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9. Devoted Women Identified by Faithfulness: Mary, Jesus' Mom

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Time: Jesus' Life, ~5 B.C.-30 A.D.

Editor's Note: The author (Melanie Newton) does not have any audio for this article, however she recommends this audio message by Vickie Kraft as helpful in conjunction with this study.

Background

During the time of Jesus' birth, rabbis had fixed the minimum age for marriage at twelve for girls and thirteen for boys. The fathers arranged the marriage without usually consulting either the boy or the girl involved. When the marriage was agreed upon, the groom gave presents to the bride's family. The Jewish betrothal period was a stricter legal relationship than modern engagements, and sexual relations were not allowed. If the wedding were abandoned, a financial penalty would be imposed on the person responsible.

Jesus' mother Mary was raised in a time when women did not have the same rights as men. Women were treated as possessions and listed along with a man's property. Wives referred to their husbands as "master" and lord. A woman could not divorce her husband. Daughters and wives could not inherit property from their father or husband unless there was no male heir. However, some women did have respect and influence, like the Old Testament women Sarah, Miriam, Deborah and Abigail. Daughters seemed to share in family life as much as sons, such as participating in religious festivals. The Ten Commandments called for equal honor to be shown to both parents. Women were subject to the law with identical penalties for offenders of either sex.

Jesus did not reinforce the practice of treating women as second-class citizens or as possessions. His example demonstrates His equal love and compassion for women as well as men, including His own mother. After studying this lesson, you will see that Mary was an ordinary woman of faith. She gave birth to and raised the boy Jesus, but then she needed to believe in Him with the same saving faith that you and I must have for salvation.

Day One Study

The Announcement

1. Read Luke 1:26-45. Describe the scene as Mary experienced it. (For location of Nazareth, see map in “New Testament Insights.”)

From the Greek: The angel Gabriel said that Mary was highly “favored” and that she had found “favor” with God, both words related to the Greek karis, often translated in the New Testament as grace, meaning “undeserved favor, a gift.” Grace carried the notion of joy, delight, and kindness. What does this tell you about God’s choice of Mary to carry His Son in her womb?

2. What promises did God make to Mary through Gabriel?

3. What does Mary's response reveal about her?

4. What prophecy was God fulfilling through Mary? See Isaiah 7:14 plus other verses you find.

5. Living Out His Love: Could God have carried out His plan of salvation without Mary? The angel Gabriel tells us, "For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).” Memorize this verse and share any examples in your life when God has demonstrated this fact to you.

Day Two Study

6. Read Luke 1:46-56 and 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Describe Mary's encounter with Elizabeth. How did God demonstrate His faithfulness to Mary regarding His promise?             

7. Note the similarities between Hannah's song of praise and gratitude (1 Samuel 2) and Mary's (Luke 1). What does her song reveal about Mary’s knowledge of God and her knowledge of the Old Testament?

8. What does the expression "God, my Savior" indicate that Mary knew about herself? See also Psalm 24:5; 95:1 and 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:3 for use of the same phrase.

9. Mary declares in Luke 1:48: "From now on all generations will call me blessed (NIV)." The adjective “blessed” is translated from a Greek word that means, “pronounced happy.” She gives one reason in verse 49. What is the reason? Based on what you have studied so far, for what other reasons might all generations call her blessed?

Think About It: We are to view her as one who revered the Lord and did His will, who put her trust in Him and, therefore, was filled with His joy. Since Jesus’ death and resurrection, she shares in the same salvation as the rest of believers.

10. Read Matthew 1:18-24. Joseph was a godly man who chose not to publicly divorce or disgrace Mary when he found out she was pregnant. Read John 8:41 (a possible slander against Jesus’ birth). The people of Nazareth could count months between when Joseph took her as his wife and the baby’s birth. What shadow did Mary live under all her life?

11. Living Out His Love: Have you or anyone you have known been in a position of social disgrace in which God used it for His higher purposes? Describe what happened.

12. How was God faithful to Mary in His provision of a husband for her and father for Jesus?

Think About It: Though women 12 years and older were required to pay a poll tax and register, Mary could have chosen to not go to Bethlehem this late in her pregnancy and let Joseph enroll both of them in the census. They likely knew the prophecy from Micah 5:2. She chose to go, knowing that their baby would be born in Bethlehem.

13. Read Luke 2:1-7 and Micah 5:2. Imagine what it was like to travel for ~3 days in late pregnancy on foot or on a donkey. Think what it was like for Mary to give birth in a cave, with probably no woman to attend her. Describe the scene as Mary experienced it.

14. Read Luke 2:8-20. Notice God’s idea of a grand birth announcement! What further confirmation coming from the shepherds does God give to Mary and Joseph about their new baby and His purpose?

15. Living Out His Love: Though not all babies get that kind of heavenly birth announcement, all babies are knit in their mothers’ wombs just like Jesus was. And, all babies are born with purpose. Read Psalm 139:13-16. What is revealed about God’s care of you from the moment of conception?

Day Three Study

16. Read Luke 2:21-40. Mary and Joseph did was required by the Jewish Law after the birth of a baby. And, God used this experience of their faithfulness to Him to give them more confirmation of their son’s purpose. Remembering what the angel had told Mary, discuss what Simeon and Anna added to Mary’s understanding of her son’s purpose and future.

17. Mary and Joseph were faithful but not perfect parents. Read Luke 2:41-50. Jesus is twelve years old. Discuss the experiences of the boy Jesus and his parents as described in this passage. 

  • Jesus—
  • Mary & Joseph—

18. Of what did Jesus' answer remind His parents?

19. Read Luke 2:51-52. In what ways were Jesus’ growing up experiences normal for a human boy? What does this reveal to you about Mary's mothering?

20. Living Out His Love: How, if at all, were the basics of the Christian faith taught and reinforced in your home while you were growing up? If you have children, how are you teaching them to have faith in Jesus Christ and helping them to grow in their faith?

Day Four Study

21. Read Matthew 13:55-56, John 7:3-10 and Mark 6:3. What other children did Mary have in addition to Jesus?

Scriptural Insight: There is no Scriptural evidence that these children were not Mary’s natural children. See Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7. The expression in the Greek "her firstborn" means that she naturally had other children afterwards. Otherwise, the Greek phrase for "only son" would have been used as in John 3:16 and Luke 7 (the Widow of Nain).

22. Read Mark 3:21,31-35. In His response to His family members who had come to “take charge of Him” for His own welfare, Jesus reveals His priorities. How does Jesus' understanding of His own priorities affect the relationship between His mother and Himself?

23. Living Out His Love: There are two issues at work here, both creating tension.

  • On the one hand, Jesus had to take a stand opposite of what His family desired. Have you been in such a situation? How have you responded? If this is still a point of conflict, what should you do?
  • The other issue is that of Jesus' siblings questioning His motives and behavior. Have you ever questioned some dynamic Christian's motives or been envious of his/her walk with God? Is this what His siblings could have been experiencing? How did you deal with this situation?

24. Read John 19:25-27. What does Mary's presence at the cross reveal about her?

25. Just before His death, Jesus, as the oldest son, committed His mother’s future provision to the disciple John (a nephew) but not to one of her own sons. What could be the reason for this? For help, review John 7:3-10.

Scriptural Insight: In 1 Corinthians 15:7, Paul writes that Jesus did appear to His brother James who believed, became the leader of the Jerusalem Church, and wrote the New Testament book of James. Another brother, Jude, also believed and authored the New Testament book of Jude.

26. Read Acts 1:1-14. The prayer group meeting together after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension included Mary. Why were they praying? What were they waiting to receive, and what will they be empowered to do after receiving it?

27. Living Out His Love: Mary was a normal human just as we are. Summarize Mary's character qualities revealed in this lesson. Is Mary's character attainable to us? What qualities of this godly woman would you like to have? As believers, we have the same Holy Spirit Mary had to help us develop godly character. Trust in Him to be faithful to complete the good work He began in you, submit to His will and fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Historical Insight: When did the view of Mary as something more than an ordinary godly woman begin? An apocryphal document (called the Gospel of James) written in the late second century A. D. created a whole scenario for Mary. Other information about Mary’s life began to be circulated in the 400s AD declaring Mary to have been a child prodigy who made a vow of virginity at the age of 3, remaining in the Temple where she had continual visions and angelic visits. Most of this developed as an outgrowth of the influence of Gnosticism. The conjecture became tradition, which morphed into “fact.” 

Related Topics: Character Study, Love, Women

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