The question of whether Mary consented to being the mother of Jesus is an important one for understanding her role in salvation history. The Bible indicates that Mary was informed of her unique calling and gave her willing consent, even though she did not fully understand all that it would entail. Looking at the relevant biblical passages helps shed light on this significant issue.
The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)
The key passage relating to Mary’s consent is the annunciation, where the angel Gabriel informs her that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. This event is recorded in Luke 1:26-38. Several details stand out:
- Gabriel greets Mary as “O favored one,” indicating she has found favor with God (v. 28). His appearance and greeting clearly disturb and perplex her (v. 29).
- Gabriel tells her not to fear, and that she will bear a son to be named Jesus, who will be called the Son of God and rule on David’s throne forever (vv. 30-33).
- Mary understandably asks how this can be since she is a virgin (v. 34). She has consented to no relations that could produce a child.
- Gabriel explains the power of the Holy Spirit will overshadow her, and the child will be called the Son of God (v. 35). This indicates a miraculous conception.
- Gabriel then informs Mary that her relative Elizabeth, though old and barren, has also miraculously conceived a son who will be the forerunner of Mary’s child (vv. 36-37). This serves to encourage Mary that God can do the impossible.
- Mary responds in faith: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). She embraces the calling despite not understanding everything about how it will happen.
This passage indicates Mary was informed beforehand of her unique calling to be the mother of the Son of God. Though perplexed at first, she received clarification from Gabriel and gave her consent in faith to what God was asking of her. She referred to herself as the Lord’s “servant,” denoting humble obedience. Though the full implications of her calling were not clear, she trusted in God’s plan. Her attitude stands in contrast to Zechariah’s doubtful response to Gabriel (Luke 1:18-20). Mary believed the impossible would happen according to God’s word.
Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56)
After the annunciation, Mary visits her relative Elizabeth who confirms Gabriel’s words about her pregnancy and her unique role:
- When Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, her child leaps in the womb and she is filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 41). She recognizes Mary as “the mother of my Lord” even prior to his birth (v. 43).
- Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith: “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (v. 45). Her faith stands as an example.
- In her song of praise, Mary rejoices that God has looked with favor on her humble state and that his promises to Abraham and David will be fulfilled through her child (vv. 46-55). She embraces this calling, even though a sword will pierce her own soul as Simeon later prophesies (Luke 2:34-35).
This passage confirms that Mary understood her unique role and embraced it in faith, even though the cost to herself would be great.
Mary’s Reflection After Jesus’ Birth (Luke 2:19, 51)
After Gabriel’s announcement and her encounter with Elizabeth, Mary demonstrated her continuing consent through obedience and quiet reflection:
- She obediently fulfills Caesar Augustus’ census requirement and travels to Bethlehem in late pregnancy (Luke 2:1-7).
- After Jesus’ birth, she ponders the amazing events in her heart, recognizing God’s plan unfolding (Luke 2:19).
- She treasures and reflects on other experiences from Jesus’ early life (Luke 2:51).
Mary’s obedience and quiet reflection indicate her willing embrace of her calling over time, not just a one-time acceptance. She remained committed to her vocation as Christ’s mother.
Mary’s Intercession at Cana (John 2:1-11)
Well into Jesus’ ministry, at the wedding in Cana, Mary’s actions indicate her continued embrace of her role:
- When the wine runs out, she trusts Jesus can resolve the issue in line with God’s timing. She tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
- She initiates Jesus’ first miracle, prompting Him to begin His public ministry, even though His “hour” had not yet come (John 2:4). Her role as mother gives her a unique intercessory position.
This episode demonstrates Mary’s confidence many years later that Jesus would embrace His calling as the Son of God. She continued to play a unique role as His mother.
Mary’s Presence at Jesus’ Crucifixion (John 19:25-27)
Mary remained faithful to her son even through His crucifixion:
- She is present at the cross when even Jesus’ closest disciples had fled (John 19:25-27).
- Jesus arranges for her to be cared for by the beloved disciple after His death (John 19:26-27), showing continued concern for His mother.
- Mary’s presence at the cross indicates her faithfulness to her son and her calling till the very end, despite the immense grief this must have caused her.
Mary did not seek out special status but remained obedient in the simple role of mother even through Jesus’ death. Her presence at the cross testifies to her faithful consent to God’s will.
Mary’s Prayer in the Upper Room (Acts 1:12-14)
After Jesus’ ascension, Mary remains devoted to prayer with the disciples:
- She joins the disciples, along with Jesus’ brothers, devoting herself to prayer in the upper room (Acts 1:12-14).
- Her prayer and unity with Jesus’ followers indicates her continued embrace of God’s plan after His ascension into heaven.
Mary remained committed to the unified work and prayer of the church after Jesus’ earthly ministry, showing her faithfulness to her calling.
The biblical evidence shows Mary was informed of her unique calling to be the mother of Jesus through supernatural means. Though she did not fully understand the implications, she willingly accepted this role through an attitude of humble obedience. Her actions throughout Jesus’ life and ministry, even up to His death and beyond, demonstrate her full embrace of God’s will for her life. Though called to an unexpected and painful vocation, she faithfully followed God’s leading. Her willing consent opened the door for the promised Messiah to enter the world for the salvation of all.