"Behold, the bondslave of the Lord."
|Photo courtesy of rotten969|
There is no doubt in my mind that there is much to learn from the story of Mary being told that she will conceive a child who will be the long awaited Messiah. However, one of the most profound things I see in this passage in Luke 1 is the characteristic that Mary displays in the statement you see above. That characteristic is submission.
If we look at the passage as a whole we see that Mary gives us a miniature snapshot of the entire Christian life. In verse 28 we see that she has experienced the grace of God. One of my favorite definitions of grace is, "unmerited favor." That is, we get something we don't deserve. There is no earthly reason why God would choose Mary to be the mother of the Messiah and yet He did. Mary experienced God's grace. Further along we see that Mary believed the Word of God as spoken through the angel Gabriel. Unlike Zacharias who responded with doubt when given a miraculous answer to his prayer, Mary responds to this revelation in faith that it will surely happen. Finally, after experiencing God's grace and believing His Word, Mary submitted to His will, unconditionally. How many of us, as Christians, have experienced God's grace in the salvation offered to us through Christ; believe His Word and stop there? How many of us fail to submit to the will of God?
You see, submission is not an option given to us in the Bible. It is a command. James 4:7 says,
Submit therefore to God...
This is not a difficult statement to interpret. James has not used metaphoric, shadowy language here. The declaration is simply to submit. He goes on to tell us that if we are submitting to God we should also be resisting the devil. The only other alternative is that we are submitted to the devil and are resisting God. Friends, resisting God is the same as rebelling against Him and another word for rebellion is sin. If we are not submitted to God we are in sin. There is no two ways about it, there are only sheep and goats in this equation. Will we submit to God and resist the devil, or submit to the devil and resist God?
James goes on to tell us that we should humble ourselves before the Lord and that in His time He will exalt us. This humility becomes the first step in submission. The word that is translated "bondslave" in the New American Standard Bible could also be translated "female slave" or, as in the King James Version, "handmaiden." This type of slave would have been the bottom rung on the ladder of servitude and this is what Mary considers herself in relation to God. In spite of the amazing honor and blessing of being picked to be the mother of the Messiah Mary understands that she is indebted to the Lord. Jesus Himself also models this attitude of humility and we see it explained in Philippians chapter 2 which tells us that He humbled Himself by becoming a man and was found in the form of a..."bond-servant."
To be sure, submission to God begins with us as individual believers but it also applies to the Church as a whole. In Ephesians 5 we have the oft repeated admonition for wives to submit to their husbands. All too often we forget what precedes this statement which is that wives should submit to their husbands as the Church is subject to Christ. Yes, the individual members of the Body must submit but we must submit as whole as well. That means it is no longer about our preferences or desires or ideas about what church is, or what church should be like or be doing. It is only about what God thinks the church is and should be doing. His will overrides our will and we bring the body into submission under His leadership and lordship.
We as individuals, and as a Church, are more than willing to call Jesus savior, friend, redeemer, comforter, and guide but many times...too many times, stop before we call Him Lord. This cannot be. There is no option when it comes to submission to the Lord. Either we do, or we live in sin and rebellion resisting Him and His will. The question I believe He is asking every one of us is this, "Will you submit?"