Luke 1:26-28: Almost every time I hear this term "Highly Favored" used today—whether by pastors and evangelists or "Average Joe" Christians, I tend to shudder in frustration because it is one of the least understood and often twisted and abused titles in Scriptures. This term is used one other time in Scriptures (Ephesians 1:6) when Paul uses it to describe everyone's "status" in Christ; meaning if we have been born again, we have received unmerited Grace from God for His Sacrifice. But many claim this title for themselves in the context of Mary's special place in God's Eyes because they see it as explanation for their abundance in life—materially or physically. Some feel they have received this title because of the hard work and devotion to ministry they have given.
Many claim it in an act of faith so they can be blessed, feeling they are grabbing hold of God's Promises. Some TV evangelists even proclaim that if you will plant a seed of faith, God will Highly Favor you for your actions. If you are one of these people, even if in good intentions, listen closely: 1) The personal, separating, God-given title of "Highly Favored" or "specially honored and blessed" place given to an individual such as Mary is a title that God alone can decide who does or does not meet—not us. How do we have the right to decide who God considers for a special honor? God made that claim through Gabriel. 2) Mary did not receive this "Honor and Blessing" amongst women because she had claimed it as a Promise or because she had even done anything in life yet to earn this special place in God's heart. On the contrary, with what little we do know about her, we see just the opposite. She was very, very young (probably about 13 years old at this point) [teens: you are of an age that God sees you as accountable and able). She was born to a simple family in a very, "backwoods" small, simple town called Nazareth with a population of only about 200 to 400 people; living in very simple homes with no bathhouses, palaces or even paved streets. She was not highly educated. She had no great position or ministry. And as a poor, simple woman of that culture, she had almost no influence over anything or anyone. Mary had been given this honor for one reason only: because she held God in a "Highly Favored" position in her heart long before this moment. God saw the pure love, hunger, and devotion she held in her heart for Him because He alone sees the truth in our hearts: Hebrews 4:12. She became "Highly Favored" because she was first "Highly Flavored" on the inside. Just like that cone of your favorite ice cream you give special honor to long before you dive in, because you know the flavor it contains. Just as David was a man after God's own heart because of his love and passion to know God more.
What bothers me most about many who claim, "Highly Favored" is their expectation of blessings and earthly goodness because of this special claimed status in God's eyes. Stop and consider this carefully: if you or I truly possess a heart which is so in love with longs for Christ in our lives that we could be considered as "Highly Favored" of God, material blessings and a comfortable life in this world would literally be the last thing on our minds. Mary's passion for God became apparent in her immediate heartfelt response the moment Gabriel approached her: Luke 1:38 (maidservant). When Mary was told what God wanted her to do, her instant response was willingness. This was the exact word which was used to describe Jesus' heart to do the Father's Will in Philippians 2:5-8. We all say that we want God's Will for our lives, but do we have a heart that truly reflects this—a heart only God can really see? It's time we became true "bondservants" and "maidservants". It's time we individually and as a family of God began Seeking God's Will above our own lives first. The dedicated heart Jesus is longing for is much more passionate than most have been willing to show up to this point in our society—just as in Mary’s day. And the world needs those who will show them the Savior now more than ever in this nation. Stop and ponder: do you realize you can truly win his heart in a special way as well? Do you want to be "Highly Favored" by God? It may not be quite what you expect.
Mary was truly "Highly Favored", but now listen to the "Blessed Life" she lived because of this honor. (Doesn’t sound as honoring as most would think today). First of all, she was very young with obvious plans for a good start in life with a betrothed husband who loved her dearly. In her heart she knew and prepared for the horrible consequences this choice would cause to her relationship. The loss of her husband and any hope for a happy, normal life in society. How crushing for a teenage bride to make a decision to lose her love and her romantic dreams for her own life in disgrace just weeks before their wedding. How many here would be so completely willing to give up their intimate relationship with no questions if God asked you to do so? Many a so-called devoted Christian have denied Christ for the love of a mate which God called them away from. Secondly, Mary was instantly shamed and ruined in the eyes of all of those around her. Her life was socially ruined for all her days. Joseph even had the right to have her stoned because of the severity of her crime in the eyes of the culture. But in his kind love, he had determined to break the betrothal quietly. How many would be willing to lose their financial future of comfort and security? A divorced woman—who was shamed on top of that—would have little to no chance of being anything but a beggar or prostitute. Mary was still willing to do all of this. And even though Joseph was told by God that she truly carried the Messiah and he stayed with her afterwards, the public shame ruined the entire life she would have had otherwise. Mary stayed the first few months with kinfolk—Elizabeth and Zechariah (her cousin). Imagine the secret excitement shared—to share in the joy of what God had done for both of them—and no doubt, to avoid the terrible stigma of her predicament. She most likely was rejected and shunned even in her religious community and much of her own family. This may be why she traveled with Joseph on such a long hard journey during the census and stayed for years rather than months afterwards. And this degrading position did not go away with time. It followed her all of her days, even after marriage. Scriptures reveal that Jewish society believed Mary to be a tramp all of her days: John 8:41. This view of Mary is even reflected in Jewish History. In the Jewish Talmud, a collection of Jewish civil and religious law, this is what the Sanhedrin wrote of Jesus and Mary: "I found a genealogical roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, Such-an-one is a bastard of an adulteress." - Sanhedrin Yeb. IV 3;49a:, R. Shimeon ben Azzai. The Talmud even tells that Mary was a hairdresser who had an affair with a Roman Soldier named Pantera, conceiving Jesus in adultery. This is actually quite amazing. Why would the most important religious documents of the Jewish world at that time waste space on an insignificant 13yr old nobody in history, from an unknown town of Nazareth, who should have remained unknown to all? Because Jesus made the greatest impact of all time. How many of us would be willing to permanently destroy our reputation in the public's eye for the rest of our lives on Jesus' behalf? Even in the eyes of our church family? All for doing the right thing; for living one of the most righteous lives in history. Some might say Mary said “yes” to Gabriel in fear at the moment, not having time to contemplate all this. And yet, even in the middle of this most trying and terrifying time, when she had time to ponder it all and had run to her cousin’s house for comfort, isten to Mary's attitude and heart as she spoke these words to Elizabeth: Luke 1:46-49. Mary worships God—shows gratitude that He would use her and praises the great things He has done for her. This worship from Mary’s heart had about 15 different ideas and passages from the OT. At 13yrs old, Mary hungered after His Word that deeply. So often when we do say yes to God, we complain and brood over how difficult our calling. We think we are doing something for God, when in reality it is Him doing great things for you when He calls you into His plan. And lastly, Mary had to endure horrible pain and loss as she watched her precious Child grow up to be hated, mocked, tortured and murdered before her very eye. She was warned of the terrible pain she would endure even when Jesus was a small Babe at the Temple by an old man named Simeon who was promised by God that he would see the Messiah before he died: Luke 2:34-35. Can you possibly imagine seeing your own Son murdered right before your eyes, as you stood helpless? Now imagine seeing it when that Son had been the precious, loving Jesus. So, Mary not only lived from that point forward as a shamed harlot and adulteress, but as a widower and single mother who lost her husband to death, and as the mother of a horrible, blasphemous, rejected Crucified Criminal as well—all because she was called "Highly Favored" of God.
Why then did Mary praise God for this honor? A lot can be seen about her in this question. Her greatest longing was incredibly fulfilled in a way no one else has ever experienced. She saw Jesus as a Man on this earth, more personally than anyone ever has. His deepest emotions, His character at the closest level, His heart from an infant to adulthood. Can you even fathom the opportunity and excitement of this intimacy? She probably witnessed more of Jesus' private personal miracles and wonders than anyone on earth. This seems very apparent because by the time Jesus performed His first public miracle at the wedding in Cana, Mary already had full confidence and expectation of His abilities. What must she have seen and experienced before this day to be so absolutely assured of His Works and willingness to help her? Because she experienced an intimacy with Jesus like no other on earth, gaining His earthly love and trust; having such a bond that they spoke volumes to one another at the wedding with only eye contact, as Jesus expressed His love to her: John 2:3-5. And lastly—powerfully—Mary had the absolute joy of knowing she was used by her God to change and shape the destiny of the world. She would forever have had the privilege of working to build her Master's Kingdom. Nothing could have been more precious to her than this. Can we be "Highly Favored" of God as well? The verse which we read about Jesus becoming a Servant shortly ago gives us a powerful clue when read from the beginning: Philippians 2:5-7. It is not only possible, but desired and expected of those who truly want to follow Him in Love. It is the reason He saved us—to have this kind of passion and longing for Him. Don't think about what you need to do now, or how you need to sacrifice more or lose more in life. Just surrender your heart and life to Him totally. Say "yes" before He asks. Desperately seek to do His Will. (Get that?) Be ready and willing to do and be anything He desires and needs of you simply because He is more important than anything else. And then—in love and devotion—stay the course; wherever that decision takes you, no debate, no regret, no consideration of loss. And no matter where it leads, what the cost, you will have the privilege and intimacy of knowing your God used you to help shape His Kingdom.
Mary was there seeking to do His Will with her whole heart, available to be used in His first appearing. It is our turn to seek His Will with our whole heart at His second appearing. Matthew 11:12-17 (violence)—only used twice in the NT (both times positively). Luke 16:16 repeats this phrase in a clearer but shorter way to us today. Then Jesus immediately uses a comparison of those who are completely apathetic and unmoved to the desires and actions of the Kingdom: Matthew 11:16 -17—in what moves God in joy or heartbreak because they are interested in their own plans. It is time to stop playing church; stop doing it our way—and seek Him with everything in us, and follow him with everything He gives us.
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