Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mary’s Journey – Challenges of Early Motherhood

As we saw last week, God had carefully ordered the steps of Mary’s journey with His perfect foreknowledge from the beginning of time, culminating in the birth of His Son, the promised Messiah, in a lowly Bethlehem manger (Luke 2:7).

Yet for Mary, that was not her mission accomplished, but only the start of her journey as a mother raising the Son of God (Luke 1:32). That would have been an incredible challenge for anyone, particularly for a young, unlearned virgin from a humble family. But Mary was willing to submit herself fully to God’s plan, knowing that He would see her through (Luke 1:38)

Once the taxation in Bethlehem was completed (Luke 2:1-5), the overcrowded town began to clear out, and one of Joseph’s relatives apparently offered them accommodation in a house there (Matthew 2:8-11). No doubt Mary appreciated that respite as she recovered from childbirth, nursed her Infant, and adjusted to early motherhood.

How long they remained in the house was unclear – it was probably at least a month, and may even have approached two years. But when Jesus was 40 days old, after the prescribed time of purification following the birth of a male child, Mary and Joseph traveled to Jerusalem. As ordered in the law of Moses, they presented Jesus, their Firstborn, at the temple (Luke 2:22-24,27).

From Bethlehem to Jerusalem was about 12 miles round trip. But Mary was a young, first-time, sleep-deprived mother and must have been weary from this hike or donkey ride, as it was not that long after journeying 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem while pregnant. Her obedience was rewarded by yet another confirmation from God, and another piece of the puzzle she was fitting together about the destiny of her Son.

God had promised Simeon, an old, faithful worshipper, that he would not die before seeing the Christ Who would deliver His people. Every day he went to the temple looking for Him, and when Jesus appeared, he realized Who He was and took Him in his arms (Luke 2:25-28).

We can only imagine the emotions swirling through Mary’s heart as this stranger took her precious Child from her – fear, pride, hope and dread? Simeon affirmed that now he had seen his salvation, as Jesus was the promised Saviour. Then he warned her of the sword that would pierce Him, and her soul also (Luke 2:29-35). Did Mary know that only by His death, as the perfect, holy Sacrifice, could Jesus pay our sin debt in full to reconcile us to His Holy Father? (2 Corinthians 5:15-19; Hebrews 9:26-28)

Once they had completed their pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem, Mary may have longed to return home to Nazareth and try to reconnect with her family and repair the discord surrounding her unplanned pregnancy. But another confirmation awaited her in Bethlehem -- the wise men followed the star to the house where they found the young Child, and bowed down before Him (Matthew 2:9-11).

The shepherds had worshipped Jesus in a large, open space, whereas the wise men adored Him in the privacy of a chamber. Did Mary understand the significance of their gifts – gold fit for a King, frankincense reflecting His role as great High Priest, and myrrh, used to anoint a body for burial?

Shortly thereafter, the angel warned Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt with Jesus and His mother (v. 13-14). King Herod, infuriated by the news that the wise men had sought the future King of Israel born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-8), ordered the slaughter of all male infants two years of age or younger in that city (v. 16). He hoped to assassinate the One Who threatened his rule, failing to realize that his earthly power was no match for God’s infinite might.

So it was back on the donkey for Mary, not to return to her hometown, but to seek refuge in a foreign country more than 200 miles away. What a horrifying specter must have haunted their thoughts as they fled from Bethlehem, knowing that cruel Herod would stop at nothing to kill Jesus. Did Mary understand the irony of the Messiah, Who would deliver His people, having to flee to Egypt where His people had been enslaved for so long? (Exodus 3:7-10) Did she know this fulfilled the prophecy that the Son of God would be called out of Egypt? (Matthew 2:15)

Each day that passed in Egypt Mary must have wondered if perhaps tomorrow they could go home. But Joseph, as the spiritual head of the household (Ephesians 5:23), set a good example for her in waiting on the Lord (Psalm 27:14) until He gives clear direction to move. The family stayed  in Egypt until the angel appeared to Joseph for the third time, with the news that they could now safely return to Israel, thanks to Herod’s death (Matthew 2:19-21).

Their journey took another turn, unexpected for them, but planned by God. Joseph wanted to settle in Judaea, but he learned that Herod’s relative was ruling there. God warned him, again in a dream, not to go there. So he headed to Nazareth, thus fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would be called “the Nazarene” (Matthew 2:22-23)

Once back in Nazareth, Mary may not have traveled great distances. But surely her spiritual journey continued to bring her closer to her Lord, Who now was growing in stature, wisdom, and favor with God and with man (Luke 2:40,52).

We do know that there were annual excursions to Jerusalem, about 75 miles from Nazareth, to celebrate the Passover feast (Luke 2:41). The Bible records one of these in more detail, when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:42-51). After a full day of journeying toward home, Mary’s heart sank as she and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with the traveling party (v. 43-44).

As they raced back to Jerusalem (v. 45), she must have been overwhelmed by the fear that He was lost! What irony, as He was the Good Shepherd Who had come to seek and save the lost! (Luke 19:10)

Just as all the great men and women of the faith had their momentary lapses, so did Mary. She scolded her Lord for causing His parents such distress (v. 48). Yet she must have been proud to learn that He had stayed behind to discuss Scripture with the priests (v. 46-47), and ashamed that she had rebuked Him. He reminded her sternly that He must do His Father’s business (v. 49). Although she did not understand at first (v.50), did she later realize (v. 51) the full implications of this?

Like Mary, each of us faces a unique journey, navigated by God, from the moment we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Often there are twists and turns, and we can’t see around the bend or realize that the setbacks are necessary to reach our final destination. God does not offer a clear view or provide all the answers immediately, but reveals to us what we need as we need to know it.

Praise God that His Word is a light to our path (Psalm q119:105), and that His strength is made perfect in our weakness! (2 Corinthians 12:9) May we run with patience the race that is set before us! (Hebrews 12:1)

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
At the time of the birth of Jesus, King Herod must have been getting on in years, as he had grown up sons waiting to claim his throne. So why a baby born so late in his life posed such a threat?
I believe that Satan was scared out of his mind at the birth of the Messiah, as it spelt the end of his kingdom. So he found a niche in Herod's character weakness, and proceeded to use him in an attempt to destroy the child.
Amazingly enough, Herod at first appeared very friendly and humble towards the wise men, just as he snake appeared friendly in the Garden of Eden. But as the story progresses, Herod's fury of the child, and his slaughter of the innocents which followed, is absolute proof that this Jesus lying in Mary's arms is the Christ, as no other infant in human history had ever caused such a remarkable series of events.
A very well composed blog.
God bless

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Yes, the depth and intensity of hatred Satan poured out on Jesus, through Herod and others, is further confirmation that He is the promised Messiah, the One Who would bruise Satan's head. So many of the wicked in high places are indeed wolves in sheep's clothing, appearing calm and reasonable until their fury can no longer be controlled.
Thanks as always for your kind and thought-provoking comments, and God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
We may never know how Mary felt in all the situations she was put into, but the lovely thing is that the presence of God was with her and Joseph, both in dreams and signs, and she was obedient to God's guidance and instruction - which is beautiful. God knows exactly who to use for whatever purpose.
I love the last two paragraphs that you have written especially, and say 'Amen' Laurie.
God bless you

cairncottage said...

Hi. Laurie! I am catching up from some of last week's posts that I follow. I wrote about Mary a few posts ago, too. (
She definitely struggled with many challenges, as the mother of the Savior. But she was such a wonderful example of how we are to respond to each of our callings. Thanks for sharing.

Blessings, Ann@Christ in the Clouds

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Praise God for His constant guidance and protection! May we be as willing as Mary to always follow His lead and humbly realize that in our own strength, we can do nothing.
Thank you so much as always for your words of encouragement. You are a blessing.
Love in Christ,

a joyful noise said...

Mary must have been a sturdy girl for all the uncomfortable traveling that was set before her. Her sweet temperament was ideal for the mother of the savior. I often wondered why it took so long for them to miss Jesus at 12 years old. To me it seemed unthinkable that she was not aware of where he was for a couple of days. I was guilty of leaving our son asleep in the church and going home one Sunday evening. Robert had left before me as we took two cars, and it figured Steven was with him. Of course I hurried back to the church (we had a key) and sure enough he was still asleep in the pew. Thanks for sharing with us here at "Tell Me a Story." Thank you for your comment on my post here on this site.

Brenda said...

Just to say Laurie, as your reply placed it in my mind, I have always loved the scripture 'I love Thee O Lord my strength'.(Psalm ch. 18 v.1 ) God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Praise God that He is our strength, and that His strength is made perfect in our weakness!
God bless you too,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Ann,
Thanks so much for your comment and for directing me to your lovely post. All of us mothers know the blessings and challenges of motherhood, but for Mary, these must have been multiplied many times over. May we follow her example of humility and submission to experience God's grace and leading.
May you have a blessed 2015!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Hazel,
In those days, the whole village would travel together to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. I've read that it was not unusual for the men to stay together as they traveled, with the women and young children in a separate group, and the teens together, rather than as family units. So that may help explain why it took so long for Mary and Joseph to notice His absence.
On the day of my medical school graduation, it was pouring rain in New York City. My family took 2 taxis to the restaurant where we were going to have dinner, and each group assumed I was in the other cab. So they all left without me, and I had to walk 20 blocks to the restaurant in my cap and gown, in the rain, with my diploma stuffed inside a garbage bag (my mother was holding my purse for me, so I had no money to take a separate cab)!
I'm glad you found your son safe and sound!
Many blessings to you and Robert,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Sometimes I am amazed at very ordinary the daily events of Christ's life were on one hand and how absolutely miraculous they are in other aspects. Though he was the son of God, he was born in a stable, was raised as a carpenter's son, and was treated as an ordinary child in so many ways, even to point of being left behind in Jerusalem.

At the same time you have the wisemen visiting him, Herod trying to kill him, and him being left because he was talking with the priests religious leaders.

Laurie Collett said...

Great point, Donald! God can use the simple things of the world to confound the wise, and He transforms the mundane into the miraculous. May we glorify Him in all we do, no matter how mundane it seems!

Thanks as always for your insightful comment. Happy new Year!

Jacqueline said...

Laurie, I've thought on this many times. Thank you and Happy New Year!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Jacqueline, for your comment. Happy New Year to you too!

Anonymous said...

I love these descriptive and informative posts that dive deeper into the whole story using God's word. I love the story of Mary because of her mother's heart but also her faithfulness in all the circumstances of her life. Thank you for going deeper and teaching us all more about Mary's journey.

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you so much, passagethroughgrace, for your words of encouragement. In a couple of hours, I'll be posting the final post in my series on Mary's journey, and I hope you'll be back! Mary truly is a wonderful role model of faith and faithfulness.
May you have all blessings in 2015 and beyond,

BARBIE said...

I cannot imagine all of the feelings Mary must have felt. Her life has always fascinated me. God choosing an ordinary woman to bear the Savior of the world. Makes me realize that God can use little ole me for amazing things!

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Barbie! I am thankful that God does not look for ability, but for availability. He can use anyone yielded to Him.
God bless,

Tina at said...

I enjoyed taking the time to think through these early years and their events with you. Thanks for being a part of Booknificent Thursday this week!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Tina -- I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for hosting & for your comment. God bless!