Interesting Bible People: Mary, the mother of Jesus
An important woman
Mary the mother of Jesus is much misunderstood. Idolised by some and too much ignored by others reacting to that idolising. I will try to show who she was by looking at every Bible reference that includes her. I think this will be quite a voyage of discovery for me and I hope you will tag along too.
The photo is mine.
A Visit to Mary, from an Angel
We first read of Mary the mother of Jesus in the Bible in Matthew's gospel and Luke's gospel. More in Luke's. We find that she is a young women betrothed to Joseph.
This betrothal is more than our engagement, being much more binding. However, there would have been no sexual intercourse between the couple. One day this young woman in the flower of her youth has an unusual visitor. The angel Gabriel comes on the scene. He says, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured. The Lord is with you."
Naturally she was greatly troubled by this and wondered what it meant. But the angel told her not to be afraid because she had found favour with God and would give birth to a son, whom she was to name Jesus. He would be great and be called the Son of the Most High. He would be given the throne of David and his kingdom would never end.
Mary at once asked how this could be as she was a virgin. The angel replied,"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." To help her believe he also told her that her cousin Elizabeth who was old and had been infertile was now six months pregnant. Mary replied,"I am the Lord's servant may it be to me as you have said."
The Angel Gabriel Visits Mary
- The birth is Announced
Read here from the Bible.
On seeing the angel Mary the mother of Jesus shows no hysteria, no panic. The angel tells her she is highly favoured by God. She is troubled by this but not panicked. She is obviously a young women who believes deeply in the God of her fathers.
She will have been brought up in a devout home and taught about God all her life. Her reaction on hearing the news is to go on a visit to her cousin Elizabeth who is also pregnant.
The Magnificat sung by Mary, the mother of Jesus
After Elizabeth had greeted her and told her how her baby had jumped inside her for joy because Mary was the mother of the Lord, Mary was inspired to pour out these joyous words, which we know as the Magnificat:
"My soul magnifies God and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble estate of his servant. For from now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - and holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."
This song of Mary's shows what a great grasp she had of God's character. She expresses that care of God for the poor and the outcast which Jesus was to go on to teach in his ministry.
Mary was overwhelmed by the honour God had given her to be the mother of the Son of God. Her wonder at this overcame all her fear of what her neighbours would think of her. She knew she was innocent in the bearing of this special child. Her trust was entirely in God.
Facing the Music
Mary spent three months with Elizabeth and then returned to Nazareth. It would now have been apparent to her friends and family that she was pregnant and the assumption would have been that, either Joseph was the father of the baby, or even worse some other man.
Joseph was not impressed and was thinking of breaking the betrothal quietly. Undoubtedly there would have been some who would have wanted to stone Mary, as this was the penalty for adultery. However Joseph had a dream in which an angel told him to marry Mary because her baby was of the Holy Spirit. Joseph went ahead and married her but did not have sexual intercourse with her until after the baby was born.
Now she had protection from stoning but not from speculation and rumour. This must have been a very trying time for her. It is one thing to believe when you know you have been visited by an angel, but she could not expect her neighbours to understand this.
Mary's pregnancy progressed and then came the news that the Romans had declared there would be a census and everyone had to go to the town where he was born to be counted.
Joseph was from Bethlehem so he and Mary would have to travel the long miles down the length of the country just as Mary's time to give birth was approaching.
They set off, undoubtedly having a donkey to carry Mary. Imagine the possibility of worry about the baby and yet I believe Mary, who had gone this far with her faith, was trusting God to care for her and her baby, the son of God.
Mary , the Mother of Jesus, Goes to Bethlehem and Egypt
They arrived in Bethlehem tired and weary to find no room for them in the main house that probably belonged to relatives, instead they had to bed down in the area where the animals lived. For more details of the birth of Jesus, see the page below.
Mary needed all her courage to go through the birth , as does every mother. It is Mary's humanity and courage that inspires so many people. Not long after the birth shepherds come with a story of angels visiting them and telling of the message the angels told them that a saviour had been born.
I believe the kings came much later, when as the census crowds left Mary and Joseph were able to take the baby into the house, as it says in Matthew's gospel. The kings told of the danger they were in from King Herod. joseph was also warned in a dream to leave and go to Egypt. Because of this when they later returned to Israel the words of Hosea the prophet in the Old Testament were fulfilled "Out of Egypt have I called my son."
They were nervous of being in Bethlehem because although the Herod who had been a threat was dead, now his son was ruling, and so they went to Nazareth. This fulfilled another prophecy.
We are told Mary pondered about all that had happened. This suggests a deep thoughtfulness. In fact many strange things had happened to her.
The Bible Account of the First Christmas
A twelve-year-old discusses belief at the temple
We next hear about the little family, no doubt with more brothers and sisters having been born, when Jesus is twelve.They all travel to Jerusalem presumably for Jesus's barmitzvah.
Mary and Joseph had travelled with their family and other friends together in a group for protection against robbers. They set off back for home assuming that Jesus is among the crowd of friends. They travelled for a day before realizing that Jesus was not with them. They then hurried back to Jerusalem and searched for him, after three days finding him in the temple discussing.
Everyone was amazed at Jesus knowledge and the answers he gave. Mary says to him,"Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." Jesus replies,"Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house." Here he is surprized they would not have known where to search for him in the first place, but also there is a little rebuke and reminder that Joseph is not his father.
Jesus went back to Nazareth and was obedient to them. Perhaps he had thought his ministry was about to begin, at this early age and then realized it was not yet the time. We are told Mary, the mother of Jesus treasured all these things in her heart. Later she would tell them to Luke. Jesus grew in wisdom and favour with God and man.
The First Miracle
The next time we meet Jesus and his mother, they are at a wedding in Cana with his disciples. They are guests at a marriage probably of relations of theirs. As usual the wine is flowing freely.
Then Mary discovers that the wine is indeed running out. This would mean disgrace for the bridegroom. Mary turns to Jesus for help. She has complete confidence in his ability to right the situation, but was she expecting a miracle.
She says,"They have run out of wine." Jesus replies,"Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time is not yet come." She says nothing more to him but turns to the servants and says,"Whatever he tells you to do, do it."
There were six very large water jars used for water for ritual washing. Much larger than the ones in the fine art picture. Jesus told the servants to fill these and then he told them to draw out the liquid and take it to the man in charge of the feast. They did this and the man in charge said that this was the best wine he had tasted.
Here was something more for Mary, the mopther of Jesus, to ponder upon. It would have confirmed to her that here indeed was the son of God.
Mary,the Mother of Jesus Did Not Remain a Virgin
In Mark 3 verse 31 onward we learn that Jesus had brothers. One day he was indoors teaching the people many things when Mary and her other sons (elsewhere named as James,Joseph,Judas and Simon) came outside and sent a message in to Jesus.
The messengers told Jesus that his mother and brothers were wanting to speak to him. Jesus said that his true mother, brothers and sisters were those who did the will of God. I'm sure Jesus was in no way denigrating his family but just wished to point out that he was the brother of all who followed God's will. In another passage we are told that Jesus also had sisters.
So we see from this that the Bible categorically tells us that Mary had other children after Jesus. Why indeed should this be a problem? Mary was an ordinary human, just as sinful as the rest of us and also needing the salvation that Jesus would bring when he died on the cross.
An ordinary woman taken by God and used extraordinarily. A woman we should admire and acknowledge to be a great follower of God, brave and courageous, going through much suffering, but not to be worshipped.
An old controversy
Did Mary, the mother of Jesus always remain a virgin?
Mary, the Mother of Jesus Watched Her Son Die
The Crucifixion and the Resurrection
Mary must have suffered greatly to see her special son die on the cross. After all the strange and wonderful things she had experienced in his lifetime, she must have thought everything had gone terribly wrong now that he was on the cross.
However, we should not let Mary's suffering get in the way of realizing what Jesus was going through for our salvation. Mary would be the first to tell us not to do that, the first to be distraught if she thought we were neglecting Jesus and thinking of her.
Jesus had a kind thought for his mother as he was suffering on the cross. He directed a disciple, thought to be John, to look after Mary.
Jesus died and his body was placed in a friend's tomb. Three days later there was to be great joy for Mary when Jesus rose again. She went to the tomb early with other women to anoint the body with precious ointments only to find that the tomb was empty and the large stone that had sealed it was rolled away.
She would have been among the disciples when Jesus appeared to them. Forty days later we hear she was with the disciples when Jesus ascended into heaven. Many think she told her story to Luke who wrote both the gospel of Luke and The Acts of the apostles We do not hear of her death but as an ordinary human die she must.
Mary's is a wonderful story of a courageous young woman who accepted a difficult road in life because she trusted her Creator. She is indeed one of the Interesting Bible People a wonderful woman who has been too much ignored by the protestant religion because of their fear of going to the extremes of the Roman Catholic Church. This is a great pity as she can teach us so much in her humble acceptance of the role God gave her.
Ascension and Pentecost
Mary continued to witness two more remarkable events, the ascension, when Jesus went up into heaven in the clouds and Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down on the believers and gave them power to witness to what Jesus had done and who he was. After this we hear no more about Mary, but she would have continured to be looked after by John.
She had had the intense trauma of seeing her son die on the cross, but then had come the triumph of Easter when Jesus had returned to life. And so we leave Mary to the care of John and as she would want we turn our eyes to Jesus our Saviour.
Not intending to offend
I realize my brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic church may find what I have said difficult to agree with. It is not my intention to offend. My wish has been to raise awareness of Mary in protestant quarters where she has been shamefully neglected, however my source of information must always be the Bible and nothing but the Bible.
Could God use you?
God used Mary for a very special job. Could he use you? Could you have the faith to put yourself in his hands to do something special? Or would you be too afraid? Look how exciting it would be to be allowing God to do something special through you. If you hold back you will never know what could have been. God is good and cares for you. trust him and step out in faith to do his will. Think of all the people who would not have been helped if Mother Theresa had not stepped out in faith. Could you be someone like that with God supporting you?
But then again it is possible to be used of God in your ordinary life. After all bringing up a family is a wonderful thing and isn't that exactly what Mary was doing?
Would you like God to use you for something special?
Would you like God to use you?