Date:    05/11/03

Text:     Selected Passages

Title:     Mary--- The mother of Jesus




            Recently I had a rude awakening. I suddenly realized that the older I get, the less I know. When I was younger, I liked to speak on marriage and parenting. I enjoyed talking to the congregations about fatherhood and motherhood. But now, I realized that I don’t really know anything anymore. Even though I have spent 20 mother’s days in my 20 years of ministry, I don’t know what to say to mothers anymore. Cynthia would say, what do you know about being a mother? The mothers should be the one talking this morning.

            This morning I want to take you on a journey back to the 1st century and take a look at a special mother, the mother of Jesus. On December 12 of last year, I preached a sermon on Mary, a woman of faith. But today, from the limited narrative we have on her, we can catch a glimpse of what Mary went through as a mother.

I.          Mary--- A mother with friends. Luke 1:39-40

            What did Mary do when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus, the son of God? The scripture tells us that she hurried to visit Elizabeth, a cousin of hers. From this story we learn that Elizabeth was quite advanced in age. And Mary, was just a young teenager. Well, if there were a phone, or email, Mary would have definitely used it to communicate with Elizabeth. According to tradition, Elizabeth’s home town was west of Jerusalem, about 80 miles from where Mary lived. So Mary traveled 80 miles to visit Elizabeth, wanting to share this good and confusing news with Elizabeth. Mary had someone to confide with.

            Sometimes on Mondays, my day off, I would go to a nearby mall with Cynthia for lunch. From time to time we would see some young mothers with their babies having lunch together. They seemed to be talking about everything.

Nowadays, more wives are working outside the home, becoming more career minded than previous years. Consequently, the circle of friends also becomes smaller. We simply don’t have the time for others.

I’d like to encourage the mothers, especially the younger ones among us, to develop meaningful friendships with others: Individuals that we can share and confide our burdens and joys with. It is also important that you develop relationships with those who are older and more mature than yourself. Sometimes listening to another person’s life experience and insight can certainly provide us with a different perspective as we deal with the ups and downs in our own lives. We all need an Elizabeth in life. And in turn we can also be an Elizabeth to the younger Mary’s around us.

II.         Mary--- A mother who is well versed in God's word.

            When Elizabeth and Mary met, they both burst into praises. Elizabeth was affirming Mary, and Mary was praising God. Elizabeth’s praise was more excited and exuberant, while Mary was more subdued and quiet. If we take a look at Mary’s words, a part of it was similar to Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 1. There were also quotations from psalms and other Old Testament scriptures. It is quite apparent that she was very familiar with God's word. She was taught God's word when young and she took them to heart.

            We live in a very busy and highly stressed society. When the husband comes home after a day of hard work, he would say, “I am tired, I don’t feel like doing anything. I just need to unwind so I can go at it again tomorrow.” How about the wife? When she comes out after a long day of work, she too is tired, but she has to cook and take care of the children. Her own time? Its hard to find time for herself, right?

            I feel one of the challenges facing today’s mothers is to find time to read and study God's word. I am always encouraged to see how mothers, in spite of their busy schedules, find time to come to SS, or the BSF. Not only this, they are also the ones who complete their home work assignments. This does not happen naturally or over night. It involves setting priorities, determination and just doing it.

III.       Mary--- A mother who provides an environment for growth.

            In the scriptures, we are told little about Jesus' family life. There was little information regarding what Joseph and Mary did to bring up Jesus and his siblings. If it existed, it would have become a best seller with titles such as: Secrets of successful parenting, 5 Steps to raise a special child.

            However, by looking at the descriptions of Jesus'' growth, it does give us a glimpse of the parents’ role in this particular household. 2:40, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” This was about his early childhood. 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” This was from around 12 years old. Here we see Jesus growing physically, socially, spiritually and intellectually. In many families, very often the mother would be the one who spend more time with the children. With this assumption, we can safely conclude that Mary must have provided an environment where Jesus and his siblings could grow into healthy and balanced individuals. It was an environment of encouragement, affirmation, and unconditional love. A place where God's word were taught and modeled.

            Shouldn’t this be our example? So often in today’s families, especially the Asian families, we seem to have focus on our children’s academic and professional achievements. We may demean our children when they don’t do well, even though they have tried their best. We want our children to bring home nothing short of straight A’s. We want them to become lawyers, doctors and engineers. We want them to marry certain individuals, just being Chinese is not enough. We’ll threaten them if they don’t listen to us. Consequently we produce children with broken spirits and emotions. It would take years to recover and become spiritually and emotionally healthy again.

            As parents, both fathers and mothers, we are to think in terms of what we need to do, to communicate and to model before our children in order that they will be healthy physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. With these character traits as our objective, we then do our best, with the help of God to create a positive environment for our children.

IV.       Mary--- A mother who is a memory keeper.

            When the angel appeared to Mary for the first time, she was afraid and confused. Luke told us that 1:29, “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” She put it in her heart and wondered what was going on.

            Then at Jesus'' birth, Luke 2:19, “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The shepherds told Mary and Joseph what the Angels had told them. To many bystanders, these were passing wonders. But what did Mary do? She treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” She tucked them in her heart.

            When Jesus was 12, the family went up to Jerusalem. Upon their return trip, Mary realized that Jesus was not with them. So they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. They found him in the temple listening and talking to the religious leaders. As every mother would have done, Mary said, 2:48-51 , “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” The parents could not fully understand what Jesus meant. But Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. It appears that Mary was a very introspective person.

            If she had a camera, she must have taken pictures for her scrapbook. If she kept a diary, this would have definitely been recorded. They would become part of her memories. Several years ago, there was a book called, “Let’s make a memory”. Mothers are usually quite good at this, right? You still keep the first pair of shoes your child wore, and you bronzed it. You kept the hair from his first hair cut. You remember the first word, the first walk. You keep pictures of the first, the second, the third… .birthday parties. Of course you remember the first day of school: preschool, kindergarten and even college. What are some other memories you keep? Of course there are those vacation trips.

            To many of us, life in the 21st century is busy, busy, busy. We just rush through life without pausing to smell the flowers. Before we know it, our children are grown up and gone.

            May be this is another aspect of life that we need to cultivate. To make memories that we keep and pass on. Last week we heard from a couple who had adopted two Korean children. In their family, they celebrate an airplane day. To remember the days when their two children arrived in this country. In my family of origin, my mom always made a point to celebrate our birthdays. No matter where the children were, she would prepare noodles on those days.

            There are some other suggestions: cook something special on Easter morning before you go to church. How about starting a very special tradition on how you spend Christmas eve and Christmas morning. Make this a very special part of you and your family memory.

V.        Mary--- A mother who lets go of her son.

            The angel Gabriel told Mary that her son would be very different. He is the Messiah, the son of God. When Jesus was 8 days old, they took him to the temple for circumcision. Prophet Simeon blessed the child but also told Mary, 2:34-35, “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, ……..(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),…..” How about this? Mary’s heart will be hurt because of Jesus. Even at this early stage, the shadow of the cross was there.

            In Luke 2;49, at the temple when Jesus was 12 years old, he said, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This must have hurt Mary and she must have remembered what the prophet Simeon told her 12 years earlier.

            In John 2:3ff, Jesus was at a wedding where Mary might have been the host. When they ran out of wine, like any Chinese mother, she said to Jesus, “They have no wine.” Meaning, son, can you do something about this? And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” In essence, Jesus was saying, mom, leave me alone, I know when and what to do.” How would you have taken it as a mother?

            In Luke 8:19-21 there was an incident when Jesus was very busy with his ministry. Again, like any mother, Mary and some of her other children came to look for Jesus, hoping that he would take a break. What did Jesus say when his disciples told him his mother was here? “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Here Jesus seemed to make a clear distinction of his relationship with his earthly mother and brothers with those who obeyed God. It must have hurt when Mary heard those words.

            What do we see here? It is a progression of Jesus moving away from his earthly mother. And at the same time, Mary was also letting Jesus go. Certainly the climax was when Mary saw Jesus nailed on the cross. What could break the heart of a mother by a son’s death?

            Letting our children go is difficult. Sometimes, the mothers may have tried a little too hard to hold on to their children. I think it will do us good to remember that children are God's gifts to us. Yes, they are our children, but more so, they belong to God. Our responsibility is to nurture them so they can grow into the persons God wants them to be. I like the saying that the mother birds responsibility is to nurture the baby bird so they can grow and fly away. Isn’t this also true with motherhood?

Mothers nurture their children so they can grow up and fly away, form their own nucleus family.  And you know what? From experience we know that when we let them fly away, they will always come back to their roots, their home. If we hold them too tight, not letting them fly away, one day, when they have a chance to fly, they won’t return.


            On one hand Mary is unique and different from other women and mothers. Who can compare herself with Mary, the mother of Jesus? Yet on the other hand, isn’t it true that she is also very much like us? She is as human as we are; an ordinary mother.

If being the mother of Jesus, she thus became the super natural mother, then none of us can expect to be like her.  But because she is human, in every way she is like us, therefore we can learn from her experience of motherhood. She can be a role model for today’s mothers.

We can learn from her to cultivate friendships with those who are more mature than ourselves, so we can confide in them our sorrows and joys. We can also take God's word to our hearts and provide a loving and positive environment for our  children to grow into healthy and balanced adults. We can be the family’s memory makers. What we see now is piece meal, like a piece of the mobile. Many things in our children’s lives just don’t make much sense. But there will come a day, when we’ll have all the parts together, thus enabling us to see the entire picture. Then all we can do is to bow down worship the God of grace and miracle. Like Mary, we also experience the pain of letting our children going away from us. Yet, not just going away from us, but going into the hands of the almighty God.