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Published Date: July 31, 1999

Published Date: July 31, 1999

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Mary, God’s Servant: Her Story Retold

The New Testament is the earliest source for Mary. Galatians, possibly written around 57 AD, speaks of Jesus being “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4); that is our earliest reference to the mother of Christ. All the Gospels, probably written between 70 and 100 AD, testify to the existence of Mary.

Mary, The Witness

In Acts 1, we find Mary with the other disciples waiting in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. Jesus had told them in Luke 24:46-49,

This is what is written:

The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

Mary had watched her son die on the cross. She knew that he had risen from the dead as he said he would for many had seen him. Jesus’ friends were staying in an upstairs room in Jerusalem. Waiting there were Peter, John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas (not Iscariot). They all were constantly in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them with a sound like the blowing of a violent wind and with tongues of fire.

Mary too was baptized by the Holy Spirit, as the little group was “clothed with power” and experienced the risen Lord.

Mary and the others had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ the Lord, the Messiah. Now they experienced the presence of God in a new way, and were empowered to speak and proclaim the Good News about Jesus.

In light of this new experience, this powerful resurrection faith, Mary was able, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to interpret her memories of her son, the things she had “pondered in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She told her stories about her son to the community of believers.

Luke used this eyewitness account of Jesus to write his gospel. Mary is the most important witness to the truth of the Bible story about her son.

Mary The Virgin

Matthew and Luke both testify to the virgin conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The angel said to Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the most High” (Lk 1:31-32).

Mary said, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34). Mary was pledged to Joseph at this time but they had not been together.

The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you: therefore the child to be born will be holy” (v. 35).

In order to prove to Mary that nothing is impossible with God, the angel announced, “Your relative, Elizabeth, in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren” (v. 36).

Two miracles. Two women. Two sons.

Mary Mother Of Elizabeth’s Lord

Elizabeth said to Mary, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy” (vv. 43-44).

That baby was John, the witness who went before Jesus preparing the way. Elizabeth witnessed to Mary that the angel’s promise had come to pass.

Elizabeth gave Mary a blessing: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (v. 42). And again she said, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (v. 45).

Mary responded in the most beautiful song of praise. She was caught up with Elizabeth in this shared moment of revelation from God. God visited earth: This was the time for the long awaited Messiah, and these were the women whom God chose to visit. Mary proclaimed,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has regarded the low estate of
his handmaiden.

For behold, henceforth all
generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation… (vv. 46-50)

Mary Mother Of Jesus

Mary bore a son and named him Jesus. He grew in strength and wisdom—that is all we know from Scripture about the childhood of Jesus, except that when he was twelve, he was lost and then found in the Temple talking to the teachers there. He said to his parents, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (2:49). Jesus was rather blunt in telling his mother and father that he was about his Father’s business. Jesus emphasized here who his real Father was. It was almost a rebuke. He was reminding them of his supernatural origin.

The Bible shows us some other disturbing scenes between Jesus and Mary. In John 2, Mary asked him to do a miracle at the wedding in Cana. He replied, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (v. 4).

Later on she made a special trip to see him as he was teaching a multitude. Word was brought to him that his mother and brothers were present. You would expect that he might have gone out to them, but instead he replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Lk 8:21).

He was saying that family relationship to him had no vital significance. It must have been painful for Mary to hear that her own special relationship to her son did not even earn her an audience with him.

The most distressing scene for mother and son was at the crucifixion. Mary was there watching Jesus die, her son who was the King, the Savior, the Son of God. What had gone wrong? This was not what she had dreamed of. Darkness. Sadness. Bitterness. And then her son spoke to her with great love and care, “Dear woman, here is your son [referring to the disciple John]” (Jn 19:26). Jesus took steps to secure a home for Mary. The one who had known him best for the first thirty years of his life was to be looked after by the one who had known him best during his three years of ministry.

Even here though, he does not use the term “mother,” but rather “woman.” There could be no reliance on her earthly relationship to him. Jesus came to save his people. It was as if he weaned his mother from him little by little so that she could come to know him as Savior and Lord as well as her own flesh and blood son. Thus, these disturbing scenes between son and mother are paradoxically satisfying pictures of a loving Lord, guiding his mother Mary into right relationship with him.

Mary, Servant Of The Lord

Upon hearing the news that she would be the mother of God’s Son whose kingdom would never end, Mary knew that her life would never be the same. Mary who had been chosen by God for this supernatural purpose had found favor with God. She must have been pious. She must have had a good reputation.

How would she explain her pregnancy? Her reputation would be tarnished. Who would believe her? With joy and fear, she willingly accepted God’s call on her life. She said to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Mary fulfills the teaching of John the Baptist about Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less” (Jn 3:30). Remember Jesus’ teaching: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39). Mary lost her life as she found her life, by being the obedient servant of her lord and her God, Jesus Christ.