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May 9, 2021

“A Mother’s True Love”

(From Lesson Mark 3: 19b-35)

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 

 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters[a] are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

     The popular song, “Mary Did You Know?” is traditionally heard during the Advent and Christmas seasons.  Many of Jesus’ spiritual gifts, or powers, for his ministry of restoring wholeness and healing are disclosed, as well as Jesus himself being the sacrificial Lamb of God’s salvation and a member of the godhead, “the Great I Am.”  A pondering question about these revelations is addressed to the mother of Jesus in this song “Mary, did you know?”

     Through the scriptures, we discover that Mary knew well the special gifts Jesus possessed.  Jesus’ changing water urns into those containing wine at the wedding banquet at Cana is the first of Jesus’ signs, or miracles, in the Gospel of John.  It is Mary, Jesus’ Mother and likely the wedding planner and overseer for the event, who guided the wine stewards to Jesus when the wine for the banquet ran dry.  She obviously knew that Jesus possessed the power to correct the situation.  Jesus, out of his deep respect and adoration for his mother, Mary, obliged her by providing the best wine of the wedding banquet.  

     For Mary to have the confidence that Jesus could produce wine for the wedding banquet, she had doubtless witnessed many other examples of his gifts over the course of their lifetime together that had spanned some thirty years. From the annunciation of Jesus’ birth by the Angel Gabriel with the words, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God,” to the prophecy of the temple priest Simeon, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed,, Mary had pondered many things in her own heart about her son, Jesus, through the years.  If Mary did not yet fully know about the life she would experience with her newborn son at the time of Jesus’ birth, her journey of learning was about to begin. Looking back, Mary would recall how at the age of only twelve Jesus left the family caravan of travelers to be found in the temple at the feet of the Pharisees and their scribes.  There, she would learn how they marveled at Jesus’ knowledge for one of such a young age.  When the family expressed their concern for his welfare to him, Jesus reminded them that they should have known that he would be found, “in my Father’s house.”  All of these and doubtless other experiences had convinced Mary that Jesus was gifted and special, and that he had an important, if yet not fully realized, future with the nation of Israel.

     Yet, amid the prophecies about Jesus and the miraculous signs he performed, Mary was first and foremost a mother.  She was both loving and protective of her dear son, Jesus, as he began to fulfill his role in God’s plan of salvation through his public ministry.  Our Gospel Lesson for this morning reveals how, early in Jesus’ ministry, Mary feared for him.  While Jesus was preaching and healing the sick, she took some of his brothers and sisters and went to see him and to speak to him.  The scriptures tell us that Jesus was at home when a large crowd gathered around him. They state, “When his family heard it, they went to restrain him, for people were saying that he had lost his mind, and some scribes from Jerusalem were there claiming that his works were done through Beelzabul. Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.  A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’  And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers? Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’” 

     It is evident in our lesson that Mary was a concerned mother attempting to protect her son from harm.  That concern, according to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, came from 2 fronts: a concern for his safety, and a concern for his sanity, for some were calling his behaviors insane.  After all, this was Jesus, whom they knew, as well as they knew his family.  They wondered where he got all of the information he was now sharing with such authority. And, the scribes claiming that his powers were from Beelzabul took Mary’s concern over the top.  Mary felt she needed to intervene for his safety and his welfare.  Jesus, however used this moment as a teaching moment—even for his mother and family.  “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,” he declared to those gathered around him.

     In time, Mary would follow Jesus less as a protective bodyguard and more as a devoted mother who believed in him and in his ministry.  As she had trusted God from the beginning, Mary continued to trust God’s plan for her son, Jesus, even when the fulfillment of that plan pierced her own soul, just as Simeon has prophesied, when she stood at the foot of his cross as he died.  And scholarly belief holds that she also rejoiced at his resurrection from death. 

     As mothers and mother figures in the lives of those we love, we make personal sacrifices to support our loved ones in self-actualizing to become all that they were meant to be.  We give deep and full meaning to Paul’s definition of true love when we can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things for the sake of or children.  True love rejoices in the truth, in whatever brings true fulfillment to the life of the beloved son or daughter. This kind of love is not easy, and not always found.  It is the kind of love that can experience growth and change, just as we saw Mary’s love for Jesus mature and change in our lesson this morning. Those of us who have been blessed to experience this precious gift should offer this love as mothers to the world that is around us.  As Paul reminds us, true love such as this never ends.  And, neither does the need for those women called to be true and loving mothers.  Blessed and Happy Mother’s Day.  Let us close today with a prayer for mothers.

Prayer – For Mothers (United Methodist Book of Worship #439)

For our mothers, who have given us life and love, that we may show them reverence and love,

We pray to the Lord…

For mothers who have lost a child through death, that their family may give them hope, and their family and friend support them,

We pray to the Lord…

For women, though without children of their own, who like mothers have nurtured and cared for us,

We pray to the Lord…

For mothers who have been unable to be a source of strength, who have not responded to their children and have not sustained their families,

We pray to the Lord…

Loving God, as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children, so you watch over your Church.  Bless these women, that they may be strengthened as Christian mothers.  Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.  Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect.  Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.