The story of Mary, Jesus’ mother, is significant. Through it we can see how following Jesus involves trusting him in the midst of confusion, not the lack of it. Her story encourages us to press through fear and doubt, even when we don’t understand how God is at work in and around us.
This sermon explores the life of Mary in four acts and the implications her life has upon ours. In the first act, we see that while Mary is betrothed to Joseph she is met by the angel Gabriel, who tells her that she will have a child and that this child would be the Son of God. As a young teenager who was a virgin, she could not understand how this could occur, but she embraces whatever the Lord has for her. This would have been a scandalous thing, as getting pregnant before officially wedded to Joseph was serious business in first century Jewish culture. No one would have believed her, as a woman’s voice during this time carried no validity. Yet she expressed great bravery in submitting to the Lord’s action in her life.
In act two, we see Mary’s heartache in being Jesus’ mother. She observed all that Jesus was doing, and how he was confronting the Jewish leaders of the day, and this led to great concern. In Mark 3:21 we read: “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” Jesus wasn’t talking and acting like the Messiah is supposed to talk and act, and this has put Jesus in danger, and as his loving mother, Mary is naturally worried about him. She was afraid and confused by his actions and her soul was troubled and wounded by it.
In act three we find Mary even more troubled and confused as she watched her son being arrested, beaten, and executed. How could this be God’s favor? How could God’s Messiah be treated in this way? Yet Mary and a few other women stood by him until the end, while all the male disciples—barring one—fled in fear.
Finally, act four tells of how Mary visited the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body, while all the men were frightened and hiding. Mary was part of the group of people who met on the Day of Pentecost and received the gift of the Spirit. Her courage allowed her to see the victory that Jesus came to bring, even though it did not come in the way that she expected.
What are the implications of Mary’s story? Many assume that following Jesus will be clear, lack ambiguity, and the truth about Jesus will be obvious. They think it won’t be messy and that it will come in a nice package that all will see as valid. There will be no fear, confusion or questioning.
Mary’s story exposes the error of these false assumptions. Having faith in God and belonging to the kingdom community does not mean we aren’t sometimes confused and afraid. It does not mean that we won’t need courage to press through our confusion and fear. Mary had the courage to press through her confusion and fear to believe that Jesus had indeed overcome the world, however contrary appearances may have seemed. We can have that same courage in the midst of our doubt, fear and confusion.
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