The Mother of God
It sounds blasphemous to say God had a mother. Yet that is what God chose – to be born into a human household, and be brought up and taught by a human mother. What an amazing and awesome privilege and responsibility! How did Mary, a simple, uneducated, young woman, fulfill her task so well and with such care?
We are told that it was “With deep earnestness the mother of Jesus watched the unfolding of His powers, and beheld the impress of perfection upon His character. With delight she sought to encourage that bright, receptive mind. Through the Holy Spirit she received wisdom to co-operate with the heavenly agencies in the development of this child, who could claim only God as His Father” (The Desire of Ages, p. 69).
What textbooks did Mary use to teach her Child? One was the Scriptures. Therein He became acquainted with the Law, “The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother’s knee” (The Desire of Ages, p. 70). His mother taught Him that the Law was a reflection of the character of God, which the Child Jesus sought to emulate.
The other textbook was found in “the great library of God’s created works” (Ibid.). The Child Jesus studied the life of plants, animals, and man, which He spoke into existence at creation. Many of His later parable illustrations He drew from what He learned as a child.
Some modern-day parents may say that the home environment in which they have to raise their children is undesirable and not conducive to teaching eternal values. The Child Jesus grew up in Nazareth, notorious for its evil influences. Were His parents affluent? Ellen White says, “The parents of Jesus were poor, and dependent upon their daily toil. He was familiar with poverty, self-denial, and privation” (The Desire of Ages, p. 72). Wouldn’t it have been nice if Jesus could have helped His family out by simply snapping His fingers to turn some wood in His father’s carpenter shop into gold? Some uninspired, apocryphal writings seem to indicate that the Child Jesus performed some impulsive miracles to please His own selfish desires, but we know that was not true. That’s the stuff of fairy tales and film magic, not the story of the sinless Son of God.
Was the Ruler of the universe exempt from doing simple, everyday home chores, like taking out the trash? We are told, “Jesus lived in a peasant’s home, and faithfully and cheerfully acted His part in bearing the burdens of the household. He had been the Commander of heaven, and angels had delighted to fulfill His word; now He was a willing servant, a loving, obedient son. . . He did not employ His divine power to lessen His burdens or to lighten His toil” (Ibid.). Wow; I admit I would have been tempted!
Modern-day parents may ask, how do I handle screen time for my child? Jesus’ parents never had to deal with cell phones or TVs. What is Ellen White’s counsel on this? She says, “His quiet and simple life, and even the silence of the Scriptures concerning His early years, teach an important lesson. The more quiet and simple the life of the child – the more free from artificial excitement [screen time], and the more in harmony with nature – the more favorable is it to physical and mental vigor and to spiritual strength” (The Desire of Ages, p.74).
When the Child Jesus was older and accompanied His parents to Jerusalem for the Passover, His mother learnt a scary lesson. She and Joseph got distracted and lost sight of their Son, which caused them much agony and three days of anxious distress. A lesson to modern parents? Never hand your child over for others to educate, babysit, or entertain, without knowing exactly where they are at all times and what they’re doing. This is not micro-managing. This is not lack of trust. This is sensible, responsible parenting!
You may say that you grew up in a divided home, and there was always tension, bickering, yelling, and fighting. Was the home in which the Child grew up always peaceful? There was continual strife and criticism leveled at Jesus by His brothers, who sided with the Jewish religious leaders, and accused their little Brother of not obeying the rigid rules of Jewish tradition. Jesus grew up in a home that was divided when it came to religion and religious practice, but when confronted, His answer would always point to the Scriptures as the rule to follow.
Jesus was obedient to His parents, but since the incident with the priests and religious leaders in the temple in Jerusalem, He began to make a clearer distinction between obeying God rather than man. Ellen White says, “At a very early age, Jesus had begun to act for Himself in the formation of His character, and not even respect and love for His parents could turn Him from obedience to God’s word. “It is written” was His reason for every act that varied from the family customs. But the influence of the rabbis made His life a bitter one. Even in His youth He had to learn the hard lesson of silence and patient endurance” (The Desire of Ages, p. 86).
Jesus’ mother would try to keep peace in the home, but that was difficult to do. She even tried to persuade Jesus to conform to the requirements of the Jewish rabbis. Jesus respected and loved His mother, but when she expected Him to conform to societal traditions, He would answer with “It is written.” I wonder what Mary thought, when years later, she stood at the foot of a cross and looked up at her dying Son? Do you think she thought, “If only you had obeyed the dictates of religious rulers, then they would not have sentenced you to death,” or do you think that she knew in her heart that He was the Messiah and would somehow be victorious?
How did Jesus handle peer pressure? His peers called Him “narrow and strait-laced” (The Desire of Ages, p. 89), yet they enjoyed His “bright and cheerful” disposition (Ibid.). He did not join in all the youthful, worldly entertainment activities of His age group. A key factor in His spiritual success was that “He lived above these difficulties, as if in the light of God’s countenance. He did not retaliate when roughly used, but bore insult patiently” (Ibid.).
How was the Child Jesus able to withstand the devil’s temptations and conquer sinful behaviors? The Desire of Ages, p. 90, says “His hours of happiness were found when alone with nature and with God. Whenever it was His privilege, He turned aside from the scene of His labor, to go into the fields, to meditate in the green valleys, to hold communion with God on the mountainside or amid the trees of the forest. The early morning often found Him in some secluded place, meditating, searching the Scriptures, or in prayer. From these quiet hours He would return to His home to take up His duties again, and to give an example of patient toil” (The Desire of Ages, p. 90).
We do not worship the mother of Jesus as being sinless, but we honor her for allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and teach her how to parent this special Child that was entrusted to her. She had no special training, no Ph.D. in parenting skills, no self-help books, no YouTube videos to guide her. Like Mary, I believe any mother can invite and partner with the Holy Spirit to fulfill her godly mission to be the best mother she can be. My mother had her flaws and probably made many mistakes, but I honor her for showing me that I am loved and valued as her son, and as a child of God! That has helped me to show the same to my children and to others.
What do you appreciate about your mother today? Share it with her during this month of May. And if she’s no longer alive, journal your thoughts, and keep her memory alive!