One of the glorious attributes of the Gospel is revealed in the way God raises up the lowly, bestows honor on the unlikely, works good out of the worst circumstances, and uses great trials to bless His special ones. Christianity is no religion for the proud and haughty, for it contradicts man’s fleshly wisdom and carnal reason. For instance, who would have thought the Messiah of God would arrive on earth from the womb of a lowly young girl?
As we consider Mary, we cannot separate her character from her remarkable circumstances and unique trials in bearing and mothering our Lord Jesus Christ. Her great blessing was accompanied by great suffering; indeed, in Scripture these are rarely separated. Her reverent demeanor toward God, her ready belief in God’s Word through the angel Gabriel, and her obedience to her husband in the midst of great trials all commend her to us as a faithful, humble servant of God.
When we first meet Mary in the gospel of Luke, she is greeted by the angel Gabriel, who had identified himself to Zacharias as one “ ‘who stands in the presence of God’ ” (Luke 1:19). His astounding announcement to Mary must be overwhelming to this young woman, but her response is simple belief, with a question: “ ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ ” (Luke 1:34). Her question is legitimate. It was one thing for the aged Sarah to conceive, since she had a husband, but Mary is still a virgin. But the angel answers her and encourages her with news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary’s famous response should always humble and convict us: “ ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word’ ” (Luke 1:38). She does not argue, ask impertinent questions, or disbelieve in silence. Mary identifies herself as the Lord’s servant or slave, willing to accept whatever He has for her. She does not have the full picture. She must have many questions that have to go unanswered. But she speaks to Gabriel in reverence, expressing her faith, her obedience, and her willing spirit. True humility always bows joyfully to God’s plans and purposes in our lives, no matter how inscrutable they may seem.
Her reverence is displayed even more fully in her God-exalting song of praise (Luke 1:46–55). She magnifies the Lord, contrasting His manifold mercies shown to His servant Israel with His judgment of the proud. She acknowledges her “lowly state” and calls herself His maidservant. Humility delights to praise God’s power, holiness, might, and authority while remembering man’s lowly dependence upon His mercy and grace. It rejoices in this doctrine of the bigness of God and the smallness of man. Mary is overcome with reverence and awe for her mighty God, who has blessed her and done great things for her. He does the unexpected, raising the lowly and putting down the proud, feeding the hungry and sending away the rich. This knowledge fills her with a humble reverence. Indeed, true reverence springs only from a heart that is humble before God.
Mary hurries to Elizabeth to share her news and to confirm the angel’s report. At this meeting, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and blesses Mary: “ ‘Blessed is she who believed’ ” (Luke 1:45). We see that Mary’s blessing is linked to her faith and simple belief in the angel’s announcement. But Mary does not take credit for believing. She continues to exalt God’s amazing kindness to her, not her own impressive response of faith, for even this is credited to God. Humility is self-forgetful. It responds in faith because it is focused on the great Giver, not on self as the recipient. Faith is not looking in at faith, but looking up at the Faithful One.
This faith is not giddy, but it is full of joy, for humility joyfully believes and submits to God. “ ‘And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior’ ” (vs. 47), Mary sings. Her song recounts God’s mighty deeds in the past and speaks of His promise to Abraham’s seed. She knows her Bible—in this song, she quotes from more than 10 psalms. And she obviously believes that not only is God doing what He has promised to do, He has chosen her to be His special vessel.