Mary’s Reply

Image from the painting The Annunciation, by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

I have never (to my knowledge) had an angel appear to me to deliver a message from God.  But would you agree with me that it would be a startling experience?  Would you be inclined to believe your own experience, or would you have doubts that what you were experiencing was real?  When the archangel Gabriel appeared to the young Mary – a girl, really – in Nazareth and told her that she was blessed, she wasn’t quite sure what to think.  But Gabriel reassured her not to be afraid, for she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30, NASB).

Gabriel went on to give Mary impossible news – she would become pregnant and give birth to a son, a royal descendant who would rule over Israel forever (v.31-33).  In our nation where leaders are chosen by vote of the people, it is perhaps not uncommon for parents to believe their child may grow up to be President, but the idea that the son of a girl from Nazareth would sit on the throne of David in a kingdom that would not end – unlikely!

In addition to the seeming impossibility of bearing a son who would rule Israel, Mary also finds the science behind this proclamation to be dubious – “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v.34).  So Gabriel delivers another mind-blowing detail – “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the son of God…For nothing will be impossible with God” (v.35,37).

Mary has just been given earth-shattering news.  It is a message that will alter human history.  It is the long-awaited dawn of the redemption of a fallen world.  It is the culmination of the hope of the people of Israel – the prophesied Messiah come to set His people free.  And He is coming through Mary?  It seems…impossible.

What would your response to such a message be?  Would you be eager to believe it?  Would you be inclined to doubt?  Would you perhaps wonder if God couldn’t find someone else?  Or would you dare to dream that what the angel said is possible and welcome your own participation in it?  That’s what Mary did:  “Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word” (v.38).

Now, you and I are not likely ever to receive a message quite like Mary did.  But God has delivered some “impossible” promises to us as well.  My question about our response is the same.  Would we be eager to believe?  Would we be inclined to doubt?  Would we prefer God offered His promise to someone else?  Or would we dare to dream that “nothing will be impossible with God” and reply as Mary did – “May it be done to me according to your word”:

  • “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9) May it be done to me according to your word!
  •  “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). May it be done to me according to your word!
  •  “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God, and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” (Psalm 91:4-6). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (I Corinthians 10:13). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it”  (I Thessalonians 5:23-24). May it be done to me according to your word!

“Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chair

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