Mary Pt. 3: Provision in the Form of Friendship
God knows what we need. He knows how to meet our needs better than we do, and He is faithful to complete the work that He has started.
God called Mary to a very vital, and a very difficult, task, and she stepped into her role with grace and unfaltering obedience. She would have quickly realized, however, that this obedience would affect her in ways she may not have initially realized, tarnishing her reputation and making her subject to harsh judgement. But God did not leave her where she was, though His acts of provision and defense for her may not have looked the way she might have guessed.
By moving forward in a silent, trusting obedience, she left space for God to provide and guide her in His way, which gives us a unique glimpse into what God deemed important in order to move His plan forward. This did not mean that Mary’s reputation was cleared right away, or that a detailed description of God’s plan was delivered so that others might believe in this immaculate conception more easily.
Rather, I find it fascinating that the Lord’s initial provision for Mary in her journey to becoming Christ’s mother came in the form of community: in the form of friendship and ministry partnerships.
Of course, Joseph likely comes to our minds first. We know the story of how the same angel appeared to Him to confirm that what Mary had told him was true, and that Joseph had a role to play in this miraculous venture as well. The Lord secured Joseph in his calling and restored he and Mary’s partnership in pursuing God’s will.
But there was another key relationship in this story which came prior to Joseph and Mary’s reconciliation, and I think we often miss the beauty of God’s emphasis on this Christ-centered friendship.
In Luke chapter 1, we find the story of another miraculous conception as we read of how God blessed a barren and elderly Elizabeth, and her husband, and priest, Zechariah, with John the Baptist.
After Elizabeth conceived, however, Luke 1:24 tells us that “for five months she kept herself hidden…”
Though Elizabeth was Mary’s relative, Mary likely would not have been aware of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Not only are we told Elizabeth kept this miracle to herself, but the two would have been separated by about 80 miles.
The first place we are told that Mary is made aware of Elizabeth’s pregnancy is in the Angel’s conversation with her. In fact, we find Elizabeth’s news right on the heels of the explanation of how God was going to accomplish Mary’s immaculate conception.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 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.
Does it seem odd that the angel would have thrown the fact of Elizabeth’s pregnancy in here? In the midst of one of the most important conveyances of information in human history, we see a tidbit of information concerning a pregnant cousin which can almost seem out of place.
What beautiful grace, however, we find in this bit of information. At the height of Mary’s confusion and concern, we see God provide direction towards Christ-centered companionship and support for Mary to cling to as she began to navigate her role as Christ’s mother.
What I find so interesting in this Scriptural account is the comparison of who is mentioned and who is not. We see nothing mentioned here of Mary confiding in her mother, or finding encouragement and understanding in close friends. Rather we see the same Angel who brought her the news of her long-awaited Savior pointing her towards the only other person around who would understand a miraculous pregnancy.
Elizabeth would understand. She had experienced the impossible work of God in her life as well. But beyond that, we see evidence of the authenticity of her relationship with God and the Christ-centered nature of her and Mary’s relationship.
I can’t imagine the feeling of relief and confirmation that must of run over Mary as she heard the words Elizabeth spoke as she approached her home.
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, t“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
The words that Elizabeth spoke are so revealing. They reveal that her concern was in what the Lord was doing in Mary’s life, and not in the drama or gossip of the situation. They reveal that she lived a life willing and ready for the Lord to speak through her into the lives of others. And they delivered the Spirit-filled and unprovoked confirmation that Mary needed.
The nature of this beautiful relationship was more concerned with God’s will in each other’s lives than it was what they thought about it. And Mary’s response to all of this was a song of praise.
We see God’s beautiful provision in the form of friendships all throughout Scripture. David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Mary and Elizabeth… And they all have one thing in common:
Their interactions with one another were centered on spurring one another on towards the Lord.
And we see their speech and actions towards each other in ways that were markedly selfless, and sometimes not beneficial for their own situations. Jonathan chose loyalty in affirming David’s God-given leadership over his father, King Saul. Ruth chose to commit her life to being faithful to Naomi although it seemed to cost her the hope of life as she may have once imagined it. And Elizabeth was able to look beyond the scary and confusing parts of Mary’s call, and affirmed the hand of God and his work in Mary’s life.
What a challenge to us as we look at our friendships and relationships. Are we concerned primarily about the work God is doing in each other’s lives? Or are we seeking for earthly affirmation and fulfillment? Are our friendships Christ-centered or self-centered?
God proves in this moment in Mary’s story His ability to provide what we need in order to fulfill what He has called us to. He provided encouragement and confirmation through the only person who could understand, and He advocated on her behalf to Joseph and secured him as her partner in this pursuit.
I imagine there likely was a lot of pain and misunderstanding in the rest of the relationships that surrounded Mary. Yet we see God point her towards the ones who would remain key participants in moving His plan forward.
Though the road ahead still held many surprises, she would not be facing them alone.