Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, Mother of Jesus

The story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is pretty familiar to us. At least the story of Mary before Jesus’ birth is familiar. We know that Mary is a young girl living in her city of Nazareth where she is preparing to be married to a man named Joseph. However before she is married, an angel comes to her and declares she is going to get pregnant by the Holy Spirit and the father of this child will be God. Her son, the angel tells her, will be the Messiah, the savior of the world. Mary is concerned by this news because it is going to bring her hardship and hard decisions but she agrees to do what God asks of her.
She gets pregnant as foretold which puts Joseph in an awkward position but an angel visits him as well and tells him what is going on and he decides to do the right thing and marry the pregnant Mary.
At some point in her pregnancy Mary goes to see her cousin Elizabeth who is also carrying a miracle baby because Elizabeth is past child bearing age. Elizabeth’s baby is to be the one who announces to the world that Jesus is going to be the coming Messiah. When the two women meet, Elizabeth cries out:
 “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Luke 1:42
This is the passage I want you to think about today -
Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women. I bet when you think of someone being ‘blessed’ you think about a soft, easy life where all is good and there are no problems. We use that phrase a lot when we think of the good things that happen to someone and your response is “You are blessed.” But when we think about the life of Mary, we would not think of her as living a blessed life because after she says ‘yes’ to God, her life is never easy or calm or peaceful.
As we continue our summer with Superheroes. Mary the Mother of Jesus wasn’t on any of your lists! When we are asked to think of superheroes, pictures of meek and mild Mary just doesn’t come to mind. But how much more of a superhero can you be than agreeing to carry the child of God in the midst of the oncoming trials and tribulations that come along with this task. Mary will be one of the superheroes our children will be studying during Bible School to show that you don’t have to be a big bombastic larger than life person in order to be a real superhero.
Mary as we know travels to Bethlehem with Joseph when she is almost due to deliver Jesus. One of several difficult journeys she is going to have to make. She delivers Jesus in a barn with no one to help her except Joseph before the days when we could google ‘how to deliver a baby’. A couple years later in the middle of the night Joseph wakes her up and says ‘God has told me to get out of Bethlehem and to travel to Egypt” and so rapidly she packs up and begins another difficult journey to a country she knows nothing; about to live with people she doesn’t know who speak a language she doesn’t understand; to learn a new way of doing things in a culture she is unfamiliar with.
And then after being there for a while, Joseph once again tells Mary to get packed and they begin the long journey back to Nazareth. Mary and Joseph had left so quickly from Nazareth that Mary was probably a little unsure of the reception she would get when she returned home.
We don’t know much about that time period between the return to Nazareth and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. We assume it was a pretty normal time but we do know that Joseph died sometime during these years.
Then Jesus leaves on his ministry but returns to Nazareth a couple times to see his family and to preach and teach and heal as he did around other parts of Galilee. It is a disturbing story when we read in the Gospel of Mark that his mother Mary and Jesus’ brothers were embarrassed by Jesus’ behavior; by his claim that he had the power to heal; that he was the one who fulfilled scripture.



What that shows us is that Mary may have been a superhero in her obedience to God, but she was human and filled with all those human frailties of wanting everything to fall into the right boxes and Jesus certainly did not do that.
But this is the picture I really want you to think about. The next time we see Mary, it is at the foot of the cross. We talk a lot about the suffering of Jesus, but through all the hardships Mary has been through, there can be none harder for her than this.
In the movie The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson does a very clever thing in showing these flashbacks about Mary and Jesus. You see Jesus as a toddler running and falling down and Mary running to pick him up and soothing his tears. You see in another flashback Jesus and his mother just having a friendly conversation. They were a typical mother and son.
So now, picture the tragedy of Mary as she sits at the foot of the cross and watches the mutilated body of her son hang on that cross in agony. Imagine how Mary felt as she heard her son cry out the words of Psalm 22
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” The same Mary who was called blessed by God, the same Mary who picked up her toddler and kissed away his skinned knee, is now watching her son cry out in anguish hanging on a cross and there isn’t a thing she can do.
Think about the suffering this mother is going through at this moment. Can we even imagine what this moment is like for her? And what about Jesus’ father, God, how much he is suffering as well over the pain and torment of his son?
Suffering is a subject we talk about a lot. Why do we have to suffer? Shouldn’t being obedient to God give us some kind of insurance policy against the hurt and pain of this life? What is the point of giving our lives to God if we can’t even get relieve from suffering out of it?
So God teaches us several things about suffering as we learn about the lives of the people he records for us in the Bible. First thing we learn is that there is no insurance policy from terrible things happening in our lives. Mary, and many others, teach us that. Mary, the mother of God, suffers horribly. Yet she is blessed of all women. It doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t seem fair.
But then we hear from the cross Jesus’ words to his disciple John who is also present. “John, take care of my mother.” In his own agony, Jesus makes sure his mother is taken care of. In her suffering, Jesus sends her help and comfort.
While we may not understand suffering or why it affects some and not others or how come we as God’s children are afflicted with suffering just as much as those who aren’t part of God’s family.
One thing we do know - that in our suffering Jesus is right there suffering with us; that in our suffering he really does understand our pain and agony. It must have added to Jesus’ pain on the cross knowing that his mother was having to watch what was happening. Yet Jesus’ was concerned about his mother; Jesus made sure she was taken care of. We are told that John the disciple took Mary home with him and he cared for her.
Don’t make your suffering worse by trying to rationalize why you are suffering. God doesn’t produce suffering because of something you did. Suffering is not the result of God punishing you. Don’t agonize over why because it just makes the suffering harder. If we learn anything from the stories of the people in the bible, it is that suffering happens. Bad things happen. There is no rhyme or reason, there is no pat “why” answer, life is what it is and things happen. That is all the explanation there is.
But what we do know; what we are assured of is that in the midst of this suffering God is with us. God will provide us help. What kind of help? We don’t know - but it will come. Sometimes it is that supernatural feeling of God’s peace just washing over you. Sometimes it is a person God sends to bring his love and care for you - but it doesn’t come. God will never forsake you or leave you….
Mary is one of our best examples of a superhero because she was obedient to God and because through the awful suffering of her son, she never lost relationship with God.
Hall Mary, mother of grace, blessed are you among women. And you are all blessed of God.
Amen.