17.2 The Character Of Mary
17-2-1 The Loneliness Of Mary
The descriptions of Mary as keeping things in her heart
(Lk. 2:19,52), and the way it seems she didn’t tell Joseph about the Angel’s
visit, but instead immediately went down to Elisabeth for three months…all
these are indications that Mary, like many sensitive people, was a very
closed woman. Only when Mary was “found” pregnant by Joseph (Mt. 1:18-
s.w. to see, perceive, be obvious) was the situation explained to him
by an Angel. It seems His move to divorce her was based on his noticing
she was pregnant, and she hadn’t given any explanation to him. She “arose”
after perhaps being face down on the ground as the Angel spoke with her,
and went immediately off to Elisabeth. And then, after three months she
returns evidently pregnant (Lk. 1:39). Mary is portrayed as somehow separate
from the other ministering women. It would have been psychologically impossible,
or at best very hard, for the mother of the Lord to hang around with them.
The group dynamics would have been impossible. Likewise in Acts 1:14 we
have “the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus”, as if she is separate
from them. She followed Him to Cana, uninvited, and also to Capernaum.
Next she is at the cross risking her life, but she isn't among the women
who went to the grave. Why not? It was surely natural that she would go
there, and that the other women would go with her to comfort her. But
she was a loner; either she went alone, as I think I would have tried
to, or she just couldn’t face contact with the others and simply hid away.
And could it be that Jesus, in recognition of her unique perception of
Him, appeared to her first privately, in a rightfully unrecorded meeting?
But by Acts 1:14, she was in the upper room, as if His death led her to
be more reconciled to her brethren, to seek to get along with them.. although
by nature, in her heart and soul, she was a loner, maybe almost reclusive.
A struggler to understand. A meditator, a reflector, who just wanted to
be alone, one of those who take their energy from themselves rather than
from other people.
The usual girlie teenage thing would have been to go talk
to her contemporaries about it. But not Mary. She went on probably the
longest journey she had ever made, and alone, to see Elisabeth. She describes
herself as the lowly, the hungry, who had been exalted and fed…whereas
the proud and haughty had been disregarded. These words, and the evident
allusions she makes back to Hannah’s song, could be read as reflecting
what had actually been wrought in Mary’s own person and experience by
some kind of persecution in her childhood. And it drove her within herself.
It seems that she had been deeply humbled in order for her to be highly
exalted. One wonders if she had been sexually abused. If Joseph was indeed
much older than her, then we can understand how it happened that this
girl, mature as she was beyond her years, got attracted to an older and
spiritual man. Her spirituality and intelligence [for her allusions to
Scripture indicate a fine appreciation of so much] would have been enough
to spark plenty of village jealousy.
Jn. 2:11,12 speak of three groups- the disciples, who believed,
the brothers of Jesus who didn’t (Jn. 7:5), and Mary, whose level
of faith isn’t commented upon. She stands alone. Recognizing this tendency
to isolationism within her, the Father seems to have encouraged Mary to
open herself up to Elisabeth, encouraging her that her relative was in
a somewhat similar position, having been barren for a lifetime and now
expecting a child. Although Elisabeth was somewhat distant from Mary-
for Mary hadn’t heard the wonderful news that this elderly, barren relative
was six months pregnant- Mary immediately goes to see her, following the
prompting of the Lord. The record is styled to show the experiences of
the two pregnancies as parallel:
- “The virgin’s name was Mary” (1:27) = “her name was Elisabeth”
- Both were startled at the Angelic appearances (1:12,29), and were
comforted not to be afraid.
- “You will call his name John…you will call his name Jesus”.
- “He will be great…he will be great”.
- “How am I to know this?”, and the Angel responded; “How shall this
be?”, and likewise the Angel responded.
- Both were given signs- the dumbness of Zecharias, and the pregnancy
- Both John and Jesus are described as growing up and becoming strong
(Lk. 1:80; 2:40).
This is not the only time when we see circumstances repeating
between Bible characters. More examples are given in Samson.
The similarities were to direct them back to former and contemporary examples,
to find strength. And this is one of the basic reasons for Christian fellowship
amongst believers. Yet it would seem that as time went on, Mary became
more introverted, she stored up “all these things” in her heart and couldn’t
share them with others. Whilst due to her unique path this is understandable,
it may be related to the loss of spiritual perception and activity which
it seems set in after she gave birth to Jesus.
The Lord shared the characteristics of Mary, including
the loneliness of Mary. He could so easily have allowed Himself to be
influenced by her genes, and just remain locked up within Himself. And
yet He “came down from Heaven” at age 30 and entered so fully and openly,
with a heart that bled, into the things of ordinary men and women. He
poured out His heart as men and women were able to hear it. He overcame
the tendency we all have, to retain our relationship with God as a totally
private thing, considering that the validity and truth of our relationship
with the Father somehow of itself justifies our not breathing a word to
the man next to us about it. We too must learn that Western insularity
is not the way to live. Isaiah 53, as I understand it, is an explanation
of why Israel refused to accept the message / report of the cross. One
of the reasons given is that “we have turned every one to his own way”.
Note, in passing, how Isaiah identifies himself with his unbelieving people,
after the pattern of Ezra and Daniel. Each person was so dominated by
their own individual miseries, loneliness, sins, griefs, that they failed
to accept the real message of the cross. And so it is, that the world
lacks cohesion and unity; for they turn each to their own way. For those
who respond to the report of the cross, there is, conversely, a unity
which comes from the common knowledge that all our private sins and personal
struggles are resolved in Him, as He was there. So we each have the tendencies
of Mary, to turn to our own way. But the cross should convert us from
this. And it seems to me that Mary’s conversion was due to the cross;
for all we know of her after it was that she was meeting together with
the other believers in the upper room.