With Mother’s Day this coming weekend, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ mother, Mary. The gospel’s don’t mention a whole lot about her, but what they do mention paints such a sweet image of whom God chose to bear His Son.
Based on the gospel of Luke, we know that Mary was young and betrothed, or what we think of as engaged nowadays, when the angel Gabriel visited her to give her the message that she would be the mother of Messiah. We can see a few distinct characteristics about her just from that encounter with Gabriel.
“She was visited by Gabriel and he said to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!…Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God…And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (whole context in Luke 1:26-38)
- She was favored and found favor with God.
- The Lord was with her.
- She was pure, both in heart and physically.
- She had faith and was obedient.
- She was humble and willing to serve God.
I don’t know that she fully quite understood all of what this meant, but after she visits her relative, Elizabeth, we see her praise burst forth from the abundance of her heart as she rejoiced in God (whole context in Luke 1:46-56). She’s filled with so much joy that her heart just leaps out, uncontained and unrestrained with joy, expressing that her soul magnifies the Lord. She recognizes that she’s but a humble servant, and yet generations will call her blessed for the work God had called her to, of giving birth to and raising the Son of God. In this song of praise, she ends by acknowledging her Son’s role as Messiah in verses 54-55 saying, “He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
As we read about the birth of Jesus, I can’t help but wonder what Mary was thinking and feeling through it all. Traveling while pregnant is hard even in the conveniences of today, but back then? Whew! Not to mention, Mary was young and still a virgin, and while she likely witnessed the birth of John the Baptist as she was visiting with Elizabeth, would that have prepared her for her own birth that she now faced in an animal stable with only Joseph who she had not been intimate with yet? Was she disappointed? Was she sad over the circumstances? Was she scared? Was she embarrassed? Those things aren’t recorded for us, but I can imagine those feelings stirring in her mind. I wonder if she played the truths of Gabriel’s message over and over in her head to comfort with self-talk, “I am favored by God, He is with me, I am His servant, nothing is impossible for God” as she worked to birth our Messiah into this world.
The thought had crossed my mind that she might feel sad after giving birth because she had to swaddle Jesus and lay Him in a manger instead of a crib that her carpenter husband may or may not have already made back home; but as I thought on this more I came to think, “Would I be concerned with anything else as I starred into the face of Jesus, the Messiah?” Probably not. I bet she was filled with awe and wonder, and even curiosity on thinking that this little baby, her Son, was indeed God. And even more so less concerned when shepherds then come find them and share their story of the encounter with the angels and all that they were told. Seeing these strangers come, leaving their whole livelihoods of flocks in the fields, to chase after the One whom the angels spoke of. It says that Mary’s response was that she “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
The next awesome thing about Mary, is that her and Joseph were obedient to keep the law. This is super important because Mary wasn’t just chosen to carry, deliver, and keep Jesus alive to adulthood. She had a work and call to keep the law of God and teach Jesus to do the same. If Jesus would not have been circumcised on the eighth day or the sacrifice offered because He opened Mary’s womb as her first son, the law as it concerns Jesus’ full keeping of it would not have been fulfilled perfectly. In the faithfulness to fulfill the law with Jesus as a baby, Mary also witnessed the blessing of yet even more prophecy being fulfilled by the experience with Simeon and Anna at the temple (whole context in Luke 2:22-38).
As she raised Jesus up, it was when He was 12 and the incident of Him being missing for 3 days, that we see a shift. When Mary and Joseph question Jesus and He responds with, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49), it is then and onward that some things that Jesus said were going over her level of understanding. Every parent has troubles raising their children, but Mary’s trouble wasn’t that her child was being a typical “tween”, it was that her parenting couldn’t be perfect to match the true perfection of her Son. And yet, again we see that she “treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51b) She showed wisdom even in the lack of her understanding because she had purposed long ago when Gabriel first came to her, that she was going to walk in faith and humility as the servant of the Most High.
I won’t go into all the details of the wedding at Cana where Jesus turns water into wine, but the brief interaction of Mary here is definitely worth mentioning because she shows a tremendous amount of faith. She goes to Jesus and she tells the servants to do whatever He tells them. She’s absent from mention for the rest of that story, but God used her to save the couple and their family from a lifetime of shame and begin the miracles that Jesus would perform, all because she had faith and wasn’t afraid to go to Jesus with the problem.
Lastly, Mary was there at the cross as Jesus died. She saw the death of her Son and Savior, up close and personal. She is the only person who is the closest to understanding how the Father must have felt seeing Jesus dying on the cross. What a bittersweet moment if she truly understood the gravity of His role on that cross. The Son who kicked in her tummy and opened her womb, was the very Son who was taking the penalty for her sin allowing her to reconcile with the Father. I can only imagine how sorrowful yet how loved she must have felt when looking up at Jesus, not even bearing the resemblance of a man at that point, pushing up from His nail pierced hands and feet to get enough breath to tell His disciple John to take Mary as his mother and look after her. He was slowly suffocating and yet His mother’s wellbeing, both her spiritual and physical wellbeing, was important enough to make arrangements for from the cross He hung on.
And it wasn’t just Mary’s wellbeing He cared for, but that of the entire world. We were the joy set before Him as He endured the cross and despising the shame, knowing His purpose and mission and therefore setting His face like a flint, awaiting the near vindication of His resurrection on the third day; that in Him we would have life and have it abundantly (Hebrews 12: 1-2; Isaiah 50:7-8; John 10:10).
If you learn anything from Mary, and the short mentions of her in the Bible, may it be to walk in humility and purity with God as His servant, open and willing to do whatever it is He asks of you, having full faith in His promises, and in the end, find yourself broken and surrendered at the foot of His cross as He cares for you.