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17. Mary, mother of Jesus
17-1 Mary: Our Representative || 17-2 Mary’s Character: 17-2-1 The Loneliness Of Mary || 17-2-2 The Spiritual Ambition Of Mary || 17-2-3 Hannah And Mary || 17-2-4 A Bible Mind: Mary And The Magnificat || 17-2-5 The Faith Of Mary || 17-2-6 Mary And The Virgin Of Isaiah 7 || 17-2-7 The Humility Of Mary || 17-3 Mary In Crisis: 17-3-1 Mary’s Crisis Of Faith || 17-3-2 Mary And Jesus In The Temple || 17-3-3 Mary At Cana || 17-3-4 Mary And Her Other Children || 17-3-5 Mary In Mid-Life Crisis || 17-3-6 The Jesus-Mary Relationship || 17-4 Mary’s Victory: 17-4-1 Mary At The Cross || 17-4-2 The Influence Of Mary || 17-4-3 The Psychological Matrix Of Jesus

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” (1:5).

- 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 of Elisabeth.

- 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.