For a mom living in an age where definitions of motherhood have become plastic, my radar is up for solid models of godly motherhood. We must not overlook one such model — Mary.
Many women were loved and blessed by God in the Scriptures, but one in particular was highly favored by God. The angel Gabriel was sent to her to say:
Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! . . . Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:28, 30)
Of all the women in history, God chose Mary, set this peculiar favor on her, and gave all moms a model to study closely.
A Personal Mother
Mary was no womb-for-hire. She was not a surrogate mother God used, paid off, and sent away. Mary was a real mother to her son, Jesus. In her very real pregnancy she experienced a real labor and a real delivery. Mary went through all this as a flesh and blood woman. She delivered him in the same manner that mothers have been delivering babies since Eve. And Mary nursed Jesus at her breast with real colostrum until her milk came in. And when her milk came in, she probably nursed him for close to two years, as was the custom in those days.
Mary’s firstborn child was Jesus. Scripture tells us that Jesus lived a sinless childhood. Think about your toddler throwing a tantrum — Jesus never did that. What of the child that doesn’t make his bed or do his chores — Jesus never did that. Jesus was an obedient son and Mary had the privilege but also the heavy responsibility of parenting a perfect (in the fullest sense of that word) child along with the other children. Think about the wisdom and temperance a mother in that situation needs.
Mary was a personal mother to Jesus. He was her human son. All the hugs, kisses, and love we pour on our children — Mary must have done the same with Jesus.
A Pondering Mother
Many times in the Gospels we read about Mary “observing” and “pondering.” These are marks of a deep and thoughtful woman. Although Mary was young and poor, she was by no means uneducated. She knew her Scriptures.
But it’s clear Mary had more than head knowledge. She had a fruitful faith, and this becomes clear in Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel in humility and her acquiescence to a providence that would subject herself to public shame and hardship. We see her faith as she stood by her son all the way to the end. She was there at the cross. And Gabriel’s words, well pondered no doubt, were ringing in her ears.
A Submissive Mother
For me, Mary has been the prime example of a submissive woman. Mary’s submission has always struck me as a contented yielding — not servility. This kind of submission is attended with dignity, courage, honor, and grace. It is neither slavish nor degrading.
We see it first in her interaction with Gabriel. She questions him, but not with faithlessness or impudence. The fact that Gabriel answers her instead of rebuking her, as he did to Zechariah, reveals much about Mary’s response.
The words I hope to speak are the words Mary does speak to Gabriel: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
I shiver whenever I read these words. A poor young virgin has just been told that she will become pregnant in a culture where the penalty for that is stoning to death!
This is the contented yielding of a faith-filled young woman whose trust in God was deep.
In Mary’s relationship with Joseph, and particularly in her three big moves, she is submissive. Joseph says they will go to Bethlehem — she goes. Joseph says they have to flee to Egypt — she goes. Joseph says they will settle down in Nazareth when returning from Egypt — she goes. The fact that she never let her encounter with the angel Gabriel puff her up nor used it against Joseph, speaks of her true humility.
She could have legitimately doubted Joseph — after all, God only spoke to him in a dream (and you never know about dreams), whereas Mary had been visited by a high-ranking angelic being!
Her deep contented yielding is a mark of the fruit of the Spirit.
A Model for Moms
Puritan Bible Commentator Matthew Henry says of Mary, “We have here an account given of the mother of our Lord, of whom he was to be born, whom, though we are not to pray to, yet we ought to praise God for.”
Indeed, we should praise God for Mary!
Mary has much to teach all women of all ages and all situations, as well as being a model for mothers: Unshaken trust in God, thoughtfully understanding, a lover of the Bible, humbly gracious, sacrificial, and content in her yielding.
This Christmas season, as we meditate on the Lord of glory who came as a real baby boy, may we also spend a little time meditating on the kind of mother God providentially ordained for him — Mary, a beautiful model for all moms.