She Was Highly Favored by Jehovah
“GOOD DAY, highly favored one, Jehovah is with you.” What a salutation! The speaker is none other than the angel Gabriel. He is addressing a young woman of humble heart—Mary, the daughter of a man named Heli. The year is 3 B.C.E., and the place is the city of Nazareth.—Luke 1:26-28.
Mary is promised in marriage to Joseph the carpenter. According to Jewish law and custom, she is viewed as his espoused wife. (Matthew 1:18) Like her, he is of humble station in life. Why, then, does the angel greet her as one who is highly favored?
Her Wonderful Privilege
Gabriel adds: “Have no fear, Mary, for you have found favor with God; and, look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.”—Luke 1:29-33.
Amazed and perplexed, Mary asks: “How is this to be, since I am having no intercourse with a man?” Gabriel answers: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.” To remove any doubts, the angel adds: “Look! Elizabeth your relative has also herself conceived a son, in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her, the so-called barren woman; because with God no declaration will be an impossibility.”—Luke 1:34-37.
Mary immediately accepts this marvelous privilege of service. Willingly, but in humility, she responds: “Look! Jehovah’s slave girl! May it take place with me according to your declaration.” At that, Gabriel departs. Mary hastens to a city in the mountainous region of Judah. Arriving at the home of the priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, she finds conditions exactly as the angel described them. What joy fills Mary’s heart! Her lips bubble forth in words of praise to Jehovah.—Luke 1:38-55.
She Becomes Joseph’s Wife
A virgin is to supply Jesus’ human body, for such a birth was foretold. (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22, 23) But why is a betrothed virgin required? In order to provide an adoptive father who can convey to the child the legal right to King David’s throne. Both Joseph and Mary belong to the tribe of Judah and are descendants of King David. So the heirship rights of Jesus will be doubly established. (Matthew 1:2-16; Luke 3:23-33) This is why the angel later assures Joseph that he should not hesitate to take Mary as his legal wife, although she is pregnant.—Matthew 1:19-25.*
A taxation decree issued by Augustus Caesar obligates Joseph and Mary to register in Bethlehem. While there, she gives birth to her firstborn son. Shepherds come to see the infant, and they give praise to his Father, Jehovah. After 40 days of purification according to the Mosaic Law, Mary goes to the temple in Jerusalem to make atonement for her sins. (Leviticus 12:1-8; Luke 2:22-24) Yes, since she was not immaculately conceived, and so not free from the stain of sin, her natural imperfections must be covered by atoning sacrifices.—Psalm 51:5.
While Mary and Joseph are at the temple, elderly Simeon and the aged prophetess Anna are privileged to behold the Son of God. Mary is not the center of attention. (Luke 2:25-38) Later, Magi do obeisance not to her but to Jesus.—Matthew 2:1-12.
After fleeing to Egypt and remaining there until wicked Herod dies, Jesus’ parents return and settle in the little village of Nazareth. (Matthew 2:13-23; Luke 2:39) It is there that Joseph and Mary rear Jesus under godly family conditions.
Mary Had Other Children
In time, Mary and Joseph provide Jesus with natural brothers and sisters. When Jesus’ ministry brings him to his hometown of Nazareth, his childhood acquaintances recognize him. “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” they ask. “Is not his mother called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?” (Matthew 13:55, 56) The Nazarenes are referring to the physical family of Joseph and Mary, including her sons and daughters whom they know as Jesus’ natural brothers and sisters.
These brothers and sisters are not Jesus’ cousins. Neither are they his disciples, or spiritual brothers and sisters, for John 2:12 makes a clear distinction between the two groups by stating: “He [Jesus] and his mother and brothers and his disciples went down to Capernaum.” Years later in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul saw Cephas, or Peter, and added: “I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord.” (Galatians 1:19, The Jerusalem Bible) Moreover, the statement that Joseph “had no intercourse with [Mary] until she gave birth to a son” indicates that Jesus’ adoptive father did have relations with her afterward and fathered her other children. (Matthew 1:25) Accordingly, Luke 2:7 calls Jesus her “firstborn” son.
A God-Fearing Mother
As a God-fearing mother, Mary cooperates with Joseph in instructing her children in righteousness. (Proverbs 22:6) That she is an ardent student of the Scriptures is seen from her spiritually rich expression when greeted by Elizabeth. At that time Jesus’ mother repeats sentiments from Hannah’s song and displays knowledge of the psalms, historic and prophetic writings, and books of Moses. (Genesis 30:13; 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Proverbs 31:28; Malachi 3:12; Luke 1:46-55) Mary has committed prophetic events and sayings to memory, treasured them up in her heart, and pondered over them in her mind. She is therefore well equipped to share in giving parental instruction to the lad Jesus.—Luke 2:19, 33.
Well-taught 12-year-old Jesus manifests Scriptural knowledge that astonishes learned men at the temple. Because he has become separated from his parents during that Passover season, his mother says: “Child, why did you treat us this way? Here your father and I in mental distress have been looking for you.” Jesus responds: “Why did you have to go looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” Unable to grasp the significance of this reply, Mary stores it in her heart. Returning to Nazareth, Jesus goes on “progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.”—Luke 2:42-52.
Mary as Jesus’ Disciple
How fitting it is that Mary should eventually become Jesus’ devoted disciple! She is meek and has no ambition to shine in spite of her unique God-given assignment. Mary knows the Scriptures. If you search them yourself, you will not find her described with a halo, seated on a throne as “mother-queen” and bathed in the reflected glory of Christ. Rather, you will find her far in the background, out of the spotlight.—Matthew 13:53-56; John 2:12.
Jesus nipped in the bud any such thing as Mariolatry among his followers. While he was speaking on one occasion, “a woman from the crowd called out, ‘Blest is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ ‘Rather,’ he replied, ‘blest are they who hear the word of God and keep it.’” (Luke 11:27, 28, The New American Bible, translated by members of the Catholic Biblical Association of America) At a wedding feast, Jesus told Mary: “What have I to do with you, woman? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) Other translations read: “Leave the matter in my hands.” (Weymouth) “Do not try to direct me.” (An American Translation) Yes, Jesus respected his mother, but he did not place her on a pedestal.
What privileges Mary enjoyed! She gave birth to Jesus. Then she mothered and trained the young child. Finally, she exercised faith, becoming Christ’s disciple and spiritual sister. In our last Scriptural glimpse of Mary, we see her in an upper chamber in Jerusalem. She is there together with Jesus’ apostles, her other sons, and some faithful women—all worshipers of Jehovah.—Acts 1:13, 14.
In time, Mary died and her body returned to the dust. Like other early anointed followers of her dear son, she slept in death until God’s due time to resurrect her as a spirit creature with immortal life in heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:44, 50; 2 Timothy 4:8) How delighted this “highly favored one” must now be in the presence of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ!
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Mary was highly favored as the mother of Jesus