“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.” Luke 1:26-29
We never really know how life is going to turn out. All of us start out with our dreams and ambitions, plans and purposes, sure of life going the way we see it. Usually along the way there are a few hitches, some bumps in the road, a calamity or two and we wake up not quite where we thought we were headed.
And that is why Mary was troubled. She had a solid plan: land a good man with good lineage (the House of David!), get ready to settle down in the fine town of Nazareth, raise a family and enjoy life. And suddenly Gabriel, fresh from shaking up Zacharias’ world, drops a bombshell on her little road map to life, forever altering not just her plans but the plans of humankind.
Mary was not the next top model or the princess in waiting and likely not Prom Queen. She was just a young girl of humble origin. There was not much to set her apart from the rest of the young women vying for a good future. And her plan was as good as it needed to be – as good as she could hope. So to be told that you are highly favored, the Lord is with you, and you are blessed among women – those were accolades Mary was not used to hearing.
So Mary was troubled, in the “why me?” kind of way. Mary could not understand how she had come to be singled out for this kind of greeting and, as she soon found out, for a breathtaking plan of events. Mary had no reason to think or hope or believe that the God of the universe even paid her much attention let alone factored her into the turn of history. Mary may have even been put off by the derailing of her plans – this could mean some risky business, being greeted by an angel and all, and one thing you did not need in her culture and her time was risk. Life was shaky enough as it was without being seen cavorting with a man, angelic or not.
But that is exactly the kind of person we see used for God’s purposes. Over and over again in the course of the Biblical narrative it is the normal person, the broken man, the scorned woman, the cast off, the underdog, the David among giants that seem to step to the front of divine dealings. I mean, Elizabeth was barren and God had to shut Zacharias up because he could not believe he was involved in epochal events. And now we have a troubled young woman, with simple plans and low esteem, being called to the front of the class. Mary was troubled for good reason – not only did she lack the pedigree and background for the call but she probably did not think she had the goods to rise to the challenge.
And how about us? As Americans we tend to see ourselves as exceptional people – we are above history, strong leaders in a world needing just that, a people of endless resources and vision and power. And that thinking permeates believers too – we are King’s kids! We are filled with His power! Health & Wealth are our inheritance! We can do anything – we have done everything. For many of us it would come as no surprise if an angel showed up and proclaimed us blessed among people – that’s just the facts, ma’am!
But what about you? Would you be troubled to be singled out for kind comments from a passing angel? Do you think your life measures up to the statement “highly favored one?” Are you just sitting, waiting for your obvious exceptionalism to bring you to the top where you belong? I hope you wouldn’t, I hope you don’t, and I hope you aren’t.
Mary was troubled when God showed up in her simple life. And I hope you are too. It’s not the mighty and powerful, the pedigreed and proud, the rich and famous that are called to anchor turning points in history. It’s not those with brilliant plans and complex strategies for success.