The Maidservant of the Lord (Luke 1:26-38)
Obedience to God can be very difficult. In Alabama, I knew a sister who gave up her marriage in order to honor God. This fine lady was seeking to do the Lord’s will, and worshiped regularly and tried to honor God, but her marriage was, according to Jesus, adulterous. She had never been taught about marriage, divorce, and remarriage and was truly ignorant about the state of her marriage. The preacher did a sermon from Matthew 19. She responded to the invitation, confessing her sin, and she then did the difficult thing of forsaking that marriage. I’ve always held that sister in the highest esteem.
You know how difficult obedience to God is. When a young kid whips into a parking spot you’ve been patiently waiting for, if you don’t want to lay on the horn and roll the window down and say some ugly things, you’re a better person than I. When someone hurts you deeply and ask for your forgiveness, do you ever want to say, “Get real! I’ll never forgive”? When the collection plate comes around–especially this time of the year with extra expenses–do you ever think, “I just can’t give as much as I’d like today? There are just too many other things”?
Yet, obedience to the Lord is so very important. Saul discovered that when he took spoil from the Amalekites that God had commanded to be destroyed. Saul said that he was headed to sacrifice the spoil to God (I personally have a hard time believing that’s the truth, but it’s what the king said). Samuel told the king: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22). “Having been perfected, [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb 5:9). Without obedience, you cannot be saved.
Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation” to the obedient, and His own mother provides a powerful example of what obedience details. Gabriel comes to her and informs her that she will bear a Son while still a virgin. As you read Luke’s account of that meeting, you quickly discover that this was unnerving news for Mary. Yet, Mary meets that unnerving news with faith and humility and obedience. In Mary we see this truth: “God’s servants obey God’s word regardless of the consequences.”
Scripture (Luke 1:26-38)
God sends Gabriel to Mary. Gabriel stands in the very presence of God (Lk 1:19). The fact that Gabriel stands in God’s presence and that God sent him to Mary tells us that what the angel tells Mary is the word of the Lord.
Mary is a virgin. You know how prominent Mary’s virginity is in this text. Luke wants us to understand that Jesus’ conception was wholly the work of God’s power, not through a sexual relationship.
Gabriel commends Mary: She is highly favored, and she is blessed among women. I’m confident that God highly favored her for her character, her tender heart, and her willingness to obey: The idea that God would allow just any woman to raise His Son is beyond preposterous. She’s blessed among women: Only Mary had the high honor of raising God made flesh.
Mary has no reason to be afraid; the message Gabriel brings is one of good tidings from the very throne of God.
She would bear a special Son.
- His name would be “Jesus.” The name means “God saves.” Only six others were named by God before birth–This shows just how special Mary’s Son is going to be.
- He would be great and be the Son of the Highest. How could He be the Son of the Highest and not be great?
- The Lord God would give Mary’s Son the throne of His father David. God had made that promise to David. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Sam 7:12). Our focus from the text this morning is Mary’s obedience, instead of what Gabriel announces about Jesus. However, the fact that God is keeping His promise to David is very important. Because God keeps His promises, we know that when we obey in difficult circumstances God will be faithful to the promises He has made.
The new king would reign for ever and ever.
Mary doesn’t understand how she can bear a Son when she’s a virgin. I don’t think we should read her words here as doubt. She’s very confused and just doesn’t understand. Haven’t we all received news–good or bad–that takes a little bit to digest because we’re in shock?
The Holy Spirit will overshadow Mary. Her relative Elizabeth, considered barren, was with child. When carrying out His will, nothing will be impossible with God.
Mary, in humble submission, offers herself to be used in God’s service. Notice that she submits to the word of the angel, which is the word of God. We do not obey the word of any man; we seek to obey the word of God.
Think about what Mary’s obedience would cost her:
- Joseph, her husband, planned to divorce her (Matt 1:18-19). He believed, before the angel appeared to him, that Mary had been unfaithful. Who would not have believed the same thing?
- Can you imagine the stares Mary received when she went out in town or to the synagogue? There’s biblical evidence that some thought Mary had acted immorally to conceive Jesus. The Pharisees said to Jesus, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father–God” (Jn 8:41). It’s not absolutely clear, but it’s very possible that the Pharisees were saying that Jesus was born through immorality. That has been a charge leveled against Mary from the beginning. In the early second century, some folks said some rather blasphemous things about Mary. We have writings from Christians the generation immediately following the apostles and they often defend Mary’s honor.
- Mary endured a great deal raising the Messiah. Remember when Jesus was twelve and his family went to the temple? Jesus stayed behind in the Temple to be about His Father’s business. However, Mary was worried to death, and she said to her Son, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously” (Lk 2:48).When Jesus was presented at the Temple, Simeon told Mary: “A sword will pierce through your own soul” (Lk 2:35). I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child, but I seriously doubt that any mother ever suffered more grief and pain than Mary. Mary was at the foot of the cross and saw her Son bleeding from head to toe, in untold agony, naked and ashamed, bearing all the sin of the world.
Obedience is not always easy. Yet, the servant of God must obey God regardless of the consequences.
“God’s servants obey God’s word regardless of the consequences.” How do we go about giving that service to the Lord?
You cultivate an attitude of service.
Mary had a servant’s heart. When Gabriel informs her about how radically her life will change, Mary says, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). She didn’t argue for her “rights.” She didn’t tell Gabriel that she had plans for her life and raising a Baby wasn’t part of that. She didn’t complain. She submitted herself to the will of God.
You need to offer yourself to the Lord as His servant. Mary does that: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord.” God expects that from us. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1). “Since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb 12:28).How can you do that practically?
You need to understand who you are.
Mary had no trouble knowing who she was: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!” You need to understand that you are the creature and God is the Creator. Go to Scripture and read of what God has done and continues to do. See His majestic power in creation, at the crossing of the Red Sea, in the Virgin Birth, in the healing of the sick, and in the resurrection of His Son. You can’t spend time in Scripture and not recognize God’s majesty and glorious power.
If you want further proof of God’s power and your insignificance, go to creation. You can’t gaze at the night sky and not realize how small you are. You can’t stand at Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon and not feel small.
You need to recognize what God has done.
You were created to be the servant of God: “Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all” (Eccl 12:13).God has saved you. Ephesians 2:4-7. If God has saved you from all of your sin, surely you can offer yourself to Him as His servant!
You know the Word of God.
It’s impossible to offer ourselves as God’s servants without knowing His will. Mary offers herself as the maidservant of the Lord after she knows the will of God; remember that Gabriel stands in the presence of God (Lk 1:19); therefore, what he tells Mary is God’s will.
If we want to know God’s will, we must listen to what Scripture teaches us. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16, ESV). “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21, ESV).If you want to know the will of God, you must spend a great deal of time in the Word. Dedicate yourself to spending quality time with the Word. If you read about 9 chapters a day, you can read through the entire New Testament every 30 days. We don’t need to forget about the Old Testament in our Bible study; the New Testament teaches that. Yet, what would happen if we all took 30 minutes or so a day to read the New Testament? My family has made the commitment to read through the entire New Testament every month in the coming year. Will you join us? Will you get into the Word that you may know the will of God and carry out that will in your life?
You obey the Word of God.
Yes, Mary obeyed regardless of the consequences. Her life was about to change radically, she would undoubtedly incur the stares and gossip of Nazareth, she would be at the foot of the cross while her Son died for our sins. She would face challenge after challenge, yet she obeyed.
How much do we obey regardless of the consequences? You know that obedience to God is to be above everything else. The apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The apostles were facing the loss of freedom and the loss of life. Yet, they understood that obedience to God outweighed everything else. Paul said: “King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). Paul suffered mightily because he obeyed the heavenly vision: he was beaten, he was imprisoned, he was shipwrecked, he endured trials from brethren, and he was beheaded under Nero. Yet, he obeyed the Word of the Lord.
Will you obey regardless of the consequences? Will you give generously even if it hurts your pocketbook? Will you serve God even if your family rejects you? Will you do what’s right even if it means your job?
We have no higher calling in this life than our obedience to God. Yet, God honors obedience: Jesus “became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb 5:9). Do you have eternal life because you are obeying the Son?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.