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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

17-4-3 The Psychological Matrix Of Jesus

Jesus as the perfect man was a function both of His Father and mother. Until relatively recently, there was very limited knowledge of the early stages of human development. Biographies tended to be long at the end, focusing on the achievements of a person, and short at the beginning. But now, biographers and psychologists are realizing that the traumas, triumphs and parental influence of childhood are crucial in a person’s later achievements. And so it is surely significant that the Biblical record gives so much attention to the babyhood and childhood of Jesus, telling us virtually nothing about the rest of His life until age 30. Mary’s crucial role is thus tacitly recognized. Jesus was fully human. Of this there must never be any doubt. As such, He would have passed through all the stages of growth and socialization which we all do. We become what we are emotionally, intellectually, morally, not only by prolonged acts of sheer willfulness, but also simply by living through a sequence of biological, personal and interpersonal developments, beginning in the very first weeks of our lives. For Jesus to have been perfect says a huge amount about His mother. The Lord had an exceptional sense of self-identity, He knew who He was and clearly had a sense of mission from an early age. Because of this, He developed into a person about whom it was difficult to remain neutral; people had decided opinions either for or against Him. This sense of self-identity was surely developed in Him by Mary getting through to Him from a very early age that He was uniquely special, with a mission of ultimate consequence.

There must have been certain similarities of personality type between the Lord and His mother. Thus in Lk. 2:33 Mary “marvelled”, and the same word is used about Jesus in Mt. 8:10 and Mk. 6:6. The Lord at 12 years old displayed such piercing knowledge and spirituality, but it seems He returned to Nazareth and suppressed the expression of it (Lk. 2:51). This is why the villagers were so amazed when He stood up in the Nazareth synagogue and on the basis of OT exposition, indirectly declared Himself the Messiah. He must have stored up so much knowledge and spirituality within Him, but hid it from the eyes of men. This was quite an achievement- to be perfect, and yet not to be noticed as somehow other-worldly. If we ask where He obtained this humility and ability from, it is clearly an inheritance from His dear mother, who stored up things in her heart and didn’t reveal them to others, just quietly meditating over the years. It has been observed that it was unusual for the villagers to describe Jesus as “the son of Mary” (Mk. 6:3)- even if Joseph were dead, He would have been known as Jesus-ben-Joseph. It could well be that this was a reflection of their perception of how closely linked Jesus was to His mother.

Whether or not Joseph died or left Mary by the time Jesus hit adolescence, the fact was that Joseph wasn’t His real father. He was effectively fatherless in the earthly sense. As such, this would have set Him up in certain psychological matrices which had their effect on His personality. He could speak of His Heavenly Father in the shockingly unprecedented form of ‘abba’, daddy. He grew so close to His Heavenly Father because of the lack of an earthly one, and the inevitable stresses which there would have been between Him and Joseph. A strong, fatherly-type figure is a recurrent feature of the Lord’s parables; clearly He was very focused upon His Heavenly Father. He could say with passionate truth: “No one knows a son except a father, and no one knows a father except a son” (Mt. 11:27; Lk. 10:22). Yet as a genuine human being, Jesus would have gone through some of the psychoses which any human being does when deprived of the presence of his true Father. Such an experience produces a major hole in the human psyche; yet if coped with successfully, “the hole in the psyche [of the fatherless child] becomes a window providing insights into the depths of being”(8). This is surely why so many geniuses have been fatherless children. Yet there is a very strong tendency for such children to be fixated on their mothers, and to be generally ill at ease with fathers and father figures. Yet Jesus was clearly enough at home with His Heavenly Father, and most of his parables feature a strong fatherly figure in them. The tensions evident between Jesus and Mary shew clearly enough that He wasn’t fixated on her, either. Yet this explains the terrible tension there must have been within the Lord when He considered His mother; there would have been a natural desire to be as fixated upon her as she was upon Him. And yet He overcame this, whilst still loving her, in order to focus upon His Heavenly Father. This explains, to me at last, His unusual addressing of Mary as “woman”, and the final tragic scene of separation from her at the cross. Yet it had to be, for the sake of a true relationship with His Father; and, as with all aspects of the crucifixion sufferings, the essence of it had been going on throughout the Lord’s life. Again we bow in admiration before the Lord; that He was no mere victim of background, but that every negative in His life [e.g. not having the presence of a father] He turned into a positive in progressing in His unique relationship with His invisible Heavenly Father.

Assuming Joseph disappeared from the scene quite early on, Jesus would have had to take financial responsibility for the household, and would have become the emotional and spiritual head of the home. This would have played its part in maturing the Lord. His latent talents would have been brought out, His personal development accelerated. And yet Mary would have likely sought to cope with the loss of her husband by relying increasingly on her capable firstborn, Jesus, and becoming fixated on Him. This is the backdrop for the evident tension between them throughout the ministry, as the Lord struggles to be the person God intends Him to be, and not to be merely caught up in the hand-to-mouth existence as supporter of His mother and younger siblings. It has been observed by counsellors that mothers in this situation become very blind to the needs of their sons on whom they have come to rely. Her sensitivity to who Jesus really was would have likely decreased; she would perhaps have seen Him merely as the clever, hard working, amazing solver of all the myriad daily problems the poor young widow faced. And so we too can be worn down by life into making the same mistakes Mary made in our relationship with the Lord. The wonder of who He is must never be lost upon us.

Another part of the psychological matrix would have been that by the time the Lord was 30, the younger siblings would have grown to self-sufficiency; the need for Him to stay in the home as provider was now past. The normal psychological pressure would have been for Him to start His own family and home. Yet instead, He channeled those energies into His true bride, the band of Palestinian peasants who were to slowly and falteringly come to love Him back and bring forth fruit to His glory.