May 27, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 1:38 (NRSV)
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
From an angel, Mary heard the unsettling news that she would give birth to a son even though she was a virgin. Mary’s life was about to be turned utterly upside down. How did she respond to this shocking news? By offering herself fully and freely to God. “Here I am,” she said, “the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” O God, by your grace, may I be like Mary, giving all that I am to you.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion we considered the surprise of Jesus for Mary. Though she was a virgin, she learned she would give birth to a child. That would have been a giant surprise all by itself. But, according to the angel, Mary’s child would be the ruler over the house of Jacob and, indeed, the very Son of God. Talk about surprises! Mary must have been gobsmacked.
When she first learned that she would be giving birth, Mary asked the angel a reasonable question: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). She knew enough of human physiology to understand how babies are made and that she should not be in the process of making one. The angel explained that Mary would conceive through the Holy Spirit as “the power of the Most High” overshadowed her (Luke 1:35). In order to reassure Mary that such a thing would be possible for God, the angel pointed to the extraordinary pregnancy of Mary’s relative Elizabeth, who was preparing to give birth even in her old age.
So how did Mary respond to all of these surprises? She said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). The simple phrase “Here am I” echoes the responses of Moses and Isaiah, both of whom answered God’s call by saying, “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4; Isaiah 6:8). Moreover, like these faithful ones from the Old Testament, Mary offered herself fully and freely to God. “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) is the fitting response of one who saw herself as God’s servant.
Since her story is so familiar to us, it can be hard for us to imagine how utterly unexpected and unsettling the angel’s news would have been for Mary. She surely realized that her unplanned pregnancy would not be a happy surprise for her family, friends, and fiancé. After all, who would believe her account of how she got pregnant? The Gospel of Matthew reveals that Joseph intended to break off their engagement quietly in an effort to hide Mary from public disgrace. He did not believe Mary’s story until an angelic vision reassured him (Matthew 1:19-24). As Mary pondered the angel’s news, she no doubt understood that her life had just gotten immeasurably more complicated and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she offered herself to the Lord as his servant. She chose to have her life shaped, not by her own hopes and expectations, but by God’s word.
I find Mary’s brief response to the angel to be one of the most moving sentences in all of Scripture. I am stunned by her willingness to give to God all that she was, even the most intimate parts of herself. I am reminded, by contrast, of how hard it is for me to surrender even relatively inconsequential parts of my life to the Lord. Yes, I believe I am, like Mary, a servant of the Lord. And I really want to live as God’s servant. But am I able truthfully to say with Mary, “Let it be with me according to your word”? Will I take whatever it is that God wants to give me? O Lord, may it be so. May I be like Mary, living by your grace and for your glory.
What do you think enabled Mary to respond to the angel in such an astounding way? What might have brought her to the point where she could offer her whole being to the Lord as his servant?
Can you think of a time in your life when God asked you to do something big, perhaps something scary or truly sacrificial? How did you respond? Why did you respond this way?
What might God be asking of you today? How might you respond?
If you are aware of God asking something of you, take time to reflect upon this and how you are reacting. If possible, talk about this with your small group, with a trusted friend, or with your pastor or spiritual director.
Gracious God, once again I am struck by Mary’s faithfulness and trust. Knowing that her life would never be the same again, knowing that the road ahead would be a hard one, nevertheless she offered herself to you. “Here I am,” she said. Here I am, Lord, here for you. “Let it be with me according to your word.”
How amazing, Lord! How inspiring! How challenging! You know that I struggle with giving you parts of my life that are nothing like what Mary gave to you. I hold back in fear or in a desire to run my own life. Yet I hear the echoes of Mary’s profession, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
O God, help me to be like Mary, to trust you fully, to submit to you freely, to let my life be guided by your will for me. By your grace may I say to you: Here I am, Lord. I am your servant. Let it be with me according to your word. May I exist for your praise, your purpose, your glory. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Danger of Securing My Future
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.