And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall name Him Jesus ~Luke 1:30-31
In order to fully appreciate this scripture and what it meant to Mary, we need to dig a little deeper and look at the all of the surrounding circumstances of that time. In Biblical times, Jewish authorities determined that marriages could take place when a boy was thirteen years old and a girl as young as twelve. Often parents arranged marriages and typically a boys parents would select their sons bride, not just based on if they thought they would be compatible, but also how well they thought of her family. This would hopefully ensure a successful marriage and family relationship.
Once the parents agreed on a marriage the young man and young girl would become betrothed. A betrothal was stronger than what we now refer to as an engagement. To break a betrothal you had to actually go through a divorce. A betrothal contract was as binding as a marriage. To be granted a divorce (or to break your betrothal contract) the husband was the only one who could be granted that privilege. If the husband (or the betrothed young man) died that was the only way a wife (or betrothed young girl) could be relieved of her legal marriage commitment.
Another fact was that the young girl had to be a virgin on the actual wedding night. A betrothal contract did not give permission for premarital sex. While there is nothing new under the sun and things that are going on today were certainly going on in Biblical times, there was more priority placed on waiting until marriage and the value of what the covenant of marriage meant between two people.
We know that Mary and Joseph's family must have agreed upon their betrothal and marriage. And even though the Bible doesn't tell us the exact age of Mary and Joseph, we can assume that they were in the age range of twelve to thirteen, as was the custom in their day.
We also know that Mary (according to Luke 1:38) was considered a bondslave of the Lord. The Greek word for bondslave (doulous) speaks of one who serves with disregard of her own interests. We also know Mary was raised in a home that served God and her parents must have taught her scripture, because in Luke 1:46-56, Mary is quoting fifteen discernible quotations from the Old Testament. This could only be possible if she was familiar with Gods word.
As we put these pieces together you begin to see the incredible faith Mary had to have when the angel told her she would become pregnant and have a son. The only question she asks is, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" She never once argued with the angel, asking what will my family think of me? What will Joseph or his family think? According to that time frame and culture women who were pregnant before the marriage ceremony were shunned and considered an outcast by the town and even family members. The groom and the bride were looked down upon. Mary also knew that Joesph would know it was impossible for him to be the father since they had not had sex. The consequence for a betrothed woman getting caught with another man or becoming pregnant by another man, the betrothed husband could have her stoned to death or give her a divorce.
Mary never seems to consider another option; she could have simply told everyone she was raped. The custom in those days was if a woman was raped and became pregnant the towns people, as well as family, would then come around and support her without question.
Mary's faith was so strong and bold that when the angel answered her only question, saying that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called, "the Son of God" and then the angel reminds Mary, that nothing is impossible with God, Mary responds with an absolute acceptance saying, "If it's Gods will, may it be".
Mary never wavers in her faith not even when Joseph, not wanting to have her stoned, considered discreetly divorcing her, that is until an angel appeared to him in a dream. The angel told him not to be afraid and to take Mary as his wife, and that the child within her was conceived through the Holy Spirit. After this, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him to do and he kept her as a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus.
Mary and Joseph's faith remained strong and they never wavered, questioned, or doubted God's purpose and plan for their life. I pray that I can attain the same faith as Mary, even within my day to day life and especially when I am faced with challenges or difficulties.
The top five lessons we can take away from Mary's faith
- Live a life worthy of Christ (like a bondslave of God)
- If you were not (or are not) in a home that has given you a foundation of faith it's never too late to start today
- Make reading the Bible a priority in your life
- Believe with all your heart that God's word is truth
- Be willing to stand up and be bold for your faith even when everything around you seems to be in question
One day at a time, One moment at a time, There is always HOPE!