Yesterday, we took a look at the stories of four of Jesus’ Grannies included in the Genealogy of Christ recorded in Matthew 1:1-17.
But no discussion of Jesus’ female ancestors would be complete without at least a passing look at the last woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy: Jesus’ Mommy.
‘And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.’ – Matthew 1:16
Now, history and much of Christendom regard Mary as maybe the second-goodest human who ever lived, but would her contemporaries have agreed with that assessment?
An ordinary teenage girl engaged to an ordinary guy, and suddenly she’s discovered to be pregnant – but claims to still be a virgin. I imagine words like ‘slut’, ‘liar’ and ‘lunatic’ would have crossed the minds – if not the lips – of many of her neighbors if they’d heard about it. Is that part of the reason she went to visit Elizabeth and Zechariah for three months in Luke 1, to wait until the heat died down in Nazareth?
’39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. … 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.’ – Luke 1:39-40, 56
Not that I’d blame her, and not that I think it would tarnish her innocence in any way, if she did. If it wasn’t a sin for her and Joseph to flee to Egypt rather than face Herod’s wrath in Matthew 2:13-18, there can’t be any dishonor in a discreet visit to her cousin that also prevents unhelpful hometown gossip (or worse). Maybe she even saved the judgey Nazarenes from their own narrow-mindedness by depriving them of a target for their ignorant, unholy bile.
What I think makes Mary’s story so remarkable is that she herself is so unremarkable – at least on the surface. Just a peasant girl like thousands of others in rural Galilee. There’s no mention of her family being wealthy or important or even particularly religious. And yet, hers is the body God chose to spend nine months living inside, dependent on her for literally everything.
Do you ever consider yourself to be unworthy of being used by God? Are you too quick to assume that He agrees?
God the Father must have been immensely proud of the response of Mary His daughter (and His soon-to-be mother) when Gabriel visited her in Luke 1:26-38. Initially quite freaked out about the fact she was in the presence of an angel, she recovered remarkably quickly and asked one question of clarification about the mechanics of such a conception, before saying an Amen (I’m in) to the idea: ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.’
Wow. That kind of instant obedience almost seems super-human, doesn’t it?
Perhaps that’s part of what led Roman Catholic theologians to devise (I’m sure they would use the word ‘discover’, ‘discern’ or ‘receive’) the doctrine that teaches that Mary was conceived free from original sin.
Only one unstained by sin could respond so piously, and more importantly, be worthy to serve as the Mother of God.
I’m not Catholic, so I don’t subscribe to that theory, but I don’t presume to have the authority or the knowledge to reject it outright, either. For all I know, they may be right. (Right, Billy Joel?)
But what I find more appealing – and more consistent with my understanding of redeeming grace – is the notion that it was Jesus’ presence that made Mary’s sinlessness possible (not the other way around).
Maybe Mary was an ordinary girl, tarnished by original sin like the rest of us, when Jesus showed up and cleansed her of her sin, thereby making her worthy to carry Him in her body. And in response, she did her best to live into that redeemed life she’d already attained.
And other than the fact we carry Him spiritually in our hearts, rather than physically in our bellies, it works pretty much the same way with us. Have you thought about that lately?
Let every heart prepare Him room. And heaven and nature sing!
Peace be with you.