MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS
A Timely Mother’s Day Message
To preach Mary is to preach the glory of God.
The error of some is to turn respect into reverence,
to turn virginity into veneration. It is wrong to turn an ideal into an idol.
The word Mary is mentioned fifty-one times in the New Testament. It is related to the Old Testament word Miriam. It is related to the Hebrew word Mara which Naomi used to describe her affliction. It is also related to the word Marah, the name of the bitter waters reached by the Hebrews in their wilderness travels.
Thus, the background of these words points to bitterness, trouble, sorrow, even disobedience and rebellion. This is apt because there is no doubt that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had bitter experiences along with the blessings of God.
Mary married Joseph of Heli, a simple carpenter. Both were poor. Yet both of them could trace their genealogy back to the royal line of David. Joseph’s genealogy is given in Matthew, while Mary’s is given by Luke.
According to the Scripture in addition to her first born son, Mary had several natural children by Joseph. James, Joses, Judas (not Iscariot), Simon (not Peter), plus some unidentified daughters (Matt. 13:55,56; Mark 6:3).
Mary was not a supreme saint. She was not free of original sin. She had no special spiritual privileges. The Bible nowhere ever suggests that she was immaculately conceived. She was a sinner, even as she admits, saved by grace even as you and I are saved. Yet, God gave her a special role to fulfill as He does when He calls one to serve Him in a special way.
Leviticus 12 records that the mother at the birth of a child is “unclean” (in sin). As such, ritual remedies are required. Mary tacitly admitted that she was unclean, because even though Jesus was free of sin, she was not sinless herself and needed to obey the rules of purification (Luke 2:21-24).
Toward the end of her life, Mary stepped out of the limelight. The last mention of her in the Bible is in the Book of Acts, chapter one, verse fourteen. She had to be around fifty years old. We think that she was sixteen or seventeen when she married Joseph, plus the thirty-three years of Jesus’ life equals fifty. But in Acts, though mentioned along with other believers she is not an object of worship. She is mentioned as one of a group of believers praying in the upper room. Let us surmise further that Mary lived somewhat longer because she met Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts and of the third Gospel when he came to Judea with Paul.
On this day when we honor all mothers, let us look at a cross-section of Mary’s life as we find it in the Word of God. We will list seven particulars in her biography for you to consider: her superiority; her selection; her sanctity; her submission; her salutation; her service; her sorrow.
I. HER SUPERIORITY
… is found not as other faiths say, but as God says.
Blessed art thou among women … (Luke 1:28)
… has found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
Mary is superior in that she is one of the mothers in the Bible who are considered to be mothers of prophecy. Mothers of prophecy like Sarah or Jochabed are not worshipped.
II. HER SELECTION
…Is as much a mystery as is the miracle of the incarnation. God went to the country. To a poor woman. To a pious, gentle lowly lady. He could perhaps have found an Esther in a palace. Yet He did not. She was selected by Divine Wisdom for one special Divine Purpose.
This was all arranged beforehand by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, in His time for His plan and His purpose.
Read: Isaiah 7:14-16; 9:6,7; Micah 5:2,3.
III. HER SANCTITY
She had to be holy to be so used of God.
She had to be spiritually fit.
She had to be a chosen vessel, set aside.
She had to be saved.
And she was saved.
The Lord is with thee. (Luke 1:28)
Blessed is she that believed. (Luke 1:45)
Did Mary glory in the greeting of Elisabeth? No!
My soul doth magnify the Lord. (Luke 1:46)
My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (Luke 1:47)
IV. HER SUBMISSION
Look at how Mary took the news that Gabriel brought (v. 34).
She was matter-of-fact. She asked intelligent questions.
How can this be? It was not a matter of faith, it was a matter of fact. When she got the explanation, she said
Be it to me according to thy word. (verse38)
“… And the angel departed from her.” The remainder of the verse clearly indicates that the angel had accomplished his mission, else he would not have left Mary.
Thus, we affirm the virgin birth.
We believe the virgin birth.
We preach the virgin birth.
By the will of God the Holy Spirit forged God and man in the person of Jesus Christ. His humanity came from Mary. His deity came from God. Thus, the God-man, one person forever.
As God he was free of sin, pure. Not because Mary had no original sin, but because God did not permit Mary’s original sin to pass to the Son of God. This is part of the miracle and the mystery of the incarnation.
What is the significance of the virgin birth? It helps to better understand the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
1. The virgin birth is a reminder that our salvation is supernatural. Jesus had to be born how? Of the Holy Spirit. We have to be born again or from above how? By the Holy Spirit. Just as the virgin birth is evidence of Holy Spirit activity, so is each individual’s salvation a miraculous event.
2. The virgin birth is a reminder that God’s salvation is fully a gift of grace… as is Mary’s undeserved bearing of Jesus.
3. The virgin birth is a reminder and is evidence of the uniqueness of Jesus, the Saviour. That is, there was a miraculous conception of God in the flesh.
4. The virgin birth is another evidence of the power and sovereignty of God over nature. If God can make such a birth, can He not accomplish the seemingly impossible task of granting new birth to sinners.
V. HER SALUTATION
Luke 1:46-55 – Mary’s Magnificat – Her adoration
She recognized the reality of her position.
She was not falsely humble.
She was honest.
She understood what it meant to be so “chosen” and so “favored” of God.
Remember: Mary never claimed anything for herself. She gave all the glory to God. Why was Mary so blessed by God? She was filled with the Holy Spirit. First, she was morally pure. God places a premium on purity. Praise God for those young women and men who practice the purity of virginity. Second, she had a spirit of meekness and submission because she thought of herself as the handmaiden of the Lord. Third, she possessed great faith, great faith toward God, for without faith it is impossible to please Him and just as important, nothing is impossible with God.
VI. HER SERVICE
She gave birth to Jesus.
She mothered him for thirty years.
From a baby – Luke 2:40
To a youth – Luke 2:51-52
Don’t get the idea that this story is a story about the twelve-year old Jesus is getting lost. No, not al all. The point here is that it was so normal for them to travel this way that they did not for one minute think that he was lost.
The key point is in 2:41 – going to Jerusalem every year at Passover. Jesus kept the law, Jesus fulfilled the law.
Jesus was subject to his parents.
What did Mary give him as he grew? Life, Home (not just a house), love, sympathy, purity, piety, obedience, prayer, prophecy, pentateuch, psalms, that is she gave from the Word of God, the record of God in the presence of God.
VII. HER SORROW
Simon predicted how she would be hurt.
Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.
This was the lady who had been visited by an angel, the lady who had heard the angel voices in the fields singing of her first born son.
She kept all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:51)
But she told Luke. When did she tell him? It had to be when Luke was with Paul and when Paul was in Judea long enough for Mary to learn to trust Luke and confide in him. When was that? When Paul was in prison there. That had to be about twenty years after Jesus died which was she was fifty years old. So now, she had to be between sixty-five and seventy years old.
She had seen not only her first born son die, but she had also seen James executed. Only a parent who lives beyond their own children can know the grief that comes when they see their sons or daughters die before them.
1. The first pang – age twelve
Luke 2:49 – Jesus states that he has no earthly father.
She lost her “boy,” but the world gained a Saviour. Sometime after this Joseph died — we have to assume so. He is not mentioned (Mark 3:31; John 2:1; 19:25)
2. Another rebuke as Jesus begins his ministry.
John 2 – the miracle at Cana
From this point on, Jesus seemed to place his mother in the group, or within the same category which he gave to his disciples.
Despite the miracle at Cana, Jesus made clear that Mary could not control the operation of one sent of the Father.
He called her “woman,” not mother. Still respectful, as it is used in the Aramaic or Hebrew language, not harshly, but pointedly.
3. The Third rebuke from Jesus (Mark 3:21; 31-35)
When his ministry was so popular, Jesus was overworked to the point of distraction or exhaustion.
Jesus in effect says to Mary: You can speak to me not because you are my mother, but because you believe in and obey me.
Jesus acknowledges spiritual relationships, not human relationships.
This is important to me, and to you! And to whosoever seeks the salvation of God. Nevertheless the distance between the son and the mother widens. It must have hurt.
4. Standing at the cross (John 19:25)
Illustration: My own grandmother who lived to be ninety-six asked me after her daughter, my aunt, had died, “Why do I have to live so to see my own children die? Why won’t God take me first?” That is a very hard question about the will of God. But Mary had faith. She “stood” by Him to the end. While the apostles fled, she “stood.”
Every time before, when Scripture recorded the meetings between Jesus and Mary, notice that she had something to say. Not at the cross. Now she is silent.
5. Jesus takes care of his mother (John 19:26,27)
The disciple Jesus loved received the Lord’s mother in his care for the rest of her life. Not Jesus’ own brothers and sisters, but John, this same John who wrote the last Gospel and who was given the revelation of Jesus Christ on the isle of Patmos. John took Mary because it was His Master’s wish.
6. The final truth
Mary did not give the world her son. She gave God’s Messiah to the world. This is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Let me put it this way: Mary is not Jesus’ mother. She is His child. Even as are all who believe. She is a child of God the same way we are children of God. The blood of Christ saves all who would believe. That is why Jesus never called her mother, he called her “woman.” She was his child.
The main reason that the worship of Mary is wrong is because it gives a false assurance of salvation and answered prayer. I am convinced that if Mary could hear the prayers that are directed to her she would blush.
It was a matter of faith, but salvation is to believe in Jesus Christ who died, was buried and rose again. Mary believed the promise and saw it perfected. Today, we see the perfection of the glory of Christ. Do we glory in understanding our position in Christ Jesus? Mary’s message is simple: Glory to God.
I pray that you believe in Him today. Be His child. As was Mary his mother.
Let me give you some perspective. I was born into a Roman Catholic family of many generations. I was raised in a Roman Catholic parochial school through the eighth grade. My heritage derives from a country that is considered 98% Roman Catholic. Though I was never given the Gospel as a child I wanted to become a Maryknoll Missionary. I would have done so if my parents had permitted it. They did not. After many years I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour. This is a personal relationship which does not require any church or any denomination. Salvation is not through any entity, it is through Christ Jesus alone. Many may claim Him, but He asks only that a person should receive Him. Thank God for the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus.
– Ray Staszewski, by God’s grace,
three score ten plus…