Mary the Mother of Jesus


For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: That You May Enjoy Long Life.

God selected Mary out of all the chaste, unmarried young women of Israel to be the mother of Jesus. The Holy Spirit through Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, announced to Mary, “Blessed are you among women.” (Luke 1:42)

But Mary was also told through Simeon, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:35)

Blessing and grief---happiness and sorrow are the two extremes of motherhood experienced since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3:16) Parents suffer for and with their children throughout their lives. The concern and empathy they feel does not end when their children grow up and leave home. The responsibilities may change and end, but the love never does.

Scripture gives us only a glimpse into the relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary after his infancy. In those glimpses we see the honor and obedience Jesus gave her as a youth and as a mature man. This relationship illustrates obedience to the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16)

The first glimpse is Jesus at age twelve. His family was returning home from Jerusalem after they had observed the Passover season. But Jesus remained behind to spend time with teachers in the temple “listening to them and asking questions.” When Mary and Joseph became aware that Jesus was not among the rest of the travelers, they became worried and began searching for him. Jesus had proven himself to be dependable enough to be allowed an unusual degree of freedom. He had never abused that freedom. What could have happened to him?

Three days later, after thinking the worst had happened to him, they were astonished to find Jesus at the temple. Mary asked Jesus, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously  [“sorrowing” in the KJV] searching for you.”

Jesus replied with two questions they didn’t understand, “Why were you searching for me?” And “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” [In the KJV: “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”]

Jesus then returned with them and remained obedient to Mary and Joseph. He continued to mature physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially under their care. (Luke 2:41-52)

The second glimpse we have is at a wedding feast. Mary pointed out to the thirty-year-old Jesus a problem---the host had run out of wine too early. Jesus said, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” Mary left it up to her adult son what he would do about her indirect request. She gave the servants instructions to do whatever he asked of them.

Mary respected her grown son by showing she had faith he could handle the problem. Jesus respected his mother by honoring her request and supplying the wine--his first public miracle. (John 2:1-11)

In the third glimpse, Jesus is teaching a crowd so large and packed that neither his disciples nor his family could get to him. Mary and other members of her family had heard some strange things about Jesus and were afraid that he had lost his mind. They wanted to take him home and take care of him. (Matthew 12:46-49; Luke 8:19-21; Mark 3:20-21; 31-35)

When Jesus received the message that his family was looking for him, he used this event to teach his listeners that his spiritual family are those who hear and obey the word of God. His response would be another reminder to Mary that he had a responsibility that included all people not just his immediate family. Even for Mary, “highly favored of God,” it was difficult to let go of the responsibility she had carried for thirty years as his human parent.

The fourth glimpse we have is at the foot of the cross. Jesus responds to Mary’s grief and need. He provides for Mary by placing her in the care of his cousin John, asking him to treat her as his own mother. (John 19:26-27) As Jesus hung dying a painful death, he once more honored his mother.

The last glimpse we have of Mary is on the day of Pentecost as she waits with the other disciples for the promised Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:14; 2:1) She came to realize her son Jesus was more than the child of her body; he was also the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

Every mother has to realize that her children belong to God. She must relinquish the care of each child into the care of their heavenly Father. It is God who gives and sustains life. Parents are only temporary caregivers. 

The relationship between parents and children exemplifies the relationship God desires to enjoy with his children. (I John 3:1-3) The relationship between Jesus and Mary is one of love, mutual respect, and mutual care. Jesus set us this example to follow. “Honor thy father and thy mother.”


Volume 04 Issue 05 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | In the Days of Your Youth | Book Review |

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