Perhaps the greatest events in human history were the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the most remarkable people involved was a young woman named Mary. God chose this young woman to bear His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. He chose carefully and wisely. Mary had the qualities of character and genetic background that God was seeking. She had the highest standards of personal behavior and of devotion to God and His way of life.
Mary was most likely a teenager when she was engaged to Joseph. Both of them were descendants of King David, though they were not considered among the aristocrats of Israel. Mary was related to Elizabeth, the wife of the priest, Zacharias. Very little is said about Mary’s childhood or outlook on religion. She appears suddenly in scripture as the one God selected to bear and give birth to Jesus Christ.
Luke 1:26-28 records that Mary was a virgin who was betrothed to Joseph. Unlike our custom of an engagement, a betrothal was a legally binding commitment to marriage, confirmed by an oath. The angel addressed Mary as “highly favored” and said, “the Lord is with you.” The angel went on to explain what was to happen—Mary knowing that if she was found to be pregnant before marriage, she could be put to death. Her answer is an inspiration to us all. Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She did not just remain silent as though she had no control. Mary said, “Yes!”
Her answer reflected unconditional faith towards God. It reflected the complete trust that God requires of those He chooses. It was similar to the trust Abraham showed when God tested him with the requested sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:2). God did not reveal all that He had in mind for Abraham, and He did not reveal the future in all its detail to Mary. At the presentation of Jesus before God, a righteous old man was inspired to tell Mary that Jesus had a great destiny to fulfill and that a sword would pierce her soul (Luke 2:25, 35). What could all of this mean? Mary and Joseph “marveled” (Luke 2:33) at these words. Mary treasured each event and word in her heart (Luke 2:51), but did not question what God had planned.
Trusting in God
Mary likely did not expect that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, or that she and Joseph would have to flee to Egypt. She experienced some wonderful things during the pregnancy and birth, but the true purpose of Jesus’ life and the events that would change the course of the world were hidden from her. She did not expect to be standing at the foot of the cross and watching her Son die a horrible death. It was only later that she, too, knew Jesus’ true identity and purpose. God did not have to ask Mary for her continued obedience; He knew she was committed and the answer would always be, “Yes.”
Mary and Joseph continued on with their lives. Joseph was the father of their other children. God made all the necessary arrangements for the birth of Jesus and the flight to Egypt. He brought the Magi to visit and bring the gifts for Joseph and Mary. Matthew 2:13-15 are revealing verses. Here we see that Joseph too was obedient to God and aware that something from God was happening in his life. God sent an angel during a vision or dream Joseph had—and gave the instructions to go to Egypt. Mary was part of the complete plan and package. Their attitude of obedience to God was impressive. There was no jealousy when God gave the visions to Joseph. Mary accepted that and had no doubts. Matthew 2:19-23 tells of God once again giving Joseph instructions as to when to leave Egypt and where to live in Judea. Nazareth was in God’s plan, not theirs.
John 2:1-11 helps us understand the relationship between Jesus and Mary. It is obvious that Jesus loved His mother, and she respected Him. When there was a shortage of wine and Mary asked her son to do something about it, Jesus replied, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Mary knew Jesus was more than just a little unusual, but God did not show Mary every detail of the future. By now, Mary too had been strengthened in her continued trust in God. Now she realized that the scriptures were being fulfilled by Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and their life in Nazareth. As time passed and Jesus became more visible in Judea, Mary remained involved.
John 2:12-13 show that Mary and Jesus’ brothers traveled from Cana to Capernaum with Jesus and the disciples. There was nothing unusual about this. Luke 8:1 reveals that Jesus traveled from town to town. When we see Mary and Jesus’ brothers coming to see Him, we need to realize that at a time when communication was long and slow compared to today, it would have been difficult to find out where Jesus was unless He kept in constant contact with His family. (Joseph is not mentioned at all—it is possible that he had died by this time.) When Jesus was informed that his mother and brothers were outside, He continued to do the work of God. Jesus said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put in into practice” (Luke 8:21, New International Version). That was not a criticism of Mary or of His brothers. Mary was one who showed, through all of her actions, that she served God gladly and willingly.
John 19:25 begins to record the final events of Jesus’ life. This was the moment that Mary had known was coming—when the metaphorical sword would pierce her, as Simeon had prophesied (Luke 2:35). The fact that Mary was there attests to her frequent presence at all Jesus did. She was devoted to God and growing in the comprehension of the greatness of the moment. Indeed, only a parent can feel the pain Mary felt for her son in those final hours. This too was an event for which she was not prepared. As all unfolded, it would become clear that this too was in the plan of God. Mary accepted that part of the plan just as she had accepted her role from that moment when God first reached out to her. The words of Jesus reflect care and tenderness.
All the mysterious sayings she had treasured in her memory over the years were becoming clearer. There can be little doubt that Jesus’ mother was involved in the burial of her Son, and that she was among the women who came to the tomb early that morning long ago (Luke 24:9-10). John was the disciple who was destined to live the longest, and the one to whom Jesus entrusted His mother (John 19:26-27). God looked after every facet and part of the life of His chosen and highly favored vessel, Mary. Her attitude was, “Thy will be done.” Although Mary then fades from the pages of the Bible, she will not fade from God’s favor—or the future He will give to her.
To learn more about the life of Jesus, read our booklet, Jesus Christ: The Real Story.