Lesson 4 of 6
March 23, 2022
Mary’s Humanity in first person:
There are many misconceptions about me that are uncomfortable … misconceptions that elevate me to heights I don’t deserve. Some suggest I possess an unconsciously quiet demeanor. Others think I’m a woman of rare qualities, able to submit beyond my will. Some adore and worship me. Statues, beads, poems, movies, outlandish rituals, musical compositions, halos, candles, pictures, religious debates– uphold me as a supernatural healer and intercessor, void of human mortality.
I wasn’t present when the world began, or with God as his Spirit hovered over the deep. I didn’t form one creature from the earth or called even greater creatures from the sea. And I sure didn’t create man from the dust of the earth and breathe into him life so he could become a living soul.
I would never have the courage to bear the weight of your sins. I didn’t … couldn’t … wouldn’t die for you. It would never occur to me to plan an escape for you … to offer you eternal salvation so you could be reconciled to the Father. I never raised anyone from the dead, and never will. I never ever healed the sick, or made the blind see.
I’m not God’s only Son.
I’m God’s servant.
An ordinary young woman.
Present at a time God appointed to fulfill his promises to his people.
So, what is the world doing?
It has been a problem since the beginning. People are easily swayed into thinking too highly of others and of themselves.
No, the spotlight doesn’t belong to me. Or to you. God alone should be praised and adored. Worship him only.
I wish there were more adequate words to convince the world of his greatness.
As I recall, the prophets were very direct. Plain-spoken. Still, the people didn’t listen.
As for me …
I was ordinary. Young. Spry. Happy. An obedient servant looking forward to her wedding day. Joseph and I changed our wedding date several times because the Romans made it difficult to plan. They raised taxes and imposed stringent rules every new moon. Joseph was a good man; worked twice as hard to prepare for our future and wasn’t easily deterred.
It’s one reason Gabriel’s message was so disconcerting. The timing was all wrong. So, I thought.
It was winter. The sixth month. Adar (Uh-dar). Gabriel almost scared the life right out of me, standing there happily proclaiming the good news. He had this wide, silly grin on his face. His apparel, radiant. I, on the other hand, was terrified. Knees shaking. Heart pounding. Unable to hold the jar of water in my hands. Eventually, I flopped to the ground as a thousand questions flooded through my mind. At one point, I looked around to be sure Gabriel wasn’t talking to someone else.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:30-31)
Did you hear that?
He called me by name.
Still, I was perplexed. Why was he talking to me? Why come from on high and visit the likes of me? I could think of fifty young girls in our city who were more worthy. I come from a modest home; raised by a righteous father; a god-fearing mother. Why me?
Gabriel didn’t hesitate to make his visit known to me. And he wasn’t about to entertain the questions swirling around in my head. However, what he suggested was downright impossible and his declaration turned me to stone. I was petrified … couldn’t move … barely breathed. What does he mean, “… you will be with child and give birth to a son, …” How is that possible? I am not married. Have never been with a man.
Oooh no. There’s been a mistake. Either I’ve picked up a jug of overly-fermented wine, or I’ve had too much sun.
I slapped my face as hard as I could and pressed my shaky knees together. I was scared to ask, but I forced the question from my lips anyway. “How can this be since I am a virgin?” His response raised hairs on the back of my neck, and Isaiah 7:14 rang through my ears: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Is it possible? Am I the virgin scriptures spoke about? Would God bestow upon me such great an honor?
Shock and awe settled behind my wide-stretched eyes, my jaw dropped, and reality didn’t reconvene with my brain waves for several minutes. When it did, joy spun me out of control. I wanted to leap in the air and click my heels. Until …
It occurred to me that I would need to tell my parents. My sister. This unexpected news might bring them to their knees … cause them to question my account of Gabriel’s message. I couldn’t help but wonder if father would do the most despicable — beat me. I had heard of such things occurring in other homes but never experienced this kind of violence myself. If he raised his hand, who could blame him. Gabriel’s message could potentially bring about shame and disgrace. In situations like this, women were stoned to death, or cast out.
I gathered myself and tried to invoke reason. Had I dreamed or made this up? Given the hour of the day, it was too early to have dreamed anything in broad daylight. Because of the brilliant blue sky, it was unlikely Gabriel’s radiance was a figment of my imagination. As for my father, he would never do such a thing … never beat me. He was a god-fearing man, full of gentleness, kindness, and love.
Joseph, on the other hand, would not be obliged to show mercy. How would I tell the man whom I love that I haven’t been unfaithful?
Fear got the best of me, and I couldn’t stop shaking. When my nerves and mind finally calmed down, I valiantly stood before Gabriel and declared, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
For me to give birth to a son, would be a miracle like none other. It’s been centuries since miracles like this have materialized. But wait …
Months ago we celebrated with my cousin, Elizabeth. Had not an angel of the Lord come to her and Zachariah and announced they, too, would give birth to a son?
I knocked over my jar of water and hurried home to pack. I needed to see Elizabeth … to share my good news … to compare the miracles we now share. She was eighty-eight and three months away from giving birth to a son. Being with her would give me comfort. If anyone could appreciate my good news, it would be Elizabeth.
I’ll never forget how she greeted me once she heard my voice: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Yes, Elizabeth, “Why am I so favored?” I was just ordinary.
Not every day was joyful. The Roman Empire was a thorn in our flesh. Herod issued an edict, ordering every male child–newborns to two years of age–killed. No child spared. Wails swept throughout Bethlehem and surrounding towns and lingered in my ears all the way to Egypt. I woke up in a foreign land, in the wee hours of the morning to mournful cries filling the sky. What were we doing in Egypt among a people who hadn’t treated us kindly? Shouldn’t we return to Bethlehem and help my people?
I cuddled Jesus close to me and kissed his small hands. Caring for my two-year-old helped ease the sea of hopelessness we left behind. Like our great-grandmothers before us … mothers who walked this Egyptian soil … we would not soon forget our misery. Neither did the Romans waste time reminding us they would exercise rule and control over us. After Herod died and we returned to Bethlehem, there was a stench of death in the air, getting stronger as we approached the city. Along the horizon was a long row of crosses standing beside the road. Most who hung there were dead. Those who were not, begged to die.
It was trying times. A time when we ached for the Messiah.
Little did I know how difficult things would become … what it would be like to be entrusted with raising a child of God.
When Jesus was about seven or nine years of age, bizarre things began to happen. The sick, miraculously healed; prayers answered in what seemed like an instant. After one of our evening meals, we prayed for a father who had nearly drowned while fishing, later coming down with a terrible fever. Before our prayers ended, there was a knock on the door. The father’s adult son announced he was healed. Joseph questioned the son four times regarding the hour of his father’s healing. “Only moments ago,” he said. “Only moments ago.” As soon as the son left, we turned to Jesus, but he had slipped away. We heard him repairing a bench he had promised to deliver the next day.
On a separate occasion, Jesus went missing. How do you lose a twleve-year-old? Our frantic search led us to the temple where we found him teaching the elders. Losing a child is a mother’s worse nightmare. Fortunately, for us, we were spared a painful separation. From that point on, if I was busy churning butter, kneading bread, or weaving cloth, Jesus often slipped away on long escapades to preach and teach strangers in the city. Once, we found him about five miles outside of Nazareth, standing on a hill, preaching to a crowd of children. Ha!! As I look back on it, I’m certain it was his way of practicing before a live audience.
We tried to ignore the miracles, but it became increasingly evident Jesus had a special connection to God.
God was not only with him, but in him.
I questioned him once about all the good works he had performed, but he immediately silenced me. “Quiet, Mother. It’s not time yet.” Hmm. Not time for what?
Too often I found myself sitting on the riverbank pondering this question. I must admit, my conclusions were all wrong. I was a lot like his followers, in the beginning, thinking he would establish an earthly kingdom … that he’d come to rescue us from slavery … that he’d come to replace the Roman Empire and reign supreme. We were too carnal minded and unprepared to address our dreadful, spiritual state … too feeble minded to accept spiritual truth to understand him then. Brings to mind what a righteous man once said to me, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” I had no idea what he meant. His words rang hollow.
I never had special powers. I wasn’t a prophetess. I wasn’t capable of spiritually interpreting those words to mean I would lose my son to evil, brutal men. Hard to fathom losing a child. Harder to lose a son to despicable people bent on crucifying the innocent.
Yes. I admit it. I was warned. But those words weren’t enough to prepare me for the gravest burden ever–his death.
To watch him be taken because of rumors and accusations, jealousy and envy, money and power, to a merciless crucifixion was too unbearable for words.
They took hold of my son and flung him around as if he were fodder for their mindless games. Parading him through the wicked arms of the chief priests … watching as they appealed to Pilate for his death was horrendous. Many in the crowd had witnessed him healing the sick, raising the dead, forgiving sins. Yet, there they stood shouting and hurling insults. Their treatment of him resembled the cruelty many go through when thrown in an arena waiting for the lions to pour in and devour you.
They cried out, “CRUCIFY HIM!!”
This is MY son!!! My first born. The one to reign over the house of Jacob forever. “Tell them, Jesus. Tell them how you will rule the earth … that you are the Son of the Most High. Don’t let them do this to you. I have seen what you can do. You have healed and blessed and turned water into wine. For crying out loud, you walked on water. This is the time to reveal yourself … your greatness. Jesus. Please! Show them who you really are.”
Those words remained trapped in my throat, never to escape my lips.
Roars of the maddening crowd were heard all around me. Laughter and heckling drowned out everything I wanted to say. Seething anger pressed me like a cake of figs. Loud voices raged. Then they did the unthinkable. The massive crowd inched forward toward Pilate and bargained for Barabbas.
How dare they do this–trade my son’s life for that of a thief. Do they not have children of their own? Can they not see his suffering? They are about to spill innocent blood. Is there no compassion in the world anymore?
John and Mary of Magdalene held me up because I was too weak to stand on my own. Pools of tears blinded me and I could no longer see my son standing before a herd of vipers, or see the jagged edges of torn flesh streaking across his body — flies feeding off him, sweat burning him, spittle caked to his nose … on the side of his face.
I hear the whip lashing his back. Can you hear it? Can you? When was the last time you heard those lashes … the groans … see how the pain distorted and deformed his face?
“Let it be me,” I said inside my soul. “Let me take his place.”
No one heard me. Evil forces clamped my tongue to the roof of my mouth.
Great halls and huge pillars couldn’t … wouldn’t bear his pain. The earth shifted and moaned with him. Rocks cried out and crashed to the ground! The disgruntled sky resembled pillows of smoke. When they pressed the crown of thorns on his head, I gasped … held my breath as blood poured from him like a swollen river. Anguish and terror released from me, and I cried out, “Yeshua! Yeshua! I’m here, Yeshua!” With all my might, I tried to push pass the soldiers, but they hemmed us in. I pleaded, “He’s my son. Let me through.” Our voices, mere whimpers among the soldiers’ scoffs.
Their minds were set. Yes! They were determined. Hearts hard as stone. Hands stained with blood. My son’s blood.
The. Worse. Day. Of. My. Life.
My family has never cried so long and hard. My second oldest, Simon, was angry. Joses wanted to fight everyone involved in his brother’s death. James couldn’t stand it and ran off to sulk in his pain. Several disciples wrestled Judas to the ground to keep him from barging through the crowd to attack the soldiers. My daughters wailed. (Mary’s family – Mark 6:3)
Together we made the unbearable walk to his tomb. Many times I faltered, too reluctant to make another step toward our final goodbye. After placing his body in the tomb, I wept for two days, stealing off to a nearby river to weep, and to allow Jesus’ childhood memories to take hold of me.
Wasn’t it yesterday when he fell and bruised his knee and I thought he’d walk with a limp for the rest of his life? Silly me. Before concern swelled inside me, he was like new again.
I remember his gentleness when correcting neighborhood children on misinterpretations of scripture … how baffled they were at his knowledge. He never missed an opportunity to speak to teachers of the law, speaking with authority–without one day of schooling. He did everything with such humility and patience.
Not long after he died, I prepared his favorite meal–I couldn’t help myself–lentil soup with loaves of fresh Bread, a bowl of cool cucumbers, and roasted corn. I sat them on the table and closed my eyes, remembering how famished he was after a long day of making cabinets, tables, and benches. I ruffled his hair then patted his hand to slow him down so he wouldn’t continue to eat like a hungry animal. My hand patted the table instead. It was clear. He was no longer with me.
A hole filled my heart. I was bruised. Wounded. A sword had sliced through my soul and left me for dead. I couldn’t move … could faintly hear. My pain, too deep to soothe. An anguish too inconsolable.
Why kill my son? What crime had he committed? Who did he wrong?
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, kept watch over me night and day. I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. If I closed my eyes, I’d see my son’s bloody body and flinch each and every time that whip struck his back.
I still see the blood on my hands … on my clothes … the deep lacerations … long thorns embedded in his brow.
No. No mourning feast for me. Nothing can bring me comfort. Solace forever eludes me.
The only modicum of comfort I received was knowing the women with us would move forward to properly embalm my son. They debated who might roll away the stone. Though they never determined who would help them, they plowed ahead to the tomb anyway.
That’s when everything changed.
Mary of Magdalene burst through the door and announced, “He’s risen! The tomb is empty!” We looked at one another in disbelief. In unison, the disciples asked, “How can this be?” In meticulous detail the women explained how an angel of the Lord declared Jesus had risen from the dead. After inching their way inside the tomb–fear and disbelief in their eyes, a glaring light streaking through the cave, the morning heat warming them–their senses came alive.
The tomb was empty.
Mary of Magdalene recalled she carefully lifted a corner of the burial cloth, her eyes filled with awe and wonder. Others patted the linen cloth as they circled where Jesus had laid. No one spoke. No one attempted to explain.
Upon hearing the women’s account, I immediately thought someone had stolen my son’s body. Why would the soldiers do this? The disciples dismissed the women’s account and left to go home, or go fishing. But John and Peter raced to the tomb to see for themselves if what the women had said was true.
As crazy as it sounded, I still hadn’t fully convinced myself that someone hadn’t stolen his body. I wondered if I was just an overwrought mother still grieving the loss of her son. Oh, how I wanted to see my son. In truth, I didn’t care how crazy the women’s report sounded. I would do anything, believe any report if it meant I could see my son again.
It wasn’t until Cleopas, my sister’s husband (John 19:25) and his companion rushed through the door and told us they had seen him. I retreated to a corner of the room, wondering if they had fantasized as we had done or if it was indeed true. These last few days have been hard and long. Wouldn’t my son have pity on me and come reassure me how things really are for him? Wouldn’t he be sensitive enough to ease my soul from this indescribable pain?
Then it happened.
He did not knock and walk through the doorway. He did not call out from the heavens. He did not send messengers to alert his coming. He appeared–standing among us to ease our burning hearts and help us accept truth.
Hadn’t he warned us? Hadn’t he told us on many occasions that he was “about his father’s business?” That he’d come to “seek and save the lost.” That in three days, he’d rise again? I, for one, thought the number three was symbolic. It never occurred to me he literally meant in three days he’d be alive again.
Jesus, the Son of God, had risen from the dead.
Jesus, the Son of God, stood here in the house with us. In the flesh. In the Spirit. Three Persons in One. Alive. Breathing. Flesh and bones. Thomas’ misgivings about the Christ gave us an opportunity to see my son’s wounds for ourselves … the holes … the scars and lacerations … to see they were real.
The reasons we concocted for his arrival in this world were wrong. He subjected himself to a lowly birth and became human in a fallen world so he could reconcile us to God. He came to bear the weight of our guilt and shame. It was our sins that made the earth shake, the sky darken, the dead to rise and walk the streets.
This understanding demolished our confusion.
Healing eased our pain.
Joy replaced our anger.
Confession eradicated blame.
Every one of those 40 days he was with us was indescribable joy. I was never so happy. I must have rubbed his head, hugged his neck, and kissed his cheek a thousand times. I’d walk beside him, squeeze his arm, just to reassure myself he was flesh and blood … again.
When he left us for a second time to ascend into heaven, a part of me wanted to go with him. As he rose, I reached for him, my tear-filled eyes pleading for him to stay and allow me to hold him one last time … to cup my hands and memorize the contours of his face. But in that moment, it became evident, he no longer belonged to me alone. He was God in the flesh, spiritually transformed for us all. He looked into my eyes and gave me comfort. Then he said,
“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power on high.”
While he blessed us, he left and was taken up into heaven.
I don’t have enough words to describe the impact of his promise and the indelible imprint he left on my life. I am indeed a blessed woman of all women. I thank God for finding favor and choosing me to give honor and glory to him, and an opportunity to live out the mission he set before me.
As ordinary as you are, he has designed a mission for each of you … a plan tailor-made which will bring glory and honor to Him.
Listen and Obey.
May our God who knows all grant you peace.
by Donna B. Comeaux
one in a billion women who love the Lord our God