Character Sketches: Mary

Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is revered in history. She is elevated by many. Without question, this young woman is worthy of our investigation.  As the central figure to this Christmas story, she is one to learn from.

We asked of Joseph, “Why him?”

This seems like a more than fitting question for Mary. What about this woman drew the attention of Heaven. What about this woman caused God to want to trust her with the nurture of His son?

Consider the weight of this decision. She wasn’t entrusted with an event. She was entrusted with a life calling. She was entrusted to imprint this young child properly.

I believe there are unique aspects to Mary that caused heaven to lean her direction. It was not a random choosing. 

So, what do we know about her?

Luke 1v26-56

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

A. We know she was engaged to be married and had not been married before.

The word in the greek for, “virgin,” here, does not speak to chastity. It is the word, “parthenos,” and in it’s simplest definition means, “unmarried daughter.” It was a word used for a woman still living under her father’s care, who had not been married. This word applied to a girl from age 12 forward.

Most scholars believe Mary to be 13-15 at this time. This would place her in 7th-9th grade in our culture.

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.

B. We know she was bothered by what the angel said.

The phrase that is used is by the angel is, “The Supreme Lord is with you.” There is a clear consternation in her at the hearing of this phrase. The greek for her response is, “perplexed.” It means, “agitated or bothered.” It is a word that is used to describe emotional concern over a situation.

Why? Why was Mary agitated? What was intended?

What did she hear from the angel? Was it a phrase that she would understand to mean, “God is in your body?” Or was she reacting in unabashed humility, having an incredibly difficult time understanding how she could be useful and important to God?

Both are options. We cannot know for sure.

“Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to bless you! You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”

C. We know she was a virgin.

The word she uses for, “virgin,” is a different word than in v27. The word she uses means, “I have not ever taken a man as a lover.” 

Her emphatic response gives us an indication that this fact was of a high level of importance to her. She had guarded her life to keep herself pure.

If you remember with me, the social implications, her virginity was a deal maker or breaker in this engagement. We discussed this aspect within our study of Joseph. There were significant socio-economic ramifications if she were to be found impure.

In this culture, a woman who had been sexually active was deemed, “unfit,” to marry. She would most likely remain unmarried and alone for her life. She would walk her days out without the gift of her own family, and would remain in her father’s home. She would live in shame and bring shame to her family.

Mary’s response tells us she understood these concerns. It also tells us what type of young lady she was. She was a young lady that INTENTIONALLY guarded her purity.

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age!

People used to say she was barren, but she’s already in her sixth month. For, nothing is impossible with God.

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am wiling to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” And then the angel left.”

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “You are blessed by God above all other women, and your child is blessed. What an honor this is, that the mother of my Lord should visit me! When you came in and greeted me, my baby jumped for joy the instant I heard your voice! You are blessed, because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

D. We know that she knew the Scriptures.

The language of the angel’s statements to her were that of prophetic Scripture. In Isaiah 7, the prophecy declares:

14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Once the angel explains the virginity question, Mary responds to the angel with a calm that seems to preclude that she is familiar with the concept of a virgin having a child. It is possible for her. She is not closed off to the reality of it.

That is curious. Most would respond to the absolute ridiculousness and impossibility of the event.

Only one who had studied the Scriptures would have been aware of this as a God-spoken word about the Messiah.

A few verses later, In her famous, “magnificat,” Mary uses languages that is reads like Old Testament Scripture.

Mary responded,

Oh, how I praise the Lord.

How I rejoice in God my Savior!

For He took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed.

For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and He has done great things for me.

His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who fear him.

His mighty arm does tremendous things!

How he scatters the proud and haughty ones!

He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.

He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.

And how he has helped his servant Israel!

He has not forgotten his promise to be merciful.

For He promised our ancestors—Abraham and his children—to be merciful to them forever.

She refers to God in terminology that is consistent with a person who has a very strong grasp on the text.

E. We know she was fully surrendered to God.

Consider the strength of this statement,

I am the Lord’s servant, and I am wiling to accept whatever he wants.”

It stands on it’s own as one of the most important statements a person could ever make. In it, she reveals what drew heaven to her. She lived with a surrender in her spirit to God that caused her to relinquish control and embrace His plan, whatever it was.

I would love to highlight this as perhaps the reason.

God knew he could trust his son with Mary, because Mary trusted God with her life.

My willingness to be used by God releases God to use me.


I would love to submit to you that this trust came from her intimate relationship to the Scriptures. She had studied to know who this Yahweh was, not for any position in culture, but because he was her God.

It is simple…what Mary did was made a choice to know the Scriptures because she wanted to know God.


If we do the same, we will see the same result…we will be prepared to trust him in every situation. 


The scriptures remind me that I am not in control. He is.

Can we learn from her the value of embracing the Scriptures as a life-source, allowing them to shape us, change us, and prepare us for whatever God might do?