Obedience doesn’t have a very good reputation.
It summons up the idea that we are giving up what we want for what someone else says.
And if you’re anything like me and somewhat of a control freak – obedience to someone else’s will isn’t a particularly attractive idea. I can hardly imagine the fear and the confusion that Mary felt at the Angel’s words.
So often when we read this narrative, we rush past Mary’s questions and confusion to her song of praise. At the beginning of Luke’s account we see however, that Mary is “greatly troubled” when the Angel appears to her. It seems though, that our translation doesn’t really do these words justice – it’s more than troubled – its a deep agitation and unease.
I’m not surprised.
I think I’d be pretty terrified if an Angel came to visit me – and the initial terror comes from just the words she is favoured in God’s eyes before Mary is told she’s going to carry the Creator of the universe.
Both Mary’s troubled nature and her question are answered not with why Mary was the ideal candidate to carry the Son of God, but with the greatness of God.
The favour of God is as much of a calling as the job He gives. As Paula Gooder writes:
“It is truly wonderful to be beloved by God, but with this comes challenges beyond our imaginings.”
When people are chosen by God – there is the weight of the gospel in their calling.
The comfort the Angel offers amidst Mary’s trouble and confusion is not based the specifics of her calling – but that God has chosen her and that He will be with her.
Even with this assurance – I think I’d probably have a few more questions.
How is the Spirit going to make me pregnant?
How are my fiance, my community going to react?
This wasn’t a case of the odd shameful look in the street for an unwed pregnant teenager – the penalty for sex outside of marriage could be death.
And yet Mary’s response is one which not only demonstrates obedience – but faith.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
It’s not blind obedience – it’s a trust in the plans of God.
“Now she is not merely submitting her will but giving her heart joyfully. In the end faith always moves beyond mental assent and duty and will involve the whole self – mind, will, and emotions.”
This isn’t a reluctant agreement to God’s will in the way that I often acquiesce. This is a faith in God and His character that trusts in His goodness in the face of what could look like a dangerous plan.
It astounds me.
The calling God places on Mary’s life – to mother His son – is astounding.
And the call of God still astounds me.
He still calls the most unlikely to bear His word and His message.
And we have Mary’s choice.
But we have a greater assurance.
We can walk the first steps and trust that God will lead us home.
Because God himself walked the journey home through His Son, Jesus.
The question is – what’s our next step?