My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior for He has had regard for the humble state of His servant; for behold from this time on all generations will count me blessed. (Luke 1:46-48)
And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. …And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:33, 51)
In last week’s post we looked at how a young Jewish girl was called to bear the long awaited Messiah. We saw how Mary responded to God with obedience, humility, and courage. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a poor stable in Bethlehem. When Jesus was eight days old Joseph and Mary took Him to be circumcised as required by Jewish statutes. About two months after Jesus’ birth, Mary went to the temple for her purification as also required.
Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt when Herod threatened to kill the baby. Eventually they returned and began their lives anew in Nazareth.
Though Mary’s firstborn Son was special she led a typical life as a mother in a small village in Galilee. There is no evidence that she treated Jesus any differently than her other children. Mary would have fixed meals, washed robes, and schooled Jesus as a small boy. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus did anything other than what ordinary human boys do when He was young.
There is only one incident in Jesus’ childhood mentioned in the Gospels. (Luke 2:41-51) On this occasion Jesus astounded the leaders in the temple with His knowledge of the Scriptures and His wisdom in understanding and applying them to life. Of course Jesus is also God, but on this occasion He showed His attention to learning and His devotion to studying about His Father as a human child. We mustn’t forget that in Jesus’ day a twelve year old had already had many years of training in the Torah. Mary would have helped Jesus with His Scripture memory and study even as Christian parents do today.
Jesus returned to Nazareth after this incident with His parents and was subject to them in all things. This means He was not only a good student, but He was a good Son. Luke mentions several times that Mary pondered these things in her heart. (Luke 2:19, 51) All during the years that Mary raised Jesus she would have been wondering just what it would mean that Jesus was the Messiah. What was He going to do?
So Mary enjoyed a normal family life with her children raising them the way all good mothers did in those times. At some point Joseph died. Mary would then be raising her children as a widow. Being the oldest Son, Jesus would have taken over the position of head of the family. He would have assumed the duty of seeing to it that His mother was protected as well as His sisters and brothers. These were all the normal duties of any son in those times.
It was when Jesus reached the age of adulthood and began to make decisions on His own that His relationship with Mary changed. Jesus made His identity as God’s Son public at His baptism. The Father Himself authenticated Jesus’ claim when He spoke from heaven. The Holy Spirit appeared as a dove over Jesus’ head, thus confirming that God is a trinity.
Was Mary present at Jesus’ baptism? The Scriptures do not say, but this was an important event in the life of a Jew; perhaps she was present. If Mary was there then she saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and heard God’s voice from heaven. These things would have reminded her of that time over 29 years ago when the angel appeared to her and announced who her Son would be. She would have recalled Simeon’s words to her and also Anna’s prophecy. The things that she had been pondering in her heart would begin to make sense. As would be true for all of Jesus’ disciples however, it would take time for the mission of the Messiah to become clear.
On the way back home to Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and some of His brothers or friends stopped in Cana for a wedding. At this wedding in Cana we see the first opportunity to witness the change in the way Jesus related to His mother.
The story is well known. At the feast the wine ran out. This was a major embarrassment not only for the bridegroom but also for the steward who was in charge of the wedding feast.
Most readers comment on Jesus’ response to His mother, but I would like to back up first for a minute and ask, “Why did Mary even ask Him?” Did she realize that He could work miracles? He hadn’t done a miracle yet. And what kind of miracle was she asking for? Most of Jesus’ miracles would be about doing really important things like healing people or even raising people from the dead. Why was Mary asking Jesus to help with a less than a life or health-threatening situation? Why did Jesus go ahead and do this miracle as the first one of His public ministry?
In light of this, it actually makes Jesus’ answer to Mary very kind and considerate. His response has always seemed harsh to people, “Woman, (note: not “mother”) what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) At first it seems like Jesus is giving His mother the brush off. We should remember two things.
First, Mary is now in a slightly different relationship with Jesus. Just like any young man who leaves home, Jesus holds His mother in great respect but must make His own decisions.
Secondly, Jesus knows what His life is to be. Remember, at the temple when He was twelve years old He told His parents that He must be about His Father’s business. What did Jesus think of making His first public miracle one of seemingly small importance? He could have told His mother that it was just too bad about the wine but His Father doesn’t want Him doing such trifling works.
Instead somehow Jesus indicates to Mary that He will help. Mary tells the servants to do what Jesus instructs them. In this way, Mary shows that she understands that her Son now has the authority. She is telling Him, “Yes, You are now to go out on Your Father’s business. I will return to Nazareth and You will go and do the work that Your Father has given You.”
Mary had pondered all of the things that were told to her about her Son. Now she is beginning to see the reality of Jesus’ deity. Now she is beginning to understand what the predictions about her Son were all about. There would still be a long way to go as Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth would begin to unfold.
Mary would continue to love, honor, and follow her Son. In the next posting we will look at Mary as a disciple of Jesus.