Released From Judgement
One day while at work, Zachariah received a visit from the angel Gabriel. The angel, a messenger from God announced to Zachariah that his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son. Although they were both advanced in years and Elizabeth was barren, God would bring it about for nothing is impossible for him. Elizabeth was full of joy to have finally conceived and to bear a son. He was named John and later he was known as John the Baptist. Her joy was in part the joy of having a new creation living in her womb. Her joy was also in part the joy of being released from the burden of judgement from the people around her.
The people were wrong to have judged Elizabeth the way they did. They blamed her infertility upon some past sin whether it was her own or her parent’s sin. No one is perfect. We all carry genetic malfunctions and it may appear as physical or mental imperfection or a combination of both. Others are even further burdened if they grow up in the wrong neighbourhood. Elizabeth bore the burden of that unnecessary judgement and shame for many years. Together with her husband Zachariah, they both worked hard at being good. They endeavoured to be seen as righteous and blameless before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord in the hope that God would bless them. God did not reward their efforts to please him;instead Elizabeth became part of God’s continued plan to bring about salvation to all people. By giving Elizabeth a son, God had also released her from judgement.
A few months later, God sent again his messenger, the angel Gabriel, but this time to a young woman named Mary. Mary was probably a teenager living in an unassuming city named Nazareth in the province of Galilee. She was engaged to be married to Joseph. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was going to bear a son and to name him Jesus. Mary’s son was not by Joseph, but of God. Again, God worked the impossible and Mary conceived to bear the Holy Child, the saviour of the world.
From the view on the streets of Nazareth, Mary who was engaged to be married became pregnant to another. What did it mean for Mary and her life in Nazareth? She would have been judged like any other unwed pregnant teenager anywhere in the world. The outcomes of such judgements can be varied. They can vary from: the girl’s presence producing nervous tension around people, it becomes a cause for the groom to break off the engagement, the girl could suffer verbal abuse,friendships become strained and broken, the girl could be thrown out of the family, there could be pressure on the girl to have an abortion, or the pressure to give up the baby for adoption,the girl could be thrown into jail, or stoned to death, or murdered by a family member to save them from shame in the community. All of these happen still today as they would have at the time of Mary. Judgement causes suffering and regret. It does not lead to life. Perhaps Mary found some shelter from judgement by leaving Nazareth for a while and going to stay with Elizabeth her relative.
They were wrong to judge Mary. How well did they really know her? Did they know what was happening in her life? Did they know that God was working in her life? To have made a judgement on Mary would have been equal to making a judgement upon God because he was working in her life.
We are like those people who judged Mary when we judge one another. We often make detrimental judgements on people that are different to us in some way. They may look different to us, sound different, behave differently, and even eat different foods. We judge because each person believes that they are the reference point of what is good and right and therefore others are just simply weird. Fortunately for all of us, God does not see us as weird, but knows each one of us by name. He knows our struggles and needs. Unlike God,we don’t know another person’s struggles, and we certainly do not know how God is working in their life for the benefit of that person or possibly even for our own benefit. Instead of giving life to those who seem different to us our detrimental judgements only drives them away from us. By driving them away there is the possibility of also driving away God’s blessings that were intended for us.
God’s actions upon a young woman engaged to be married challenges all of us on the judgements that we make upon others and of ourselves. Those judgements may be contrary to what God is doing and therefore opposing God in his actions. It also challenges all of us how we lead our own life. For example: Do you listen to God? Do you allow God to lead you to a better life? Do you enter when God opens a door in your life?Do you listen to the stranger? Or are you content with your own self-righteous judgements? The challenge to all of us is to be like Marry. Listen to God, take up his offer of life, and have joy.
In the midst of human judgement, Marry still had joy. Her joy consisted of having a new creation in her womb. Her joy was double for she knew that she was carrying the Holy Child, the saviour of the world. More than that, Mary had joy simply because God had considered her for a special purpose. Mary was simply an ordinary young woman, and God had considered her worthwhile to be part of his plan of salvation for the whole world. Mary understood that in the sight of God she was special, worthwhile, and important. With that understanding no human judgement could take away her joy. Through her relationship with God, Mary was released from judgement, and that is joy.
Whether we know it or not we are like Mary in the sense that you are also special, worthwhile and important in the sight of God. God has a plan for you too. God endeavours to give you life today and eternal life with him in heaven. God also works through you so that you may bring blessings and life to others, life to the people around you. Like Mary, when we allow God to work through us, then we too will have the joy of being someone special in the sight of God.
God continued to provide for Mary. In a dream, God spoke to Joseph not to be afraid and to marry Mary as he had planned before she became pregnant. Joseph was also part of God’s plan to bring salvation and life to the whole world. He was able to provide for both Mary and her son, Jesus. Joseph was able to give them life. He gave them care, comfort and love within a family unit and acceptance within the wider community. The gracious actions of Joseph are a lesson for all of us. God calls all of us to provide for all mothers whether they are married or single like Mary. God calls us not to judge, but to be God’s blessing bearer and to give life.
We know what happened to Mary’s son, Jesus. He became the saviour of the world. In his ministry on earth Jesus said, “For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12: 47). Jesus, the Son of God died on the cross to forgive us our sins which include our poor judgements that do not lead to life for our self and for others. Therefore, in the sight of God we no longer have sins to be judged because Jesus has taken them away. Jesus has released us from the judgement of God.
And finally, the next time you see a pregnant woman especially a pregnant young woman let her be a reminder to you of Mary with the Holy child, Jesus. Let it be a reminder that God has released us from judgement and into joy. Amen.