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Lesson 10: Mary, Most Blessed Of Women

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Christmas is coming. I looked at the Arts section of the paper this week, and looked at all of the coming attractions for TV. It was interesting: they mentioned Frosty, the Grinch, Rudolph, Scrooge, Ziggy, Santa Claus, Mr. Magoo, Yogi, Mickey, and He-man and She-ra! There was a significant absence of the real people that were involved in the true Christmas story. Of course, nothing that TV can produce can match that first Christmas and the remarkable cast of characters. We’re going to study today the woman who is called "blessed among women,"--Mary, the mother of Jesus.

She was just a young teenager in an unimportant town called Nazareth, in the hills of Galilee. She came from a poor but honorable family. Her family were descendants of Israel's greatest king, David. She’d been carefully trained in the Scriptures and knew great portions of them by heart. She knew that God had promised to send the Messiah, One who would rescue her people Israel and be their king. For four hundred years, God had been silent. No new Scripture was written; no prophets had spoken.

Every Jewish girl prayed to be the mother of this Messiah. Mary loved God and wanted to serve him with all of her heart. But she was just a poor girl in an insignificant town, from a humble family, with no great expectations that her life was going to be any different from her mother's or from that of the other women in her town. In her day a girl was betrothed when she reached puberty and it usually was a year before she was married. Mary was betrothed to Joseph. They would be married within a year and she was spending this last year in her home learning how to be a good Jewish wife and mother. Joseph was a carpenter, hard-working and responsible. He was a kind man, and the more Mary knew him the more she appreciated his sensitivity and his gentleness toward her. Life would be good with Joseph. She was so glad that her parents had made such a good match for her.

One day as Mary was just going around doing her tasks, she was surprised by an unusual visitor. I’d like for you to turn to Luke 1. We’re going to cover all the major texts about Mary. I want you, as we do it, to try to put yourself in her place. This is hard to do, but just think of what was happening to her and how you would have felt. I’m going to start at v. 26 of Luke 1 (through v. 33, NIV).

In the sixth month [that means in Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy], God sent the angel Gabriel [There are only two angels named in Scripture: Gabriel and Michael. He sent the angel Gabriel] to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

There are a couple of things. The words, "Greetings, you who are highly favored,” in the Latin, is “Ave Maria.” That’s where you get the song. “Gratia plena” means “full of grace.” That is not what it says here. It says, “You who are highly favored.” The word “favor” is the word “grace,” and what we are being taught here is that she was a recipient of grace, not a source of grace. This is very important. The distinction is very important.

When the angel began to speak, she was terrified, as we all would have been. He quickly calmed her fears, and in a few short sentences revealed her future. She, Mary, was to be the mother of the Messiah! He would be the Son of God, the Son of David, ruling an eternal kingdom from David's throne. All of the promises of the Old Testament concerning this coming one were mentioned in the angel’s words. His name would be “Jesus.”

Her purity and her innocence are clearly revealed in her next words. Notice what she said (v. 34): "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" I think this is one of the strongest evidences for Mary’s virginity, because I think if she weren’t a virgin, she would be terrified to lie to an angel, don’t you think? Imagine saying to an angel, “I’m a virgin,” when she knew she really wasn’t. And this, from her own mouth comes the evidence, “I’m a virgin. I’m not married! I’ve not had any sexual relationship! How can this be?” She wasn’t doubting it, like Zechariah did earlier. What she was asking for was the method: how?

The angel's answer had to stretch her faith, because it was certainly something she could not have understood. Look what he says in v. 35-37:

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

It didn't matter if she could understand it. She believed that God was able to do what he said he would do, and that was enough. We get great insight into Mary's heart and character from her response to this revelation. Look at v. 38. If you ever want to know exactly what Mary, the mother of Jesus, was, this verse will tell you. "‘I am the Lord's servant…. May it be to me as you have said.’"

Now, the word “servant”: there are several in the Bible. This one is the lowest form of servanthood. This is a bondslave—a “doule.” She says, “I am the Lord’s slave. Let it be to me as you have said.” What do we see here about her attitude? Humility? Total submission to the will of God! Now listen: this didn't just happen at this moment. All of a sudden the angel comes and tells her this and she says, “Oh yeah, well, I’m the Lord’s ….” No, no, no! This was the pattern of her life. This was a young teenager, probably twelve or thirteen, and she could have this kind of relationship with God! What a remarkable young girl--she was willing to serve God at any cost, and cost there would be! She wondered how she could explain anything so strange to her mother; to Joseph. Would they believe her?

But just imagine: her relative Elizabeth was pregnant, six months, and was going to have a child in her old age! Well, God had performed a miracle for Elizabeth and Zechariah--maybe she could tell Elizabeth what had happened and she would understand! Mary could hardly wait to see her. In v. 39-45 we read:

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea [She’s probably made a trip of about eighty miles.], where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

There’s a lot here, but it must have been a shock! Elizabeth knew without her telling. God used Elizabeth to confirm to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God. God also commended her faith. "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord said to her will be accomplished!" The angel had said, "Nothing is impossible with God," and she had simply believed what the angel said. She simply believed that what God said he would do, he could do, and that’s a perfect definition of faith! Do you realize it? That’s as simple as we need to be for faith!

Do you and I have that kind of faith? I have to admit there are some things I don’t have that kind of faith about. This is a young teenager who simply believed God and wanted to serve him with all her life. What is it that you have stopped believing God for? What is it that you have not seen answered, and so you’ve given up? What situation seems so impossible that you’ve just decided not to pray for it anymore? Nothing could have seemed more impossible than Gabriel's message--but Mary simply believed God, submitted to his will, and the baby was already growing in her womb.

There are some interesting side issues here, and I want to mention them. If you ever wanted evidence for the fact that an embryo is not a “thing” and a “piece of tissue,” but a real person, you have it here! This baby leaped in his mother’s womb for joy! Elizabeth already referred to the child that Mary was carrying: she said, “the mother of my Lord should come to me?” You have very great evidence right in this passage if anyone ever questions that for you.

Now Mary's heart responds, and her mouth is filled with praise for God. Luke 1:46-55, which I will not read and I hope you have read as you studied the questions, is a hymn of praise. It is both poetry and prophecy. It reveals some very important things to us:

In the first place, it reveals the depth of Mary's spiritual understanding. I don’t think there are a lot of teenagers around who could have composed something like this.

It reveals a great knowledge of God’s Word, because every single phrase is taken from one of the psalms. She didn’t go looking up anything—she just knew it and it poured out of her. It sounds a lot like Hannah's song of praise in 1 Sam. 2.

It reveals she also knew God’s character. The only way you can know God’s character is to be saturated with God’s Word. This young woman did not have 15 translations of the Bible. Every Jewish child was taught God’s Word as soon as he or she was able to speak, and they memorized it! It was rote memory, and Mary knew God’s Word.

There is something very important here, because of all of the wrong ideas that have been perpetuated about Mary that we see revealed. Mary knew something about herself. What was it? It’s in v. 47. You see, she said, “…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior …." Why would Mary need a Savior? Because she was just like each of us! She was born from Adam. She was a sinner with a sin nature, and each of us is. Mary knew she was a sinner and needed a Savior so that her sins could be forgiven. It’s most unfortunate that in the effort to exalt Mary beyond what Scripture has done—and remember, Scripture calls her “blessed among women”—that in an effort to exalt her beyond that, that she’s been declared to be sinless. Mary would be the first to deny this. She knew she needed a Savior. And now God was giving her the unique privilege of being the means by which this Savior, his own Son, would come into the world.

In verse 56: “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” I believe she stayed until John was born. It would seem strange for her to stay and then leave just before Elizabeth came to term—but she stayed till John the Baptist was born and then went back to Nazareth. I’m using my imagination a little here, but I don’t think it’s too far-fetched. Can you imagine what it must have been like for her to come home and tell her mother that she was three months pregnant and still a virgin? Would you have believed her if it were your daughter? And there was still Joseph to tell. Would he believe her? A betrothal in that day was much more binding than an engagement is today. In fact, they considered them husband and wife already. The only thing was, they didn’t live together, and they certainly didn’t have sexual relations before they were married. A betrothal could only be broken by divorce.

Let’s turn to Matthew 1. I want you to keep your fingers in the Luke section and in Matthew. We’ll be going back and forth. Matt. 1:18-19:

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged [betrothed] to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband [See, they’re calling him her husband, even though they were not married.] was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Now, what does that tell us? He didn't believe her! Do you realize that? He didn’t believe her. He was shocked because Mary had seemed to be so pure and so faithful. He was terribly hurt. You have to assume that. Can you imagine what that must have been to him? He knew that he couldn’t marry her now. The law said that she should be publicly judged and the penalty was to be stoned to death. They really didn’t enforce that, that much—but Deut. 22:23-24 tells you that. He couldn't do that to Mary. He still cared for her. He would arrange to sign the papers for divorce privately. He went to bed that night with a very heavy heart.

But imagine what Mary was feeling, knowing that the man that she was supposed to marry did not believe her. Mary knew what it was to be accused of something she did not do, and to have her character questioned. I want you to put yourself in her place. This would be one of the most hurting things that a woman could feel. Look at Matt. 1:20-23.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin [This is Isaiah. The virgin] will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."

What a wonderful relief it must have been to know that Mary's fantastic story was really true! An angel of the Lord had spoken to him in a dream. Actually, the only way God communicates with Joseph through this whole thing is through dreams. It’s interesting. The child conceived in her virgin womb was by the Holy Spirit, and he was to be called “Jesus.” Now, “Jesus”—the word means "the Lord saves." In that little word, we see who he is and what he would do. He’s the Lord, and he would save. He would save his people from their sins. And then, he’s also “Immanuel, God with us,” the one the Scripture had prophesied for centuries.

We see something about Joseph’s character in the next verse. This is the way he acted anytime we see him mentioned. Matt. 1:24-25:

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him [He obeyed immediately.] and [he] took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

He obeyed the next day. He took Mary home as his wife, under his protection, to wait for the birth of her child. Both of these godly people sacrificed the right to consummate their marriage until after her child was born. Then they lived a normal married life. You’ll notice it says he did not have “union with her until she gave birth to a son”—which would mean that after she gave birth to Jesus, they had a normal life. You see, it’s a wrong emphasis that celibacy is more spiritual than marriage that has led to the dogma that Mary was perpetually a virgin. It’s a myth that’s been propagated to promote a wrong idea in the first place. God instituted marriage, God blessed marriage, and God honors marriage.

In Mark 6:3 (you don’t have to turn to it), I want to show you something. They’re speaking about Jesus, and they say: “’Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?’" So, we see he has four half-brothers and at least two sisters. Any attempts to call these cousins or anything else just don’t jive with Scripture. Don’t go beyond what Scripture says about Mary and about Joseph.

I want you to imagine something. Now here she’s married, she’s three months pregnant, at least, and they’ve just been married. I wonder what the next six months were like. I mean, the people of Nazareth could count to nine! I believe that this was a shadow she lived under for the rest of her life. Mary knew the suffering of being accused and convicted of the worst thing that a virtuous woman could be accused of. In fact, over thirty years later there were still rumors about Jesus’ birth, and it's implied in John 8:41. Maybe you haven’t noticed this, but when the Jews were talking to him and he said to them, “You’re of your father, the devil.” They said, “Well, we weren’t born of fornication”—the real slur, implying that he was. Mary was able to endure rumors about her reputation because she knew the charges were not true. Being God's servant is not always a bed of roses, gals! But there is no better calling in life, even though it means the loss of things that we consider very precious. In this case, it was a good name.

Turn back to Luke 2. Mary was very near the end of her pregnancy when the news came to Nazareth that Caesar had decreed that everyone had to go to the town their family came from to be enrolled for tax purposes. Both Joseph and Mary had to go, because both of them were descended from King David, and they had to go to Bethlehem, David’s city. It was a journey of about 90 miles, and even though we always see her on a donkey, we have no way of knowing if that was really true. Either she had to go by foot or did ride on a donkey, and it was at least three to four day’s journey. I wonder if they remembered the prophecy in Micah 5:2, that the Messiah who would come would be born in Bethlehem.

In any case, when they arrived in the town, it was jammed with other people who had come for the same purpose. Mary was exhausted and in the first stages of her labor, and there was no comfortable place to stay. I wonder if she was afraid. Here she was facing her first birth with no mother; no friends around. She wasn’t in any antiseptic operating room, either! Finally, Joseph found a cave where animals were kept and there on a bed of straw, with no one but Joseph to help her, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in an animal feeding trough filled with clean straw.

I wonder what she was thinking in that humble place. God's Son had been born in the equivalent of what today would be a stable! There was no family there to share their joy. I think God deliberately sent a bunch of excited shepherds. They came in wonder and awe, telling the amazing story of an angel who had told them that a Savior was born, and then the sky was filled with angels praising God. You see, there was no human family there to celebrate, and of course, the birth of a son was something that you celebrated in a big way. But God was celebrating the birth of his Son! He sent these humble shepherds to rejoice with Mary and Joseph. We get insight into her reflective nature from Luke 2:19. Notice it, and it’s repeated a little later. “… Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” We see that repeated in v. 51, “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” This is a very thoughtful, deeply reflective, spiritual woman.

In Luke 2:21, we see something else about this couple. “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.” What is it that we see immediately about them? They were Jews. What else? They obeyed God’s Law completely. The Law was that on the eighth day the child would be circumcised; he was given the name the angels said that he was to have; in every way this couple kept every ritual the Law commanded.

After forty days they went to the Temple to dedicate him. There God sent two old people who had been waiting for the Savior to come, to bring confirmation to them, both Simon and Anna. I think it’s neat that he sent a man and a woman to do this. When Simon held the child in his arms and praised God for the Savior, he then turned to Mary. In v. 34-35, he spoke directly to her. “…Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.’” And when you think of it, that’s exactly what Jesus Christ has done for two thousand years.

Then notice this phrase: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too." This child, this Son of God, was going to suffer. Because he suffered, his mother would suffer! Every one of us who has been a mother knows that that’s true. The worst thing we go through is when we see our children suffering and we can’t do anything about it. But Mary suffered more than anyone has ever had to suffer before or since.

They stayed in Bethlehem quite a long time--at least a year. Then one day they were surprised by a caravan of men from the east. These Magi told about a star that had led them to this child. They brought expensive gifts and they worshipped Jesus. But their visit had tipped off Herod, the king of the Jews, that the real King of the Jews had been born. He gave an order to kill all the boy babies in Bethlehem two years old and under. That’s why we know that he was much older. Even though your little crèche and mine has all of them there together, the shepherds and the Magi, when the Magi came, they came to a house where the child was. Because Herod figured it out for two years, we know that he was definitely older.

But again an angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph. Turn back to Matthew 2: 13-15a.

…An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream [again]. "Get up …take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Now think of it! Mary knew what it was like to get up in the middle of the night and flee for their lives. She knew because of the birth of her son other mothers in Bethlehem would be mourning the murder of their little babies. She knew what it was to live in a foreign country, Egypt, where she didn’t know the language, and where she was a stranger. I'm sure these were lonely days away from family and friends, but this woman of sturdy faith trusted God and obeyed him. She was uncomplaining and flexible and patient. She trusted God and she trusted Joseph, this kind and godly man.

It was better to suffer anything and be doing God's will than to be comfortable and be out of his will. Do you feel that way? Does the thought possibly of going to a foreign country as a missionary freak you out? “But they may not have a washing machine! I might not have electric lights! I might not have a comfortable bed!” That’s what hits most of us. I know myself that the minute I think of going somewhere, I immediately think of comfort. Camping out, for me, is a Holiday Inn! I went this past weekend for the first time on a hunting weekend—only because I knew we were going to a place that had all the conveniences. I went with my husband and my sons and another couple, and it was wonderful, because I had a dishwasher, a washer and a dryer, and central heat—and all of the conveniences, you see. Most of us are that way, but this family did whatever God told them to, whatever the cost.

I think it’s interesting that the gifts that the wise men brought were so expensive. I believe it was to finance this trip and their sojourn in Egypt. That gold, that frankincense, that myrrh, were used by this humble family, who would not have had the resources otherwise. God took care of his son, sending these messengers from hundreds of miles away.

Finally the day came when God told them to go back to Israel because Herod was dead, and they went back to Nazareth and raised their family there. Now turn back to Luke 2:39-40. We have to go back and forth!

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Now listen: this is all we read about the childhood of Jesus until he’s twelve. Any myths that you have heard about the miracles of his childhood are not biblical! This is all we have of him. I wonder what it was like to raise a child that was sinless. I know Mary knew the difference when her other children were born! Mary and Joseph provided for this family a stable, loving, godly home. They taught their children God's Word. They memorized it. We know that from the way Jesus used the Scriptures when he was older. They carefully kept God's Law and observed the special feast days.

Now look at verses 41-42 of Luke 2. “Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.” A boy of twelve, a Jewish boy, was getting ready at thirteen to be Bar Mitzvah-ed. So, his twelfth year, or thirteenth year was extremely important, and it was for him, as well.

Luke 2:43-48:

After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. [I don’t know why!] His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."

I think the anxiety of looking for him for three days was expressed in this outburst by her. This perfect son had caused her anxiety! She had forgotten something very important, and Jesus gently reminded her of it. Look at verse 49. “’Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?’" What did he remind them of? That Joseph was not his Father, but that God was! Jesus knew why he was sent to earth, but he also knew that as a twelve year old, he was subject to his parents. That’s why we read in v. 51-52, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

The next 18 years of Jesus’ life were lived in obscurity. There is not one word in Scripture about them. During this time Joseph died. It doesn’t tell us that, but we know it has to be true, because Joseph was the legal heir to the throne of David. If he had still been alive, Jesus could not have come as the heir to the throne of David. Do you see that? That’s only one evidence. The caring for the family fell upon the oldest son. That was exactly the pattern. Jesus earned their living as a carpenter.

Finally, when he was thirty--you can pick up his age in Matthew 3:23--he began his public ministry. John the Baptist, Elizabeth's son, had prepared the people for his appearance, and now Jesus was beginning to select certain men to be his special disciples. One day (and turn to John 2 as we get ready for this), one day Mary, Jesus, and his disciples were all invited to a wedding in the little village of Cana. When Mary discovered that the hosts were embarrassed because the wine had run out …. The wedding feast lasted several days, and it was awful for them to run out of wine. It indicated that they had not prepared properly. It was an insult, really. She did what she was used to doing. She came to Jesus with the problem. Maybe she thought that if Jesus did something sensational, people would believe in him. That’s exactly what the brothers thought later on.

Notice what happens in John 2:3-4. “When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’ ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me? …My time has not yet come.’” Jesus’ answer was a gentle reminder that he was no longer under her authority, and he was on a different timetable: he was on God’s. Mary says something next, and listen carefully to this. This is the only time Mary gives any orders to anybody, but notice what she says: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’" (John 2:5).

Do you realize that she’s still saying that to us today? You see, the focus is never on Mary. It's her Son, God's Son--her Savior and ours--that must be obeyed. Never, ever, shift that focus, girls. Jesus did turn the water into wine at this wedding, and it did reveal his glory so that the disciples believed on him. But strangely enough, even though he continued to perform all kinds of miracles, the ones who had been raised in the same home with him did not believe. In John 7:5, it tells us his brothers did not yet believe on him.

I wonder how Mary felt to know that her own sons did not believe in this one that she knew was the Son of God. I wonder how much she told them about his unusual birth. Gradually, they were able to pressure her, however, to get Jesus to conform to what their ideas about what his ministry should be. We pick this up in an interesting incident that I’m going to read from Mark 3, but it’s recorded in both Matthew and Luke. In Mark 3, Jesus is being pursued by the crowds that he is healing and doing wonderful miracles for. In v. 20-21: “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him [Isn’t that audacious? Notice what they said:] …‘He is out of his mind.’" “He needs a caretaker.” The word “take charge” means “to take custody of .” They didn't approve of the way he was going about his ministry. They were going to take charge and take control, so they went to find him. Now look at v. 31-34.

Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. [Do you get the picture? Here he is, the Son of God on his public ministry, speaking God’s words, doing God’s work, and outside his mother and brothers call him!] A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."

[Notice his answer:]"Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Now I want to ask you, what was he saying? He was saying that the spiritual family took precedence over mere blood relations. What else was he saying? They were just like anyone else, because the key to being related to Jesus Christ was not to be related physically, but to be related spiritually. How do you become related spiritually to Jesus Christ? You believe on him, and if you believe on him, that’s the first step in doing the will of God! In 1 John 3:23, it says, “And this is [God’s] command: [that we should] believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ ….” And then, when you believe on Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell, you study God’s Word, you obey God’s Word, and that’s what doing the will of God is. So he was saying, “That is more important than mere physical relationship.

Mary is with his brothers, so she must have approved of their plans and lent her authority to their demands. Jesus’ answer was very revealing. From now on, his earthly family was no longer in authority over him. Even the mother he loved and honored could not dictate to him concerning his ministry. This is important to note in a day when some people are teaching that we are under our parents’ authority until we marry. Jesus was subject to Mary and Joseph when he was twelve, but when he was thirty he made it very clear that membership in his spiritual family was more important than being a member of his earthly family. Doing the will of God is the mark of a member of Jesus' family.

I wonder what Mary was experiencing as she saw Jesus’ popularity increase as he traveled about the country performing miracles that no one had ever done before. Crowds continued to throng around him. The common people loved him, but the religious leaders were challenging him publicly and openly showing their unbelief. They were jealous of his popularity and knew it threatened their position. When Jesus made his final trip to Jerusalem, everyone knew that there was a conspiracy to kill him.

How did Mary feel? She went there with him and his disciples. She knew the fear and heartache that any mother would feel when her Son was betrayed and deserted by his friends, falsely accused and sentenced to death. She saw her perfect Son carrying his cross outside the city gate. She saw him cruelly nailed to it and hung there to slowly die in agony. When all of the disciples ran away in fear for their lives, Mary and the other women who cared for Jesus loyally stayed by the cross where he could see them and know they loved him. This gives an inkling into her courage, and her unfailing mother love. She had no special revelation about the way God would save the world. She only knew that she had been told that a sword would pierce her heart also and it was coming true.

It was while she stood their near the cross with the other women and John, Jesus’ closest friend, that her Son discharged his last duty to her. It was the responsibility of the eldest son to care for his parents and Jesus now committed her into the hands of John.

Read John 19:25-27.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Notice that he did not say, "Mother", but "Woman". The distance had widened between them all the years of his ministry. In fact, he never once calls her "Mother", but "Woman." Why did he not commit her care to her own sons, James, Joseph or Jude? Because they did not yet believe in him. After his resurrection they did, but not yet.

Jesus has taught us by his own example what it means to honor our parents. He was obedient to them when he was a child. But when he became a man, he moved out from their authority and dependence upon them. There comes a time that parental authority ends, and if we have to make a choice between God's will and our parents' will, we must choose to obey God. But Jesus never stopped caring for his mother or providing for her. In fact, he had some very harsh words for religious hypocrites who did not care for their parents in need because they used the excuse that their money was given to God and so they could not help them. That is what Mark 7:9-13 is all about. In this day of social security and pensions, we sometimes forget that our parents have need of our love, companionship and interest, even if we don't have to provide for them materially. And if they do have financial needs, the first place they should be able to turn is to their children. First Tim. 5:8 is very clear about this responsibility to our family.

There is no way that we can even remotely understand the joy that filled her heart when she heard of Jesus’ resurrection. It's interesting to note that the first person he appeared to was not his mother, but another woman, Mary Magdalene.

The last mention of Mary in the New Testament is found in Acts 1. The disciples had returned from the Mount of Olives, where they had seen Jesus ascend to heaven.

Read Acts 1:13-14.

When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Mary is in a prayer meeting with the other women and with Jesus' brothers, who now believed in him. While she is not specifically mentioned in Acts 2, she no doubt was there when the Holy Spirit came down to indwell all believers permanently. She was still a woman of faith and humility, taking her place with all of the others who trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. She had been the most privileged and blessed of women.

She had known the presence of God all through these years. She knew what it was to raise a large family, to economize on a tight budget. She experienced slurs on her reputation. She knew unbelief in her own family as her other sons rejected her firstborn all their lives until after his resurrection. But now that Jesus’ earthly life was over, she asked for no special place of honor. She was simply another worshipper of her Lord.

This is the very last time she is mentioned in the Bible. All other teaching about Mary has come from human teaching and not God's Word. She is not to be worshipped, but she should not be ignored either. She is the peerless example of youthful purity, godly motherhood, and marital fidelity. She was a woman of great faith, of great knowledge of God's Word and of total submission to God's will whatever the cost. She knew what it was to see her precious Son assert his independence from her as he became a man. She saw his spiritual relationships take precedence over his human family. And she was able to let him go. She experienced the agony of his death and the rapture of his resurrection. She became his faithful follower and must have been a great encouragement to the early church. What a woman!

It is altogether appropriate to consider her as Christmas approaches. Why was she chosen to be the mother of Jesus Christ? Not because she deserved it, but because God bestowed his grace to her. She was given the privilege of being the one who would bear and raise his Son. But why did he send his Son to be born this way? Because all people needed a way to have their sins forgiven so that they could have a relationship with God. The only person who could pay for all the sins of all sinners for all time had to be the sinless one who was both human and divine, both God and Man. When Jesus hung on that cross, God place all of our sins on him and he took all the punishment for them that we deserve. He was our Substitute, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

The real meaning of Christmas, the reason that it is good news, is that God has given the first Christmas gift--his own Son. John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But a gift is not yours until you take it. John 1:12: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God ….” You don't earn a gift or pay for a gift. You simply reach out and take a gift. That's what faith is. You can do that today, right there where you are sitting.

Study Questions

    1. Read Luke 1:26-45. Make a list of at least six characteristics of Mary’s that you discern from this passage.

    2. Luke 1:46-56; 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Note the similarities. What does this tell us about Mary? What does her song tell us about her knowledge of God? List some of His attributes that she mentions.

    3. What does the expression “God, my Savior” indicate that Mary knew about herself? What extra-biblical dogma does this contradict?

    4. What does 1:55 refer to? See Genesis 12:1-3.

    5. Matthew 1:18-24. What kind of man was Joseph? Describe his character. What could he have done when he found Mary was pregnant, Deut 22:23-24? What shadow did Mary live under all of her life, John 8:41?

    6. Luke 2:21-27. What insight does this passage give us into the kind of home that Joseph and Mary provided for Jesus?

    7. What does Matt 1:25 mean? See Mark 6:3; Luke 8:19. What dogma does this refute?

    8. Luke 2:1-7. Imagine what it was like to travel 90 miles in late pregnancy on foot or on a donkey. Think what it was like to give birth in a cave, with no woman to attend her. What questions do you think she could have been asking God?

    9. Luke 2:41-52. What has happened to Mary and Joseph’s perception of Jesus in 12 years? What does his answer remind them of?

    10. Compare Luke 2:51 to Matt 12:46-49; Mark 3:21, 31-35; Luke 8:19-21. What is different about Jesus’ responses? What does this tell us about our responsibility to parents as adults? Is this area a problem for you as the parent or as the child?

    11. John 7:25. What does this tell us about the attitude of Jesus’ half-brothers? How do you think they acted towards him? How do you think Jesus responded to his brothers’ unbelief?

    12. John 19:25-27. What does Mary’s presence at the cross tell us about her? What does this incident tell us about Jesus as a son? Why did he commit her care to John and not to one of her sons?

    13. What qualities of this godly woman would you like to have? What steps do you need to take to begin to develop them? Be specific. Have short-term and long-term goals.

Related Topics: Character Study, Curriculum, Women's Articles

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