In heeding Jesus’ ever-present invitation of “Follow Me,” we are confronted by His prayer before His crucifixion, imploring, “Oh My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,” but then declaring, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).
This sentiment echoes one expressed in different words more than three decades earlier by a young Jewish woman. We might wonder: Were her words never shared until much later with Luke the Gospel writer, or did she tell her Son of these impactful words when He was old enough to understand and internalize them for Himself?
Let’s drop in on the young lady named Mary as her ordinary life was abruptly changed forever in a moment! She was visited by the angel Gabriel, who declared, “Rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:26-28).
Stunned, she wondered what this meant. Gabriel succinctly laid out what was to occur: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest” (verses 31-32).
Talk about a life changer! But she wondered how this could be since she was still a virgin (verse 34). Then Gabriel shared the unimaginable: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (verse 35). And he laid out a simple fact: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (verse 37).
Her response? “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38, emphasis added throughout). With her faith-filled and voluntary surrender to divine direction over any human-made future, Mary sealed the envelope of her life and placed it into God’s hands.
What might we gain from Mary’s experience, making her response our own as disciples of her Son? Let’s consider three key factors regarding Mary’s submission to the divine direction to enable our ability to heed her Son’s directive of “Follow Me.”
1. Submitting to God’s will
Mary was open and made herself completely available to the will of God. Her willingness is jaw-dropping! Inspiring! She accepts this mysterious design for her life with only a simple biological question of how.
Mary was no doubt a product of her upbringing—having been taught that she was part of a great story her people rehearsed daily in their lives centered on God’s interruptions and interventions in the lives of their ancestors.
Their God, our God, is in “the business of new.” “Behold, I will do a new thing,” He says (Isaiah 43:19). And His greatest miracle is taking “nothing” and making it something to fulfill His glory. God made light from darkness, He made man from dirt, He made woman from the man’s side, He drew a line through the Red Sea and made a pathway of deliverance, He blessed Sarai, Hannah and Elizabeth with children from an empty womb. Now the One from above would create a new life in Mary’s womb—apart from any man’s involvement—to bring about the most important birth ever. That would “stretch her some,” but she was all in!
Perhaps Mary mused on the words of Isaiah on accepting God’s work in our lives: “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). With that in mind, let us come to expect the unexpected as God molds us for His purpose and pleasure, and let our response echo the yielded response of Isaiah, Mary and Jesus: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send Me’” (Isaiah 6:8).
2. Praise and humility go heart in hand
Mary’s humility is lovingly on display in visiting her relative Elizabeth. The words shared on her visit are so opposite of today’s narcissistic culture of “look at me,” as seen on various social media outlets. If anyone had “personal news” to broadcast, it was Mary, mother of the soon-to-be-born prophesied Messiah, the Son of God.
Of course, sharing such news would have been dangerous then. In any case Mary was not self-promoting but trusting in God. Scripture informs us that Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Elizabeth recognized Mary’s mindset, commenting, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said” (Luke 1:45, New Living Translation).
Mary’s “text” that comes down through the ages shows her focus: “Oh how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He took note of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him” (verses 46-50, NLT).
When Mary says everyone will call her blessed, is she being boastful? The Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke answers well: “No, she was recognizing and accepting the gift God had given her . . . Pride is refusing to accept God’s gifts or taking credit for what God has done; humility is accepting the gifts and using them to praise and serve God” (note on Luke 1:51-53). Her upward and sincere words of praise show that she remained a humble and willing vessel in service to God.
Praising and worshiping God from a responsive place of humility open our heart to accept His will and enable us to hear directly from Him. Focusing on the greatness of our Creator pulls us out of doubt and fear. The spiritual reality is that praise truly closes the gap between ourselves and our Maker—the Master Potter who continues to mold us.
3. Letting go and letting God
Mary followed the true and challenging admonition to “let go and let God.” Obtaining such spiritual maturity doesn’t happen overnight but develops one bump at a time on the road of our spiritual pilgrimage. Did Mary understand everything concerning the life that would come forth through her in advance? No. We look back on her completed story in a rear view, but she was moving in real time amid the heavy traffic of life.
Would it ever be easy? Think about it: Fleeing from Herod, living in Egypt, Simeon prophesying in Luke 2:28-35 that her Son was destined for the fall and rising of many and to be spoken against, with advanced warning that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”
As a mother she would have to “let go and let God.” At age 12 her Son would tell her and Joseph, “I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49), which would ultimately lead to her as a mother watching His crucifixion, His Heavenly Father allowing His Son to be sacrificed for her sins and ours.
The lesson for us as we accept Jesus’ invitation of “Follow Me” is to continue to trust God even when circumstances seem impossible. Dedicate and prepare yourself to be a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1) no matter how it changes the path you thought your life would take.
Jesus, our ultimate example, never said it would be easy, but He did say it would be worth it! Imagine the joy that must have been on Mary’s face when she saw her resurrected Son! She was not merely His mother, but for the rest of her life His disciple also (Acts 1:14). Yes, Jesus was sent by His Father from heaven, but to a measurable degree He was also as a human being “mother-made” by word and deed here below.
She became a faithful example for the ages of one who took what was told to her from God and said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”