“And he came to her and said, ‘Greeting, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28)
“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30)
Through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are invited into the favor of God. Like Mary before us, we have an opportunity to experience the beautiful and crushing weight of God’s favor upon our lives.
But how was Mary favored? Gabriel repeated the concept twice, calling her a “favored one” and announcing she had “found favor with God.” Looking at her life, we might be surprised.
Mary lived a difficult life. Filled with faith, she accepted what Gabriel had said of her. She became the mother of King Messiah Jesus. She believed God. Still, this belief did not lead her to a life of ease. She had a large measure of pain.
First, Mary experienced the constant innuendo that she was an immoral woman. Most would not have believed in her miraculous pregnancy, so the rumor mill swirled. Even by the time of Christ, some thirty years later, this cloud hung over Mary’s life. Wrongfully accused, and shown little grace by man, Mary toiled under a false accusation.
Second, Mary spent a portion of her life as a refugee. She, Joseph, and baby Jesus had to flee to Egypt because of Herod’s persecution. Warned by God, Joseph fled with his family. The gifts of the wise men likely helped to pay for this expedition, but this could not have been a glad way to begin her family.
Third, Joseph likely died at some point, making her a widow. By the time of Jesus’ adult ministry life, Joseph is off the scene. We know him to have been a godly man, so abandonment seems unlikely. Perhaps he was older than Mary and his time had come. We don’t know the details, but it is obvious she is alone by the time of Christ’s ministry. Jesus made arrangements for her to be cared for by John after his death.
Fourth, Mary seems to have lived a life of poverty. Nazareth was no extraordinary town. Additionally, without her husband as the primary provider for the family, she likely depended on Jesus to earn a living on her behalf.
Fifth, and most of all, Mary watched her beloved Son died a brutal death on a Roman cross. She needed the salvation He provided, so she will rejoice forever over that cross. But it must have been an impossible moment for her. To see your child grow to become famous, then famously polarizing, then famously crucified must have been pure torment.
In all of this, Mary was living under the favor of God upon her life. She was still a “favored one” by God.
This brand of "favor" is only possible via the cross of Christ. From our human view of things you are either in pain or not. We might assume that God’s smile on our lives would lead to a painless existence. But why would we believe this? The cross was painful. The apostolic lives were painful. Mary’s life was painful. Yet the grace of God was on them all.
You see, the cross does not provide a way of escape through the inevitable pains of life. But it does redeem the pains of life, enabling us to meet God in them, giving us a way through the difficulty.
We are favored as we are brought into Christ’s mission. It is not without heartache or pain, but it is beautiful. Reality says I will hurt in life anyway, it might as well be for something glorious.