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Mary, the mother of Jesus

December 18th, 2011 by Vic

December 18, 2011
“Mary, the mother of Jesus”
Fourth Sunday of Advent

Much more is written about Mary from speculation than from the original texts. According to the later “Gospel of James” Mary was the daughter of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne. Mary was given to the priests as a consecrated virgin in the Temple in Jerusalem at age 3 like Samuel was taken to the Tabernacle in the OT.

The image of Madonna and Child permeates Catholic art. I was not aware that the Orthodox churches only allow 2 dimensional icons in their churches. The Roman Catholics have the statues.

John Wesley believed that Mary was a perpetual virgin and the ‘brothers’ mentioned in the NT were actually cousins.

In the Gospels, God has given us a few glimpses into the character of Mary. Her quiet submission to the will and ways of God is a good example for us. We will look at each time Mary is mentioned and the lesson we can learn.

Matthew mentions Mary 5 times, only once outside the infancy narrative (13:55).
Mark mentions Mary once by name (6:3) and once as the mother of Jesus (3:31).
Luke mentions Mary 12 times, all in the infancy narrative.
John mentions her twice, but not by name (at the wedding and the cross).
Acts mentions Mary and the brothers of Jesus (Acts 1:14).

Matthew 1:16, 18, 20; 2:11

1. God had a plan for Mary that she was not aware of (16). She was part of God’s story. We are also part of God’s story and may not know it. Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has had us in mind a long time.

2. Mary experienced suspicion and shame (18). We don’t know anything about her parents. When she found out she was pregnant she went immediately to an elderly aunt. Did her parents not understand? Luke tells us that Elizabeth could trace her lineage back to Aaron. Aaron’s wife was of the tribe of Judah, so all Aaron’s descendents are from both Levi and Judah, priest and king. Many believe that Elizabeth and Mary’s mother were sisters.

When you are troubled, who or what do you turn to? Family, friend, food, loud music, TV, etc. Mary knew she had done nothing wrong, but who would believe her? She had a pure heart and sensitive spirit toward spiritual things. Gossip does not usually assume the best about another person. Mary left town and stayed with her aunt and uncle 3 months.

3. Mary experienced the threat of death, disgrace, and humiliation (19). It was not within her power or authority to correct the problem. Joseph’s marriage contract and God’s action in her life had caused the problem. She had to trust Joseph and God to find a solution.

Why didn’t Jesus just appear as an adult prophet? Why did he have to be born as a baby? Why couldn’t Mary just raise her baby as an unwed mother?

Sometimes we experience situations beyond our control. We have lots of questions. We have done everything with good intentions, but we were misunderstood. Accidents do happen. The things that are seen are not the whole story. Our only option is to keep trusting God and be faithful.

4. Mary was vindicated (20). She did not have to endure years of humiliation. Maybe within a few days, God sent an angel to confirm her story. I think Joseph really wanted to believe her story, but he also wanted to be righteous in all his ways.

Matthew shows us a young woman with a quiet spirit, self-control, and the gift of sacred silence. We all need to learn to speak only when we can improve on silence. Maybe God wants to speak on our behalf.

Luke 1-2

1. Mary’s visit from an angel was very unusual (28). He did not tell her to fall on her knees or run and get a sacrifice or go call Joseph and her parents. He just told her she was blessed and favored because God was with her. What did he mean she was blessed and favored? She had just been engaged to Joseph. She was excited about the future they would have together. Joseph had a very good reputation. He was a righteous man. Is that what the angel meant? “Congratulations on your engagement.”

Her aunt and uncle had similar experiences with angels, but they were old. It was very rare for children to hear the voice of God or see an angel. She may not have known about Elizabeth’s pregnancy until the angel tells her (36).

We are blessed and favored when God is with us. Think of all the doorways into blessing that are mentioned in the Beatitudes. Abide in Him and enjoy a happy, blessed, and fruitful life.

2. Mary was anxious (29) and troubled at the surprise visit and unusual words. Being afraid of the sudden appearance of an angel is a little different than scaring our kids with a sudden “boo”. The angel did not scare Mary, but his words did. Maybe she was thinking about dying and going to heaven. Maybe she was thinking the bad news was still coming. We tend to fear the unknown.

3. Mary is comforted by the angel (30). Gabriel tells Mary that God is going to bless her with a special baby. The angel describes Jesus as great, Son of God, and He will have an eternal kingdom. Mary did not hear much of that description. She told the angel that she could not be pregnant. She has not gone to Joseph’s home yet.

When God’s word speaks to me I sometimes miss the main point and focus on some little detail rather than the majesty of the plan of God.

4. Mary submits to the Word of God (38). God blesses us when we submit to His will and ways. If we do not submit to God then He lets us live life out our own way. That is never the best way.

5. Mary expresses an outburst of joy (46) when her aunt also tells her she is blessed. A few days ago the angel told her she was blessed. Now she hears the same greeting again. Mary is starting to see a pattern here. God is doing something through her life.

6. Mary travels with her husband (2:5) even when it is not convenient.

7. Mary could see the hand of God working in her life and wondered (2:19) how everything was going to play out in her life.

8. Mary and Joseph were amazed (2:33-34) at the number of people that seemed to know about their child.

9. Mary and Joseph were faithful parents (41). Jesus was now the age that Mary was when the angel first spoke to her. But she apparently did not consider that God could be speaking to her son (50). He was too young.

10. Even after 12 years with Jesus, Mary is still wondering (51) what God is going to do through their lives. Had Mary developed an agenda? Did she sign up Jesus for soccer, catechism, or dance classes? Did she have a plan for Jesus’ career? Why didn’t she leave Jesus with the temple teachers so He could get a good education?

John 2:1-12

For 18 years Jesus submitted to his parents as expected in that culture. There is no further mention of Joseph. Jesus becomes the bread winner for the family. Mary depended on him to fix everything. She and the family had gone with Jesus and His disciples to a wedding. She was aware that the wine had run out.

1. In a crisis of need Mary turned to Jesus (3) for a solution. She knew He knew some rich people that could go buy more wine. We don’t know what Mary was expecting; she just knew Jesus could fix it.

2. She was entirely undisturbed (5) by Jesus’ reply. She may not have been sure what He meant. She had authority to prepare for a miracle. She did what she could do and left it up to Jesus. Jesus’ family traveled with him to Capernaum.

Mark 3:21, 31-35

Early in his ministry, Jesus’ family thought He may be having a nervous breakdown. The Jewish leaders said He was demon possessed.

The crowds around Jesus were so big that his family could not get to Him. Jesus’ response to Mary was similar to His earlier response in the Temple to Mary and Joseph. At 12 years old He knew He had 2 fathers. Now He reminds Mary that He has 2 families. He intends to be faithful to both. When you see the parallel between the 2 events, a lot of the discussion about Mary and Jesus’ relationship becomes unnecessary. Jesus is not criticizing His mother.

The religious leaders in Mark 6:3 & Matthew 13:55 mention Mary as an ordinary mother in their attempt to discount any perceived authority that Jesus had. He was not born to powerful or influential parents.

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” Jesus had been healing the sick, casting out demons, and speaking with great wisdom in His home town synagogue. He couldn’t be the same person who used to run the wood shop for Mary.

Our friends at the school reunions remember us as we were. But God may have a different plan than our classmates ever thought possible. What you are today is not what you will be tomorrow. Many kids today have 2 dads and 2 families. In Christ they can honor and respect each and God will bless them for it. Jesus was Mary’s son and also faithful to His heavenly Father. Jesus traveled with his relatives and also considered everyone who feared God as part of His extended family.

Your mother may be very poor, vulnerable, and dependent on your skill as a carpenter. People may label you accordingly. But God’s plan for you may surprise those who know you. You are who you are in God’s eyes. If you have chosen to obey, you are part of the family of God.

John 19:25-27

Jesus had been faithful to his mother as the eldest son. He expresses his love and concern for her continued well-being. He does not assume the next oldest son would be able to care for Mary. Instead He knows John is trustworthy and able to care for Mary in his home.

The Catholics have a legend concerning Mary’s later life in the home of John. According to the legend she does not die, but is translated to heaven and received into Jesus’ hands. All the apostles are miraculously with her when this occurs. Mary’s glorification then gives her the right to act as intercessor for us.

Acts 1:14

Mary and her sons were part of the assembly of Jesus’ followers. Mary is the only one mentioned by name in this group in the upper room. They were praying together and waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. The family of Jesus did not isolate themselves or set themselves up as leaders of a new cult. They were part of the group of followers who had grown in their conviction that Jesus truly was the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world.

Mary is not pictured as an original thinker. She was meditative. She pondered in her heart the many puzzling experiences until the light of Pentecost came and filled her being with the Spirit of Jesus.

Like Mary there are many things we cannot understand until the Spirit of Jesus reveals it to us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We must honor God and give Him thanks for who He is and who we are. When we turn our backs on God we cannot see reality as clearly. The pure in heart see God acting in their lives and give thanks.

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