Sometimes I think about Mary. When she was told that she would bear a child who would be “Son of the Most High” she agreed by declaring herself a “bond-servant” of God. Shortly after, while visiting her sister-in-law Elizabeth, she spoke what is known as the Magnificat. Her poem or song shows that unlike many of her contemporaries, Mary understood that the purposes of God were social, personal and redemptive – not political. She really got it – the redemption, the care for the least of these, the re-ordering of the world into the Kingdom of God. As Scot McKnight put it “Mary’s vision is the realization of the long-expected hope when God will create the society he promised to his people and through his prophets. This society will marked by justice and peace, by fear of God and holiness and mercy/love.” This was the mission she was signing on for when she agreed to God’s will for her life.
When angels and shepherds and strange travelers greeted the arrival of her son, scriptures tells us that “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” When Jesus was 12 and got left behind in Jerusalem and told her and Joseph, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” No one knew what he was talking about, but Mary again “treasured all these things in her heart.”
And then she waited. And waited. Until Jesus was 30 and not married, and not influential and not . . . anything. A traveling preacher who had just recently picked up his first disciples. How hard was that for her? Maybe that’s why she wanted more wine at that wedding in Canna – waiting is HARD! And yet, she still believed in her son. “Whatever He says to you, do it.” And at the urging of his mother Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. At last. I wonder how many times Mary had to return to those things she was “treasuring in her heart” during those long years. How many times did she recite her Spirit infused poem while nothing remotely close to her vision of God’s coming kingdom was happening. When her husband died. When she remained poor. When years and years passed. “Hope deferred makes a heart sick.” Did Mary’s heart get sick from all the waiting?
And then I think about that Saturday. When her son – the one she bore who would bring about the mercy and peace and justice she dreamt of – lay in the grave. How high her hopes must have gotten. She had seen the miracles he performed. She saw the crowds that thronged around him. She may have been scared for him. So many potential “Messiahs” were being put to death in those days. Yet Jesus always managed to give the slip to those who would do him harm. No doubt that for Mary it seemed that the arrival of the Kingdom of God truly was at hand. And then it wasn’t.
If hope deferred makes a heart sick, what does hope stomped on, ground up and spit out do to the heart? Mary hadn’t just lost her son. Her dream was dead. Her whole life had been given over to a plan that had come to nothing. Her faith must have felt like so much foolishness that day. Did she go over that old poem, those old stories that she treasured in her heart trying to figure out how she could have been so wrong? Had she done her part the wrong way? Had Jesus? Maybe she had pointed Jesus in the wrong direction. Where was God? Had he betrayed them? Were those really his angels? How could it all have gone so terribly wrong?
When Jesus rose on Easter morning, he broke the power of death. He brought redemption to the world. And whatever broke in Mary on that dark, awful Saturday was healed. For Mary the bond-servant, the new heaven and the new earth had arrived. “Hope deferred makes a heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.~ Revelation 22:1-5