/ Nathan Eshelman

A Disciple of Mary?

I have often said that July is the best time to work through Jesus's birth narratives. July is far enough away from December 25 that the emotional trappings of the day are not winning your heart. July is also far enough away from late September, when Costco starts to put out the manger scenes and yard Santas. July is perfect for studying the birth of Jesus! If I were a holy day keeping man (other than the Sabbath), I would propose July 12 as the Presbyterian and Reformed Birth Narrative Day of Remembrance and Cerebral Celebration through Pious Thoughts. But I am not a holy day keeper (other than the Sabbath), and this article is not a presbyteri-rant against the C-word.

In my family worship we have been begun studying the Gospel of Luke. What has impressed me as we have begun in the first two chapters is the faith and piety of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Luke 1:34-38 says,

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Did you hear her answer?

_"Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." _

This is an incredible answer. Mary, in a social and cultural sense, is about to have her life destroyed. Mary, as a very young girl, is pregnant, unmarried, and facing the possibility of society's rejection, shame, and judgment.

_"Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word." _

John Calvin, speaking on this verse says,

These are weighty expressions, Behold the handmaid of the Lord: for she gives and devotes herself unreservedly to God, that he may freely dispose of her according to his pleasure.

Mary devotes herself unto her Lord despite the fact that she is not going to receive a 'best life now.' Mary is not seeing a plan of comfort for her life, but a life of suffering in the midst of joy. Her life will be turned upside down, as she brings forth the God-man into this world, whose calling is a calling of suffering and death. She was given a child so that the child would suffer and die.

_"Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word." _

Mary could have complained that she was not ready for children. Mary could have said that she had other plans. Mary could have said that she wanted to "avoid the appearance of evil." Mary could have said so many things. But she doesn't.

"Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word."

Ask yourself, "How do I respond to those providences in life that are overwhelming? How do I respond when life gets hard? How do I respond when I am suffering?"

If you are anything like me, your first questions are those of "rights" and "comforts" and "my plans." When providence turns dark, and it will, remember that Mary is a great teacher. An unmarried pregnant teen- not because of her sin, but because of your (and her) sin.

Mary suffered shame, judgments, a betrothed-husband ready to walk away, as well as many other things. As providence turned dark, she knew that it was for the glory of God and the good of his people, and that was a motivation for her submission, in holy and reverent joy.

"Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word."

We have a lot to learn from this young woman.




Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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