Favored vs Privileged
At first glance, being favored by God seems like a good thing. Because Mary was highly favored among women, she was chosen to conceive, give birth to, and raise the Savior of the world. However, closer examination reveals that Mary’s favor came at a very high price.
The Bible does not disclose Mary’s age at the time of Christ’s conception. Many scholars place her between twelve and eighteen. Can you imagine facing the challenges she did at twelve to eighteen years of age?
The Holy Spirit revealed to Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, that Mary was carrying the Christ child. Did the Holy Spirit reveal her pregnancy to her parents or did Mary tell them? If Mary told them, did they believe her? I assume they did not throw her out or the Bible would have disclosed that fact.
Anxiety probably pricked at Mary as she waited for Joseph to learn of her condition. Did she inform him? Did he hear it from local gossip? Since he planned to divorce her, if anyone had informed him of Gabriel’s visit with Mary, he did not believe the story.
Joseph was probably disappointed at the news that his betrothed was pregnant. Per scripture, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and corroborated that Mary carried the Son of God. After the dream, he took Mary as his wife. How did he feel about being married to a woman who was highly favored by God?
As Mary’s baby bump grew, no doubt the tongues in Nazareth wagged. During this time, she probably felt far from blessed. In fact, she probably felt ostracized. These people would never believe that she was carrying the Son of God. Who could blame them? Even if they had been familiar with the scriptures foretelling of Jesus’s virgin birth, no one would believe that God had chosen her. Her family was poor. Surely God would choose the daughter of a priest or at least a daughter of a prominent family to birth the Messiah.
While great with child, she traveled many days by donkey to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph were relegated to a stable when there was no room for them elsewhere. Popular translations of the Christmas story state there was no room at the inn. Kataluma is the Greek word that was translated as inn. Elsewhere in the New Testament it is translated as guest room. It is possible that other out-of-town relatives arrived first, leaving no space in a guest room. Or perhaps the homeowners turned them away due to the questionable circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy.
Regardless of whether they were turned away from an inn or a guest room, Mary may have preferred the privacy of the stable with only the animals as an audience. No midwife coached her through childbirth. No epidural lessened her pain. Joseph was all she had. Through the pain of child birth, she did not even have the satisfaction of blaming Joseph for her situation. It was not his fault.
As soon as Jesus was born, the challenges prior to his birth were forgotten. The couple marveled as they counted his fingers and toes. As Mary held him, she surely questioned how salvation of the world could rest on his tiny shoulders.
Visits from shepherds from a nearby field soon after Jesus’s birth and later by Magi from the East confirmed the child’s deity.
The Bible does not disclose much about Joseph and Mary’s relationship. I believe that Joseph was a good husband and step-father. After all, he uprooted his family and moved them to Egypt after God revealed to him in a dream that Herod sought to kill Jesus. Then he moved them back to Nazareth after an angel told him it was safe to return.
When Jesus was twelve, he stayed behind in the temple at Jerusalem without telling Mary and Joseph. Imagine how they felt when they realized he was missing. They had lost the Savior of the world. What would God say? Joseph and Mary returned to look for him. A few days after their return to Jerusalem, they found Jesus safe and sound teaching in the synagogue. When questioned, he explained that he was attending to his Father’s business.
What was it like to be the mother of the Son of God? What knowledge or guidance could she possibly provide? Was Jesus a perfect child? Did he play pranks on his brothers? Did she ever forget his true identity and think of him as a normal son? Did he perform miracles in his youth? Something prompted her to know that he could turn water into wine.
Did Mary understand that her son would suffer a cruel fate? Did Jesus reveal to her his destiny to suffer, die, and rise again? She would not have felt favored while she watched her son die on the cross. Mary deserves great respect for remaining near Jesus during this difficult time.
The Bible does not mention that Jesus appeared to Mary after he rose from the dead, but I believe God would have allowed her the solace of seeing his raised body.
Many believe Mary was chosen because she was perfect. I doubt that. Abraham, Moses, and David to name of few of the great Biblical leaders were all flawed and failed God at some point. Yet despite their flaws, they were all great men of God. Why? They repented of their mistakes, loved God with all their hearts, and ultimately surrendered to his will. I imagine Mary possessed flaws like all of the greats. My guess is that she was chosen because of her strength to face ridicule with grace and to love Christ as he grew and became a man.
Even though God considered Mary blessed among women, people looked down on her most of her life. Her story demonstrates that looks are often deceiving. A person who appears undesirable to us may actually be favored by God. It is important to remember that Mary lived a “favored” life, not a “privileged” life. Do not confuse the two terms.
Angela L Gold is the author of The Lion Within which is available on Amazon.