Saturday, March 12, 2016

Triplets of Letting Go: Mary, Mother of Jesus

Photo by Rama 2009

After the angel Gabriel told Mary of God’s amazing plan for her life – to carry, bear and mother His Son (Luke 1:30-33) – she had three confirmations in His early childhood that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, Christ and Savior. Then the Bible is strangely silent about Jesus until He begins His earthly ministry.

Yet there are three vlgnettes of Mary learning to let go of her Son. As any mother knows, parenting is filled with joy (Psalm 127:3-5; 113:9), challenges (Ephesians 6:4), and sorrow (Genesis 3:16). She actively nurtures her child as he matures to an adolescent, watches him become a young man leaving home to start a new life, and ultimately realizes that death will separate them.

When he is young, they are together most of the time, and she sacrifices her time, interests and resources to give him a better life (2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Samuel 1:23; Isaiah 49:15). As he grows older and more independent, she is proud of his accomplishments, yet experiences the bittersweet taste of withdrawing from as active a role in his daily activities (1 Samuel 1:28).

Ultimately, they will be separated altogether by death, usually because the mother is the first to die, unless a freak accident takes them into eternity at the same time, or unless both are born again (John 3:3-8) and still living when the Rapture occurs (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

No doubt Mary felt all this and more, knowing that her Son was not destined for a typical life of being a carpenter like Joseph (Mark 6:3), marrying and having a family (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6-9), and living a long life (Psalm 90:10) following the usual course of events where He would bury her, rather than the other way around. As the Son of God (Luke 1:32), He had come to save His people (Luke 2:32-33), which required His cruel death ((Luke 1:34-35) on the cross.

Sandwiched between the three confirmations of her Son’s destiny, occurring before He was two years of age, and the events surrounding His death, burial and resurrection, we see three glimpses into Mary’s life as she learns to let Him go as her Son, but not as her Savior (Luke 2:41-52; John 2:1-13; Mark 3: 31-35). Two of these, the wedding at Cana and Jesus’ family visiting Him during His ministry, will be covered in a subsequent post, Lord willing.

After the visitation by the wise men when Jesus was still a toddler (Matthew 2:11), Scripture tells us nothing about His later childhood. No doubt Mary and Jesus’ siblings would have had some fascinating stories to tell! What was sibling rivalry like when your Brother could not sin? Was He perfect only in behavior, or was He also wise beyond His years or even gifted in performing miracles?

The only Scriptural clue to Jesus’ later childhood and adolescence was when He was 12 years of age, when His parents brought Him to the Passover feast as was their annual custom (Luke 2:41-52) and commanded in God’s Word (Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16). When it was over, Mary and Joseph began traveling home, only to realize after a day’s journey that Jesus was nowhere to be found!

Before we condemn Mary and Joseph for being neglectful parents, we should realize that a great crowd traveled together to and from the feast, not only for safety as they crossed the desert but for companionship and a family reunion of sorts.

The men probably led the way; the young people like Jesus may have been in the middle of the pack; and the women and babies may have followed behind. It would not be unusual for parents not to see their teenagers until nightfall, when they prepared the evening meal around the campfire.

That evening, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was missing and looked for Him among their relatives, friends, and traveling companions, no doubt panic-stricken that He was not there. So they hurried back to Jerusalem in search of their precious Son (Luke 2: 44-45).

In fact, Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem (v. 43) in the temple, where Mary and Joseph could not find Him until three days later (v. 46). He was sitting in the midst of the doctors, not only hearing them, but asking them questions, which was unheard of for a youth in the midst of distinguished priests and scholars. Even more unusual, He understood and spoke forth profound answers, causing great astonishment to all His listeners (v. 47).

How did Mary react to all this? With amazement, rebuke, and an attempt to provoke guilt, as many mothers would (v. 48). She asked Jesus to explain His behavior and told Him that she and Joseph had been looking for Him, distressed, sorrowful, and fearing He was lost.

Next the Bible tells us Jesus’ first recorded words, questioning why they were looking for Him, and why they didn’t know that He had a mission (v. 49). His destiny was to do His Father’s business – not to be a tradesman like Joseph, who was not His biological parent, but to learn, teach and embody God’s Word.

Even at the tender age of twelve, Jesus had no doubts about His identity as the Son of God, His need to begin His Father’s work, and His expectation that Mary and Joseph should have understood this as well. Normally the parent is a spiritual role model for the child (Titus 2:7; Deuteronomy 6:6-9; 2 Timothy 1:5), but here, the precocious Jesus exemplified the faith, wisdom and faithfulness that should have inspired Mary and Joseph.

Instead, Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph did not understand; they resumed parenting as usual; but that Mary kept all of Jesus’ words in her heart (Luke 2: 50-51). Jesus, Who honored, obeyed and respected them as the law commanded (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Proverbs 1:8-9; Matthew 15:4-6), left Jerusalem, followed His family back home to Nazareth, and was a dutiful Son. He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man, maturing physically, spiritually, and socially (Luke 2: 52).

Mary knew from before Christ’s birth Who He was (Luke 1:32), what He would do (Luke 2:32-33), and when He was a baby she learned that He would have to die (Luke 1:34-35). But as the years went by, had she settled into parenting, enjoyed everyday family blessings, and forgotten the mission?

Do we still have our first love that we experienced when we were born again by placing our faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven? Or have we lost our first love (Revelation 2:1-4), begun to take His blessings for granted (2 Timothy 3:2) and grown lukewarm (Revelation 3:16) about doing our Father’s work?

Like Mary, may we keep all of Christ’s words in our heart (Psalm 119:11), so that like Jesus, we may grow in wisdom, faithfulness to our Father’s will, and love for Him, fellow believers, and unsaved souls!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Thank you for another brilliant blog on the early days of Jesus. As there was only one incident recorded when he was twelve years old, that still leaves a remaining twenty years of living unrecorded before presenting himself to John for baptism.
Little wonder that fantasisers claim that Jesus had visited England along with Joseph of Arimathea, from which William Blake wrote "Jerusalem". This was eventually put to music to create a hymn, which could be the New National Anthem for England.
Another legend places him far in the opposite direction, in India, where he learnt the wisdom of the Hindu faith and the Vedas Scriptures in preparation for his coming ministry.
Why not simply accept the fact that Jesus was born Jewish, and he came with the ultimate end as King of Israel, sitting on the throne of his father David. For this end, Jesus had to die, be buried, and rise again, at no other location but Jerusalem in Israel, the City of the Great King.
An excellent post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Frank! I suspect those who would place young Jesus in England or India have their own agendas for doing so, just as those who want to add billions of years of "evolution" to a clear, self-explanatory Biblical account of Creation have theirs. May we learn to rely on Scripture as the sole authority and not "fill in the blanks" for our own purposes.
Thank you as always for your kind and encouraging words and your astute, informative comments.
God bless,

David C Brown said...

Very good. I suppose that without the help of the Holy Spirit a lot would have been obscure to Mary as it was to the disciples.

Denise said...

wonderful blog.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Greqat post. although Mary had and understanding of who Jesus was, she couldn't help reacting as a human. Jesus was the only one who never lost sight of his eternal purpose. Jesus even asked Mary if she didn't understand he had a job to do.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, David, and great point! Mary was told about Jesus' destiny directly by Gabriel, and the disciples by Christ Himself, yet they understood and followed only when yielded to the Spirit. God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Denise, for your kind words. You are such a blessing!

Laurie Collett said...

So true, Donald -- although Mary was blessed among women, she was still only human, and her concerns as a mother often must have taken priority over what she knew to be her Son's destiny. Praise God that He never faltered in His mission.
God bless,