I am impressed by Mary. This was not always the case. Up until about two years ago I thought of Mary as passive, sort of weak, and a little insipid. She was a place holder in the story who was trotted out every December but she wasn’t someone I looked to in admiration. Reading Scot McKnight’s The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus (Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2007) was an eye-opener. When Mary responds to the angelic message with, “May it be done to me according to your word” I had always heard these words as passive resignation. What I failed to see was her courageous stance to accept all the consequences associated with the path before her. She would be slandered and her son would be cursed as a mamzer. This courageous faith that actively takes up the mantle of suffering was challenging and alluring. I found myself wanting to be like this teenage girl who so faithfully responded to God.
I also find Mary’s scripturally soaked Magnificat to be exciting and challenging. To consider that these words were spoken by a pious Jewish teenager is sobering. This is to take nothing away from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but it is to recognize the human author. Mary is steeped in the Scriptures and she has a confident, God-centered defiance against all that is opposed to God’s kingdom—he has brought down rulers from their thrones (Luke 2.52). McKnight captured my imagination with these words about Mary:
“It may seem counter-intuitive to say so, and I mean this all respect: Mary was not a ‘nice’ girl. If ‘nice’ means meek and mild and mind-your-own-business, then Mary was not nice. In fact, Mary scared ‘nice’ passive girls because she was dangerously active. Instead of minding her own business, Mary was minding Herod’s and, as we will see, Caesar Augustus’s. And well into Jesus’ own ministry, we will see that Mary minded Jesus’ business, too.”
McKnight goes on to add:
“Mary was a muscular, wiry woman whose eyes were aglow with a dazzling hope for justice and whose body evoked a robust confidence in the God who was about to turn the world upside down through her son.”
This kind of courageous faith with a scripturally soaked social-conscience is powerfully moving to me.