Mary is rightfully lauded as the central figure in the coming of the Messiah – second to Him. And so she is. A humble servant of the Lord in this story – she accepts her part without hesitation.
At the tender age of 12 to 14 years old, she is tasked with the most awesome privilege, and impossible to explain circumstances, that ever befell a woman. She accepted her role with grace and humility. “Her tender heart, her trusting nature, her abiding faith, her humble spirit,” all added up to Mary being the perfect person to be the mother of the Messiah. She was an amazing young woman with a deep faith.
But I wonder if there is perhaps an unsung hero in this story as well. Remembering Mary’s youth, I wonder from where the depth of her faith came. I think, perhaps, the unsung heroes in this story are Mary’s parents.
I’ve read several accounts of Mary’s unexplainable pregnancy and her trip to visit her relative Elizabeth soon after the news was announced. Never have Mary’s parents been favorably portrayed. One writer pointed out that to travel to Judea and see Elizabeth, Mary would have needed the permission of her parents due to her youth and status as a betrothed maiden. Coming so close to giving credit where credit is due, the writer then states that “she couldn’t inform them.” She couldn’t inform them of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, she couldn’t inform them of her own impending or accomplished pregnancy, she couldn’t inform them of her angelic visit.
Mary did not arrive in this world with a fully formed faith. None of us do. We learn our faith through our life experiences, and Mary is no different. She likely came from a devout family. For generations, Israelite women had wondered and prayed for the one who was to be the virgin foretold by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14). Perhaps Mary and her family, like so many others at that time of oppression, prayed for the Deliverer to come to Israel soon.
No, Mary’s faith was not fully formed from the womb, but grew and was likely nurtured in the confines of her own home. She was an insignificant young woman in a poor family in a small village in a backwater country conquered by Rome. She was nothing, but her faith made her important to God’s plan and to God Himself. Faith that undoubtedly first dwelt in her mother and father, who then passed that faith on to her.
The faith of her parents allowed her to go to see Elizabeth. Instead of Mary offering “some credible explanation for wanting to visit her kinswoman,“ she may have opened her heart to those who knew her best. We know she was schooled in the Scriptures – evidence of a godly heritage – because of her acceptance of God’s plan and the references she uses in her song of praise (Luke 1:46-55).
Mary is a remarkable, godly young woman when we first meet her in Scripture – a woman with a deep faith that was nurtured by her loving parents. What a privilege she had to be the mother of the Messiah – and what a privilege they had to be the ones who raised that godly young woman.
As parents, we often look down on our holy calling. Mary’s parents had a calling to raise a godly young woman who would play a key role in God’s redemptive story. So it is with all the men and women of faith – someone poured into their lives to build them into the servants of God they became. Hannah built into Samuel. Mordecai built into Esther. Amy Carmichael’s parents built into her life. Susanna Wesley built into John and Charles. Whose life are you building? Don’t despise your calling – you never know from where the next Billy Graham or Mary will come.