The scripture in question for today comes from Luke 1:26-38. The scene opens with Gabriel, an angel (whom we share–by the way–with many other religions; Gabriel is an important figure in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Baha’i), who visits Mary and tells her she is going to have a child and name him Jesus. Gabriel must be a frightening figure because he tells Mary, “Do not be afraid; you have found favor with God.” And what is Mary’s response to all of this? . . . “I am the Lord’s servant,” she says. Although servant can also be justifiably translated as “slave” in this instance also.
It’s a surreal scene in my mind. When I read it I can’t help but visualize Gabriel as a glowing figure somehow floating above Mary. I’d be frightened too. In my mind’s eye he has a booming voice and speaks in a commanding tone. The scene also begs you to do something else which I’d wager you’ve already done . . . put yourself in Mary’s shoes. How would you have responded?
The typical response to this kind of stress is uniform across all of humanity: fight, flight, or freeze. I’m a fighter. I would probably be the type who would say, “Back of Gabriel! How am I supposed to know you’re really from God anyway?” My wife is a flyer. She would be one who would more than likely run away. And my daughter is a freezer. She would hide under the table and pretend she didn’t hear Gabriel until he went away. But Mary is remarkable. She doesn’t do any of those things. After the initial shock of the incident she accepts it saying, “I am the Lord’s servant.”
Where each of us tends to tell God no in one way or another by fighting him, running from him, or ignoring him; Mary accepts the voice of God and allows God to work within her. She’s not just a good role model for Christian behavior, she is remarkable. Paul has to be struck blind to understand who Jesus is. Peter has to sink up to his neck in water and begged to be saved. Lazarus had to be raised from the dead to understand who Jesus is. Judas never understands. But not Mary. She only has to be told and she is all-in. She is God’s slave. Willingly.
So could Mary have said no to Gabriel? Yes. Of course she could have said no. But then she wouldn’t have been Mary. She would have instead been a Paul or a Peter or even a Judas. How remarkable is the figure of Mary, and how exemplary. It is no wonder to me why she found such favor with God. Her example is unique.