Have you ever been asked who your favorite Bible character is, besides Jesus? Most of you would probably give Paul as your answer. After all, didn't his example of obedience surpass the other disciples, including Peter? When others may have hesitated to obey, Paul boldly did what God commanded him to do. Is there any other New Testament figure whose obedience matched, if not surpassed Paul?
Jesus said to Paul on the Damascus Road "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."(Acts9:5, KJV) The NKJV replaces the word "pricks" with "goads." While this verse may not appear in other modern translations, this verse appears in nearly all translations in Acts26:14, where Paul spoke before Agrippa. A goad is a sharp stick used to guide the direction of an animal. How does this apply to what Jesus was saying? Was God drawing Paul to Himself, and Paul refusing to respond? Was the witness of Stephen being resisted by Paul? Why would Paul fight God's drawing? Pride? Not wanting to admit his way was not God's way? Did he fear losing his status? It is reasonable to suppose he feared death if he followed Christ. After all, what was he doing to Christ's followers? Perhaps if he had not resisted Jesus, the Damascus Road meeting would have been unnecessary.
The question remains. Did anyone rival or surpass Paul in obedience?
Yes. The answer is Mary, the mother of Jesus. It had been centuries since God had spoken to anyone in Israel. And who did God send His angel to, besides Zacharias? A young girl fifteen years of age. When told she was the chosen one to give birth to Jesus, did she protest? Did she beg God to chose another? There were reasons to be fearful. She would risk the fury of her espoused husband, Joseph, who could have legally had her stoned on the grounds of adultry. (Lev20:10) She would also be risking her reputation. Who would believe her story that God caused her to be with child. Suspicion and ridicule would follow her and her child all their lives. Mary had just as much to fear as Paul. Even though she questioned how a virgin could give birth, when the time came for understanding, she showed no fear or hesitation. "Behold the maid servant of the Lord!" she said. "Let it be to me according to your word." (LK1:38, NKJV) Wesley wondered if the conception of Jesus happened then, at the point of Mary's obedience.
Was she perfect in obedience? No. But certainly if Paul can be rightly held up as a model of fearless obedience, so can Mary. Her attitude can be summed up by what she told the servants at the wedding in Cana. "Whatever He says to you, do it." (Jn2:5, NKJV) Let us not let unbiblical worship of Mary by some rob her of her exaulted stature as a fearless disciple of Christ.