Mary, Mother of Jesus, Part 1
Melanie Betters, Guest Writer
For nothing will be impossible with God. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:37-38).
Every woman, regardless of her age or station in life, can learn from the life of Mary. She is referred to as “highly favored” and is chosen by God to be a vessel for the arrival of our Savior on this earth, but she is also very human, and we can identify with her and learn from her. Volumes have been written about Mary’s life, so my goal in this devotional is to pull out a few life lessons to help prepare our hearts for Easter.
Mary was probably a teenager when the encounter with Gabriel occurred. The angel’s first words to her were, “Do not fear,” so we know Mary was initially afraid. Luke chapter one says she was “greatly troubled.” She then asks Gabriel a question, so we know it’s okay to ask hard questions during difficult times in our lives. By the end of the conversation, Mary responds to this enormous, life-altering situation with the phrase, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” She is echoing the words of the Old Testament prophets Samuel and Isaiah. What is it about Mary’s character that enables her to respond this way? From where does her humility and strength come? Her next steps give us a glimpse into her young heart.
First, she is not immobilized by her fear. She knows she has to move - to do the next right thing and not wait or wallow in the unreliable emotions she must have been battling. So, she goes “in haste” (Luke 1:39) to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is miraculously pregnant in her old age with John the Baptist. Mary understands the importance of seeking wisdom from older, godly women, especially those walking a similar path. She realizes that she exists in the context of a faith community and rushes to lean on a person of strong faith.
Secondly, in Luke chapter one, we see Mary singing a beautiful song of praise. The words reveal how deeply God’s Word was embedded in her soul. Even as a young girl, Mary is a woman of the Word:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant… for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm…He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his offspring forever” (Luke 1:46-55).
Let’s jump ahead to a joyful event in Mary’s life and watch her interact with her adult Son:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days (John 2:1-12).
There are so many things happening in this passage. We get a glimpse into Mary’s personality. She is a fixer. Mary clearly holds a position of influence in the community since she is the one who sees the need for more wine and is looking for a solution. Despite that controversial unwed pregnancy of her youth, she has gained a position of respect. She has not allowed the opinions of others to diminish her trust in God or her ability to influence others for Him. I love the mother-son interaction we see here between Mary and her son (who remember is also the God of the universe). She immediately defers to Him, showing she knows her role is to make Him known. As we will see, Mary does not yet understand the role of her Son, but she knows He has power beyond the normal person. She also knows He is tender-hearted and ready to help wherever needed.
His response is puzzling. He tells her it is not yet time for Him to start performing public miracles, yet He does it anyway. What about His relationship with her do we see here? It’s clear that Mary knew Jesus could perform miracles. Had she seen Him as a little boy do little miracles like heal a bird who had fallen from a tree? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but she knows. She is so closely connected to her Savior that she knows He is able. She believes He will solve the problem at hand however He sees fit and tells those around her, “Do whatever He tells you.”
However, lest we put her on a pedestal of perfection, we see a very human side of her in Mark chapter 3. It says:
Then Jesus went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:20-21).
…a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are… seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”… whoever does the will of God… is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:31-33).
My husband’s grandmother (Situ) was full-blooded Lebanese, and I think her love language was food. No matter the problem, she always had a tasty dish ready to soothe away the stress. So I can imagine Mary, a Middle Eastern mother hearing that her Son and His disciples weren’t even able to eat because of the crowds, concluding, “He needs to come home and eat something,” as though if He didn’t, He would surely die. When I see Mary’s response to the seeming chaos surrounding her son, I think it’s possible Situ and Mary struggled with the need for control, especially of their children, because Mary seems embarrassed by Jesus’ public ministry and tries to control the situation. Isn’t that just like all of us? When we don’t understand something or wish for different behavior in others, we can become manipulative, maybe without even knowing that is what we are doing. We think we are protecting those we love, doing what is best for them, when in fact, we need to be still and trust them to the Lord through prayer. Jesus’ response to Mary and His siblings trying to see Him must have embarrassed Mary. Yet, while His words must have stung, I picture Mary going home, maybe in tears, and running to God to process what Jesus was doing and what He meant. We know that despite Jesus’ public exhortation of her, she doesn’t harden her heart. Rather than abandoning her Son, Mary continues to follow Him.
What prepared and fortified Mary for such tumultuous times? When confronted with the angel’s incredible announcement, her response reveals she understood her identity as a child of God. The lyrics of her Magnificat prove an intimate knowledge of Scripture. Even though young Mary was uncertain of her future, she was not ruled by that fear. She worshipped rather than worried. This is what gives her the peace and comfort she desperately needs. She ran to a godly older woman who welcomed her and mentored her through this frightening but incredibly joyous season. Women who lean on their faith community and love God’s Word will have the strength to face an uncertain future with a posture of praise. When faced with the most grievous of days, Mary did not waver but followed her Son, even to the Cross.
Oh Father, may we follow Mary’s example and respond to startling circumstances with the words: “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be to me as You have said.”
May we plant Your Word in our hearts so that our auto-response to terrifying seasons is to worship, using Your very own words to help turn our hearts toward Jesus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon W. Betters is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, pastor’s wife, and cofounder of MARKINC Ministries, where she is the Director of Resource Development. Sharon is the author of several books, including Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness, and co-author with Susan Hunt of Aging with Grace. She is the co-host of the Help & Hope podcast and writes Daily Treasure, an online devotional.
For more from Daily Treasure please visit MARKINC.ORG.