Mary, the mother of Jesus, is known for precisely that–she bore the Son of God. Because of this act, she is greatly honored and known as blessed. Her Son is the catalyst of the salvation of the world and of life everlasting. Obviously, she was incredibly godly, for she, out of all the women of all of time in all of the earth, was chosen for this amazing task. One has to wonder if she was greatly changed after the birth of her Savior and if being daily in the presence of the Lord had any impact on her. There is much to learn from Mary’s life before she met Jesus, what led her to meeting Jesus, the impact of Christ on her life, and her worship and service of the Lord. She is a woman of extreme character, in the best sense of the word.
The Bible does not speak much about Mary–mainly because the Bible is not about Mary. The Bible is about Jesus, her son. When Mary is brought into play and one learns about her life before Christ, one also learns about the factors that led her to meeting Jesus.
Mary was a virgin. Though she did not know it, she was the one about which Isaiah prophesied. Mary probably knew much of Isaiah by heart, and she more than likely could recite verbatim the prophecies concerning Israel’s Messiah, including the section concerning the virgin. Isaiah 7:14 states plainly, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Although Mary’s life held great honor, her calling would demand great suffering as well. Just as there is pain in childbirth and motherhood, there would be much pain in the privilege of being the mother of the Messiah.
Mary was a young girl, probably no more than fifteen years old, when the angel Gabriel came to her saying, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”1 Now, Mary had recently become engaged to a carpenter named Joseph. Mary was an ordinary Jewish girl, looking forward to marriage. And now, her life would forever be changed.
Mary was fearful and troubled (as most biblical characters are when they meet an angel) in the presence of the angel. She never expected, nor could she ever have dreamed, to hear this most incredible news. She was to bear a child! Her Son would be the Messiah. Although it seemed impossible to her that she could conceive the Savior (“How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”2), she responded to God with belief and obedience (“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her”3). She had complete trust in the Lord, that He would take care of her and would stay true to His word. Now, she did have much to fear. In this day and age, with all the immorality running rampant, it is still undesirable to have an unmarried teenage mother. If it was unacceptable in this age, imagine what it would have been like to Mary! This was still during the Jewish times; the Jews were still under the Mosaic Law, for which almost any unearthly act required a blood punishment–some acts required death. Mary certainly had a just cause to fear for her life. But it does not seem like she did. In fact, she goes on to praise God in her Magnificat in Luke 1:46-47. What a tremendous lesson in faith this is…God will always work out everything for His glory and for the good of the Saints (Romans 8:28).
After the birth of Jesus, one would think that Mary would be Jesus’ number one advocate, especially in His ministry. It seems, though, that Mary did not completely understand all that Jesus was. If she did understand, she did not appreciate it until much, much later. When Jesus was twelve, Joseph takes them to Jerusalem, and on their way back, they lose Jesus. Mary and Joseph searched frantically for Him, only to discover Him in the temple, teaching the Scribes and Pharisees. Mary actually scolds Him. This sounds strange to the reader’s ears, seeing as Jesus is the Messiah and can do no wrong. Why would Mary scold Him? She did not understand, even after He explained it to her.
Later on, in Jesus’ first recorded miracle, Mary tells Him that the wedding party has no more wine. He asks her what she wants Him to do about it (once again, this is supposedly harsh language, but it serves to make Mary think), and she tells the servants to do whatever He said. So, Mary did believe in Jesus and His power to do miracles, but she had a hard time allowing to preach. At least twice in Jesus’ ministry does His family come to collect Him and to keep Him from preaching, Mary included, lending to the belief that Mary does not believe that her son is the Messiah. However, Mary did change after Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension. In Matthew 27:56, Mary is listed as being at the crucifixion, next to the disciple whom Jesus loved. John, once Jesus was killed, was given instruction to care for her. It would be incredibly comforting, and perhaps even convicting, knowing that one of her Son’s last acts was to take care of His mother–the very mother that did not believe in Him during His lifetime. In Acts 1:26, especially verse 14, Mary is the only one to be mentioned by name, other than the eleven apostles, who are in the upper room when they return from Mount Olivet. It might be noted that her sons are also with her, signifying their change of heart also. From this point on in the Bible, she is no longer mentioned, but this one verse gives the reader hope that Jesus’ family did, in fact, recognize Him as their Savior.
The reader can learn much from an analysis of Mary. When the angel came to her, the mother of Christ must have known that her submission to God’s plan would cost her. Even if she was not severely punished according to the Mosaic law, she knew she would be disgraced as an unwed mother. More than likely, she feared that Joseph would divorce her, or worse yet, he might even have her put to death by stoning. Mary may not have considered the full extent of her future suffering. She may not have imagined the pain of watching her beloved child bear the weight of sin and die a terrible death on the cross. Still, she willingly submitted to God’s plan. One can learn from her example by doing the same. Willing accept God’s plan. Rejoice in God’s plan, like Mary did, even when it will cost you dearly. Follow Him anywhere, and leave the costing up to Him.4
_______________________________________________________________ 1Luke 1:18; KJV
2Luke 1:34; KJV
3Luke 1:38; KJV
4Paraphrase from Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose