Mary the Mother of our Lord

Were it not that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, one might almost fear to touch upon the subject of this "highly favoured … and blessed among women." Another reason has operated, perhaps, to hinder many believers from the study of her privileges and character, and that is the sinful idolatry of which she has been made the object by so many millions of professed Christians. The antidote to this tendency - so grieving to the Spirit of God, and so dishonouring to the Lord Himself - is to be found in the consideration of the notices of this elect vessel which are preserved in the Gospel. This is the task which we have been led to undertake, in the hope that we may understand more fully, as taught of the Holy Spirit, the marvellous grace of God in singling out this poor woman for this unspeakable honour; and also the fruits of that grace as displayed in her simple and unwavering confidence in the Lord, and in her devoted and humble life.

It may be remarked that it is only in the Gospels of Luke and John that Mary's words and actions are described; she is seen and mentioned in Matthew, and with many details in connection with the birth of Jesus into this world, but beyond this the record is silent. Joseph, indeed, in this Gospel is the more prominent, for it was through him that the genealogy of Jesus, as the Son of David, was reckoned. (Chap. 1:16, 20.) Still it was Mary who had been chosen and prepared of God for the ineffable privilege of becoming the vessel of the introduction of Jesus into the midst of Israel, the One who should save His people from their sins; for, as the evangelist writes, All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." This prophecy fulfilled, and the Child born, the bright rays of His glory could not but throw Mary into the shade; and, consequently, in the very next chapter, it is said five times over, "The young Child and His mother," not, The mother and her Child. How could it be otherwise, if He that was born was no less than Emmanuel - God with His people? This fact duly appreciated would have quenched for ever the desire to exalt Mary above her Son; as the Lord Himself taught, in another way, when an admiring hearer exclaimed, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked"; for He replied, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." (Luke 11:27-28.) It was not the woman, highly favoured as she was, but the woman's Seed who was to bruise the serpent's head, the One in whom all God's counsels were to be unfolded and accomplished. It is He therefore, God's beloved Son, and not Mary, who is to fill the hearts of God's people with praise and adoration.


When we come to the Gospel of Luke, Mary is the prominent figure in the account of the Nativity. Of Joseph's exercises there is no mention; it is only said that Mary was "a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary." (Chap. 1:27.) It was to her, dwelling at Nazareth,* that the angel Gabriel was sent from God. Sitting in the house, as is clear from the words, "The angel came in unto her" - she received the salutation, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." Gabriel, who stood in the presence of God (see v. 19), was in the divine secret concerning the chosen virgin; and, as is evident from the nature of his greeting, he appreciates the immense favour, together with her exaltation amongst women, which God in His grace had bestowed upon her. His words, indeed, did but express his own delight in communion with the thoughts of God.

*Matthew does not mention that Joseph and Mary were inhabitants of Nazareth before the birth of Jesus: his object is to show the fulfilment of prophecy in the birth of the King of the Jews at Bethlehem, and afterwards he tells us that, having returned from Egypt, Joseph "came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth," etc. The two records supplement one another, each containing what was necessary for the special object in view.

But Mary, when she saw the angel, who doubtless appeared in human form (see chap. 24:4), "was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be." That is, she reasoned inwardly as to the nature of Gabriel's words, what was their "aim and meaning." We can understand this if we recall her character and position. She was a pious, God-fearing woman, and, whatever her genealogy, would seem to have been in lowly circumstances. Meekness, humility, and faith were manifestly the features of her spiritual life, and she might therefore well be troubled at the saying she had heard, and reason, not with the natural mind as the offspring of doubt, but rather as springing from perplexity of soul, concerning the significance of the angel's address. With divinely-given insight into Mary's feelings, Gabriel first of all calms her mind, and then, in preparation for the marvellous communication he was sent to make, assures her that she has found favour with God.* We say "in preparation" for Gabriel's message, for until the soul is at peace and in liberty divine things cannot be communicated. (Compare Daniel 10:19.)

*Commenting upon verse 28, another has observed that "the expressions 'found favour' and 'highly favoured' have not at all the same meaning. Personally she had found favour, so that she was not to fear; but God had sovereignly bestowed on her this grace, this immense favour, of being the mother of the Lord. In this she was the object of God's sovereign favour." It may be added that finding favour with God refers to Mary's spiritual state, while being highly favoured speaks rather of her being God's chosen vessel for the birth of Jesus. But the two things are assuredly connected.

And what a message it was that Gabriel was sent to deliver! "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." (vv. 31-33.)

It does not fall within our object to expatiate upon the ineffable mystery of the incarnation of our blessed Lord and Saviour, or to call attention to the several titles and glories with which He is here invested, inasmuch as it is Mary herself who is the subject of our meditations. This much, however, may be said, that the glory of His Person is surely contained in the name JESUS, meaning, as it does, Jehovah the Saviour; and, secondly, that all the titles given relate to the earth and to His exaltation in the earth as the Son of the Highest, and as the Son of David, who should exercise everlasting sovereignty over the house of Jacob. It is as Heir to the royal rights of David, but David's Lord as well as David's Son, that He is here presented. And let not the reader forget that all these promises await their fulfilment, and that they will be infallibly accomplished by the power of God according to His eternal counsels. The kings of the earth may set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed; but, notwithstanding all the raging of the nations and of their monarchs, God has set in His immutable purposes His King upon His holy hill of Zion; and He will reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet.

When God promised a son to Abraham, Sarah laughed within herself, doubting, not knowing the almighty power of the Promiser. Zacharias had also the difficulty of unbelief when he received from Gabriel the announcement that his wife Elisabeth should bear him a son. Mary replied to the angel, "How shall this be?" But although what was promised must be outside of the order of nature, it was not, as in the cases adduced, distrust that prompted her question. This is seen from the fact that Gabriel is permitted to give a full and complete answer to her enquiry, an answer which reveals two things, the miraculous conception of our blessed Lord, and that the Child so born should be called the Son of God, the Son of God as born into this world, according to the second Psalm.* But to strengthen her divinely-given faith, which already existed, Gabriel was commissioned to inform her of God's grace also to her cousin Elisabeth, "for," said he, giving thus the unchanging basis of all belief, "with God nothing shall be impossible." God were not God if this were not so; and hence, too, as the Lord Himself taught, "All things are possible to him that believeth." It was this lesson which Mary had now learnt in her inmost soul, as shown by her response, "Behold the handmaid" (the bondsmaid) "of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."

*It is important to distinguish between this title and His eternal Sonship, of which John, for example, speaks in his Gospel.

And not only had Mary now learnt that with God nothing was or would be impossible, but also, made willing by divine grace, she offered herself, surely only in the power of the Holy Ghost, for the accomplishment of His blessed will, and without any reservation. In all the range of Scripture there is no instance of a more exalted faith nor of a more complete submission. She could not be blind to the possible consequences In this world, and indeed we learn from Matthew that she became the object of suspicion and exercise even to Joseph. But faith never reasons and is never perplexed; it simply counts upon God, in the confidence that if He call to any service, or to walk in any path, He will both guide and sustain, whatever the trial or persecution involved. The calm of a soul which reposes in the will of God is unspeakable, and this was the inheritance of Mary at this moment. The favour bestowed upon her was infinite, and not less was the grace which enabled her to accept it with a meek and quiet spirit. In this respect, too, as well as in that of her being the chosen vessel for the birth of Jesus, all generations will call her blessed.

(To be continued.)