An Ordinary Girl

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With today being Mother’s Day, I thought it appropriate to talk about likely the most famous mother of the last 2,000 years. Of course, I am talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
A lot of attention has been paid to Mary through the years, and understandably so. She’s the only woman to date to become pregnant without having at least some interaction with the male half of the reproductive process – old fashioned, test tube, or otherwise. And, of course, her son went on to become the most famous person in history.
So, it’s not surprising that some have come to believe that there was something uniquely special about her.
Some of the beliefs about her that the church developed during the middle ages and continue today in the Roman Catholic church include:
The Immaculate Conception.
This one is often confusing. The Immaculate Conception is not referring to Jesus, but to Mary – saying that SHE was conceived and born without sin before she had Jesus.  This comes from the medieval belief that original sin is something that is physically inherited from our biological parents. So, since we know that Jesus was born sinless (2 Cor 5:21), it begs the question of how a sinful woman (impregnated by the Holy Spirit or not) could bear a sinless child. The obvious answer to us would be that Jesus’s birth was in every respect a miracle, so why couldn’t it also include being sinless? But instead of keeping the miracle centered on Jesus, the medieval thinkers determined that Mary must have been born sinless first and also remain sinless her whole life. And, of course, like many of these beliefs I will share with you today – this can be found nowhere in Scripture without some extreme stretching of the meaning of some words.
Perpetual Virginity
Another doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church that comes from Medieval times is the idea that Mary was a virgin her whole life, so that she would forever be the Virgin Mary. This, of course, is easy to refute since there are multiple mentions of Jesus having other brothers and sisters. One such brother is James, the author of the book of James in the bible.
Bodily Assumption
Mary is also credited with doing what her son did. This belief started around the sixth century and continues in the RC church today. It is the belief that after Mary died of natural causes, she was physically resurrected, her body glorified, and lifted up to heaven. Pretty much just like Jesus.
Now that she is in heaven, it is believed by many that while Jesus sits at the right hand of the father – that Mary sits right next to Jesus and is the primary voice that he listens to. She is called the Queen of heaven, and the Mother of God.
Again, I’m not bashing the RC Church – but these are all established doctrine. You can look it up on Google, but none of it can be found in the Bible.
And the big question that has to be asked by those of us who were not raised this way or who have learned that it simply isn’t true – is
Why would it come to this? I can see maybe giving Mary some special honor. She is the mother of Jesus, so she’ll always have a place in the story – but why the veneration? Why the practical worship and deification? Why make her almost equal with Jesus?
I have a theory why that is.
If you remember from the second week of “Church: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”  from a few weeks ago (if you missed it you can watch it on our website) – I talked about how during the Middle Ages there was a strong focus on the physical. Meaning they didn’t quite have the concept of the separation of the physical body and immortal soul like we do today. And, they were very, very, very focused on SIN, and trying the best they could to get rid of it by almost all means other than simply trusting Jesus to forgive them – and before we get too judgmental, don’t forget that we do the same thing today
Now follow me on this..
Assume that in your mind, you are convinced that God wants you to be perfect before anything good will happen to you – wouldn’t you look at someone like Mary and think that – MAN, she must have been doing something right! She got to be the mother of God on earth. Let’s look at her and figure out what she did to deserve such an honor.
  • So we read the story, which we will do in a minute, and there’s not much to go on – so we think about it some more and eventually determine that she must have been without sin. How could God use someone who was sinful to do something so awesome? This is called deductive reasoning.
  • We know that God doesn’t reward sinners, and He greatly rewarded Mary, so she must not have been a sinner.
  • And if she wasn’t a sinner, that means she must have never had sex – because that’s just bad (Why else would priests not be allowed to?)
  • And that means she had to be a virgin her whole life.
  • So those bothers and sisters were really just cousins and Joseph was just a very understanding guy.
  • And someone so awesome as Mary couldn’t have just died like the rest of us.
  • She was sinless like Jesus, so she must have gotten the same treatment,
  • and since she’s his mom – and since he’s perfect, which also means he obeys his parents, then he must still do what his mom says even in heaven.
  • Wow, isn’t she amazing!!!
It can all sound rather reasonable, much like many arguments today that are clearly not biblical. Because when you start with a wrong assumption, it’s only natural that you will get a wrong conclusion. And like I said a few weeks ago, all of this hype about Mary begins with a wrong understanding of grace – making it something you can earn, and when grace is something you have to earn – then someone like Mary who got the most of anyone must have some serious awesomeness about her and we should probably worship her.
So, why is this a problem?
Why does it matter if we think all this stuff about Mary and lift her up on a pedestal? I mean, she did give birth to Jesus and have to watch him die on a cross. That’s got to count for something right?
And indeed it does, but the real problem I see in the practical worship of Mary is not only the obvious idolatry and distraction from our true savior, Jesus, that it causes. I think it also gives us a wrong perception of ourselves. I think making Mary out to be something more than an ordinary girl can cause the rest of us to believe something else that isn’t true – about ourselves – and it can be devastating!
What that is, I’ll get to in a minute. But first, let’s go ahead and look at what actually IS in scripture about Mary and the birth of Jesus.
We find the story in Luke, chapter 1.
Luke 1
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
(Elizabeth was Mary’s older cousin and was now 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist)
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
(Mary was likely around 13 or 14 years old – the common age for girls to get betrothed)
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
After this, Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth and Luke records her saying what has come to be known as Mary’s Song or her Magnificat (which comes from the first word in the latin version), which I won’t read here. The next we see of her she is giving birth in a barn and laying her baby in a feeding trough.
Other than this narrative about Jesus’s birth, there are not that many references to Mary in the Bible and she disappears from the narrative after Acts 1. While Jesus was around, he did not treat her with any special honor, though he did command John to take care of her while he was dying on the cross.
So, let’s take a closer look at this part and see what we can see.
Let’s look back at the first interchange between Mary and the angel Gabriel:
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
Can you imagine an angel speaking to you? It must have been a frightful thing because angels always have to tell people not to be afraid.
Gabriel comes to Mary, a young girl who was as common as common could be – the fact that her soon-to-be husband was a carpenter indicates their very common status in life. This powerful being shows up and tells Mary that she is “highly favored”.  Mary is troubled at his words. She wonders why he would say that about her. Clearly she wasn’t expecting that – much less from an angel. In that culture it was unusual for a man to even greet a woman (remember women at this time are almost property status), so to have this angel man not only greet her but tell her she is highly favored was highly unusual for a teenage girl in first century Palestine.
Then the angel goes on to tell her the unbelievable – that she was going to give birth to the Son of God!
Imagine her confusion. First the angel is telling her that she has found favor with God, and now he was telling her about something that seemed impossible. Likely it was the only words she could come up with asking how it would be possible since she was still a virgin.
The angel responds:
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
What a promise! And he backs it up by pointing out that she has already witnessed a similar miracle with her cousin who became pregnant well past childbearing age. Then he says something even more powerful.
Verse 37: For no word from God will ever fail.

A little side note about this verse:
The Greek in this verse is a little tricky, which is why you will see it translated differently depending on the English version you read.  Here are a few:
New International Version
For no word from God will ever fail.”
New Living Translation
For nothing is impossible with God.”
NET Bible
For nothing will be impossible with God.”
World English Bible
For everything spoken by God is possible.”
American Standard Version
For no word from God shall be void of power.
While each version denotes the same basic meaning, you will notice that sometimes it says “nothing is impossible” and others it refers specifically to God’s words. That’s because the object of this sentence in the Greek is the word “RHEMA” – which can mean either word or thing. But it is mostly translated as word – and more specifically, God’s word.
So, it would seem that the ASV is most accurate: No word from God shall be void of power.
If that is the case, and it seems that it is – that means that as you read God’s word – you are actually ingesting power. If no word of God is void of power – when you read, speak, or hear His words – you are reading, speaking, or hearing God’s power!  Amazing isn’t it?
That’s why in Hebrews God’s word is called “alive and active”, and why James tells us that if we do what the word says – we will be blessed. It’s also, I believe, why it’s so hard to read – one because the enemy doesn’t want you to, but also because power is hard to take in – it can’t be consumed passively – it changes you, just like being electrocuted. But unlike electricity, which will probably kill you – the power of God makes you more alive than you were before.

Ok, so back to the story. Mary is talking with this angel (well, he’s doing most of the talking). She’s kind of freaked out, doesn’t know what to make of what he’s saying. She questions the possibility of his prediction, and the angel assures her that if God says it – it’s gonna happen.
Then she responds in the best way possible:
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word (rhema) to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
I am the Lord’s servant.
May what you say come true.
I am willing to be used.
If nothing else, Mary should be an example of someone who is yielded to the Spirit of God.
So she indeed becomes pregnant and 9 months later we get the Christmas story with the angels and shepherds and wise men (though they really didn’t show up until two years later – story for another time). And her son grows up to be the savior of the world, just as the angel had said.
It’s an amazing story, and it’s understandable why Mary would be put on a pedestal – but from reading the story it is obvious that she really was just an ordinary girl. In her song she described her humble state. If she was so perfect and sinless, would she have doubted what the angel said – the very words of God? If she really was to be the Queen of Heaven – why didn’t Jesus lift her up on earth and come when she called – or even give her any kind of special treatment? The truth is that she was an ordinary human being, just like you and me.
And why does this even matter?
Why should you and I care if Mary was ordinary or all the things people say she was?
I say it’s because if Mary was anything but ordinary, if she really was sinless and a perpetual virgin and the Queen mother and such – and it took all of that for her to be able to birth the Son of God – what hope do we have of getting close to him?
But it’s the very fact that she was so ordinary, so humble, so plain that gives you and I hope that perhaps the same thing that happened to her can happen to us.
I’m not saying that we should all give physical birth to Jesus, but wouldn’t you like an angel to appear to you and say “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you!”?
Well you have! Maybe not in angel form, but if you read those powerful words of God I talked about, He has some rather encouraging things to say about YOU:
Psalm 139
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Deuteronomy 31:8
I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
1 John 3:16
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
Just like Mary – God knows you and He loves you and he favors you and he is with you.
And just like Mary got to physically conceive Jesus inside of her – we too conceive Jesus inside of us in a spiritual way.
When a person accepts the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus offers, there is a very real sense that Jesus or the Spirit of Jesus moves in, and now we have Jesus inside of us.
  • In Galatians, Paul says that “Christ lives in me.”
  • In Romans, Paul refers to the Spirit of Christ inside of the believer.
  • Jesus often referred to being IN us.
So, it’s not a stretch to think of Jesus being conceived inside of the person who believes.
Then for Mary, as the baby grew inside of her – just as any pregnant woman would experience, there were noticeable and significant changes.
The internal organs start shifting around and eventually you start to notice that there’s someone else inside of you.
Likewise, when Christ moves in things start to change. 1 Cor 5:17 says that if anyone is in Christ, he is new creation. The old is gone, the new has come.
As Christ begins to grow inside of you, meaning as you feed on God’s word and His spirit starts taking shape you can’t help but notice a difference. You feel things you never felt before. You start to see the world in a different light, and it’s almost like there is someone else inside of you – guiding you, correcting you, encouraging you.
Romans 8:5 says:
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
And for Mary as for any mother, there eventually reaches a point where you can’t hide it anymore. You’re showing and everyone can see it.
Likewise, as the Spirit starts to change you from the inside out, it eventually becomes noticeable to the people around you and if you let Jesus take over completely you reach a point where it’s impossible to hide.
So, you see, we too get to experience the same thing that Mary experienced – in a spiritual but very real way – not because we are special, not because we are already sinless or will rule heaven someday – but simply because God loves us – just as he loved Mary.
For God so loved the world (not just Mary) that he gave his only Son (Jesus) so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Mary was an ordinary girl with an extraordinary God. And you and I have the same choice that Mary had when faced with the question about Jesus. Will you allow him to move in or not?
For God so loved YOU that he gave his only son, so that if YOU will believe in him, YOU will not perish but have eternal life.
Her response was YES. I am the Lord’s servant. May what you say come true in me.
And you and I have that option too. God is saying to you:
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. And if you will allow me, I will cause the Holy Spirit to overshadow you and cause a great change in your life. I will cause my son, who died for you and rose again, to place his spirit inside of you so that you can experience the oneness with me that I created you for.