Mary, the Mother of Jesus
“HAIL, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” With this arresting salutation the angel Gabriel addressed the humble daughter of Heli in the city of Nazareth some 1,952 years ago. She was a young virgin of poor circumstances, this girl, and her father called her Mary, meaning “bitter”. She was engaged to be married, not to a noble prince, but to Joseph the carpenter, a man of humble station in life, like herself. Then why would an angelic messenger from the Most High God hail her as a “favored one”? Or why did her cousin Elizabeth, under power of the holy spirit, exclaim to Mary, “Blessed are you among women”?—Luke 1:28, 41, 42, Rev. Stan. Ver.
Dismiss from your mind at once any thought that Mary was blessed by a so-called “immaculate conception” to free her from the stains of Adamic sin. She was born like all other girls. When it came to inherited imperfections due to Adam’s original sin she was no different from King David, who declared: “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Ps. 51:5) Whereas there is not the finest thread of Scriptural support for the theory of theologians that Mary was born immaculately perfect, there is much proof in the Bible to the contrary. Then how and in what way was this woman favorably blessed above others of Eve’s daughters?
According to Jewish law and custom, Mary was considered as the espoused wife of Joseph, though she was still living with her parents. (Matt. 1:18) During this engagement period prior to the actual marriage the Lord’s messenger appeared to her with startling news. “Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel said, “for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”—Luke 1:30-33, Rev. Stan. Ver.
Well, at such a stupendous announcement as this, you can just visualize the surprise, wonderment and doubt mixed with heated emotions, all crowding the mind and countenance of this modest girl. Not knowing what to say first, reason came to her rescue. “How can this be, since I have no husband?” she queried. “The holy spirit will come upon you,” explained the angel, “and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” To help her remove any doubts about the matter the angel then declared: “Behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”—Luke 1:34-37, Rev. Stan. Ver.
Mary immediately accepted the privilege of service, willingly and joyfully, yet in all meekness and humility. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And with that she hastened to the hilly country of Judah, to the home of Elizabeth, where she found conditions exactly as the angel had described. What joy and gladness filled Mary’s heart and mind! Overwhelmed, her lips bubbled forth in beautiful words of praise.—Luke 1:38-55, Rev. Stan. Ver.
BECOMES JOSEPH’S WIFE
It was necessary for a virgin to supply the human body of Jesus, for this was one of the signs foretold by the prophet. (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22, 23) But why was a betrothed rather than a disengaged virgin required? In order to provide a foster-father, a natural descendant of David, who could pass along to the child the legal right to the throne of David. Joseph was such a descendant through Solomon, as the historian Matthew shows. Luke records that the mother Mary was likewise of the tribe of Judah and was also a descendant of David, through his son Nathan. (See The Kingdom Is at Hand, pages 39 to 43.) Hence the heirship rights of Jesus were doubly established. (Matt. 1:2-16; Luke 3:23-34) This is why the angel assured Joseph that he should not hesitate to take Mary for his legal wife, even though she was with child.—Matt. 1:19-25.
Forced by a taxation decree of Caesar Augustus, Joseph and Mary had to go up to Bethlehem to register. While there, and under those crowded conditions, Mary was delivered of her first-born son. Shepherds from the fields came to pay honor to the new-born Jesus and give praise to his lifegiving Father Jehovah. After forty days of purification according to the law of Moses, Mary went up to the temple in Jerusalem to make atonement for her sins. (Luke 2:22-24; Lev. 12) This proves she was no “Immaculate mother of God”. Her natural imperfections had to be covered by atoning sacrifices. While there in Jerusalem Simeon the man of God, and the aged prophetess Anna, blessed and worshiped this Son of God. These events further emphasize that the mother Mary was not the center of attraction and worship. (Luke 2:25-38) Later Magi from the East came to render homage to her son.—Matt. 2:1-12.
After fleeing to Egypt and abiding there until wicked Herod died, Jesus’ parents returned and settled in the little village of Nazareth. (Matt. 2:13-23; Luke 2:39) It was there that Mary reared Jesus under godly family conditions. She provided Jesus with natural brothers and sisters.
MARY HAD OTHER CHILDREN
You did not know this? It is plainly recorded in the Bible. In the course of his traveling from village to village Jesus came to his own home town in Galilee where all his childhood acquaintances recognized him. “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” they asked. “Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?” (Matt. 13:55, 56, Rev. Stan. Ver.) The Nazarenes referred to the natural, physical family that lived in their village, Joseph the carpenter, his wife Mary and her sons and daughters whom they knew to be the natural brothers and sisters of this man Jesus.
No student of the Bible need be deceived into thinking these brothers and sisters were “cousins”. Neither were they his spiritual brethren, his disciples, for John 2:12 makes the clear distinction between the two groups, to wit: “After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples.” (Rev. Stan. Ver.) “But other of the apostles I saw none,” Paul writes, “saving James the brother of the Lord.” (Gal. 1:19, Douay) Since the account says that Joseph “knew” Mary not “until” Jesus was born, it goes without saying that he “knew” her afterwards, and that he fathered her other children. (Matt. 1:25, Rev. Stan. Ver.) Not without meaning Luke 2:7 calls Jesus her “first-born son”.
As a good mother Mary diligently taught and instructed her children in righteousness. The proverb she knew: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6) Studiously she schooled herself in the inspired Scriptures, as shown in her spontaneous expression when greeted by Elizabeth. (Luke 1:46-55) On that occasion she repeated the sentiments of Hannah’s song, and displayed a good knowledge of the psalms, historic and prophetic writings, and books of Moses. (1 Sam. 2:1-10; Gen. 30:13; Prov. 31:28; Mal. 3:12) Prophetic events and sayings she committed to memory, treasured them up in her heart, pondered over them in her mind, and was thus equipped to give parental instruction to the lad Jesus.—Luke 2:19, 33.
When only a mere boy of 12, Jesus astonished the learned doctors of the temple with his home training in the Scriptures. However, the circumstances under which Jesus separated himself from his parents at that passover season brought reproof from his mother. “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” The lad Jesus defended his preaching activity, and these words Mary also stored in her memory. However, Jesus did learn and exercise obedience to his parents, for “he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them”.—Luke 2:42-52.
MARY AS JESUS’ DISCIPLE
The meekness and purity of Mary’s heart and mind, her sincere love and devotion to God, the absence of any selfish ambition to shine because of her unique assignment of service, are all manifest in her becoming Jesus’ devoted disciple. Search the Scriptures and you will not find her with a halo, seated on a throne as “mother-queen” or “madonna”, bathing herself in reflected glory of Christ. Rather you will see her far in the background out of the public’s spotlight.—John 2:12; Matt. 13:53-56.
Jesus nipped in the bud any such thing as pagan “mariolatry” among his followers. “It happened while he was saying this, that a certain woman out of the crowd shouted to him, saying, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you have sucked.’ ‘No, rather,’ he answered, ‘blessed are those who listen to the word of God, and keep it.’” (Luke 11:27, 28, Centenary Trans.; Weymouth; Cath. Confraternity) Again, at the wedding feast Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (John 2:4) Today we might say, ‘What business is it of yours?’ Modern translations read: “Leave the matter in my hands.” (Weymouth) “Do not try to direct me.”—An Amer. Trans.
When one of Jesus’ listeners interrupted his preaching to say his mother and brothers were outside desiring to speak to him, Christ simply gestured 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.” (Matt. 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21) Of a truth, Jesus would never make a comparison like this unless he actually had natural brothers and sisters, children of his mother!
So the singular privilege and blessedness that Mary enjoyed was first giving birth to the human body of Jesus, then mothering and training the young child, and finally, through relation with God by faith, becoming Christ’s disciple and spiritual sister. Our last glimpse of Mary in the Bible does not show her being bowed down to and worshiped as “Our Lady”, the “Blessed Virgin”, but rather we see her in an upper room together with other faithful women and the apostles and with her other sons, there worshiping God and his Son Christ Jesus. (Acts 1:13, 14) In course of time she died, her body returned to the dust, and, like the other early Christians, she waited till God’s due time to raise her as a spirit creature for life in heaven.—1 Cor. 15:44, 50; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 11:15-18.