“Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.” Luke 1:28-29
“Then Mary said, ‘Behold I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said.’ And the angel left her.” Luke 1:38
What did these words mean for Mary?
These words spoken by Gabriel were about to change the trajectory of Mary’s life drastically. No longer was she going to be a young maiden preparing for a grand wedding feast. There were several steps in the Jewish marriage process at the time of Christ. The first step was known as the Shiddukhin. This is the arraignment preliminary to the legal betrothal. It was common in ancient Israel of the father of the groom to select a bride for his son. Luke 1:26-27 says, “In the sixth month Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.” Mary and Joseph had completed the Shiddukhin. Joseph’s father would have gone to Mary’s father and the two men would have already entered into this preliminary step. These two father’s thought this was a good match. Then the two men would have had the Ketubah or the marriage contract drawn up. In this contract, the groom promises to support his wife to be and the bride stipulates the contents of her dowry. The groom would then pay the Mohar. It is a gift paid by the groom to the bride’s family – but ultimately belongs to the bride. It changed her status and set her free from her parent’s household. The couple would then perform the Mikveh or ritual immersion. The bride and groom would separately take a ritual immersion. This immersion was prior to actually entering in to the formal betrothal period and was symbolic of spiritual cleansing. After the couple had undergone immersion, each separately, they would appear together under the Huppah – or canopy and in public they would express their intention of becoming betrothed or engaged. The wedding canopy has been a symbol of a new household being planned. After the ceremony, the couple were considered to have entered into the betrothal agreement. This period was to last for one year. During this time the couple was considered married – yet did not have sexual relations – and continued to live separately until the end of the betrothal. After the ceremony the groom would return to his home to focus on preparing a new dwelling place for his wife. Before leaving he would give is wife a gift, the bridal gift. It was a pledge of his love for her. It’s purpose was to be a reminder to his bride during their days of separation of his love for her, that he was thinking of her – and that he would return to receive her as his wife. During this betrothal time, the wife was to keep herself busy in preparation for the wedding day – specifically wedding garments were to be sewn and prepared. This is the period that Gabriel intersects Mary’s life. She and Joseph are in their time of sanctification. They were to set aside and prepare themselves to enter into the covenant of marriage. This betrothal period was so binding that the couple would need a religious divorce to annul the contract. This option was only available to the husband, as the wife had no say in any divorce proceeding. The final step in the wedding process was the Nissan, which means “to carry.” This is a graphic description – as the bride would be waiting for her groom to come – to carry her off to her new home. The bride took the betrothal seriously. The period of betrothal was a time of great expectation.
All according to the article “Jewish Wedding Customs and the Bride of Messiah”
And now enter Gabriel. He was bearing news that would change all these expectations for Mary. She would have been looking forward to the day Joseph would carry her off to her new home. She lived in a small town. Everyone was waiting in high anticipation for Mary and Joseph’s wedding day. I wonder was Mary sewing on her wedding garments this day as Gabriel greeted her? No wonder she was confused and disturbed at Gabriel’s greeting. She did wonder what these words would mean for her life. And when the announcement came that she would be with child before her actual wedding date, did she picture herself being drug to the city gates while her friends and family would pick up large stones to be hurled at her? For that was the punishment of an adulterer, stoning till death, which everyone in her village would assume she would be. But ya know what? I never see the verse where Mary asks, “What’s this gonna cost me?” Actually the verse reads, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38 And with that statement, gone was the big fancy wedding day where Joseph sweeps her away. She never even asks the question, “Lord how are you gonna take care of me?” No. She said, “May your word to me be fulfilled,” was her answer. The Passion Bible says, “This is amazing! I will be a mother for the Lord!”
I for one am thankful Mary didn’t even consider, “What’s this gonna cost me?”
God’s assignments in our lives come with a high price. Consider all that Jesus endured on His way to the cross. In Hebrews 12:2 Jesus inspired the writer to tell us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The blessing that flow to us from our obedience far outweigh the cost of our obedience. If you don’t believe me ask some great heroes of our faith.
Ask Mary the mother of our Lord. Mary considered that the blessing she received from the Lord far outweighed the risk she was taking when she said yes. Consider her words just a few verses down. “My soul is ecstatic, overflowing with praises to God? My spirit bursts with joy over my life-giving God!” “from here on, everyone will know that I have been favored and blessed.”
Ask Paul. He was beaten, imprisoned, scorned and ridiculed but still he said, “For me to live is Christ to die is gain.”
Ask John. He was exiled to the Isle of Patmos for his belief in Jesus. While on that island, God gave him a revelation to show his servants what must soon take place.
These are the things I wish to take away from a young peasant girl from Nazareth: Her total obedience in the face of grave consequences. I wanna live like that.