Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an important figure in history. We shouldn’t worship her, but I do believe that we–especially women–can learn a lot from studying her life.
Think about this:
What would be your reaction if an angel appeared to you and said you would bear–not just a son–but the Son of God?
Would you be in shock or disbelief? Even worse, would you be critical, doubtful, or judgmental?
Scripture records that Mary was perplexed, but went from being confused to being considerate, saying: she “considered” what kind of greeting it was from Gabriel. He told her to rejoice because she was highly favored, that the Lord was with her, and that she was blessed among women. What an extraordinary greeting for an ordinary woman!
What was it that made Mary so special? What should we learn from her?
Looking at Mary’s life as a mother in scripture, we see that she was:
- Relational; and
Let’s take a look at this mighty woman of God to see what made her so special in God’s eyes!
First, according to scholars, Mary was just a a regular teenager when Gabriel appeared to her. After Gabriel left her, I can just imagine that she stood there, wide-eyed, pulse raging, heart pounding, but confident that God would perform His word.
Mary didn’t get a “big head” or act like a prima donna after she received Gabriel’s message. She had questioned “how” (not if or why) and Gabriel had answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you.” Despite her status as a “highly favored one,” there is no record that Mary began to spout out orders, act haughty, or started bragging among her friends.
Mary was meek, like another major character in the Bible: Moses.
When I say meek, I do not mean weak. Meekness is strength under control. Elizabeth Elliot says that Mary was “strong enough and holy enough to recognize her place under God. Thoughts of what people would say, what Joseph her fiancé would say, or how she would ever convince them that she had not been unfaithful were instantly set aside.”
Mary believed the word of the Lord. Then, she remembered that Gabriel had said her aged, barren relative Elizabeth was also pregnant. So, off she went for an incredible visit. These are things that regular people would do, and Mary was no different.
Also, over and over in scripture Mary is portrayed as somewhat reserved.
We never read where she would fly off the handle or have anger outbursts. When things were different, like having angel visits, hearing prophetic words, being told a sword would pierce her own heart, or even facing the death of her firstborn, she pondered these things in her heart.
How could she not react with outward demonstrations? Mary believed and trusted the Lord. Des Evans says that to “trust even when you cannot trace” the Lord is the sign of real submission. Her response was, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary was also reverent.
Mary’s first recorded words after the encounter with Gabriel are reverent words of praise and adoration. Her song/praise is called “The Magnificat” because it begins with “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”
The first word Gabriel had spoken to Mary was “rejoice,” and in her Magnificat, she did just that. She acknowledged that she is “lowly,” and in need of a “Savior,” yet confessed that she was blessed throughout all generations (Luke 1:46-55).
Mary was real as well.
Mary was not divine, but just as real as other mothers-to-be. She faced great moments of joy along with occasions of despair and sorrow. I don’t think she was immune from things like:
- morning sickness;
- feeling kicks from Baby Jesus in her womb;
- years of caring for Jesus as an infant, toddler, boy, and adolescent; and
- realizing He was a Man with a mission and a ministry.
Even when Jesus, at the age of twelve, stayed back in the temple during Passover, Mary showed worry and even reprimanded Jesus.
Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days before they found Him in the temple with the teachers, where He was listening to them and asking them questions. Just like a real parent, she asked Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought You anxiously” (Luke 2:48).
Mary reprimanded Jesus because she was human with very human concerns; and Jesus obeyed Mary and Joseph because they were His real earthly parents. The Scriptures record that Jesus went back with them and was subject to them. Again, Mary “kept all these things in her heart” (verse 51).
Next, Mary was responsible.
Dr. David Jeremiah says that Jesus “performed His first public miracle, not in the temple but in a Jewish home in Cana; not at a funeral but at a wedding; not at a fast but at a feast.” When the wedding party ran out of wine, Mary proceeded to inform Jesus.
Many believe this was a relative’s wedding, and that Mary was responsible–maybe even the hostess.
Her words to Jesus seemed a bit forward and demanding. Jesus responded by asking what her concern had to do with Him. Then, He informed her that His hour had not yet come. Perhaps He was not ready to openly show He was the Messiah. Nevertheless, Mary–as only a mother can do–left it to Him to “fix it” when she turned to the servants and said, “whatever He says to you, do it.”
I think Mary was conveying that there was a problem; that she was responsible; that she needed help; and that she expected Him to do something. And He did.
Jesus told the servants to fill the water-pots with water, then take a glass of it to the master of the wedding feast. Six water-pots full of wine would have been about 120–180 gallons. The master tasted and replied that the best wine had been saved for last. I wonder if when Mary’s and Jesus’ eyes met there was a wink or a sparkle in them more glistening than what was in the best wine. 🙂
Another quality that I love about Mary is that she was relational.
As stated before, she visited Elizabeth and spent some time fellowshipping with her. Mary was faithful to Judaism and raised her children attending the local synagogue, which included attending the feasts. Scripture also records that, on one occasion, Mary and her children stood outside seeking to speak to Jesus while He was teaching the multitudes. Mary had real relationships, participated in real gatherings, and had a social and spiritual life!
Most importantly, Mary had a relationship with God.
Remember, Gabriel had said that Mary was highly favored, blessed, and that the Lord was with her. She was picked out as the one God Himself chose to conceive, bear, and raise Jesus. Mary was also the grief-stricken mother who watched her wounded, bruised, beaten Son be nailed to a cruel wooden cross, and she stood close by at the foot of the cross and watched Him die.
That is a graphic portrayal of how much Mary loved her Son, and of the good relationship she had with Him. The relationship and love between them were mutual. When Jesus was dying on that cross, He made sure Mary was going to be cared for when He told John to take her in and care for her. John writes that “from that hour” he “took her to his own home” (John 19:27).
Finally, Mary was redeemed.
After Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected, He spent time with His disciples explaining the Scriptures concerning Himself. Luke wrote that Jesus “opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). And after Jesus was taken back up to heaven before their very eyes, He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high.
As those early believers waited, the disciples, Mary the mother of Jesus, and other women continued in prayer and supplication. Since Mary was meeting with them, this tells us that she was a believer and was redeemed. Mary would not be pushed to the sidelines nor had she gone off into oblivion. Instead, she was an integral part of the early church.
Such was the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
During her life, she:
- encountered angelic visitation;
- was impregnated by the Holy Spirit;
- gave birth to the Savior of mankind;
- raised Him with integrity;
- watched Him be mistreated and misunderstood;
- saw Him crucified;
- experienced His resurrection; and
- remained a vital part of a new and living way of life in the Spirit.
What a remarkable woman Mary was! She continues to epitomize what a godly woman, wife, and mother looks like, sounds like, and acts like. May God infiltrate our hearts to look, sound, feel, love and act as this godly example did!
What strikes you about Mary? What examples of godly womanhood do you find in the story of her life? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts!