son’s time had come, and she said and did a very motherly thing; she mentioned the problem in passing to Him. When He didn’t promptly act, she then announced to the wedding servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” and walked away (John 2:1–5). She had raised the King, and now she was gently prompting Him to act.
Mary was the mother of the Savior, the mother of her own King. She wasn’t extraordinary, but she trusted in her extraordinary God as His humble servant. You and I are not called to the same remarkable miracle she was, but we are called to follow Mary’s example of humility and faith and to live according to God’s Word.
Written by Barnabas Piper