When someone mentions the Virgin Mary, the words meek and mild always come to my mind. That’s why I was surprised when one of my former Pastors, in a sermon, said that Mary was brassy.
Brassy? I never thought of her that way. Most of the pictures I’ve seen of her have her holding baby Jesus and looking down on him and smiling. She was loving, obedient and devoted; but brassy?
When I asked Pastor later about it, he burst out laughing. He basically said yah, you’d have to be a little brassy to be able to handle what she had to handle. I looked up the definition of brassy and it was kind of harsh. It said it was a woman who was tastelessly showy or loud in appearance or manner. I don’t think that’s exactly what Pastor meant. I think he meant that she had to be tough to handle everything she was going to go through. And…I learned through more reading that she could be forward, outspoken and opinionated. She wasn’t a wimp. She needed to be a strong woman to go the path that was chosen for her. And she eagerly accepted it.
I decided to dig deeper and learn a little more about Mary. Let’s see what the bible can tell us about her.
Luke 1:26-33 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art though among women. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in the womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Wow. Wouldn’t that be a surprise? She thought this was going to be just another ordinary day. Prophecies said that the Messiah would come from a virgin from the line of David. I can imagine every young, virgin girl from the line of David wondered if it would be her. That would be such a high honor to be chosen that I’m sure it seemed an impossible dream. Also, the angel tells her that she has found favor with God. Wow again. Such high praise! Does it get any better than that?
Luke 1: 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man.
When Zechariah was told that his wife, Elisabeth, would conceive; he asked the same question, but he asked it from a position of doubt. He questioned that God would or could actually do it. His punishment for unbelief was to be struck dumb (couldn’t speak) until the baby was born and named John.
Mary, however, never doubted. She was asking more for the technical answers. She believed it would happen, she just wanted to know how it was to be achieved.
Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefor also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
The angel answers her question, but did she understand? I know I don’t. What does it mean to have the power of the Highest overshadow you? I have no idea. In this lifetime, we’ll never know exactly how it happened. We only know it was a miracle.
This was such an honor to be chosen, but can you imagine how overwhelming it would be? To be chosen to be the mother of God’s Son? Yikes! What a responsibility!
Luke 1: 36- And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God, nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Isn’t Mary amazing? She never once thought of the sacrifice she would have to make. She put herself last and was willing to do this for God. Can you imagine having to go to your betrothed and tell him “Hey, I’m pregnant, but that’s okay because it’s God’s son. I didn’t do anything wrong.” How do you think that would go over?
Joseph, of course, didn’t believe her. Who would? Amazingly enough, he was such an honorable man that instead of wanting to lash out at her for “unfaithfulness,” he decided to end their engagement quietly so that she wouldn’t be disgraced. Little is said of Joseph, but he was an extraordinary man. (Which brings me to a little side thought: Jesus is the only baby I know of who got to pick his mom and step-dad out and of course, he did a great job.)
Another reason why Mary’s immediate and complete acceptance was incredible is because of the times they lived in. Women who were believed to be unfaithful to their husbands were stoned to death. Women who were pregnant outside of marriage were, at the very least, outcasts. She never flinched at all the adversity she could be facing. She didn’t know if Joseph would believe her or how he would react. She didn’t know if he would still marry her. She knew people would not believe it was God’s son she was carrying.
Mary told Joseph what happened and he didn’t believe her. The only other person she can talk to about it is Elisabeth. She rushes to Elisabeth’s home to see her. They have each other to share their excitement with. The Messiah promised to Israel (and the world) is finally coming and Mary can’t even tell anyone about it; except Joseph and Elisabeth. She has to keep this a secret; not only for her protection but for the protection of Jesus.
Elisabeth proclaims to Mary “blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Elisabeth understood more than anyone what faith it took to believe something this miraculous. When the angel told Zechariah that his wife, Elisabeth, would have a child, he didn’t believe just because Elisabeth was old. Mary’s news was even more miraculous, yet she never doubted.
Read all of chapter one of Luke and you will hear about Mary going to visit Elisabeth and you will also read “Mary’s Song.” This is a song that Mary sings, praising God. This is one happy young lady (probably in her very early teens or maybe even as young as twelve) and the joy that she is feeling pours out in song. Beautiful.
Matthew 1: 18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his Mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought upon these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
Joseph deserves a little time here. His heart must have been broken when he wrongly thought Mary had cheated on him. He obviously loved her because first, he had chosen to marry her and second, even though he was crushed, he didn’t want her to be disgraced or hurt. This is not a typical reaction to be this considerate and concerned for the woman you think betrayed you. This is exactly why God chose Joseph. He was a man of faith and character.
The next thing that happens is the census.
Luke 2 vs. 1-7 At that time a proclamation was made by Caesar Augustus that all the inhabited world should be registered. This was the first census, undertaken while Cyrenius was Governor of Syria and everybody went to the town of his birth to be registered. Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s town, Bethlehem in Judea, because he was a direct descendant of David, to be registered with his future wife, Mary, now in her later stages of her pregnancy. So it happened that it was while they were there in Bethlehem that she came to the end of her time. She gave birth to her first child, a son. And as there was no place for them inside the inn, she wrapped him up and laid him in a manger.
The census got them to the place where they needed to be to fulfill prophecy. The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. If we, pregnant women, have to travel in the later months, we are miserable, even though we’re in a comfortable, smooth-riding vehicle. Mary had to travel far on a donkey. I’m assuming they didn’t have comfy hotel rooms to sleep in each night. They didn’t have convenient rest stops available when needed either. This was not easy traveling, yet we don’t hear of any complaining from Joseph or Mary.
Luke 2 vs. 8-20 There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger. And in a flash there appeared with the angel a vast host of the armies of Heaven, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest Heaven! Peace upon earth among men of goodwill!” When the angels left them and went back into Heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Now let us go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came as fast as they could and they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. And when they had seen this sight, they told everybody what had been said to them about the little child. And those that heard them were amazed at what the shepherds said. But Mary treasured all these things and turned them over in her mind. The shepherds went back to work, glorifying and praising God for everything that they had heard and seen, which had happened just as they had been told.
When we greet someone, we say hi. When angels speak to humans, their first words seem to always be “Do not be afraid!” Seeing one angel is terrifying. We hear it over and over again. Then a host of the armies of heaven appear! If one angel scared them, how overwhelming was a host of the armies of heaven? The angels had these shepherd’s attention. When they were left alone, they rushed to find this baby.
Can you imagine Mary and Joseph’s reaction? They nicely got baby Jesus tucked into his manger and they’re trying to have a normal evening out in the barn with the animals; and shepherds that they don’t know drop in unannounced. I’m sure the shepherds told them about their visit by an army of angels. It says that Mary treasured these things and turned them over in her mind. She had seen an angel before and she knew Jesus was God’s son, but she never quite gets completely over being amazed by it all. We have heard this story so many times that we don’t think about how HUGE all of this was for Mary – and Joseph. THIS WAS GOD’S SON! This is huge news.
After eight days, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to be circumcised as was required by law. (Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.) They also make the sacrifice prescribed by law. Then Simeon comes along. He was a devout man living in expectation of the “salvation of Israel.” It was revealed to him that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Christ. Among other words, Simeon says to Mary and Joseph “This child is destined to make many fall and many rise in Israel and to set up a standard many will attack-for he will expose the secret thoughts of many hearts. And for you… your very soul will be pierced by a sword.”
A stranger comes up to Mary and Joseph and predicts these things. Mary is told how her soul will be pierced by a sword. Those aren’t comforting words, but Mary never once tries to see if she can get out of this responsibility that was placed on her. When she accepted it, she was in it. This is one strong, determined woman. Whatever God wanted her to do, she was going to do it.
Next, Anna the Prophetess, also spoke about Jesus. The stories of Simeon and Anna can be found in Luke 2 vs. 25 – 40. (Yes, there were female prophets. Not many, but there were some.) After Mary and Joseph fulfilled the requirements of the law, they returned to Nazareth in Galilee.
In Matthew 2 vs. 1-11, we learn about the wise men that came to worship Jesus. I’m going to use this section to emphasize why it’s important that we read the bible ourselves. There is a popular Christmas song that says “We three kings of Orient are…” There were three types of gifts brought (gold, frankincense and myrrh) but it never says there were three men. It never says that they were kings either. The bible only states they were wise men. The bible also doesn’t say they were from the Orient. Yes, it says they were from the east, but it doesn’t say they came from the Orient. (Although, this is quite possible). They could have been kings and there could have been three of them, but these are assumptions; not proven facts. These things aren’t that important, but what other mistakes do people make that might be important? We need to study God’s word ourselves, so we’re not mislead in the important things. Okay, I made my point; I can get back on track now.
If you read Matthew, Chapter 2, you will see that by the time the wise men find Jesus (they had to travel a long way by camel, I’m assuming) he isn’t a tiny baby any more and Mary and Joseph are in a house when they arrive. The wise men do not appear at the manger. (Just another misconception). The wise men were warned in a dream not to go back the same way because of King Herod. Things are getting dangerous at this point.
Matthew 2 vs. 13-15 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Mary and Joseph know God is watching over them, so you might think they had nothing to fear. Yet, an angel comes to Joseph in a dream saying to flee, Herod wants to destroy the child. They had to be terrified. They don’t even get to say good-bye to their neighbors or relatives.
Even though they knew God was in control, they were given an important task to help protect that child. They had to flee into the night by donkey (I’m assuming) again. How fast can they flee that way? I’m sure they were wishing that donkey would sprout wings. This very young lady had to do a lot of traveling and moving to keep this child alive.
Matthew 2 vs. 16-18 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and younger, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
This is one of the saddest stories in the bible. All the children under two years old in Bethlehem and the coasts were killed. I’m picturing soldiers knocking down doors and storming into homes, ripping the little babies and children right out of their mother’s arms and killing them right in front of their parents. I can imagine some of the fathers putting up a fight. If they did, they may have been killed or at least beaten. I can’t picture that they casually just handed their children over. If nothing else, they had to be sobbing. That would be a tough thing to do. These people were from Rachel’s line and they were weeping and refusing to be comforted. Can you ever get over something like that? They probably never were comforted until they were reunited with their children when they, themselves, went to heaven. I can’t imagine going through that.
Mary, Joseph and Jesus made it out safe. I’m sure that was a relief, but I’m guessing news about the babies in Bethlehem reached Mary and Joseph. They had to be feeling horrible for those parents and the babies that were killed. This was not an easy calling Mary and Joseph had.
When Herod dies, they’re told to leave Egypt and go to Israel. Now Archelaus was reigning and he must not have been much better, because they were warned to go to Galilee and they end up in Nazareth again. I don’t think anything else is said about Mary or Jesus until Jesus turns twelve.
The story of Jesus at age twelve is in Luke 2 vs. 41-52. This is when Mary and Joseph go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. Jesus is with them. When they leave to journey home, they assume Jesus is with their relatives. They leave without even looking for him. When Jesus was a baby and toddler, they had to keep fleeing from evil people wanting to kill Jesus. I’m assuming the next ten years were relatively calm, because they didn’t seem that concerned until they couldn’t find him. They go back looking for him. When they find him, Mary scolds Jesus and asks why he did this to her. “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
Mary and Joseph had turned to go back to Jerusalem to look for him. He was missing three days. They had lost God’s son! Can you imagine the panic they were feeling? It seems like they could have just prayed to God and asked him where Jesus was. Maybe it didn’t work that way. Maybe that was such a simple solution, they didn’t think of it. I don’t know.
And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came unto Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
I’m thinking that the last ten years had become quite normal. No fleeing in the middle of the night from evil kings. No angels, shepherds, wise men or prophets popping in and making announcements. I know Jesus ended up with siblings, so Mary and Joseph must have had kids of their own by now. I think they started seeing Jesus as just one of the kids. Maybe it was easy to forget that Joseph was the step father and GOD was Jesus’ father. The bible says that they didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. When he was talking about his Father’s business, he didn’t mean Josephs’ carpentry business. He meant his holy father’s business. But then it says that Mary kept these sayings in her heart. So, on one level she didn’t understand, but on another level; she did.
I don’t know much about Jewish customs, so I had to look it up. According to Jewish law, at 13 years of age, a boy becomes accountable for their own actions. It is a “coming of age” time. They can now take part in public, religious worship. Basically, they’re treated like a man. Jesus was obedient to Mary, but my opinion is that he was gently reminding her that he had a calling to fulfill. It’s hard for us Moms to let go when our kids grow up and Jesus was almost thirteen.
Now we’re going to when Jesus is grown up and entering into his ministry. I don’t think anything is said from age 12 to age 30. (That’s around his age, thirty, when the story of the wedding in Cana happens).
John 2 vs. 1-4 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and the disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, they have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.
Back then “woman” was a term of respect. Today, you might get an evil look if you say that to a woman. Jesus was not being disrespectful. Jesus tells her that his hour has not come yet. At this time, he has not done any miracles, so it makes me wonder how Mary knew that he could or would do it now.
John 2 vs. 5 His mother saith unto the servants. Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
Wow! Jesus just told her it wasn’t his time. Yet, she talks to the servants and tells them to do what he says. She’s expecting him to do it. Mary has gotten so comfortable with the idea of being Jesus’ mother that I think she sometimes forgot that he was her GOD!
John 2 vs. 6-10 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the Governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou has kept the good wine until now.
Jesus politely lets Mary know that she’s out of line, but he’s still obedient and does the miracle. Mary has a small case of “I’m the Mom.” Us Moms sometimes do that. We get into our sons’ business even after they’re grown up and we should be letting them make their own decisions.
Matthew 12 vs. 46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
This is a time when Jesus is speaking to the scribes and the pharisees. This is his ministry. His job (if you want to look at it that way). Saving souls is his whole purpose for being on this earth. Yet, his mom and brothers are wanting to speak to him. It never looks good when a mom comes to your place of work and wants to interrupt to speak to you – unless it’s an emergency. It doesn’t sound like it’s an emergency in this case. Mary is, again, overstepping her bounds. I’m sure she’s doing it out of love. It’s sooo hard to let go. It had to be hard to remember that your son was also your Savior.
It had to be even harder to see him suffering on the cross.
John 19 vs. 25-27 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 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.
Mary was an excellent mother. She loved her children. It had to be the most excruciating thing to see Jesus nailed to the cross. She, more than anyone, knew how good and sinless he was. When Simeon said a sword will pierce your soul, this was what he meant.
She didn’t desert him either. She stayed there at the foot of the cross and watched them spit on him, mock him, pound nails into his hands and feet. It was an honor to be chosen to be the mother of Jesus, but it carried a hefty price.
Jesus, being the perfect son, never forgot Mary. Even though he was suffering excruciating pain, he thought of her welfare. He appointed John, the only disciple there at the cross, to be her son and take care of her. There’s no mention of Jesus’ siblings being there at the cross for him or for their mother Mary, so I’m assuming they weren’t there.
The last mention in the bible of Joseph was when Jesus was twelve. Sometime after that he passed away. Seems like I heard somewhere that Jesus siblings didn’t believe Jesus was God until sometime after his death. Maybe this is why he chose the disciple whom he loved to watch over his mother. I often wondered why one of her sons weren’t chosen, but she needed someone who believed in Jesus as much as she did. The last thing she needed right then was to hear them scoffing about his claim to be Christ. Also, I can understand them having a hard time believing their big brother is God, but why weren’t they there for him anyways? And especially, why weren’t they there to support their mother?!! They had to know her heart was being ripped into pieces. And was it even safe for her to be there at the cross? Why weren’t they concerned about her safety?
I’ve heard people say that because Mary was the Mother of God, that meant that she was God. Yes, we should respect her and give her honor; but she is not God, so she should not be prayed to or worshiped. How do I know she’s not God? You just have to ask yourself these questions.
Would a God marry Joseph; a human? Would a God have sexual relations with a human and have children with him? (Jesus had brothers and sisters) Would a God be afraid of an angel?
Yes, Mary was the vessel chosen. She gave Jesus his human characteristics. God gave him his holy characteristics. Yes, we should honor and respect Mary, but not worship her as God.
Yes, Pastor, Mary was amazing and she was strong. Like you said, she had to be.
(Note: These pictures were taken in Frankenmuth, Michigan and some of the pictures are displays or sale items in the Bronner’s Christmas store in Frankenmuth.)