And a sword will pierce your own soul too. – Luke 2:35 (NIV)
The last woman to be named in “The Begats” of the first chapter of Matthew, Mary was a far cry from the other four. Unlike Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, Mary, from the tribe of Judah and of the lineage of David, was thoroughbred Jewish. And unlike Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba, Mary was pure in every way—body, mind, heart, and soul.
Other than her role in the Christmas story, what do we know of her?
We know that she was probably a young teenager when the angel Gabriel appeared to her to tell her that she was to be the mother of the Messiah. We know that she grew up in Nazareth, a disreputable town of about 7,000 in the hills of Galilee. We know that she was betrothed to a carpenter named Joseph, also from Nazareth, who was probably about 30 years of age.
We know that Joseph was a good man, just and sensitive, and who most likely died before Jesus entered public ministry.
We know that she, still a virgin, gave birth to the Son of God in a stable in Bethlehem with her husband as the midwife. We know they were too poor to afford the lamb required for the sacrifice when she went to the temple 40 days after Jesus’ birth for the purification ceremony.
We know that she spent the first couple of years of her married life as a fugitive, hiding in Egypt from a crazy king who was set to kill her Son.
After their return to Nazareth following Herod’s death, we see Mary briefly only five more times in Scripture: in the temple in Jerusalem when she admonished 12-year-old Jesus for staying behind after the Passover and not telling them (Luke 2:41–52); at the wedding in Cana, where, at her request, Jesus performed his first recorded miracle (John 2:1–5); in Capernaum when she and her other sons tried to see Jesus but received not a welcome but a rebuff (Matthew 12:46–50; Mark 3:21, 31–34; Luke 8:18); at the foot of the cross, watching her Son die a horrific death (John 10:25–27); and in the upper room with the apostles after Jesus’ ascension into heaven (Acts 1:14).
No special privileges came with being the mother of God’s Son. Her acceptance of Gabriel’s message meant possible disgrace, divorce, and even death, as those guilty of having sex outside of marriage were stoned. After her burst of worship in the famous Magnificat, she steps humbly and submissively into the background.
She feared for her Son’s life when He was but a baby. She raised Him, nurtured Him, trained Him in the way He should go, admonished Him, tried to intervene when His schedule was so heavy He had no time to eat, watched Him die like a common criminal in the most public, humiliating way.
As Simeon predicted when Jesus was mere months old, a sword, indeed, pierced her mother’s soul.
No special privileges except to bear and raise the Son of God—then, like all mothers eventually do, let Him go.
I often think that I deserve special privileges because I’ve been obedient. I pray about what I think are unmet needs: the kitchen floor (a painted subfloor), the roof that needs replaced, the two aging vehicles in our driveway.
But God reminds me that I have much more than Mary, whose floor was probably dirt and who doubtless didn’t even have a donkey for travel. I have a roof over my head, a warm, dry bed to sleep in, enough vegetables and meat (venison) to feed me and my husband for a year. My husband has a steady job. We are both relatively healthy.
Yes, God promises blessings for obedience. But sometimes I’m blind to the real blessings because I’m too focused on the wrong things.
In this New Year, I pray that God will give me the eyes to see His blessings, the ears to hear His commands, the mouth to praise Him, the mind and soul to know Him, the heart to love Him, and the desire to serve Him.
Open my eyes, O Lord, to Your abiding presence in my life, Your abundant provision, Your awesome plan, and Your able protection. Thank You for reminding me that I’m not poor at all. Amen.
Special-Tea: Luke 1:26–56