A couple weeks ago after reading some Scripture in the morning, I wrote about it. I do this most days, where I copy down some of the verses I read and journal a little based on them. This day’s writing wasn’t like most days. I wrote to the bottom of my page and realized I couldn’t stop. After finishing I thought some others might be encouraged by what I’d written. So here I’m sharing that passage from Luke and my journal entry with you. I had to stop myself from cleaning it up and editing/revising it to make it all nice for publication, so take it as it is. I hope this encourages you! The particular passage here is when Mary discovers she’s going to have Jesus, the Messiah God promised generations ago, and she breaks into worship:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”Luke 1:68-75 (ESV)
How exciting and awe-inspiring it must have been for Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and those around them to see this and be part of it. After hundreds of years and many generations of silence, God begins to unfold to them His plan for salvation, to reveal His faithfulness to His people in His own timing, and in their lifetime! With them very closely and personally involved! They must have wondered if God would ever act, send the Messiah, save His people, fulfill His promises to them. All of a sudden here it is, and it’s going to be so much more than they could’ve possibly imagined.
The scope of His redemption and plan to call people to Himself, the way He would save us, the Kingdom of God’s counter-intuitive and unexpected nature – it was more magnificent (and probably to some degree, even or maybe especially for these three, as Jesus’ life unfolded), hard to accept. God, You are good and perfect and the only truly faithful One. Thank You for calling an outsider like me into this.
Even in their praise, Mary and Zechariah had such incomplete understanding of what would happen. They knew God was taking action, implementing His promised plan to send a Messiah, redeem His people, and fulfill His covenant to Abraham. They were beside themselves with joy and gratitude and exploded into worship. I think what was coming next would be more painful, difficult, and gut-wrenching than they could’ve imagined. The rejection, suffering, pain, mistreatment, and misunderstandings their sons would endure must have caused some doubt. I would’ve wondered if I just hallucinated the events of Luke 1 as John was acting like a wild prophet, then was thrown in prison and beheaded. Mary urging Jesus to do something at the wedding in Cana shows she believed He would do something miraculous or reveal Himself as the Messiah, even after so many years of growing up in obscurity. As His ministry continued and Jesus stirred up so many people, seemingly blasphemed, apparently performed miracles, had a following – what ran through her heart and mind?
The glorious coming of the Messiah was so unlike her expectations, it seems she even doubted Him or thought He was losing His mind a bit at one point. I don’t want to presume or ascribe thoughts and feelings to Mary that weren’t there. I think as a human, a mother, a faithful servant of and believer in God, she must have had some feelings and thoughts like this. Her son gathers a ragtag, mostly uneducated group and a crowd follows Him around. He angers the religious leaders and claims to be God. He isn’t a handsome, charismatic, physically imposing King or warrior ready to crush His enemies, defeat the Roman oppressors, and put the Jewish people in charge. He was humble, kind, taught revolutionary things about what it meant to fulfill the Law and obey God. He claimed to be the Messiah and even God Himself. Even through the eyes of a hopeful, faithful mother, it must have caused doubts, questions, and pain in Mary. And without a doubt, seeing her son arrested, beaten, tortured, humiliated, crucified, and killed would’ve devastated her. I can’t fathom what must have been running through her heart, mind, and soul as she wept at the foot of the cross. Absolutely devastating, crushing, excruciating. As a mother, as a Jew believing the Messiah had come. “Where did I go wrong,” she might have thought. “Is this my fault? Did I push him down this road and make him lose his mind? Did I imagine that angel at the beginning?” She may not have asked these questions, but I know I would have. His disciples and the crowd following Him must have.
Something that began as a miraculous intervention by God, fulfilling His promise to save His people, seemed to end in hopeless, crushing defeat and disillusionment. What lostness they must have felt as they gathered together in the aftermath.
Jesus’ teaching even included God’s intention to bring Gentiles into His people, invite them into the covenant promises He’d made to Abraham. That upset, angered, and offended so many. Could all of this really be God’s faithful plan to redeem His people? It had to seem impossible. Mary, the disciples, Jesus’ close friends and followers, were so joyful and hopeful about the future. They saw their dreams being fulfilled in front of their eyes, they were right there participating. But along the way it got weirder, offensive, and as they somehow clung to Jesus it all came crashing down.
But on the third day, Jesus rises from the dead! Unimaginably wonderful, joy-giving, faith restoring news! The whole world had to seem new. Confusing, magnificent, exciting, mysterious, glorious. Then Jesus’ appearances, the Great Commission, His Ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the painful persecution as the early church grew from there. This is a story only God could write, a redemption more expansive than anyone could hope for (or even really want, in our sinful judgmental hearts). It turns out God is truly greater than us, and works through means we don’t expect, often don’t want, can seem wrong of offensive – and through all this works out His will and plan, which are good beyond anything we could imagine. We can think we really understand, but God is capable of more than we can dream. His character of love, grace, and tender care are displayed on the cross. We can trust Him.
I stopped at the bottom of the first page I wrote, intending to end there. I prayed and felt like I needed to keep writing, thinking through what God might be trying to show me here. There are clear parallels in principle to the trials my family and I are going through. It felt like going more slowly through Mary’s experience (and Zechariah and Elizabeth, and then those near Jesus) was the right thing to do. Lord, teach me what You want to teach me. Give me faith like Mary’s, enable me to remember Your character and how You work. I want to have hopeful, joyful, persevering faith in You, to trust You, no matter how dark things look or how lost I feel. I trust You with my life, Janelle’s, Belle’s, Juliette’s, and Fiona’s. You are able, Your plans are for my good, You are working to ends more wonderful than my most delusional dreams.