We are in the midst of a three-part blog series looking at the life of Mary as our example of living a life of discipleship. If you have not had the opportunity to read the first post I encourage you to go back and take a quick look. A significant part of our discipleship is establishing rhythms that draw us into the Word and the Holy Spirit’s presence. And yet, it doesn’t stop there. Join me for a few moments to see just how much we need one another to stay the discipleship course.
At this point in Luke 1, the angel Gabriel has visited Mary and she has learned and accepted that she will birth her Messiah. In verse 36 Gabriel told Mary that even her cousin Elizabeth, who, by earthly standards, is too old to bear a child was already six months pregnant.
Am I dreaming or is this for real?
Have you ever taken the time to consider what Mary was thinking in the minutes, hours, and days after her encounter with Gabriel? I wonder if the initial excitement of knowing she was a part of God’s redemption plan for her people began to wear off. After all, she is only human. I wonder if at least some part of her began to question if she really saw an angel.
When I consider her humanity I wonder if she thought such things as, It’s been 400 years since God has spoken to our people, why do I think He would break his silence with me? Could I have dreamt all this?
I wonder if a part of her had to go and see Elizabeth so she could know beyond a shadow of any doubt, that everything that had just happened wasn’t just a dream. I wonder if she thought, If Elizabeth isn’t pregnant then I go about my normal life, if she is well, everything changes.
Can you relate? Have you ever experienced something so significant that you simply couldn’t bear it alone?
I think of the spouse who was convinced the marriage was over, only to hear a word from God to continue to believe. Can he trust that what he heard was the Holy Spirit or is he dreaming of the resurrected marriage he longs for? He calls his buddy on a whim that his faithful friend agrees in his spirit that in fact, he has faith that God is going to save this marriage.
I think of the woman who is longing for a child and after years of trying, test after test, and multiple fertility treatments, she finally sees the plus sign. It is too good to trust the symbol on the stick and yet, it is too close to her heart to not run and tell her closest confidant.
I think of the man who sensed a call from God when he was young, and finally, after years of faithful service, God opened the door for him to walk into his calling. He is equal parts thrilled and terrified—equal parts confident and full of doubt.
Verse 39 says that Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country. I think it’s very likely she had to see for herself that her cousin was pregnant so she could remain confident in what she knew God had said to her.
Confirming the Unseen
And then what happens?
The Scripture says, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” (Luke 1:41-45, NIV)
Mary greets Elizabeth and at that very moment, I imagine Mary’s eyes are registering with her brain that her cousin is in fact pregnant. Before her mind can go down the trail of what this means for her, Elizabeth affirms that Mary is carrying the Messiah. There is no earthly sign at this moment that Mary is pregnant, but Elizabeth confirms the unseen.
Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
The young girl has her older, wiser cousin speak words of life over her. Mary may not have felt at that moment like she had a ton of faith. She may have been questioning. But Elizabeth knew and she affirmed the call Mary was submitting herself to.
Radically obedient discipleship can only happen in community.
Don’t we all need that sometimes? Don’t we all need someone to speak life over us—especially when God has called us to something that we know we cannot do in our own strength?
Don’t we need that life-speak for our day-to-day as well? Someone, to tell us that we are doing a good job as a mom, that our efforts on the job, even if unnoticed by the boss, are noticed by those close to us? Don’t we sometimes need to hear hang in there girl, you got this. You are capable, you are able, you are equipped, God’s got your back and I do too!
Mary took a risk going to Elizabeth. She couldn’t have known how Elizabeth would respond to her news. She put herself in a vulnerable position. That is not easy. But because she did, Elizabeth could speak life over her.
Rebekah Lyons said, “When we are vulnerable and alone we are afraid. When we are vulnerable and together we are brave.”
In being vulnerable, Mary opened the door for a relationship in which she could come with any fears and doubts. And she was met with affirmation and encouragement.
You see, discipleship can only happen in community. Within a safe and godly community, we are enabled to discern the voice of God and outright neglect the lies of the enemy.
In Faith for Exiles, 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, authors David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock wrote, “… we discovered that people don’t learn to follow Jesus simply by having lots of great head knowledge about him (although having the right beliefs matters… ). Experiencing Jesus is found along a relational pathway with family, friends, and other people who love and experience Jesus. We are loved into loving Jesus.”
No matter where we find ourselves in this journey of life we are commanded to make disciples and to be disciples. To disciple, if you will, by nature requires relationship. Many of us have been hurt by our fellow humans—both inside and outside of the church. The hurt that happens within the church walls produces a special kind of pain, but we cannot allow that to keep a barrier between ourselves and others.*
Do you have a solid discipleship community? Take a few moments today and ask God to show you whom you can invite to join in this journey. Ask Him to show you who might need what you have to offer.
Are you longing for a disciple community in which you are seen and able to walk with others? Take a few moments today and ask God to show you how you might help to build that kind of community. It begins with just one other person, who is that person in your life? With eyes of faith wide open, He will show you.
We need each other friends. To walk in radically obedient discipleship, we must pursue community.
*For those who have experienced trauma due to church hurt, please know that I am praying for healing, restoration as possible, and reconciliation if that is God’s will. You are loved, known, and seen and your Father adores and delights in you.