Do you ever compare yourself to other moms? Do you assume that everyone else has it together and knows what they’re doing while you’re stumbling around in the dark? If so, you can find great comfort in today’s episode as we look at Mary as the mother of Jesus.
We’re all familiar with Luke 1:28 when the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is blessed among women. It’s easy for us to translate that to mean she was better than other women. And while, God saw something in her that made her His choice to be the mother of His son, she was no Superwoman. No, Mary was just an ordinary woman struggling to serve God the best she could.
The Bible doesn’t provide us with much information about Jesus’ childhood, only a few verses and two stories. We know that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised when he was a baby. At the temple Simeon and Anna poured blessings on the Messiah, and Simeon shared a prophetic warning to Mary. He warned her that a sword would pierce her soul in order that other souls might be saved.
After the baby dedication, Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth. “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40)
The next thing we know, He’s 12-years-old, and the family is back in Jerusalem, this time for the Feast of the Passover. By this we know that Mary and Joseph were doing right, following the commands, being obedient to the Lord.
The feast was also a time of fellowship and fun with family and friends traveling together to Jerusalem and enjoying each other’s company.
Mary assumed that Jesus would do what He’d always done, to stay with their group and leave when everyone else did. But Jesus had a mind of His own. He stayed behind when everyone else left, and Mary never noticed. It wasn’t until they’d traveled for a full day that she realized that Jesus wasn’t with them.
Imagine the panic as the woman who was entrusted with the care of the Son of God lost Him. That would be bad enough, but it gets worse. Once they headed back to Jerusalem, they didn’t find Him right away. It took awhile before they finally found Him in the temple with the teachers. When Mary chided Him for causing them worry, He asked why they had to look around. Didn’t they know He had to be in His Father’s house. Then Luke 2:50 says, “But they didn’t understand what He meant.”
But Luke continues by letting us know that Jesus went back to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph, “and was subject to them” and He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
We have no idea what happened between the time that Jesus was twelve until He was thirty. We assume that Joseph died, since there’s no more mention of him, which left Mary as a single mother.
It was at Mary’s nudging that Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water into wine, but Jesus made it clear to her that He was no longer under her watch care by calling her Woman instead of Mother. By this point He was gathering disciples, and after the wedding at Cana, his mother, brothers, and disciples followed Him to Capernaum. Mother and son had swapped places. He was now the one leading.
Our final glimpse of Mary is at the crucifixion when Jesus told the disciple John to take care of His mother, and from that point on, Mary lived with him.
The Rest of the Story
Just one story for all of Jesus’ childhood, and look what it tells us about Mary.
First, she was so caught up in her friends that she didn’t check to make sure Jesus was with the group when they left Jerusalem. She made assumptions and acted on those assumptions. As a result, she neglected her duty as a mother.
Then, in her panic, she looked in all the wrong places before finally finding Him. Again, she made assumptions.
Finally, when Jesus pointed out that He was exactly where He was supposed to be, doing what He was supposed to be doing, she didn’t understand.
Mary forgot who she was mothering.
Despite the visit from an angel to prepare her, Mary didn’t always understand her child. He did things that caught her off guard, and behaved in ways she didn’t comprehend. She expected him to behave like other boys, but He wasn’t like them.
Generations of women have worshipped at the feet of Mary, but Mary is not the one we should be worshipping. She was merely a weak vessel made strong by her faith in her Savior. She wasn’t perfect. She did the best she could, but she was limited in her comprehension of who Jesus was and what He was put on earth to do.
Mary and Joseph weren’t wealthy people. They were working class folks who struggled to provide all the niceties for their children. Mary didn’t always know what to do or how to handle her Special Son, but she loved and cared for Him, giving Him the very best she had to offer.
My favorite verse about Mary is Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” When things happened, in this case shepherds coming to visit her newborn baby, she treasured the memories and tucked them away so that she might later make sense of it all. Later, in Luke 2:51 after Mary lost Jesus in Jerusalem, again, “she kept all these things in her heart.”
While Mary might not have always understood Jesus, she was a sponge, absorbing everything that happened and applying it to future situations. Slowly, as time passed, she was able to see how it all fit together.
Chances are, you never had an angel appear to you and prepare you for the birth of your child. In fact, if you’re like most women, you went through a time of panic as you held your child in your arms for the first time and realized how ill equipped you were to be a mother.
You’d think we’d grow more confident with age and maturity, but the older our children get, the more we realize how little we know about them. They develop into unique individuals who behave in unexpected ways that catch us off guard. We expect them to do one thing, and they do something totally opposite. At some point we realize they’ve gone off on their own, and we’re the one following them.
There is nothing more humbling than being a mother. Despite our best efforts, we fall short. We mismanage. We mess up big time. We end up on our knees begging for forgiveness and asking for second chances to do better.
The good news is that God didn’t expect perfection in Mary, and He doesn’t expect it in us. He knows our weaknesses and our shortcomings, and yet He allows us to parent anyway.
One of the hardest things about being a mother is giving ourselves grace. We have to accept that we’re not perfect, and that’s ok. God knows that our imperfections are not going to ruin our children. He loves us. He loves our children. And He’s the one who put us together.
Lord God, thank You for the gift of children. Thank You for entrusting us with our children whether naturally or through adoption. Forgive us for the many times we fail, when we get caught up in ourselves and neglect to pay as close attention as we should, when we lose sight of who they are and what they need, and when we react in anger or hurt rather than in kindness and love. Give us wisdom and direction so that we may train up our children in the way that they should go. Guide our every step. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.