And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. (Luke 2:33)
Have you ever been just a little disappointed with some of the things Mary did and said as a mother? Does it sometimes seem that she didn’t always understand or appreciate the things Jesus did? Well, you’re not alone. I was reading an old Scottish minister of the 19th century, named George Matheson, who helped me with this. Once we understand Mary’s role in the life of our Lord, we can appreciate her more, I think.
For instance, as a Christian mother, what do we consider to be our primary role? Would it not be to teach our children Spiritual things and prepare them for Heaven? But in Mary’s case, her Child came from Heaven, and it was she who should be guided by Him. Once she had fulfilled God’s purpose for her as the vehicle by which He would bring His Son into the world, her mission changed. To quote the old minister:
“I hold that mission to have been, not the guidance of His spiritual nature, but the guidance of His outward or physical nature. She was sent, not to stimulate the spiritual or the higher life, but to prevent the higher life from making Him forget His physical or lower needs”.
God the Father had provided all that was needed for the Divine Christ Jesus; His mother would minister to the needs of the Man Christ Jesus—the One of Whom the Old Testament said, “The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up” (Psl. 69:9). Jesus told His disciples on one occasion that He had meat to eat that they knew nothing about (Jno.4:32); but, as a mother, Mary would see that her growing Boy had the food He needed to keep His body healthy. The Son of God had no need to be instructed in spiritual things or inspired to fulfill His mission in life; but He was reminded that a twelve-year old boy is still a responsibility to his parents. He had no need to learn obedience to His Heavenly Father; but being subject to earthly parents was an acquired skill (2:51; Heb. 5:8).
Mary must have received her first inkling of what lay ahead when she and Joseph took the Baby Jesus, her first born male, to the temple to offer a sacrifice according to Old Testament law (2:23). It was Simeon who, after prophesying concerning Jesus, turned to Mary and said, parenthetically, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (2:35). And, later, it was in the temple again, when Jesus was twelve years old, that Mary would come face to face with the reality of the limitations of their mother-son relationship.
On this particular trip to Jerusalem for the yearly Passover feast, a situation arose that brought things to a head, so to speak. When the days of Passover were over, Mary and Joseph, who had no doubt come in a caravan with others, left to return home, assuming that Jesus was traveling in the company of others of the group. When they realized that He was not with any of their company, they immediately turned back and were amazed to find their adolescent Son “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions” (v. 46). After their first shock, it was Mary who queried Him, saying, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing” (v.48).
The reference to Joseph as His father was understandable since, I’m sure, most then considered him to be just that. But now, at this time and in this place, Jesus felt that the record needed to be set straight; for where He was, and what He was doing, was part of His Father’s business—His real Father (v. 49). Verse fifty says that neither Joseph nor Mary understood this, but God tells us in the next verse that Mary did not simply dismiss what she had seen and heard. Rather, she “kept these sayings in her heart.”
The distance between Mary and her Son is ever widening now—not in love, but in claim. This is true of all mothers and sons, but not to the extent of this particular relationship, because theirs was unique. The son who will not step away from the authority of his parents (and especially his mother) will experience a debilitating drag upon his progress in life. He should honor them all his life, but there comes a time when he must be about “his Father’s business.” He must follow the path of God’s choosing for him, wherever it might lead. In the case of Mary’s Son, it would lead to a cross, where the spear that was driven in the side of Jesus, would pierce the heart and soul of his mother.
We will take one last look into Mary’s story, for there are several more glimpses given of her. We will follow her into the darkest valley of her life and see her come out on the other side; for as surely as there is a valley, there must be a mountaintop.