Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. Luke 1:26-28
The angel Gabriel sent by God to herald a message of good news came to Mary and said
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Wait a second. Nope that’s not what he said. He does say Hail or as our translation says “Greetings.” The word Hail is a greeting that means “Rejoice.” Take heart. Be of joy. Be Happy. Why is Mary to be happy? Is it because she was born sinless and has served God so well that she has earned his favor and thus God just had to send an angel to tell her? No. She is a sinner born with sinful parents. She needs a redeemer. In Luke 1:47 during her song of joy she proclaims her thankfulness at having a redeemer. Mary needs a redeemer. She is not a co-redeemer. She needs a savior. Why should she rejoice?
The angel says “that art highly favoured” in the King James. You have found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Now this doesn’t mean that Mary was searching for favor. The Bible tells us that no one seeks after good. It wasn’t that Mary was searching and searching and finally found it. No it was that God had decided by his good mercy to pour out his grace on Mary and to give her his blessing. She found what she wasn’t even looking for. She found favor by God.
The scriptures give us several accounts of people finding favor with God. Genesis 6 says "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." God’s grace was poured out on Noah not because of anything in Noah but because of God’s good mercy. Mary found favor in the eyes of the Lord, not because of anything in her but because of the great mercy of God. It is unmerited favor. Mary is full of grace not because she has merited it or earned grace. Nor is she some kind of dispenser of grace to others. Mary has found favor with the Lord and thus the Lord is with her. The angel adds that the Lord is with thee. To those on Whom God bestows his favor “he crowns them with loving-kindness,” (Psa_103:4.) He promises to be with them. God promised to be with Mary.
The Final part of the Angel’s greeting is that “she is blessed among women.” Because she has found favor with God and because he is with her, she is blessed. God pours out his blessings upon those he shows grace to. What good news this is for sinners like us! God not only shows us favor and grace but he promises to be with us. And then he also pours out his blessings upon us. The word blessed does not mean worthy of praise but rather it means to be happy. It is to receive gifts from God that will bring us to true joy in Him. God lavishes his kindness upon the people he chooses as his own. Mary was chosen by God and He promised to be with her and He gave her blessings. Among women fallen by the curse, God would make her happy.
This blessing was the blessing of a child. Children are a gift from God. They are blessings. Mary would be blessed with a child. This was God’s favor on her. We live in a world that hates children. Even Christian, struggle with seeing God’s blessings as blessings. It takes faith to see children as a blessing. Our sinful nature doesn’t see the gifts of God as blessings. Let me say something that few of us will dare to admit. In our sinfulness, we are all capable of killing our children. We are all capable of getting so angry, we could kill them. This is true for every parent who has ever lived. How wicked our sinful nature is. Yet God says children are a blessing. It takes the gift of faith for us to see it.
God had given Mary a child to make her happy but think of the excruciating pain he brought her. She watched as he was publicly scourged. She watched as his body was shamefully exposed and hung on a cross like meat on a skewer. Was this child a blessing to her then even as she watched her Son die? Yes even in the pain, especially in the pain, this child was a blessing not only for her but for all who have faith. He is the savior of her and all who like her have been given the unmerited favor of God. Mary is blessed because her son was her savior. She received the grace of God through faith in Him.
“But if Mary’s happiness, righteousness, and life, flow from the undeserved love of God, if her virtues and all her excellence are nothing more than the Divine kindness,” John Calvin says “it is the height of absurdity to tell us that we should seek from her what she derives from another quarter in the same manner as ourselves. With extraordinary ignorance have the Papists, by an enchanter’s trick, changed this salutation into a prayer, and have carried their folly so far, that their preachers are not permitted, in the pulpit, to implore the grace of the Spirit, except through their Hail, Mary But not only are these words a simple congratulation. They unwarrantably assume an office which does not belong to them, and which God committed to none but an angel.” And listen to this last part: “Their silly ambition leads them into a second blunder, for they salute a person who is absent.”
It is absolutely stupid, foolish, superstitious, blasphemous, and wicked how the Roman Catholic Church has abused this text of scripture and turned what is a wonderful picture of the doctrines of grace into an idolatrous practice that Mary herself would condemn.
Prayers to saints and to Mary are foolish and blasphemous but we shouldn’t let the abuses of the apostate Roman church make us ashamed of Mary or any of the rest of the saints. The saints y belong to us not the Roman Catholic Church. Rome has perverted the teaching of scripture to create a whole pantheon to which they give worship calling it veneration. This perversion is not the teaching found in scripture or even in the early church. Roman Catholicism has left the Catholic faith delivered once and for all to the saints. For Example, after considering the use of similar words in Syriac, Greek and Latin in the 6th century, Herbert Thurston, writing in the Catholic Encyclopedia concludes that "there is little or no trace of the Hail Mary as an accepted devotional formula before about 1050 AD.” That means for the first 1000 years of the church no one had heard of this devilish invention.
We need not let the embarrassment that is the apostate church in Rome have us give over Mary to them nor the saints. What do I mean by Saints? Paul writes often to the churches calling them saints or sanctified ones. They are set a part ones. Everyone who is in Christ is a saint. Jesus did not set up an office in the church to canonize people into some kind of pantheon of lesser gods. God's elect are saints and he has them all throughout history. We have a great cloud of witnesses of saints from the Old Testament church and an ever growing cloud of witnesses from the New Testament church. We can look back at their example, see their failings, be inspired by their faith, and learn from their testimony. We can honor those whom God raised up throughout church history. To us belongs the prophets and the apostles. We get to honor the great saints like Augustine, Perpetua, Athanasius, Nicholas, Francis, Patrick of Ireland, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, Polycarp, Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Pierre Viret, John Knox, Beza, Farel, Tyndale, Zwingli, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd Jones, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Sproul, Zastrow, Thomas, Cox, Sabie, Johnson, and Carmack. We are saints being built upon the prophets and apostles.
Let us not be ashamed to speak of Mary and to honor her. The early church called her the Mother of God. Not because she was deity or God but because they were fighting to defend the deity of Christ. We can honor all the saints by giving all praise, adoration, and veneration to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit alone. And then let us follow in their train as we take up our cross daily to follow Christ.