What About Mary? Part III - Mothering the Messiah
by Ed Vasicek
In my previous articles, we discussed that fact that Mary was a mere woman. Though she was certainly a godly person, she was still a sinner who needed the grace of God. She was chosen to bear the Messiah because she was a descendent of David--and betrothed to a man who was a special descendent of David.
Although the Davidic line had not been recognized for centuries, Joseph would have reigned as king if the line had been honored. The ruling line had been cursed about 600 years before Jesus was born! Jeremiah prophesied this message to Joseph's forefather, King Jehoiachin (Coniah): "Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah."
Mary, on the other hand, did not descend from Solomon's line (the ruling line), but descended from Solomon's brother, Nathan. The end result? Jesus is genetically connected to David through Mary; He has the legal right to rule through His stepfather, Joseph, but is not under the curse pronounced upon Joseph's forefather (since Jesus did not actually descend from Joseph's line). He was a legal descendent of Joseph, but not actually a genetic descendent of Joseph.
But little of this mattered to Mary, for David's line was like any other family in first century Israel. In fact, the reigning regent, the paranoid King Herod, was actually a descendent of Esau! This wicked tyrant heard about Jesus' birth from the Magi and determined to destroy Jesus. Before he could order his soldiers to kill all the boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem, Joseph had been warned in a dream to vacate.
Although Joseph and Mary were from the north of Israel (the city of Nazareth in the province of Galilee), they decided to rent a house in Bethlehem, perhaps avoiding the gossip that life in Galilee would bring.
God provided for them: they were now wealthy because of the generosity of the Wise Men. They could readily convert the gold, frankincense, and myrrh into cash. Perhaps they settled for a while in Alexandria, an Egyptian city with a large Jewish population.
We do not know how or when Mary received word of Herod's slaughter of the innocent children. No angel warned the other parents as he had Mary and Joseph. Whereas they appreciated God's grace to them--and the fact that they were singled out to rear the Savior of the world--the couple probably grieved to learn that friends and relatives had lost children to Herod's sword because of their special child! We can only imagine their struggles.
It wasn't long at all until they received a message from the angel that Herod had died (Matthew 2:19-20). Rather than return to a dubious situation in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary decided to return to their hometown of Nazareth in the fertile province of Galilee. Their lives, at this point, were probably typical. Joseph and Mary brought four boys and a number of girls into the world, and Joseph worked as a contractor (although often translated, "carpenter," the word for Joseph's vocation would be better translated "stone mason," although he probably also worked with some wood).
We do know that the childhood of Jesus was uneventful; He was apprenticed in His stepfather's trade. When Jesus later presented Himself as the miracle-working Messiah, his friends and neighbors were completely perplexed. If He had a track record of working miracles or obviously stood out from His peers, we would never read what we do in Matthew 13:52-58
Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked. "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
There was one childhood event, however, that was unusual: His visit to the Temple at age 12. Like other Jewish boys, Jesus would make His Bar Mitzvah (becoming a "son of the commandment") at age 13. It was typical for 12-year-old boys to discuss Torah (the Law of Moses) with rabbis, sages, and teachers of the Law in preparation for one's Bar Mitzvah. Jesus had studied well, and the scholars were impressed with His knowledge and interpretative skills.
Joseph and Mary, however, were worried about Him. When the Jews traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate religious holidays (three times a year), they generally traveled in caravans with extended family and friends. Entire villages might make the pilgrimage together. Along the way up to Jerusalem, they would sing the "Psalms of Ascent."
As they were hiking back to Nazareth, Joseph and Mary began looking for Jesus. Their search turned into panic as they realized He was nowhere to be found in the entire caravan. Finally, they turned back to Jerusalem to search for the lost boy. They searched for three days before they found him.
When they received word that He was engaging in Torah study at the Temple, they quickly made their way up toward Mt. Zion. Sure enough, Jesus was engaged in deep discussion with the Torah scholars.
Joseph and Mary did something they were not used to doing: they confronted Him about the unnecessary stress He had brought to them. Jesus defended Himself. In Luke 2:49-51 Jesus speaks: "'Why were you searching for me?' he asked. 'Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?' But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart."
Mary did not understand what was happening, but she quietly processed what Jesus had said. She was not merely the mother of a boy, but she and Joseph were special guardians of the Holy One. They should have expected the Messiah to be more zealous for the Torah than His peers. The Temple should have been the first place they looked!
Mary's quiet disposition and contemplative heart made her an ideal mother for God's Anointed One. She did not understand this unusual life of hers, but she knew God was in control. She probably believed that the pieces of the puzzle would eventually fit together.
Reprinted from the May 2007 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
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