Mary had agreed to a monumental task—to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, who, it turns out, was God’s own son. It was a joy and a privilege, but it also was perplexing and sobering. By the very nature of the assignment—carrying a child who had no earthly father—she would either be whispered about or stoned as an adultress. (She was already pledged in marriage to Joseph). The Lord expected a lot of her.
Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46).
It bothered Jesus to see someone placing requirements on people without pitching in to help them succeed. That is not what God is like. And Mary’s story is a perfect example of his care for someone who is “working” for him.
First, he inspired the angel to tell Mary that her elderly cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. It gave Mary the perfect pretext for getting out of town for a few months to process her own miraculous news—and to receive support from someone who would not doubt her story.
When she returned to Nazareth, she had to tell her husband-to-be that she was pregnant. He did not believe her God-is-the-father story, but God intervened in a big way. He sent an angel to Joseph (that’s what it would take, alright) to confirm Mary’s story. (He also had hand-picked the right man to be her husband—one who was willing to stand with her in the privilege and challenge of parenting the Christ.)
Then there were all the individuals God sent to Mary and Joseph with amazing stories of God showing them that their infant child was the Messiah, the Son of God. People like the shepherds and wise men, Simeon and Anna. God knew the chosen couple would need all the confirmation and encouragement they could get when things turned ugly and they had to flee to Egypt.
They were on their own for several years—a young couple far from home with a child to protect and teach, but that was part of God’s protection too. In Bethlehem and in Egypt, no one knew Mary had been pregnant before marrying Joseph.
When they returned from Egypt, they tried to settle again in Bethlehem, but the political situation was too dangerous. They had to return home to Nazareth. Bummer. Back to the gossip and hostility. But, no—the last anyone from home had heard of Joseph, Mary, and their child was that they had been in Bethlehem during Herod’s massacre of young children there. When they suddenly appeared back home, the townsfolk’s relief and rejoicing no doubt drowned out most of their disapproval.
Then there was one more circumstance that would have vindicated Mary in her neighbors’ eyes. Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Ah! Folks thought well of Mary’s son. That made her look very good.
There’s a touching picture in Isaiah 40:11 :
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
God gave Mary a special child. And he himself gently led her through the hardships of being his mother.
Making It Personal
• What assignment has God given you? Expect him to pull strings for you; to guide, protect, encourage, and enable you all the way. He’s not like those who weigh people down and then don’t lift a finger to help carry the load.