The greatest thing in all of life is knowing, loving and serving God.
The most amazing thing in life is that God uses any of us with all of our weaknesses and struggles.
With those two thoughts in mind, on this Mother's Day, consider that Mary was offered one of the biggest jobs in the world. As we open to Luke 1:28, ponder this question with me:
When God Picked A Woman to Raise His Son, What Did He Look For?
Mary was chosen as one among all, no one else was ever chosen, or could be, to bear and raise God's Son.
When God picked one woman out of all of history, and out of all women who ever walked on Earth; why did He pick Mary to raise His Son? What did He look for?
We assuredly know that God did not pick Mary because she was a perfect woman, because there has never been a perfect woman that ever lived since all of mankind fell into sin. That is the bottom line of the Scriptures.
No human, male or female that has ever lived, has been sinless and perfect, other than Jesus Christ, and Adam and Eve before they sinned. So there are no perfect men or women; but there are those like Mary, who desire to respond to what God wants for them to do, and those men and women became greatly blessed and incredibly used.
Before we plunge into what prompted God to use Mary, may I remind you of those who God has also chosen to use, imperfect though they were?
Some of the Servants God Chooses to Use
Think of how God used His team of servants as recorded in the Bible:
- God chose Adam and Eve to start all of humanity, and yet they couldn't even obey the one and only rule God gave them.
- Then there was Noah who had to save the whole world from extinction, and he did. Then he hit a low point in his life, when his son found him completely intoxicated in his tent.
- Then there is Abraham, who is called the Father of the faithful, yet as God gave him 10 specific tests of his faith recorded in Genesis, he failed more than half of them.
- His grandson Jacob, the Father of the tribes of Israel, was a deceiver and a liar.
- Gideon needed signs and confirmations after God promised him the victory.
- Samson was a hero of faith, yet he was overcome by his own wandering eyes and desires, until God allowed those eyes to be put out. Then Samson got his real sight and ended, by faith, doing what God called him to do.
- Samuel the Prophet had wayward children, yet God made him a great servant.
- Then there is David who broke all 10 Commandments in his sin with Bathsheba, and as far as we know, never closely parented his children. David suffered with depression, despair, doubts and fears. Yet, God loved David, poured out His Spirit upon David and even called His Divine Son, who was God in human flesh, the Son of David.
- Solomon was the wisest human that lived yet in his wisdom he neglected to obey what He knew about God for much of his life. After him, come generations of kings that half-heartedly, at times, follow the God they represented.
- We also find that even many of the prophets are a mess: we have a depressed and ready to die Elijah, a weeping Jeremiah and an AWOL Jonah among the group that God chose to speak through.
- By the time we get to the New Testament, we see God using the doubting father of John the Baptist, and several hot-tempered fishermen who wanted to call down fire from Heaven on those who wouldn't respond.
- Then there is Peter, the Apostle who spoke so often before he thought; and often made overconfident statements. At one of the neediest times of our Lord Jesus Christ's life, Peter denied Him more blatantly, more publicly and more decidedly than any other recorded servant of the Lord has ever dreamed of doing. Yet Peter was a greatly blessed, honored and used servant.
- Doubting Thomas, Mark the Quitter, and on we could go to the end of the Scriptures. All are weak individuals that God chose to use.
God has amazing patience, He is willing to forgive and often sees things in people, like "righteous Lot", that we would never see apart from His Divine insights.
That brings us back to the question:
What Does God Look for in His Servants
We know the answer to that question as far as Mary's life is concerned, because God, in His Word left a record - an account both of what He wanted and what Mary was willing to be like.
As we look at Mary's life and analyze why God chose to use her, we see that there is a similar quality in her life that we find in each life God uses. Paul probably sums it up best when he looked back at his own unlikelihood to ever be chosen and used by God. Paul said that when God called him he was not disobedient to that call.
Mary was called, but Mary chose to respond, to obey what God DESIRED for her. The key to serving God is WANTING to do what He says. That is the essence of what each of us must consider down deep in our hearts: do we desire with all our hearts to serve God with our lives?
We may fail, we may slip, we may stray, but at the deepest level of our hearts, we want to DO what pleases Him. Pleasing God means serving God.
When God found Mary what do we see about her? There are several pairs of words that describe Mary as she was, but we could summarize all that the Bible records about Mary by saying:
- Mary was Greatly Honored, but Stayed Humble.
- Mary Questioned the Plan, but Still Obeyed.
- Mary was Hurt and Slighted Many Times, but Went On.
- Mary was Rebuked, but Stayed Submissive.
- Mary was Misunderstood, but Never Quit.
Now look at these elements of Mary's life that made her so useful to God. These are the elements God still desires in each of us!
1. Mary was Greatly Honored But stayed Humble
The angel said it all, he said that Mary was blessed and highly favored, and she was.
Luke 1:28-33 (NKJV) "And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
Mary became the one mother in whom the very Son of God would live INSIDE her body; and after His birth, she would be able to know Him, walk around and talk to Him and always know Him in a very personal and intimate way. That was what it meant to be the mother of God's Son.
But on the other hand, apart from the physical birth and the raising of Jesus, every other believer who has ever lived also has had the privilege to have God the Son actually live within them also!
So, once again, remember that other than the 40 weeks of the physical birth process, and the actual child rearing and feeding and so on, EVERYTHING else that Mary experienced is available to any man, woman or child today.
But the lesson of her life is that despite being the only woman in the world chosen by God to raise His Son, she stays humble as we'll see.
God always uses servants that stay humble no matter how He blesses them.
2. Mary Questioned the Plan But still Obeyed
Look onward at Luke 1:34. When the Angel from the Face of God named Gabriel, told Mary what God said, she did not drop to her knees and say whatever you say is fine.
Instead she asked: "How can this work, what do you mean, what is God's plan?"
That willingness to listen, consider and then by faith step out and obey is really the key to all that Mary was blessed with, and equally what each of us today can also decide we will do in our walk with the Lord.
Luke 1:34-37 (NKJV) "Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" 35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible."
Notice Mary's response. Even after being sought out and given such an amazing message, humble Mary has airs, no pride, just a humbly troubled heart, that anyone would even say such a thing. Mary knew her own heart, she was nothing and was not worthy to be so greatly blessed by God.
God always uses servants that sincerely seek to understand what He wants, and even when they struggle to know how God could do what He said, when they just obey, He uses them!
Now turn back with me to Matthew 1, where we can see that:
3. Mary was Hurt and Slighted Many Times But Went On
Mary was nearly rejected by Joseph, as Matthew 1:19 explains:
Matthew 1:19 (NKJV) "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly."
But even after that hard start, it never went away. The Gospels record that Mary was rejected by her own people and nation; and for more than thirty years they considered her defiled, deceptive and sinful. Yet she went on, stood at the Cross, felt the sword pierce (Luke 2:25) her mother's soul, while watching her very own flesh and blood suffer.
But even after all that hurt, there was more that could have wounded her. Yet we see no sign that she allowed it to. Take for example the way that others get the spotlight in the ministry of Jesus, and not Mary.
It was not Mary the Mother of Jesus that was singled out as sacrificially following Jesus and supporting Him financially in His ministry.
Luke 8:1-3 "Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, 2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities-Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance."
Mary was carefully provided for by Jesus, but never elevated.
John 19:25-27 (NKJV) "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" 27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home."
It is not Mary Mother of Jesus, but Mary Magdalene, that God chose to be the first witness of Christ's Empty Tomb, and first to see and touch the Risen Christ.
John 20:1-2, 11-18 (NKJV) "Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." 11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, "Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'" 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her."
Can you imagine if Mary had any kind of attitude about her position, or her special rights, or that she had some type of special standing? This would have been such a blow to her, but Mary didn't have those attitudes. From the start, when the angel spoke to her, Mary said she was the servant of God. That choice carried her through these very critical times of transition.
No, she went through others upstaging, outdoing and surpassing her. Yet she stays on simply doing whatever the Lord wanted her to do. Yes, a sword pierced through her own soul, but it never crippled her nor infected her with bitterness.
When we do see Mary, it is always in the right places. After the Cross, even though she was not the star, she is at the prayer meeting (Acts 1:14). She wanted to stay in step with the Spirit, and follow the plan that her Lord and Master Jesus Christ had laid out for His Church. She was just a part of that Church.
Mary went on from that prayer meeting, to never be unusually honored in the Scriptures as anything but just a normal servant of God, to the end of her days. As the Gospel writers began to record the Life of Christ in the years that followed, it was never Mary that stood out. She was just there, in the background, doing her job she was called to do.
Mary was loved, but Mary Magdalene gets far more press and spotlight among the women of Christ's life, than His own mom ever did. That was okay.
Mary could be hurt by criticism, she could be pierced by pain, she could even be less than the star in the drama of redemption-and that was okay! She just went on going to church, serving the Lord and doing what all of us were called to do: finish well.
God is pleased to use servants that let the Lord Jesus Christ get all the glory, honor and credit for their lives.
Now open with me to John 2 where we see that:
4. Mary was Rebuked But Stayed Submissive
As we comb the Gospel record for the life of Mary, we find that twice it is recorded that Mary overstepped her boundary as a mom. She was not a director of Christ's life, nor even chief counsel and guide, she was just a specially obedient believer that God chose to use.
Once Mary wanted Jesus to do a miracle, and as He clearly told her in John 2, He was directed by His Father in Heaven not His Mother!
John 2:1-5 (NKJV) "On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." 4 Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
Mary was gently put in her place. The lesson she needed was that Jesus was not to be told what to do, she had no special access to His powers. Jesus gave the lesson, Mary understood. She tells the servants just do what He says not what I want Him to do it. That is such a submissive heart.
As we turn back to Matthew 12, Mary needed another lesson, this time not about who can direct Christ's power, this time about who gets to be closest to Jesus. Who can get into His inner circle? We see this when she stood outside with the other kids when the crowds were murmuring about Christ's behavior.
Mary sent word into the packed meeting Jesus was leading, and tried to get Jesus to come out and let her help Him see what was going on: Jesus again clearly said that all believers have as close an access to Him as Mary. She was not greater, higher or closer than ANY one of us willing to obey and follow Christ today.
Matthew 12:46-50 (NKJV) "While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You." 48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."
This same event is onward in Mark 3:
Mark 3:28-34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation"- 30 because they said, "He has an unclean spirit." 31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You." 33 But He answered them, saying, "Who is My mother, or My brothers?" 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother."
And again in Luke 8:
Luke 8:19-21 (NKJV) "Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was told Him by some, who said, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You." 21 But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."
Mary was taught, she understood and for the rest of her life recorded in Scriptures; she knew she was just a special servant God chose, and nothing else.
God is pleased to use servants that allow Him to correct, refine and discipline as needed; and God is pleased when we submit to His instruction.
5. Mary was Misunderstood But Never Quit
Mary was thought to have been an unwed mom, the mother of a demonized son. Can you imagine having that tagged on you for life? Yet that is what Mary faced.
We don't know much about the early years, but after Jesus became popular and was known around the Land, the evil reports about Mary's Son became very widespread. Look at John 8 for a moment.
Near the end of His ministry, just weeks before the Cross: listen to what people still said in public about Mary's Son.
John 8:41-48 (NKJV) "You do the deeds of your father." Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father-God." 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God." 48 Then the Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?"
John 9:27-29 (NKJV) "27 He answered them, "I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?" 28 Then they reviled him and said, "You are His disciple, but we are Moses' disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from."
John 10:19-21 (NKJV) "Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, "He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?" 21 Others said, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"
Mary went through over 30 years of criticism, rumors, gossip, and slander, yet she plodded on though, her whole life, people rejected who she had been in God's plan.
God is pleased to use servants who are misunderstood for what they do for Him, falsely criticized and even slandered: yet they just go on faithfully serving Him.
Mary's Lessons To Us
When God found Mary what do we see about her? There are several pairs of words that describe Mary as she was, but we could summarize all that the Bible records about Mary by saying:
- Mary was Greatly Honored But stayed Humble: God always uses servants that stay humble no matter how He blesses them.
- Mary Questioned the Plan But still Obeyed: God always uses servants that sincerely seek to understand what He wants, and even when they struggle to know how God could do what He said, when they jut obey, He uses them!
- Mary was Hurt and Slighted Many Times, But Went On: God is pleased to use servants that let the Lord Jesus Christ get all the glory, honor, and credit for their lives.
- Mary was Rebuked But stayed Submissive: God is pleased to use servants that allow Him to correct, refine, and discipline as needed; and God is pleased when we submit to His instruction.
- Mary was Misunderstood But Never Quit: God is pleased to use servants who are misunderstood for what they do for Him, falsely criticized and even slandered: yet they just go on faithfully serving Him.