One mother has become very important in modern religion – Mary, the mother of Christ. She was declared sinless by the papacy in 1537. Following that comes the doctrine of her immaculate conception and her perpetual virginity. Then comes the doctrine of her bodily ascension into heaven. She is called Queen of Heaven, Co-Mediatrix, and Co-Redemptrix. Many conservative Christians go to the opposite extreme with Mary. In response her deification in some religious circles, we tend to relegate her to a minor role and fail to give her the honor she is due.
A Woman Named Mary
We meet her in Luke 1 as a chaste maiden, pure in the sight of God. Verses 28 and 30 calls her one finding favor in God’s eyes. Noah in Genesis 6:8, Moses in Exodus 33:12, Hannah in I Samuel 1:18 – these are a few of the individuals who have found favor in God’s eyes. This is a term also used in Isaiah 61, signifying the coming of the Messiah. At first, she is troubled by the angel’s appearance, but her response is one of submission and humility in verse 38.
As we continue in Luke 1, she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and we see her song of praise that begins in verse 46, magnifying God for His role in her life. (Remember also that this role would create a small scandal around Jesus’ birth, bringing question to her honor and to her Son’s.) She speaks of God’s mercy and generosity, His strength and His power, and she remembers His promises to His people in verses 54-55. Contrast this response to Moses’ when he is tasked with fulfilling God’s work in Exodus. Who would we resemble under similar circumstances?
A Devoted Mother and Servant
In Luke 2, we see Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem where she gives birth to Jesus in a humble manger, for all inns are full. We know the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, and verse 19 tells us Mary pondered all these signs and events in her heart. Again, we see no record of complaining or sorrow over her fate. She is quiet and devout. In verses 21 and after, they follow the word of the law surrounding the birth of a child.
Beginning in Luke 2:41, we see they regularly go to Jerusalem for Passover, and, when Jesus is twelve years old, we see Mary and Joseph lose track of Jesus this year, finding Him debating the priests in the temple. Again, verse 51, Mary keeps these events in her heart. That verse also gives us the only brief look we have at Jesus’ home life, living in submission to His earthly parents.
John 2 sees Mary invited to a wedding feast at which Jesus is present. She comes to Him when the wine runs out, a symbol of God’s blessings in this setting, and she turns to the servants, instructing them to do anything her Son says. She grows to have faith in Jesus.
Then, we see Mary standing before the cross. When so many have fled Jesus, have denied Jesus, have hidden in fear, Mary is there for her Son and her Savior. She sees the child she raised die, seeing the Redeemer of Israel give Himself up to the cross. In this same setting, in John 19, we see Jesus’ own devotion to His mother. He makes sure she will be cared for after He is gone and trusts her care to one of His closest friends.
An Inspiration for Us
We know little of Mary, but we see Mary accepts her place in God’s plan. She rejoices in a time that would bring her shame and ridicule from the world. She illustrates her faith in the few glimpses we have, and we see the devotion in her relationship with Jesus at the cross. The last we see of Mary is in Acts 1:12-14, where she is in Jerusalem with her other children and the apostles, preparing for the events at Pentecost.
She is an astounding woman, wife, mother, and servant of the Lord. We sometimes fail to be the examples we should be, but we can read of Mary’s life, see the souls entrusted to her by God, and see an example of the devotion we should have to God and our own families. Those qualities we see in Mary is what God and others should see when they look at us.
lesson by Tim Smelser