by James M. Flanigan, N. Ireland
There are at least six Marys in the New Testament. There is of course the well-known and much-loved Mary of Bethany, who is particularly mentioned as being loved by the Lord Jesus, Jn.11.1-5. Then there is the equally well-known Mary of Magdala, known as Mary Magdalene, remembered for her great deliverance from demon possession, Lk.8.2, after which she never seemed to leave the Saviour. Mary the wife of Cleopas courageously stood by the cross with Mary the Lord’s mother in Jn.19.25. Mary the mother of John Mark was the sister of Barnabas, Acts 12.12; Col.4.10. She was an early disciple of the Lord and later the saints met in her home in Jerusalem. Of Mary of Rome little is known but she is warmly commended by Paul in Rom.16.6, "Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us". There is then one who is called "the other Mary", Matt.27.61; 28.1, and since we cannot know whether she is one of the six already referred to, or yet another, then the most that can be said with certainty is that there are at least six Marys in the New Testament.
However, Mary of Nazareth the Lord’s mother is the first of these Marys to be mentioned in the New Testament, Matt.1.16,18. None of them was true to the meaning of her name for "Mary" means "bitter", as Naomi knew, Ruth 1.20. Mary of Nazareth was to be highly favoured and blessed among women but in the last reference to her in Scripture she is called simply "Mary the mother of Jesus" Acts 1.14. In Christendom she is commonly called "the Virgin Mary" but she is never so called in Scripture.
Of Mary’s early life in Nazareth, her parentage and background, little is known except that she was a virgin of the tribe of Judah and of the house of David, thus preserving the lineage of the coming Messiah, of Whom she was to be the chosen mother and the elect vessel for His entry into the world. The appropriate genealogies are recorded in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3.
Sadly, a large community in Christendom has accorded to Mary an exaltation which was never intended and to which she herself would certainly have objected. This undue exaltation has become Mariolatry, the worship of Mary, and perhaps in an unfortunate reaction to this erroneous dogma many sincere believers have been deterred from engaging in any close consideration of Mary. But she was in herself a pious and God-fearing maiden and there are at least three interesting ways of considering her character. A study of her sayings, her silences, and her song will reveal something of her piety, her knowledge of God and His Word, her personal humility and her quiet acceptance of the will of God in her life.
Although we are indebted much to Matthew for Mary’s story, yet none of Mary’s words have been recorded by Matthew (or Mark) and we must turn to Luke and to John to hear some of her sayings. Excluding her ‘Magnificat’ in Luke chapter 1 (which is really a song and dealt with later in this chapter), Mary speaks only five times in the sacred records, twice to the angel Gabriel, twice to Jesus her Son, and once to the servants at the wedding in Cana. Her sayings do reveal something of her godly character.
Mary and Gabriel
Gabriel’s appearance to Mary and his greeting, were initially startling, as is understandable, but he assured her that she need not be afraid for she had indeed found favour with God and he had a message from God for her. She would conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son and she must call His name Jesus. He would be great. He would be called the Son of the Highest and would inherit the throne of His father David and a kingdom to which there would be no end. The description suited only One, One Who was indeed the promised Messiah. What a privilege for the lowly maid from Nazareth! Would she really be the mother of Messiah? But Mary was a virgin, and this prompted her question to Gabriel, "How shall this be?" These are her first recorded words.
Gabriel’s response and gentle explanation confirm that there was no distrust or unbelief with Mary, as there had been with Zacharias when he too had been promised a son, Lk.1.18-20. "I am an old man" Zacharias had said in unbelief, "and my wife well stricken in years". "How could such a thing be?" he queried. For his doubting he was left both deaf and dumb until the birth of the child, Lk.1.62-64. The matriarch Sarah, too, had laughed in unbelief in somewhat similar circumstances, Gen.18.12. But Mary was not doubting; she was merely enquiring, in child-like simplicity, how she, a virgin, was to become a mother. Gabriel continues to explain. She would conceive by the Holy Spirit and by the overshadowing power of God and her Child would be called the Son of God. With God nothing was impossible!
Now Mary speaks again. Doubtless in a moment of time the solemn implications of Gabriel’s message would fill her thoughts. A virgin with child: who would believe her? What would Joseph say, to whom she was betrothed? What would the neighbours of Nazareth think of her when it became known that she was carrying a child? She weighs it all up but does not falter in her acceptance of God’s will, and now she speaks again. Her word to Gabriel is very beautiful, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." It is as if she said, "Here I am. I am the Lord’s willing bondmaid. I am ready for His will whatever the cost." And Gabriel left her.
The Boy in the Temple
In the Scriptural records, apart from her song which will be considered later, Mary’s voice is not heard again for some twelve years. It was the custom for the little family to travel to Jerusalem annually for the Feast of the Passover, Lk.2.41, and so it was on this occasion. Having fulfilled their Passover obligations they began the return journey north to Nazareth. It was a tradition that those who were so journeying to Jerusalem from the same district on such occasions should travel together in caravan for the purpose of company and security, Ps.122.1-4. It was therefore understandable that Joseph and Mary should think that the boy Jesus was travelling homeward with friends or acquaintances. However, after a day’s journey, when they discovered that He was neither with them, His parents, nor with friends, they decided that they must return to Jerusalem to look for Him.
After three days they found Him. He was in the temple, sitting apparently at ease and at home in the midst of doctors of the law conversing with them. He was now twelve years old. This was the age, entering their thirteenth year, when Jewish boys celebrated their Barmitzvah and became, as the word implies, "sons of the commandment" or "sons of the Law". They were now initiated into the rites and ceremonies of Judaism with ability to read the Torah in public and engage in other synagogue duties.
The doctors were amazed at the understanding of the Boy from Nazareth but Mary was perplexed. In her maternal affection and instinct she apparently interrupted the conversation and asked, "Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing" Lk.2.48. There is no rebuke or chastisement in Mary’s question. It is the sad query of a gentle but anxious mother "Why?" she asks. Likewise believers today are entitled to ask "Why?" when at times God’s dealings with us are indeed perplexing, provided of course that our questioning is not of a stubborn, rebellious nature but simply a sincere exercise to know the reason for His dealings with us. "Why hast Thou thus dealt with us?" can be quite a legitimate enquiry.
Notice the wisdom of the Boy’s reply. "Thy father", Mary had said. "My Father", Jesus replies. It would be so all through the years to follow. Many would not understand and many would criticise His actions but always He would be about His Father’s business. Joseph and Mary did not at that moment understand, but in grace and humility Jesus went with them to Nazareth and was subject to them. Even this humble subjection to earthly parents was His Father’s will. What grace! What humility! The Son of the Highest, the Son of God, the Son of the Father, subject to earthly parents! Mary kept all this in her heart.
At the Marriage in Cana
The years pass with no more notice of Mary, until, eighteen years later there is a marriage in Cana of Galilee, not far from their hometown of Nazareth. Mary is a guest and Jesus, too, is invited to the wedding with His disciples.
Considering the district, and the circumstances, it is likely that the marriage at Cana was the wedding of a relatively poor peasant couple and Mary may well have been related to them. Whatever the reason, they did not have a sufficient supply of wine and Mary knew this. Mary knew too that Jesus her Son was the Son of God, the promised Messiah. This had been revealed to her by Gabriel thirty years earlier. Had she watched and waited patiently all these years, anticipating His manifestation to Israel? It is her knowledge of His Person that prompts her approach to Him now. But she is a most tactful lady. She will not, must not, tell Him what to do, but simply states what doubtless He already knew, "They have no wine". Their supply was deficient and they were running short. It would have been an embarrassment on such an occasion and Mary looks to Jesus.
Our Lord never, ever responds to an order given by men and His reply to Mary is in keeping with that. But there is no disrespect to His mother. He replies, not addressing her as mother, but as "woman". It may sound rather harsh or distant in English but it was not so in the language of that day. Jesus used the same form of address on other occasions, as to the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 and to Mary Magdalene in John chapter 20; see also Matt.15.28 and Jn.19.26. As Adam Clarke remarks, "certainly no kind of disrespect is intended, but, on the contrary, complaisance, affability, tenderness, and concern and in this sense it is used in the best Greek writers." It was a recognition of Mary’s gentle femininity and His tender regard for her, but He tells her nevertheless that He will act in His own time.
If indeed the bridegroom’s parents and family were relations of Mary, her concern was understandable, and if there seemed to be a mild rebuke or refusal in the response of Jesus to her, still, she appeared to sense that He would certainly intervene to help. With such conviction she now speaks again, this time to the servants. With faith in Him she does not say, "If He saith", but "whatsoever He saith unto you, do it", as if she were confident that He would indeed do something and come to their aid. Her advice to them is good for us, and for all time, and it is too, a rebuke to those who, albeit misguided, would today appeal to the virgin rather than to the Lord Jesus Himself. "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it!" And to their obedience He manifested His glory.
These, then, are Mary’s recorded sayings: twice she speaks to Gabriel, twice to Jesus her Son, and once to the servants at Cana.
Mary knew when to speak, but she also knew when to be silent and there are five occasions when she is not only present but prominent, and yet silent.
With the Shepherds
For the first of the occasions referred to we must return to Bethlehem and how important it is to note that it is "Bethlehem of Judaea", for there is another Bethlehem in the Land, not very far from Nazareth in Galilee. But prophecy had declared that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem in the land of Judah. "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" Mic.5.2, and God, in His sovereignty had wrought in the heart of Caesar to issue a decree which necessitated that Joseph should travel to Bethlehem of Judaea. As another has said, very beautifully, "How admirable the wisdom of God and the perfection of His ways! Joseph must take Mary his wife to Bethlehem, and God constrains the emperor to set the machinery of his empire in motion that Joseph may be compelled to go". 1
1Dennett, Edward. "The Three Marys". G. Morrish, undated.
Accordingly Mary had travelled with Joseph from Nazareth, and in Bethlehem of Judaea she brought forth her firstborn Son, wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. In the fields outside the little town a number of shepherds had received the angelic announcement of the Saviour’s birth. They proceed at once into the town and find Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in the manger, just as the angel had said.
What an interesting scene that must have been! How many shepherds there were we do not know but they must have quietly moved close to that manger bed to see the wonder of it all. Mary is there, prominent as has been said, knowing more than anyone else of the circumstances. But in the records she does not speak. Here is something too great for words! God manifest in flesh! The Son of the Highest incarnate, wrapped in swaddling bands! "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." So may we too, as we ponder the great mystery, wonder without words.
In the Temple
Sometime after the holy birth, about forty days later, Lev.12.2-4,6, the little family came to the temple to present the Child to the Lord and to offer the appropriate offering. Incidentally, there is a reminder here of the poverty of Joseph and Mary, for they availed themselves of the law for the poor. At such a time Mary was required to bring an offering, a lamb and a young pigeon or turtledove, Lev.12.6. But there was a gracious provision for the poor, "if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering" Lev.12.8, and accordingly Mary brought two birds, Lk.2.24. How beautiful it is that when our Lord began His ministry He should say "Blessed be ye poor" Lk.6.20, and again, in the synagogue at Nazareth, He read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor" Lk.4.18; Isa.61.1.
It was an interesting little gathering in the temple, most probably in the Court of the Women, with Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, and the Holy Child in the midst. We call him "old Simeon" and although Scripture does not say so, yet he likely was old for he talked about dying. It is said of him that he blessed God and he blessed them. The man who speaks well of God speaks well of God’s people. He spoke directly and personally to Mary, and spoke prophetically too, telling her of the sword that would pierce her heart. Was it prophetic of Calvary and the sorrow that she would experience as she would watch her Son bleed and die?
Anna was there, an aged lady who had lived her eighty-four years of widowhood in the service of God. Scripture records of her that she "departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the LORD, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" Lk.2.36-38. Mary listens reverently to God’s two servants but in the records she does not speak. Her silence is golden. With what memories Joseph and Mary must have left Bethlehem and Jerusalem for Galilee and Nazareth. From the temple to the Galilean carpenter’s home they travelled with their precious charge, to continue caring for the Child Who had been committed to their care.
With the Wise Men from the East
There was yet another occasion of silence. Wise men, Magi, had journeyed from the East to Jerusalem to see One Who had been born King of the Jews. The appearance of His star had advised them of the fact that the promised Messiah had come, but with no details regarding the place of His birth they travelled to Jerusalem. It was the capital, and the City of the great King, Ps.48.2, and it was perhaps reasonable to expect that the new King would be there. They came to Herod who did not share their enthusiasm about One born King. He was troubled and called for the chief priests and scribes to enquire of them where the Christ should be born. Herod was an Edomite and must have been ignorant of such important Scriptures as Mic.5.2. They told him, in Bethlehem in the Land of Juda, and so he sent the men of the East to Bethlehem. Note that these early leaders in Judaism had no doubt that Mic.5.2 referred to the coming of Messiah, while many in this later day try to explain the connection away.
It was then that the star which had at first appeared to them while in their own country now re-appeared. They rejoiced to see it again, and now it went before them, guiding them until it stood over the house where the young Child was. Just where exactly this was we cannot tell but as the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary remarks, "And when they were come into the house – not the stable; for as soon as Bethlehem was emptied of its strangers, they would have no difficulty in finding a dwelling-house." 2
2Jamieson, R. Fausset, A.R. Brown, D. "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871
There follows another delightful scene where once again Mary is present and prominent, but does not speak. "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." It was customary when visiting a person of royal or distinguished rank to bring a present, and in keeping with that custom the Magi had brought their gifts to One Whom they recognised as having been born King. Mary must have watched it all with holy admiration and continuing wonder. Were these valuable presents which they brought God’s providential provision for them in view of their soon-coming flight into Egypt, to be safe from the wrath of Herod?
Mary at Calvary
There is yet another sad and solemn scene where Mary stands in silence. After a long night of mockery and blasphemy Jesus has been crowned with thorns, scourged, condemned and nailed to a cross. Courageously Mary stood by His cross with three other women and the beloved John. It is always sad for a son to see his mother die, but how much more so for a mother to see her son die. And so it was with Mary. Would the memories of thirty-three years flood her mind as she looked at the lonely figure on the centre cross? Would she remember the words of Simeon so long ago, "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also"? Mary does not speak but how that sword was piercing her soul now as she watched Him! All those years ago she had held Him to her bosom. How she must have longed to be able to comfort Him now. But it was not to be.
The Holy Sufferer speaks from the cross, "When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home" Jn.19.26,27.
Mary at the Prayer Meeting
In the last reference to Mary, Acts 1.14, she is at a prayer meeting. Well-known, prominent men are there as well as other women and it is nice to notice that Mary is given special mention. One would not expect her to speak here, and she does not. She is acknowledged and respected as "Mary the mother of Jesus" and she is happy to be one of the illustrious company meeting on that occasion for prayer and supplication in the Upper Room.
So it is that at the manger in Bethlehem; in the temple in Jerusalem; in the house with the Magi; at the cross at Calvary; and in an Upper Room in Jerusalem, Mary watches and wonders but does not speak. There is a reverential silence which says more than any words. May we too learn that there is a time to speak but a time to be silent. Silence can indeed be golden.
At the time of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary concerning her approaching miraculous conception he acquainted her with the news that her aged cousin Elisabeth had also conceived, Lk.1.36. With Mary such a thing had seemed too soon, too early. With Elizabeth, conception had seemed too late, but as Gabriel said, with God nothing was impossible. Mary decided that she must visit Elisabeth and it says something for the courage of the girl that she then embarked on a journey to a city in the hill country. Many think that this was Hebron while a prevailing tradition favours Ein Karem. In Scripture the city is not identified but in any case it must have been a distance of about 100 miles from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea.
Mary and Elisabeth
When Mary arrived at the home of Zacharias and Elisabeth there was a warm welcome indeed. As soon as she entered the house "when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost." In a loud voice she cried out "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." And then follows a remarkable expression as she refers to Mary’s unborn Child as "My Lord". "Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Even the child in Elisabeth’s womb shared in the joy! "For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy" Lk.1.39-44. With the doubting Zacharias sitting by, stricken deaf and dumb for his unbelief, Elisabeth says, "Blessed is she that believed". Is she thinking, if only my Zacharias had believed! Mary responds with her lovely song.
One could be excused for thinking that Mary had dwelt much in the poetry of her great ancestor David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, for her song does indeed have the character of a Psalm and ranks among the sweetest of Psalms, even of David’s.
Since the earliest days of Christian history this has been the title given to Mary’s song, a title derived from the word "magnify", as may be apparent, but magnificat is the actual word in the Latin Vulgate, the word with which the song begins. Mary’s song is obviously the fruit of much meditation upon God and upon His dealings with her, as well as an anticipation of the future both for herself and for her Divine Son and for the nation of Israel whose Messiah she was carrying.
"My soul doth magnify the Lord", Mary begins. The word which Mary here uses means to make or declare great; to extol; to enlarge, or just as in the A.V. text, to magnify. All through her song Mary’s desire is to magnify Him Whom she loves. If at times she must speak of herself it will only be to direct our thoughts to Him Who had so richly and abundantly blessed her.
In spirit, soul and body, Mary was fully devoted to Jehovah. She had said to Gabriel, "Behold the bondmaid of the LORD; be it unto me according to thy word" Lk.1.38, J.N.D. She was indeed a willing servant of the Lord, her body fully yielded to Him. Her soul and spirit too rejoiced in His greatness and she delighted to call Him "My Saviour". This is important since it reveals that Mary was by nature a sinner needing a Saviour. In her Saviour she exulted. She would never have agreed to, or acquiesced with, the idea of an "immaculate conception", the dogma of one large community in Christendom. In this vein her song begins and in this happy spirit it continues. Her words are "uncommonly emphatical – they show that Mary’s whole soul was filled with the Divine influence, and wrapped up in God."3
3Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on the Bible". Baker Book House, 1967.
Mary makes no high claims. Jehovah had regarded her low estate and she freely acknowledges her lowliness. She may indeed have been of the house of Israel but that house was then at a low ebb and she was but the bride of a carpenter. How she would have revolted to be worshipped or addressed as "The Queen of Heaven" or "The Mother of God", as some now do. Her joy was that Jehovah had tenderly taken notice of her low estate and, being no respecter of persons, had chosen her to be the virgin mother of the Redeemer.
How blessed this was! All generations would acknowledge it to be so and would call her blessed. The lovely word "blessed" is the Greek word makarios used many times in the New Testament and very often in our Lord’s ministry. Strong’s Concordance says of it, "a prolonged form of the poetical makar (meaning the same); supremely blest; by extension, fortunate, well off: – blessed, happy" (Strong 3107); Mary’s God was the Mighty God. He was all-powerful and all things were possible to Him. But He was holy, therefore always acting in keeping with His pure character. The great things that He was now doing would reflect and emphasise that holiness. These words close the first or personal part of Mary’s song. She will now be occupied with the nation, and particularly with the God-fearing in the nation.
Holiness, Might, and Mercy
Having so clearly expressed what He means to her as an individual, Mary will now widen her vision and her praise to sing of what He can mean to those who fear Him. She has sung of His might and His holiness and now her thoughts turn to His mercy. He delights to show mercy, or kindness, to those who fear Him. This is not a frightening dread, but a reverential fear, a holy respect for Him, standing in awe in His presence in acknowledgement of what He is in His Person. Neither does He change. He is the same from generation to generation, or, as the Psalm has it, "the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him" Ps.103.17,18. Holiness! Might! Mercy! How reminiscent of the description of the garments of Israel’s first High Priest. "Holy garments … for glory and beauty" Ex.28.2. Holiness! Glory! Beauty! Here is the abiding, unchanging character of Jehovah. Mary knew it, and sings of it. It is in fact the theme of her song.
"He hath showed strength with His arm." The arm is a symbol of strength and this is, in Hebrew, a poetic way of saying that He has manifested His power. Adam Clarke has an interesting quotation when he writes, "Grotius has well observed, that God’s efficacy is represented by His finger, His great power by His hand, and His omnipotence by His arm. The plague of lice was the finger of God, Ex.8.19. The plagues in general were wrought by his hand, Ex.3.20, and the destruction of Pharaoh’s host in the Red Sea, which was effected by the omnipotence of God, is called the act of his arm, Ex.15.16." While this power is an abiding characteristic and attribute of Jehovah at all times yet Mary doubtless recognises that the power that has wrought so much over the centuries is the very same power which is even now miraculously preparing her for motherhood.
"He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." Pride is obnoxious to God and when insolent and arrogant men devise mischief in their hearts He can scatter them just as easily as chaff may be scattered by the wind. He had done this with Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians when they came against His people. But Mary was apparently meek and gentle with no high claims about herself, as has been noted already.
"He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree," The word "seats" is, literally "thrones" and some have seen here an allusion to the dethronement of Saul and the exaltation of David. Saul was a selfish, ambitious man but Jehovah deposed him in preference to David whom He took from the sheepcotes. Does Mary see in this God’s gracious choice of herself in preference to richer, socially greater women in Israel?
"He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away." In His great mercy God is a benevolent God Who "satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness" Ps.107.9. The rich, however, who dare to come to Him asking for more, He sends away empty. As Albert Barnes observes, "While the poor come to Him for a supply of their daily wants, the rich come not that their necessities should be supplied, but come with lofty hearts, and insatiable desires that their riches may be increased. When this is the case, God not infrequently not only withholds what they ask, but He takes their riches away, by fire, or flood, or disappointments, and sends them away empty. It is better to be poor and go to God for our daily bread, than to be rich and forget our dependence on Him."
"He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy." "Holpen" is of course an old English word, now in disuse, but it is the translation of a Greek word that, according to Strong, means "to take hold of; to succour, to help or support" (Strong 482). This is particularly with respect to the weak and so He had done for Israel in times of great weakness, in His mercy.
"As He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed for ever." In the remembrance of His mercy Jehovah had spoken to the fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and had fulfilled His promises faithfully. The greatest promise of all, that of One Who would come as Redeemer, and Who would sit in perpetuity upon the throne of David, was yet to be fulfilled but Mary knew that even then the time was drawing near. She was now carrying in her womb the promised Seed.
Mary stayed for three months in the home of Zacharias and Elisabeth but it is not clear if she was there until the birth of John, or whether she may have left a little while before. She would no doubt be anxious now, in her condition, to get home to Nazareth and to Joseph and she had a long way to travel.
But what holy converse there must have been between these two pious women during those three months! They had so much in common and so many great things to discuss. One was carrying the promised Messiah. The other was carrying His herald, His forerunner. In years to come these two would be so close, One being the Lamb of God and the other introducing Him to the nation, Jn.1.19-30.
Who is My Mother?
There is another mention of Mary which we have not yet considered. In Matt.12.46-50 and parallel passages, the Lord is engaged in a solemn discourse with the people, particularly with the Pharisees. There is a large crowd, making great demands upon Him. In a touching concern for Him, Mary comes with her other sons. He appears to have neither time nor opportunity for rest or refreshment and His mother was indeed concerned about Him. But the multitude surrounding Him was great and Mary stood with His brethren on the outskirts of the crowd. The people knew the family and were actually able to name them, saying, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not His sisters here with us?" Mk.6.3; Matt.13.55.
Not being able to come near to Him because of the crowd the family sent a message to Him. Doubtless Mary, in her maternal concern for Him, would have taken Him home with them to eat and rest. Their message reached Him, and "one said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without desiring to speak with Thee" Matt.12.47.
Before considering our Lord’s reply there is something which needs to be noted, and emphasised, in this incident. First, this was no unwarranted, unfeeling intrusion of Mary into the ministry of Jesus. As Edward Dennett comments, "That Mary did not see all the fragrance and beauty of the life of her Son may well be imagined, but what she did behold could not fail to make Him increasingly the absorbing object of her heart. When therefore she saw Him yielding Himself, without any consideration of self or ease, to His service, following it day by day, and never, in any, even the slightest, degree, sparing Himself, but unwearied, morning, noon, and night, seizing every opportunity to be about His Father’s business, she must have been, in so far as she was governed by her natural affection, alarmed for His sake. It is only thus that the message that she desired to speak with Him can be accounted for or understood."
The reply of Jesus to the message at first seems rather strange and cold. "He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is My mother? and who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother." Jesus is teaching that natural ties cannot be allowed to interrupt the work of the Lord. But He is also showing that there is a greater bond than the natural. Those who do the will of God are closer than natural brothers and sisters, so that it is said in another place, "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee" Heb.2.11,12.
So ends this strategic chapter in Matthew’s gospel. Messiah has been rejected and dispensationally any earthly ties with Israel are now broken. In the next chapter the Lord will go forth as a Sower seeking fruit elsewhere. But this is only by the way for our occupation in this paper is particularly with Mary.
It need hardly be repeated that Mary would not at all have us occupied solely with her. Any consideration of this pious woman must only be to direct us to her Divine Son, Who is, we must ever remember, not only the Son of Mary but the Son of the Highest, the Son of the Father, eternally the Son of God.
May this present meditation increase, even in a little way, our appreciation of Him.