Jesus said in John 15
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. … Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”
It’s like these grapes on the vine. They were just basking in the sun, drinking in nourishment from the vine and producing fruit. They weren’t striving like I do sometimes to get a project accomplished. They just rested, and fruit was a natural progression of abiding in the vine.
They’re now separated from the vine. If I don’t eat them first, they’ll shrivel up. They’ll no longer be juicy. I’ll end up throwing them away.
Just as the grape is the result of abiding in the vine, the fruit of the Spirit is the result of us abiding in Jesus. It comes naturally. Our job is to rest in Jesus and allow Him to equip us for the works He has ordained from before the beginning of the world for us to accomplish.
I don’t know about you, but I had a life plan all worked out after high school. That got dashed soon. I got sick, dropped out of college, married, and traipsed all over the world for 22 years, while Keith was in the Air Force. God had a different plan for me. At first I fought His plan. But His plan was much more wonderful and difficult than I could have ever imagined.
God had a plan for a teenager in Nazareth. Completely different than she had imagined. A girl of 14 to 16 years old. A girl who was poor. A virgin. Engaged. A girl who was intimate with the Word of God.
In Luke 1, Gabriel visits Mary.
“Greetings, favored one.”
Whoa! Can you imagine an angel showing up next to you and saying that? What would you think? Well, Mary was afraid.
“Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1:30-33
“How can this be, since I’m a virgin?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you … He will be called the Son of God.”
What would your reaction be? A girl betrothed—that’s as binding as marriage, a contract—pregnant!
Sure young girls dreamed of becoming the mother of the Messiah. It was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14.
But,what would people say? What would Joseph say?
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Mary knew her God and submitted her body, her reputation, her betrothal, and her destiny to God for His plans.
She quickly traveled to the hill country to visit Elizabeth and Zacharias, the parents of John the Baptist. When Elizabeth saw Mary, John leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth with a loud voice said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Luke 1:46-55
Praise much like Hannah responded when God promised her a son, Samuel.
This girl knew her Scriptures. She was ready for God to act.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about 3 months. Then she returned to Nazareth.
She must have been showing by then. Can you imagine the snickering that went on?
The penalty for fornication was death by stoning. Joseph thought about quietly divorcing her. You know the story, Gabriel visited Joseph and told him that Mary was going to be the mother of the Son of God. So he did not divorce her.
It came close to the time of Mary giving birth.
Wait! Micah 5:2 tells us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem—70 miles south of Nazareth.
God used Herod to send out a decree that all should return to their native cities.
Imagine riding on a donkey just days away from giving birth.
When Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem, there was no room for them, so they stayed in a stable; it could have been a cave.
Alone with Joseph.
Alone with the cattle and sheep.
Alone, she gave birth to Jesus.
I would be asking God, “God, really? This is the plan for the Messiah? This is your great plan for me?”
Angels announced His birth to shepherds (some think it was the shepherds keeping watch over the temple sheep—the sheep to be sacrificed for sin as Jesus would be sacrificed someday).
The shepherds visited Jesus and his parents that night.
When the days of Mary’s purification—40 days if she gave birth to a son and 80 days if she gave birth to a daughter—they went to the temple to be presented to the Lord. There Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God and prophesied. He then turned to Mary and said,
“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35
Oh no! More troubles? Hasn’t Mary already had enough?
Then Herod tried to find and kill Jesus, so Joseph swept up Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt. When all was clear, they returned to Nazareth.
Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews. They went to Jerusalem every year to celebrate Passover. When Jesus was 12, he stayed behind in the temple to talk with the rabbis. The custom was that the women and children would begin the journey before the men. Mary set out for Nazareth with family and friends—she thought Jesus was with Joseph. When the men caught up with the women, Jesus wasn’t with them. They searched among other family members and friends. No Jesus. It took them 3 days to find Jesus. He was in the temple.
“Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You”
“And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Luke 2:48-49
Where did Jesus get that? Could Mary and Joseph have told him that he was the Son of God? I believe so.
They took him back to Nazareth, and he was a good boy, obeying his parents and growing in wisdom and stature.
And Mary treasured all these things in her heart.
The next time we see Mary, she’s at a wedding in Cana with Jesus and his disciples. Wedding celebrations lasted seven days, and the host was supposed to feed the guests, and of course, wine was a part of the festivities.
To the mortification of the host, the wine ran out. Mary came to Jesus and told him. He responded that his time was not yet. She turned to the servants and told them to do whatever he told them. How did she know that he would create wine?
Could it be that she knew her Son so intimately, that she knew what He would do?
Jesus’ first recorded miracle.
His ministry took him away from Mary. I’m sure she heard of His miracles and teachings.
He traveled throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Jerusalem with nowhere to lay His head. (Luke 9:58)
I know it was painful to hear of the disdain of those who talked about Jesus being born of fornication, as the Pharisees brought it up to Jesus.
At one point, Jesus returned to Nazareth, and Mary and his brothers went to take him home because they thought he had lost his senses.
This was no easy life that God had blessed Mary with.
We see Mary standing at the foot of the cross with John. The other disciples had disappeared.
Can you imagine your son beaten beyond recognition as a man?
This man was her son. This man was her Messiah!
God! What has happened?
Jesus is the promised Savior of Israel!
He’s been beaten, cut open with the whips, and now He’s hanging on the cross.
His legs are getting tired as He pushes up to take a breath.
God! Do something!
“Woman, behold your son ,,, Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27
What is he saying?
Come down from that cross!
Cry with Mary as they take Jesus down from the cross.
The promised Messiah … dead.
Michelangelo had an idea what Mary must have felt like when he created the Pieta.
From a mother’s eyes, I see a woman who had experienced everything miraculous about this Son, her Savior, her Lord … from His birth to the temple, from water to wine, from feeding the 5,000 to walking on water, from raising the dead to touching the lepers, restoring sight to the blind and song to the deaf. This was the Messiah—the One who was going to save Israel.
All her hope, all her love, all her dreams, all her treasures.
Beaten beyond recognition. Dead.
Can you imagine her prayers?
I know what mine would have been.
God, I went through all of the snickering, giving birth in a MANGER with the animals—ALONE. We fled to Egypt, I worried about Jesus losing His senses, I wondered why the Sanhedrin challenged Jesus, I agonized during the scourging. Now THIS! Where’s the hope You promised?
Torn to pieces.
You’ve pierced my heart!
Agony. Grief. Questions.
That’s what I remember when I stand before the Pieta. Pieta means “pity.” Every time I stand before the Pieta, I cry, sometimes sobbing. One day I heard another woman sobbing behind me. I pulled her to the front and told her “He did this for you and for me.” We cried together while people snapped their photos and walked on.
Three days after they laid Jesus in the tomb, Mary’s hope was restored. Her Lord had risen.
In heaven, I imagine Michelangelo’s marble statue showing Mary’s joy at seeing her risen Savior.
After Jesus ascended to heaven, we see Mary in the Upper Room praying and fellowshipping with Jesus’ followers.
This woman walked with God authentically. She had studied the Scriptures and trusted God with all that seemed contrary to the world’s wisdom.
God called her to a hard life, but a life that made an eternal difference.
Maybe you’re going through struggles today. You’re sick. You have financial troubles. You have marital problems. You have family challenges.
Like Mary, you may be wondering what God is doing. You may even be mad at God.
Every person God calls, He calls to depend upon Him. Like the grapes, we need to abide in Him, abide in His Word, and let Him lead us by the right hand, just as Mary let God lead her by her right hand.
You are a child of God, a joint heir with Jesus. You are God’s beloved, and He has plans for you. Plans that are good. Plans that will complete you, so that you are free to recognize that in Jesus, you live, and move, and have your being. In Jesus, you walk in delight of His creation, His kingdom, His people, and His temple which is your body. In Him, you have power, and you have freedom. Sometimes, it’s hard; it’s always an adventure filled with the joy set before you.
It’s Christ in you … the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Father of Hope, Thank You for Mary’s very real and precious walk with You. Thank You for Jesus’ walk. We have much to learn. Lead us by the right hand as the Holy Spirit teaches us from Your Word and directs us through the walk You have prepared for us to walk. Help us to surrender our minds, our strength, our bodies, and our spirits to You. We love You, Lord and praise Your Name. Jesus, You gave all, so that we could live in unity with You. In You, we live and move and have our being. Make us sensitive to Your presence in us. In Your precious Name we pray. Amen.
To learn more, download a month’s study guide on the Authentic Christian Woman’s Walk.