Dear God, as I think about trying to get into Mary’s (Jesus’s mother) skin, I think I want to break it into four parts:
- Conception, Pregnancy & Birth
- Parenting the Child
- Parenting the Adult & Crucifixion
- Resurrection & Post-Ascension
So today I want to look at the second part. From presenting Jesus at the temple through finding him at the temple as a boy (temple to temple, so to speak, we get a look at what her life and perspective might have been like as the mother of God’s son.
Presenting at the Temple
This story to me is all about the prophecies of Simeon and Anna, but it starts with the fact that this poor couple was doing their duty, but they could barely afford to do it. But offering the two young pigeons as a sacrifice also reminds me that the least of the sacrifices was good enough for Jesus. You don’t have to have great resources to give a child everything he or she needs.
But back to Simeon and Anna. Simeon tells gives her two important pieces of information. First, he affirms to her that this child is who she and Joseph think he is. He calls Jesus his salvation and talks about how he will be a light for Gentiles and glory for Israel. Then he gives them a warning: He will cause many in Israel to rise and fall, the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed, and a sword will pierce Mary’s soul. As far as I can tell, this is the first time anyone has told Mary that this will be a difficult journey.
Then Anna came up and affirmed to Mary and Joseph that Jesus was special, even telling everyone around how special this child would be. This was a day of affirmation, but there was obviously a warning for Mary as well that she carried with her the rest of her life.
The Wise Men
This is my first time to use any scripture from Matthew to talk about Mary. As the wise men arrive, Matthew 2 tells us, “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.” I wish Matthew gave us just a little more about these guys. I know other, non-New Testament sources give some more details, but I wish they were here because I’m wanting to stick to what’s actually in the text of the new Testament. But I think the big thing to know here is that Mary got another affirmation from these men, however many of them there were. I also have theories on what Mary and Joseph used the gifts for, but that’s another topic.
The Flight to Egypt
Here’s another story we get from Matthew. Luke skips all of the Egypt stuff and has them going straight to Nazareth, but Matthew takes us to Egypt and then eventually back to Nazareth in an indirect way. But taking the story of Joseph being told in a dream to go to Egypt and seeing it from Mary’s perspective, once I made up this dialogue that could have happened in the middle of the night between them:
Joseph: Mary! Mary, wake up!
Mary: What? What is it?
Joseph: We have to go.
Mary: What do you mean, “We have to go”? Go where?
Mary: Egypt?!? What are you talking about? Can’t we talk about this in the morning?
Joseph: No. The angel said we have to go immediately.
Mary: You saw an angel?
Joseph: Yes, the angel came to me like he did before and told me, “Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.”
Mary: What?!? Are you sure that’s what he said?
Joseph: As sure as I was when he visited me last time and told me to marry you.
Mary: Okay, lets go!
For a mom to know that the king is out to kill her son–I cannot imagine what kind of fear that would generate. You have to protect the boy at all costs. He’s your son so you want to protect him anyway, but given that this was also God’s son, the protection of Jesus was paramount. This call to raise God’s son was going to cost both Mary and Joseph dearly. It was not an easy road. In fact, it was a particularly hard road. She gave up a lot to be Jesus’s mother.
Back to Israel and Nazareth
I cannot help but wonder how Mary felt about being sent home and going back to Nazareth. Would her family believe her about Jesus? Was it going to be okay for Jesus to grow up there? Would it be okay for her and Joseph? Would he be safe? So, so much uncertainty.
They Lost Jesus
I want to take some time to just sit in the period between when they realized Jesus was gone and they found him. What amazing fear they must have had! Was he taken by the soldiers and the current king? Was he dead? Where was he? This was God’s son. Had they messed up and done a bad job of parenting him? Had they failed? Was it all for nothing?
I’ve known parents to have lost their children at places like the store or the local county fair. Those moments are moments of terror. Thankfully, in the cases of the people I’ve known, they were only moments and the children were quickly found. But those minutes or hours were unbelievably stressful to them. I can only imagine how much more so given the fact that Jesus had been pursued by Herod in the past. That hundreds or thousands of children had died as a result. Had it finally come to pass that they had gotten him? Had Herod or whomever the king at the time was won?
The other side of this is how it violated trust that Mary and Joseph had obviously put in Jesus. They trusted him to not do things like this. I would imagine that their first instinct was probably not that he had wandered off on his own.
It took them three days–THREE DAYS–to find him. When they found him he was in the temple with the teachers, listening and asking questions.
Mary’s psyche is telling: “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” She was that combination of angry and thrilled all at once. The relief combined with the anger must have been incredible. But then what was she to make of him being in the temple? With the teachers? What did all of this mean? How will it play out?
Father, I find myself asking a lot of questions in these prayers, both on my behalf and Mary’s. The truth is that she was doing her best to love and care for this boy, but there was no possible way she could know what you had in store for Jesus. How could she? There’s no way I knew then or I know now what you are doing not only in my own life, but in the lives of my children too. I have no idea. But I know I love them. I know I’m rooting for them and their happiness. I’m rooting for them to find peace. I’m rooting for how they know you. My job, like Mary’s, is to do what I can to be the parent you need me to be while not getting in the way of what you are trying to do. Help me to be exactly what you need me to be today.
I pray all of this in your Holy Name,