Saturday, April 16, 2016
Triplets of Separation: Jesus Leaves Mary for His Ministry
As we saw last week, Scripture shows us three incidents exemplifying the transitions Mary encountered as Jesus entered His earthly ministry: His remaining in the temple (Luke 2:41-52); the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-13), and an attempt by Mary and her other children to visit Jesus (Mark 3: 31-35).
Following His miracle at the wedding at Cana, which we can consider the unofficial start to His earthly ministry, Jesus traveled to Capernaum with His mother, His siblings, and His disciples for only a few short days before He went to Jerusalem: (John 2:12-13).
This was their last recorded family outing, for then Jesus would become fully entrenched in the demands of His Father’s business (Luke 2:49), leaving home to teach (Matthew 13:3; 20-1-16, etc.), preach (Matthew 5:1- 48, etc.) and perform miracles of healing (Luke 17:11-19, etc.), casting out demons (Matthew 8:16;9:33, Mark 5:1-17, etc.), and even raising from the dead (Mark 5:38-43; John 11:38-44).
No doubt Mary’s life changed dramatically as she adjusted to having Jesus leave their home, continuing to raise her younger children (Mark 6:1-3; Matthew 13:55), and experiencing widowhood at some point.
Scripture does not mention Joseph after the incident at the temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-52). Had Joseph still been living, no doubt he would have been at the foot of the cross alongside Mary, and Jesus would not have had to entrust Mary’s care to His beloved disciple John (John 19:26-27).
Mary must have felt blessed, joyful, and thankful to hear of all the wonderful deeds of Jesus, yet she must have missed Him terribly and prayed for Him fervently. So we should not be surprised that she gathered up His half-siblings, traveled to where He was preaching to a great crowd, and stood outside asking to see Him. The Gospels contain three parallel passages concerning this event (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21).
But when the crowd told Jesus that His family had come, He responded that His brothers, sisters and mother were those surrounding Him who did the will of God (Mark 3:32-35). At first that sounds harsh, as if He were disowning Mary and His half-siblings. But Jesus, Who is Truth (John 14:6), always spoke the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and I believe His statement had three implications.
First, whoever does God’s will by trusting Christ enters the family of God, becoming God’s child (Romans 8:16; Galatians 3:26), joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), and sibling to all brothers and sisters in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). What a great blessing to all believers to be reassured that we are members of His family!
Second, Jesus knew that Mary had always submitted to God’s will, becoming His handmaiden as she accepted His amazing mission for her life (Luke 1:30,38, 46-49). In the spiritual as well as in the biological sense, Mary would therefore always be His mother, as He indicated so tenderly on the cross when He asked John to take her in (John 19:26-27).
Third, Christ’s statement was a warning to those who think they can be saved by association. At that time, Jesus’s siblings did not believe He was the Son of God (Mark 6:4; John 7:3-5), and if they were to die without trusting Him as Lord, they would go to hell (John 3:18).
Similarly, anyone born into a Christian home must not think that their Godly heritage alone is their entry to Heaven. They must make their own personal decision to trust Christ by placing their faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).
Still, my heart goes out to Mary if she heard Jesus apparently favoring His new followers over herself and His half-siblings. Perhaps that is why Mark makes a point of telling us that she and the children waited outside while Jesus had this exchange with His disciples (Mark 3: 31-32). In any event, she was only human, despite being highly favored and blessed among women (Luke 1:28), and she may have been hurt, disappointed, and perhaps even a little resentful of His new family.
Many mothers experience similar emotions when their child gets married to start their own family (Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; Ephesians 5:31), or perhaps joins the military or a religious cult. The first circumstance is usually joyous, despite some growing pains and adjustments.
The second brings honor and pride in the child’s willingness to sacrifice, but also worry for the child’s safety. And the third circumstance brings sorrow over the child’s wasted life, separation from family, and ultimately destruction in hell for rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior.
So what was Mary thinking as Jesus gave her some tough love? Despite the initial shock over what may have seemed like rejection, I believe Mary allowed God to use this trial to strengthen her faith in His perfect plan for her Son (Romans 8:28) and to rejoice that He was fulfilling that perfect plan (Luke 1:47).
Yet as she pondered the events of this day, Simeon’s words may have come back to haunt her. Feeling hurt at her Son’s behavior may have been only the first glimmer of that sword that would pierce her soul as it pierced His side (Luke 2:34-35). God may have allowed this trial into Mary’s life to help prepare her for the physical separation from Jesus that would follow as He no longer spent time with her, as He died on the cross (John 19:30), and after He ascended into Heaven (Acts 1: 9-11,14).
From then on, Mary was in the position all born-again believers (John 3:3-8) are in today. We do not experience the physical presence of Jesus Christ (John 20:29), yet His Holy Spirit lives in our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22), He elevates us to heavenly places with Him even in this life (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6), and He will return for us so that we will always be in His presence in our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).
May we be reminded by this trial in Mary’s life that God allows trials in the lives of all His children for three reasons: to strengthen our faith in Him (1 Peter 4:12-19); to conform us into Christ’s image through suffering (Philippians 3:10); and to empower us to encourage others going through similar trials by giving us experience, wisdom and compassion (Galatians 6:2).
© 2016 Laurie Collett