Mary, Full of (God's) Grace

by Spiros Zodhiates

Spiros Zodhiates"Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee" (Luke 1:28).

When the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, he not only encouraged her to rejoice in God's will, but he also told her that God had signally honored her. His second word to her was a unique adjective, kecharito mene in Greek-which the English translators paraphrased as best they could: "thou that art highly favoured." The Greek word actually comes from the common New Testament word for "grace," charis, which means "undeserved favor." Every time God condescends to speak to man, He is showing favor to him. The verb form, charitoo ,means to bestow favor or grace. This is the verb that is used in Ephesians 1:6, "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (literally "wherein he has given us grace in the beloved [echarito sen]").

The first thing we learn from the angel, then, is that God dispensed His grace to Mary, showing her His favor. It is noteworthy that the form of the verb here in verse 28 is in the passive voice, which indicates that this grace or favor was not something that Mary had earned but was a gift of God. That Mary recognized this is apparent in all she said in her great hymn of praise, the Magnificat. She never gave any indication of pride that God had chosen her to bring forth His Son because she deserved this honor. In her humility she knew that it was only by His grace and through His favor. How clearly the angel brings this out again in verse 30: "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour[charin, grace] with God."

It was due only to God's favor that Mary was saved from her sins and was privileged to bring the Messiah into the world. On the one hand, God's grace was manifested in forgiveness, and on the other it was manifested in an individual, unique, never-to-be-repeated privilege.

God uses all men to bring about His purposes in this world, but He achieves His best and highest purposes through those who recognize that whatever is good in them, or whatever good they do, is made possible by the grace of God alone. As the Apostle Paul says, "Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. 4:7).

A lowly brier was growing in a ditch when a gardener came along with his spade and dug it up. He took it into his garden and planted it among the flowers. Later he took his keen-edged knife and made a slit in the brier and grafted in a rose. When summer came, lovely roses were blooming on that humble brier. "Who'd ever have thought that such beautiful flowers could come out of that common brier bush! " exclaimed a visitor. "Their beauty is not due to what came out of the brier," said the gardener, "but to that which I put into it."

If you think God has blessed you because you deserved it, or that God has used you for a particular task because He could not find anyone else so well suited for it, it is time you looked in the mirror of His Word and saw how "poor, and naked, and blind" you really are. Without the riches of His grace, the clothing of His righteousness, and His gifts of faith and wisdom from above, you would be nothing, or could do nothing acceptable to Him.

Do you thank God for the little He gives you as much as you would thank Him for affluence? Perhaps you know what it is to be surprised by a gift of love. You enjoy it far more on that account than if you had earned it by the sweat of your brow. God's grace to man is an unmerited gift of love that brings untold joy. How beautifully the words of the angel sounded in Mary's ears. Have you received His grace as Mary did?

Not only did the angel bid Mary to rejoice, and tell her that she was signally honored of God, but he added, "The Lord is with thee." Why this preliminary greeting? Why the delay in breaking the news to her that she had been selected to be the mother of God's Son? Did she first need the assurance that the Lord was with her? Yes indeed. A soul-shaking event was about to take place in her life. How could she face the doubts and misunderstandings of others without the assurance that God would sustain her? We, too, need such assurance. Oh, yes, we know that God is with us if we are His children through faith in Christ, but in the difficulties of life it's good to hear His voice telling us so.

A minister tells of an experience that brought this home to him. It was on one of life's dreary days. A much-needed vacation had been cut short by the death of his little child, and he was struggling in weariness and despondency to prepare his sermon for the coming Sunday. In his extremity he threw himself on his knees, begging God that His grace might be sufficient for his great need. As he looked up, his glance fell on a wall motto before him, with the words, "My grace is sufficient for thee," so arranged in their color scheme that the word "is" stood out vividly. The conviction flashed into his soul that there was no need to beg for that which was divinely assured as a fact. His life from that moment was revolutionized. God had spoken to Him as surely as He spoke to Mary through the angel. Whenever you long to hear His voice, you will find comfort and guidance in His Word, the Holy Scriptures.

Observe that the Greek for "the Lord" in the angel's greeting to Mary is ho Kurios. It comes from kuros, which is related to kueo , meaning "to swell" and consequently "to be strong." Ho Kurios, "the Lord," therefore means "the One who has strength, power." (See Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. III, p. 1041.) It is as though the angel were saying to Mary, "You may feel utterly weak in view of what I am about to announce to you, but the Strong One is with you." The attacks against her Son would be furious from His boyhood up. How could she meet them alone? Even with Joseph to help her, she would need God's strength to sustain her spirit. The assurance of the angel that the Almighty One was with her was exactly what Mary needed.

This is true of each one of us. When you receive the grace of God that leads to salvation, you may rest assured that the Lord, the Strong One, is with you. So why fear? It is only if He is not with you that you have reason to be afraid.

There is a mystery in human hearts,
And though we be encircled by a host
Of those who love us well, and are beloved;
To every one of us from time to time |
There comes a sense of utter loneliness.
Our dearest friend is "stranger" to our joy,
And cannot realize our bitterness.
And when beneath some heavy cross you faint,
And say, "I cannot bear this load alone,"
You say the truth.
The Man of Sorrows understands it well;
In all points tempted He can feel with you.
You cannot come too often, or too near;
The Son of God is infinite in grace
His presence satisfies the longing soul,
And those who walk with Him from day to day
Can never have a solitary way.

Napoleon once said, "God is on the side of the heaviest artillery," but at Waterloo he found that he was mistaken, for the 160 guns of the English overcame the 250 guns of the French. With God on our side we can conquer every time, though all the hosts of hell should come against us. In all her subsequent trials, Mary could surely have said with the Apostle Paul, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil . 4 :19).

Taken from Dr. Zodhiates' book, The Song of the Virgin, ©1973 by Spiros Zodhiates. Published by AMG Publishers. Next in this series: Did the Virgin Mary Need a Savior?

Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps.

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