Mary and Grace
“Rejoice! Favored one of God,” the stranger greeted her.

Mary, startled and apprehensive, tried to figure out how to respond to this unusual greeting.

The stranger spoke again, “You have no reason to fear, Mary; you have grace with God.” (author’s paraphrase) 

At some point she realized the stranger was an angel and learned his name was Gabriel. He gave her a message from God: she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.

She asked the obvious question, “How? I haven’t been with a man.”

Gabriel explained that the Holy Spirit, the power of God, would make the conception possible. Mary believed and agreed to accept this responsibility.

The angel also brought the news that her elderly relative Elizabeth was also expecting a child. Mary hurried from Nazareth to Judea to see Elizabeth. She was young. (Girls were often pledged to marry as young as 15.) She needed to be with a friend who would believe her. She would be eager to see for herself that Elizabeth who was too old to have children really was pregnant. She would want to congratulate her.

Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary responded, “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-holy is his name.”

Mary’s blessing was not a life of ease and unending bliss. God gave her the strength (his grace)

  • To endure the initial suspicions of her husband-to-be
  • To travel in her ninth month of pregnancy
  • To give birth in a temporary shelter using a feeding trough for animals as a cradle for her newborn son
  • To escape to Egypt and begin her married life in a foreign land
  • To put up with the rumors and the gossip that inferred that Jesus was illegitimate when they returned to her home town
  • To bear the grief of becoming a widow sometime after Jesus’ twelfth birthday
  • To cope with relatives who thought her son had gone crazy
  • To face the emotional pain of watching her son slowly, painfully die, unwilling to leave him to die alone among his enemies

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mary had many occasions to mourn, but she also experienced God’s comfort and care in her lifetime. 

Mary knew the conception of  Jesus was a miracle. She marveled at the events surrounding his birth-the shepherd’s story of angels; the visit of the wise men and their gifts, the blessings said over him by Simeon and Anna at the temple; the dreams that Joseph had.  “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She witnessed his sinless life and many of the miracles he did. She witnessed his death.

After Jesus ascended to his heavenly Father, she waited with the other believers in Jerusalem. Mary had believed God from the beginning. She didn’t understand these events as they happened. But she continued to “walk by faith, not by sight.” Her greatest consolation and joy was the resurrection of her son. She began by accepting Jesus as her son and later accepting her son as the Son of God, her Savior. She believed God would do what he promised he would do-that the impossible is possible with God.

For the Scripture reference list and related Bible Study Guide go to Bible Study Guide: Mary and Grace, Walking by Faith, Not By Sight

Scarlett Stough