Tag Archives: mary mother of jesus

The Choice Mary Made

12 Dec

Did Mary have a choice?  It’s a question we were batting around at Bible study last night as we discussed chapters 3-4 of Liz Curtis Higgs latest book, The Women of Christmas.  One of the ladies in my study—an older lady from England—passionately stated, “We are discussing this as though Mary had a choice.  The angel told her that she would bear a son and she accepted it.  What matters is how she accepted it.”  As the Bible study leader (and usually the youngest woman in the room), it delights me when one of the ladies in my group surprises me with stunning insight.  This was one of those moments.  We continued our discussion, but the words of this woman stayed with me far into the evening.  I am still pondering it.

What matters is how Mary accepted it.

Let’s take a quick look at Mary’s angelic encounter.  Luke 1: 26-28 (NIV) records the event:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledthe Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary only asks one question: How will this be since I am a virgin?  She doesn’t say, “Why me?!” or “Are you kidding me?  Where’s the hidden camera?”  Only one question is recorded—how?  In The Women of Christmas,   Liz Curtis Higgs draws out this point considering that perhaps Mary’s youth made her less cynical, more hopeful, and more wide-eyed with wonder.  In this case, Mary let her words be few, while her cousin Zechariah the priest needed a sign when Gabriel appeared to him in the temple and told him that his barren wife, Elizabeth, would also bear a son. Zechariah was struck mute (and perhaps deaf) by the angel until the birth of the baby who would one day be called John the Baptist.  I suppose that was definitely a sign, but probably not the one Zechariah was hoping for.  (I try not to judge Zechariah too harshly because I’m not sure how I would react to an angelic visitor, especially since God hadn’t delivered a word to His people in 400 year silence between the Old and New Testament writings.)

I don’t know if Mary could have said no or what would have happened if she did say no.  This is one of those situations where I’m not sure how free will and God’s will intertwine.  God created Mary, so He undoubtedly already knew how she would react to Gabriel’s proclamation that she would be the virgin to bear the long-awaited Messiah.

But what if she had said no?  Could Mary have said, “No, you’ve got the wrong girl”?  Would there have been a Moses-like moment where God said that He created her womb, like He created Moses’ mouth?  If she had tried to flee, would God have brought her back with a Jonah and the big fish sort of event?  Could Mary have wrestled with an angel like Jacob? 

If Mary had said no, what would that mean for us?  Who would’ve carried the long-awaited Messiah?  Would we still be waiting for the God Man to break humanity’s curse? 

Of course, that’s if she could say no.  What choice did she have?  And here’s where the Word hits me in the heart because while it seemed that Mary was the girl chosen for the task, she did have a choice in how she would handle her situation.  She could’ve despaired about what Joseph might do, what her parents might think, and what the other women in Nazareth might say about her as they gossiped around the town well.  Undoubtedly, being human, Mary  may have had all these questions and concerns.  Her response though—a question and the acceptance that she was the Lord’s servant—is probably not the same reaction I would have.

I would think about what everyone would think of me my perfect plans for my good life had been ruined.  This isn’t what I want God and I don’t know why You would ask me to do this, to go through this, to live with this.    I can’t do this, God.  You’ve got the wrong girl.

Notice Gabriel’s words in Luke 1:27.  In the NLT version, Gabriel says, “For nothing is impossible with God.” He didn’t say nothing is impossible for God; he says with God.  God could do it all by Himself, but He chooses to do it with us, even in spite of ourselves.

With God, the impossible is possible for me.  For you.  For Mary.  For Elizabeth.

Perhaps I could take a cue from Mary, only a young teenager at this point in the story.  Instead of bemoaning my life’s circumstances, perhaps I could say, “How, God, will we do this together?” and “OK, God, I am Your servant.” I imagine that would make all the difference in how I react to various circumstances that come my way.

Often times we don’t get to choose what diseases befall us, what those closest to us will do to cause us pain, or how the world will beat us up.  But we can choose how we react, knowing and trusting nothing escapes God’s loving attention.  When baby Jesus was finally born and presented in the temple, Mary was told her blessing was a double-edged sword.  Her heart would be pierced, just as her Son would be pierced for our transgressions.  My sins and yours.  The world’s greatest gift also came with huge responsibility, pain, and suffering.

The choice, dear friends, is how we react, what we do with what God has given us—the good and the bad.  May we have the courage, like Mary, to say, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

The Women of the Resurrection

7 Apr

In this pic, Jesus looks like He’s playing hide-and-seek with the women.

I wanted to prepare this blog post sooner, but time is not on my side lately.  My family could definitely use your prayer.  Gosh, I could use your prayers.  However, better late than never, here’s the follow up to “The Women of the Cross“.

But I thought both my male and female readers might like a peek at the lesson, which I’m adapting into a post. If you would like a copy of the short study for personal or group use, just hit me up at amy@backseatwriter.com

The Women of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a crucial cornerstone of the Christian faith, and also what separates Christianity from other major religions that follow His teachings.  Jesus’ resurrection proves that He was not only the Son of God, but the victor over death.  And who were the first to encounter the Risen Lord?  The women who followed Jesus!

The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection can be found in Matthew 28: 1-10; Mark 16: 1-11; Luke 24: 1-12; and John 20: 1-18.

Who are the women of the resurrection?

Interestingly, many of the women present at Jesus’ crucifixion were also the women who awoke early Sunday morning after Sabbath had passed to care for Jesus’ body.  According to Old Testament law, if someone touched a dead body, then he or she was considered unclean, so care of bodies was considered a woman’s work (of course).

However, these women did not care about clean or unclean.  They simply wanted to show their love for this man, who had treated them with respect and kindness, who had allowed them to sit at His feet—they had never met a man like Jesus.

Each Gospel has a different account of what women were present, what happened, and what was said.  It is important to note that ancient scribes were not obsessed with details like we are today.  They were more concerned with telling the story, so we definitely have to approach Scripture with our eyes on the culture.   Here’s a rundown of each Gospel.

Matthew: Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” find empty tomb and angel, also Jesus appears to these women.

Mark: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome encounter an angel and Mary Magdalene first sees Jesus.

Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and others see angels and report to disciples.

John: Mary Magdalene (and possibly other women because she says “we”).  But in this gospel, Mary Magdalene is the first to encounter the risen Jesus.

If you read The Women of the Cross, then you’ve already “met” most of these women.  But just in case you haven’t had the chance to read that incredibly compelling post, let me introduce you to the women of the resurrection.  Meet Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most devoted followers after He drove seven demons from her body.  And, no, they were not married or sexually involved.  That’s just gross.

Curiously, Mary mother of Jesus isn’t mention in any of these accounts…or is she?  Out of respect, Mary was probably referred to as “Mary mother of James” (Note:  It was this James, Jesus’ half-brother, who went on to write the book of James in the New Testament).  It was a cultural practice not to indicate Mary as Jesus’ mother due to His crucifixion.  Remember that at the cross, she is called “Mary Mother of James and Joses” and only directly addressed in John.  Also, since the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) mention Mary mother of James or “the other Mary,” it is assumed that both refer to Mary mother of Jesus.  She was His earthly mother—how could she stay away?

Mark mentions Salome, who was the mother of disciples James and John while Luke also adds Joanna, a woman who worked to financially support and care for Jesus and the gang while they traveled.  Since it was early the day after Sabbath and Jews were not permitted to work or travel on Sabbath, we can assume that Joanna was in town for the crucifixion, and I’m fairly certain she was one of the “other women” who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.   If so, then all the women of the resurrection were also all women who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.  They were a devoted lot.

Mary Magdalene Sees Him First

Each Gospel says that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Savior.  Why, out of all the people who followed Jesus, did she see Him first?  Really, we can only guess.  Perhaps she was the one who needed Him most.  When she learned Jesus’ body was missing, she was ready to go to the ends of the earth to retrieve it.  She was distraught and crying when she encounters Jesus, who she mistakes for the gardener.

“They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put Him,” she weeps.  But when that “gardener” says her name, she immediately knows it is Jesus (John 20:16).

“Rabboni!” Mary exclaims, which is a very personal greeting meaning “my teacher.”  Most people would have nothing to do with a former demoniac, much less teach one.  But Jesus changed Mary’s life, and now He had changed her eternity.

Why did Jesus appear to women first?

The simple and obvious explanation is this—because they were there. But didn’t Peter and John also run out to the empty tomb?  Why didn’t Jesus appear to them?  Hmm…interesting.

My theory (and this is my theory) is that Jesus is making good on God’s promise all the way back in Genesis 3:15.  After Adam and Eve do the Big No-No, God pronounces judgment on them.  Yet in His judgment, there’s a promise of salvation.  In Genesis 3:15 God says to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  On Calvary, the ancient serpent that is Satan struck Christ’s heel, but in the resurrection (and the yet-to-come Battle of Armageddon), Jesus will crush that serpent’s head.

So, with that information, it would seem that Jesus is “redeeming Eve.”  It’s as if He is saying, “Remember that promise in Genesis?  Well, here I am!  You are redeemed, daughter of Eve, you are redeemed because of Me.”  Since Eve was the first to partake of the apple, perhaps in a subtle way, her daughters are first to know of the redemption.

Then again, there’s the small problem that the disciples who say the empty tomb didn’t believe…but the women did.  Before you go off and tell me it’s because they saw Jesus, let me point you to Mark 24:7-8.  The women remembered His words and believe!  However, the disciples don’t believe their stories (Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11).

Still, in the end, everyone believes and the Gospel message goes forward.  And those women, well, as first witnesses their testimony wouldn’t really matter in a court of law.  Unless there were three women, which is interesting, because the Mark and Luke mention at least three women in their Gospels, making the women viable first witnesses to the resurrection.

These women never met a man like Jesus, who tore the veil, so their shame would be lifted.  Finally, Eve’s sin no longer held them captive, though they still faced the consequences of her choice.  But now they could find wholeness and redemption through God’s promise of Jesus Christ.

I love comments, so here are some questions you can answer–why do you think Jesus first appeared to women?  Why didn’t the men believe but the women did?

The Women of the Cross

1 Apr

Since early last summer, I’ve been leading a ladies’ Bible study. This week, since it is Holy Week, I prepared a lesson called “The Women of the Cross” to be followed next week by “The Women of the Resurrection.” I know, I know. They could use snappier titles.

But I thought both my male and female readers might like a peek at the lesson, which I’m adapting into a post. If you would like a copy of the short study for personal or group use, just hit me up at amy@backseatwriter.com.

The Women of the Cross

British writer Dorothy L. Sayers said: “Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized: who never made arch jokes about them…who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension: who took their questions and arguments seriously” (Are Women Human?, page 47).

It is imperative to read about Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, arrest, appearances before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, the road to Golgotha, and the crucifixion itself. Read Mark 14: 32-65, 15: 1-41.

When almost all the disciples, except John, ran away, there were a few women who remained at the cross with Jesus. It is significant that each Gospel mentions the presence of the women at the cross as women were often overlooked in this culture. I invite you to read the passages on the women of the cross yourself. Passages: Matthew 27: 55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:27-31, 49, 55, John 19: 25-27)

By book, I broke down each woman mentioned.

Matthew: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons

Mark: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome, & many other women.

Luke: Women

John: His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene

Who were these women? How might each woman have been uniquely affected by Jesus’ life?

While Luke the physician only mentions “women,” the other three gospels mention Mary Magdalene, two mention Salome (she is also the mother of Zebedee’s sons), and curiously, only John mentions Mary, mother of Jesus. Obviously, bearing the Holy One and rearing Him must have made a huge impact on Mary’s life. In my preparation for the Bible study, I discovered that Mary’s sister, also named “Mary” who is the wife of Clopas is only mentioned once in all of the gospels.

Mary the mother of James and Joses (or Joseph) is a little trickier to identify. Since Jesus’ mother was definitely present at the crucifixion, she may be mentioned here as “Mary the mother of James and Joses.” We do know that Mary had other children, and that James (writer of the book of James) was a half-brother of Jesus and it would make sense to have Joseph, since Mary’s husband was named Joseph. (Note: It has been widely accepted that Joseph was deceased at this time.) Again, there are a lot Mary’s and James’, so we can only guess at the identity of this woman

Salome, also called the mother of Zebedee’s sons, the apostles James and John. (Yes, this James is a completely different James. Argh!) She asked Jesus to promote her sons to places of honor, and is present at both the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ.

Mary Magdalene, often incorrectly referred to as a prostitute, was the women from who Jesus drove out seven demons (Luke 8:3). An intimate friend of Jesus (not his wife or lover), Mary Magdalene’s life was changed profoundly by the Son of God.

How do you think each woman reacted to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus?

Mary, mother of Jesus: The baby boy who she cradled in her arms was now beaten and humiliated in front of all his followers. Maybe some of Mary’s friends were the ones shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” She was told that a sword would pierce her own heart, but who knew it could hurt so bad? How could she stand as they whipped the flesh off her son’s back, as they spit upon Him, ripped out his beard, and mocked him? It was nothing compared to the bullies on the playground. It was her own son.

Mary Magdalene: Here is the man the restored her mind and her life. She was once confused, wandering lost in a strange world as strange voices told her lies. But with His healing touch, she was free. Oh, how she loved Him, her teacher! He was wise, kind, and looked at her with love while others looked at her with disgust. Now they were looking at Jesus the way they used to look at her. She could not imagine how or why anyone would want to kill such a wonderful man—the Son of God no less.

Salome: While John was with her, she probably wondered about the safety of her other son, James. Where was he now that Jesus was being crucified? Hadn’t her sons told her about Jesus and all His wonderful miracles? Where was her son, who so boldly followed Jesus now? Was he safe? Were they doing the same things to him? O, Yahweh, protect him. And, Jesus, how she loved and followed Him! Maybe she glanced over at Mary, mother of Jesus and her heart ached. Salome knew all too well her son might be next.

Several of the Gospels mention there were other women present as well. Who were these women?

The “other women” could include Joanna and Susanna, who provided for the needs of Jesus and his ministry (Luke 8:1-3). Joanna is also one of the women who reports about Jesus’ resurrection.

Perhaps Jesus’ friends from Bethany, Mary and Martha, were present or the Samaritan woman or the woman who was once bleeding. There were so many women whose lives were touched by Jesus and His kindness towards women in a culture that saw them as little more than property (see quote on top.)

Where were all the men? His disciples?

John was present at the crucifixion while Peter denied Christ and hid away in shame. Mark mentions a young man who was following Jesus at His arrest, but then runs off without his outer garment (many believe this man to be Mark). Judas the Betrayer kills himself. Joseph of Arimathea manages to wrangle Jesus’ body from the authorities to have it buried in his tomb. As for the other men, we just don’t know. We can assume that the disciples may have been scattered and hiding or even hiding together because they could very well be next. Also, they thought he was the one who was to deliver the people, and here He was being killed like a common criminal among common criminals.

Stay tuned for the next installment, “The Women of the Resurrection.”

Here are a few questions for all you readers out there::

*So, what do you think about these women? What do you think their responses might have been to Jesus’ crucifixion?

*Do you think women and men react differently to the story of Christ’s crucifixion?

%d bloggers like this: