My Thoughts. . .
Culture changes with time. Things that were once punished by the law when I was growing up, from the thirties to the fifties, are no longer considered wrong by our culture. For example, back when I was a preteen, if two men wanted to marry, or two women, they would have been strung up and left for the buzzards to bury. If a high school girl was known as “loose” the boys waited in line, but none of them wanted to marry her. Movies did not display nudity, nor did radio nor TV allow cursing or profanity. At school, prayer was expected in home room classes. Local preachers made the Commencement Speech to graduating seniors. However, culture changes. Just as the culture of the forties and fifties changed, there is a difference between biblical first century culture and U.S. culture yesterday and today.
In the first century, if a girl was promised in marriage to a man and she became pregnant by another, she could be stoned for committing fornication. If she was married and was unfaithful, she would suffer the same fate. When the angel appeared to Mary and told her she was going to become pregnant, it was shocking (Luke 1:26-38). Mary’s reply was, “I haven’t been with a man.” The angel spoke of a heavenly union which would produce her pregnancy. Even if you lived in a deeply religious community, how would you explain this pregnancy as divine and believable so you would not end up in a rock party? Perhaps someone could have pointed an accusing finger and sneeringly rebuked Mary with, “You expect us to believe Yahweh had sex with you? Accusing God of such actions is an abomination!”
Even in our permissive culture, most people would laugh at Mary and then seriously ask, “Really, who is the father?” Imagine the faith this young girl had to possess to get her through what could have been a horrible mess with serious consequences? Her future husband could have abandoned her, and no one would have criticized him. A friend might have offered him a heavy rock to throw if it had gone that way. Even if she were not punished, who would want her after that? Her out-of-wedlock pregnancy would have brought shame upon her and her family. Whispers, finger pointing, harsh words, and an isolated life could follow. Think of what other children would call her son? Did Mary have some doubts? Scripture does not lay it out for us, but when Jesus did activities which were out-of-the ordinary, she kept their memory bottled up in her heart.
Mary could have easily been disappointed in God for putting her in that situation. Yet, despite those moments, she was there at the cross. Her hurt was deep and her sorrow unquestioned. She was a woman in a society and culture drastically different from ours. Life was not always easy. Criticism was there to burden. Yet God saw something in this woman that others were too blind to understand. Did she have questions? Who doesn’t? Did she have moments when doubt crossed her mind? It happens. When Jesus was tried and punished, she was there to see his pain and hear his words. She could not remove his pain, nor quieten the negative challenges he received. Most of the apostles were in hiding, but not her. She may have been a woman, but she was a strong one. The angel had truly announced, “God has blessed you above all women” (Luke 1:42). She still is!