“God would have us part with nothing for Him, but that which will damn us if we keep it. He has no design upon us, but to make us happy.” Thomas Watson, A Puritan Golden Treasury
Last night I got to thinking about Mary. Mary, the Mother of the Son of God, what an accolade! She is one of the most famous women who ever lived, she got to see and speak to one of the most senior angels in Heaven, a star was created specially for her Son's birthday, shepherds came from the hills and Wise Men traveled further than she could comprehend, all to see her precious baby.
And yet. Can you imagine anything more difficult than being Mary? Pregnant before marriage – a recipe for disaster in those days. Systematically hunted by a powerful and widely feared tyrant, children murdered in cold blood as she ran for her life. Exiled in a foreign culture with no money and no family. Finally she is able to move to a non-descript town in her own country, always keeping her head down, trying not to attract attention or trouble.
Then Jesus starts to work, He doesn't rest, He is constantly on the road, everyone wants a piece of Him. She wants Him safe like He was when she kissed Him goodnight. She doesn't always understand Him. People start to talk and point. There is trouble at the Temple. Through the night hours Mary can only pray and cry for her little boy until He is arrested by her own people and tortured to the extent that she barely recognizes Him.
Mary is forced to watch as her own Son, Jesus, is sentenced to death for the sake of politics and an uneasy alliance. Her wholly innocent, amazing, beautiful Son, roughly nailed to a cross like a common criminal, naked and alone. So alone that he cries out to His Father, the One whose love He knows like breath itself -
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46b, NIV
But it doesn't end there and Mary is not frozen to this spot. Jesus, while He is dying on the cross, hands care of Mary over to his beloved friend John. Even in His agony, Jesus remembers hers. Mary watches Jesus die and for three days there is only loss, then He is there, like He never left, even more alive than before. And, slowly, Mary begins to make sense of it all.
Mary’s obedience to God cost her everything. Not simply money, time or energy but her comfort, her safety, her reputation, her family and ultimately, her Son. Hers was a life of radical obedience, born of great love, great trust and great determination. Why did she pour out her life like this? Because deep in her heart she wanted nothing more than to know God - so much so that she offered her whole life as an act of worship.
And here's the miracle. As Mary poured out her life, God transformed her until finally she was able to understand what Jesus meant when He said -
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” John 15:13, NIV
Mary loved this way - and love like this brings freedom. If you are free to lay your life down, you cannot be shackled to the world. You do not defend your right to a safe, comfortable religion that demands little and offers even less. When you love like this, you are committing yourself to the hands of the living God. Not some other God, perhaps made in the image of man.
Mary’s obedience may have cost her everything, but what she gained was beyond price, everlasting, faultless and pure. Here is the Apostle Paul to help us make sense of it all -
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11, KJV
Yes, if you are free to lay your life down, you cannot be shackled to the world. You do not defend your right to a safe, comfortable religion that demands little and offers even less.
Mary’s life teaches us the way to this truth – that God would have us part with nothing for Him, but that which will damn us if we keep it. He has no design upon us, but to make us holy. And with this truth comes Jesus. Beyond price, everlasting, faultless and pure.
He believes in you.