The Bible teaches us how to honor mothers. And we’re going to learn from the best of the best – we’re going to learn how Jesus honored his mother Mary!
Lk. 1:41-55: When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord’s word to her will be fulfilled.” Then Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He has looked with favor on the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful, as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
Today is Mother’s Day!
The 4th commandment tells us, “Honor thy mother and father.” Today we’re going to focus on mothers! God has given us the gift of mothers and motherhood. And we’re going to see what the Bible teaches us about how to honor mothers. And we’re going to learn from the best of the best – we’re going to learn how Jesus honored his mother Mary.
From the beginning, in the book of Genesis, mothers are given honor. God gives Adam the authority to name everything in creation, and with this God-given power, Adam calls his wife “Chava,” which means the “mother of all the living.”
To all of the mothers in here – imagine how many descendants may come through you. Children, grandchildren, and beyond. Did you know that the eggs of every fertile woman are grown while she is still in utero? That means every woman who is pregnant with a daughter has in her own womb not just her daughter, but the eggs of her future grandchildren inside of her. These are every day miracle on God’s green earth. Each mother is a “chava,” a “mother of all the living”. Mamas, who can say how many future generations will call you their matriarch?
Now, we all know that the story of Eden ends with the Fall. Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin entered the world. Because of sin, “in Adam, all die,” according to St. Paul. But he also makes a point to say that Jesus came to be our new Adam: the first Adam was a living being, but the last Adam is a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor 15:45).
So the Bible says, there is a new Adam, and it’s Jesus – but what about Eve? Does it show us a new Eve? Yes it does.
St. Paul writes in Galatians 4 that the story of Sarah and Hagar in Genesis is a foreshadowing of the story of the Old Covenant of Moses and the New Covenant of Jesus. The Old covenant gave us a physical nation of Israel, and a physical capitol in Jerusalem; the new covenant gives us a spiritual nation of Israel, and a spiritual Jerusalem. St. Paul says: “Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present-day Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children,” but as for Sarah, she stands for Mt. Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem. He says, “the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”
Now it’s interesting that he says the spiritual Jerusalem is our mother, because later, St. John the Apostle sees her in a vision, Revelation 12: “a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and crying out in the pain and agony of giving birth… and she gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”
John’s seeing the same thing St. Paul talked about – a spiritual mother in heaven giving birth. But Paul says she’s our mother – John, on the other hand, sees her giving birth to a boy who will rule all the nations – doesn’t that sound like Jesus? How can the same mother give birth to Jesus and the church?
Because the church is the body of Christ. Paul is talking about the spiritual reality of the church, the Body of Christ: John is seeing the symbol, the boy with the iron scepter, Jesus.
But let’s look at this symbol as a whole. John’s seeing the birth of Jesus as a symbol of the birth of the church. If Jesus is the boy who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter, who does that make the pregnant woman, crying out in the pain and agony of giving birth?
Mary. Mary is giving birth to Jesus – and Mary giving birth to Jesus is the symbol of the heavenly Jerusalem giving birth to the church. This is one of the reasons why from the earliest days of the church, Mary is called the mother of the church.
“Mary is the mother of the church”. I don’t think many Baptist preachers talk much about Mary from the pulpit, but if they do, I don’t know how often they say these words: “Mary is the mother of the church.”
We’re going to learn what this really means. And it’s going to help plumb the depths of the mystery of motherhood and God’s gift of mothers to the world. So that we can show our mothers the love and honor that Jesus gave his mother. Because ladies, when you understand how Mary is not just mother of the church, but the new Eve – the new Chava, mother of all the living – you can also understand what it means to be a woman in Christ.
I want you to remember: just as the first Eve came out of the first Adam, the last Adam, Jesus, came out of Mary, the last Eve. Christ’s human life came out of Mary. John says, “We have seen His glory,” and it is Mary’s womb that gave His glory flesh. Until the Word became flesh, no one had ever seen God. He was hidden in a cloud that accompanied the ark of the old covenant wherever it went. The glory cloud of the Lord, the Shekinah presence of God, used to descend on the old ark in the holy of holies and overshadow it until it fled when the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem. Ezekiel (10:18-19) records this. The prophet Jeremiah hid the ark of the old covenant in a cave to protect it, and he declared that the ark will never appear again “until…the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear.” (2 Mac. 2:7-8)
When did the glory cloud return to overshadow the ark? In Luke 1:35: the angel tells Mary that she will conceive miraculously by the Holy Spirit, “and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” That means Mary is the ark of the new covenant.
And listen to this next line: “So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Well, we know that Mary gave birth to the Son of God. But sometimes we forget what else scripture tells us: that the Son of God came so His Father would adopt us into the family – so that we too will be Children of God in Christ. John the Revelator wanted us to remember this. At the end of Revelation 12, he says that the dragon became enraged with the heavenly woman, and that he “went to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev. 12:17)
Who are the rest of the children? They are the church. Us – the ones who keep the commandments of God and to the testimony of Jesus. Scripture is telling us plainly here: Mary is the new Eve.
How can Mary be the new Eve? How can Mary be the mother of the church? Is that in the Bible? Yes it is. When Jesus is on the cross, he tells Mary to look at John, and he says “Behold your son.” And he says to John: “Behold your mother.” This wasn’t just about a special relationship between John and Mary. Yes, John is called the “beloved disciple” in Jn. 20:2. But all of Jesus’ disciples in the church are beloved. That’s every one of us! But more than this, John was the only apostle present at the crucifixion, when all the others had abandoned Jesus. He was their representative. This charge applied to all of them through him, and to us through them. This is Jesus’ word of authority to the church, and it applies to all of us.
From that moment on, wherever the Apostles gather, Mary is there. This isn’t just an arrangement for her care. Mary lost her son, but she had other relatives who could have looked after her. The Bible tells us that Jesus had “brethren” – whether siblings or cousins, we’re not sure – but Mary would have had plenty of options for care. That’s not why Jesus said, “Behold your mother.”
Why then did he say this? What did he mean by, “Behold your mother?” John knew, and he gave us the clue in Revelation 12. When he uses Mary as the symbol for the heavenly Jerusalem, how does he describe her? “Clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” A crown! The crown of the Queen Mother. Has it ever occurred to anyone…that Mary holds a royal office alongside her son?
More words you don’t often hear from a Baptist pulpit: “Mary holds royal office alongside her son.” But this isn’t strictly Catholicism we’re talking about. This is simple Christianity. This is Biblical stuff. It’s right there in Revelation: she’s wearing a crown. “But Sean, Mary never actually wore a crown anywhere else in the Bible” true – but neither did Jesus. On earth. This is a vision in heaven. And I hope you know that all faithful overcomers are promised a crown in heaven.
But Mary’s crown is special – it has 12 stars in it. These symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. John is saying – this is the Queen of Israel!
“But Sean – gross! That’s inappropriate – Jesus is the King of Israel, and he isn’t married to Mary – that’s impossible and gross!” No one’s saying they’re married. Maybe in some countries, the Queen is the King’s wife. But not in Israel. In Israel, the Queen is the King’s mother.
Reread 1st and 2nd Kings. Every time a new reigning King is introduced, we are told the name of the King and the name of his mother. King David was married to Bathsheba – but Bathsheba bows to him in 1st Kings 1:16. She’s not the Queen. They are not equals.
But when David dies, their son Solomon becomes King — and Solomon bows to his mother, Bathseba. This happens in 1st Kings 2:19. Watch happens next: “Then he sat upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the King’s mother, who sat at his right.”
The Queen sits at the King’s right hand on a throne of her own. In Hebrew, she is called gebirah – some say this means “Queen Mother” but the strict translation is “great woman” — this is why Catholics so often call her “Our Lady”. They are translating “gebirah” into an honorific title. Keep that in the back of your mind.
So in Israel, there are two thrones: the throne of the King, and the throne of the King’s mother, the gebirah. If Jesus is King of Israel – what does that make his mother Mary? Do you think she asked herself the same question? She surely did, and the Bible tells us that she knew the answer.
After Gabriel tells her that she is going to give birth to the King of Israel, she sings a song that is known as the Magnificat. Listen carefully to the words of this song: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He has looked with favor on the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.” Who is the humble servant she’s talking about? Herself. Listen carefully to what else she sings: “God has brought down the rulers from their thrones,” – plural! “but He has exalted the humble.” The humble – she’s referring to herself, and her son.
There it is in the first chapter of Luke, clear as day: Mary is saying that God has cast down King Herod and his mother from their thrones over Israel, and exalted her and her son to the thrones. That’s why we all call her blessed.
Mary is a queen. And so is my mama. And so is yours. Don’t you forget it! Treat her like one! If you’re a mother – you’re a queen. Mothers are queens. This is God’s blueprint for the Kingdom of God in the family.
Jesus & Mary
So – did Jesus treat his mother like a queen? Actually, it doesn’t really look like it, does it? This is the man who said, “Anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother…cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26). Folks, I used to be what we call a Christian anarchist, an anarcho-communist actually, and I used to hold to that classic communist dogma that the nuclear family must be de-centered – and I cited Luke 14:26 as proof.
On top of that, what did Jesus call his mother? “Woman!” She asks him to help at the Wedding Feast in Cana. But he’d never done a public miracle before, so he says, “Woman! What is that to you or me? My time hasn’t come yet!”
Did he really call his mother woman? Or did he call her what Solomon called his mother – gebirah? My lady? A special title of honor, love, and respect?
Well, watch what happens next: Mary commands the servants to do whatever her son tells them to do. And Jesus works his miracle! He didn’t shut down his mother – he obeyed her, even though it was before the time. He fulfilled the 4th commandment to honor his mother. This is in the Gospel of John. Have you noticed the pattern with John?– he’s really trying to tell us “Something About Mary”!
He’s trying to tell us something about motherhood, too. He’s leaving no room for misinterpretation – Jesus isn’t about “de-centering the nuclear family” — he’s a 4th commandment man. He loves, and honors, and obeys his mother as much as he obeys his Father who is in heaven. The Word made flesh, thinking nothing of equivalence with God, with his Father – he is equally obedient to his mother. To the woman who gave him flesh. How much moreso should we love, honor, and obey our mothers! Mamas – don’t be afraid to remind your kids of this!
Far be it from de-centering the nuclear family, Christ exalts it. Christ’s saving work doesn’t just save us from the fall of the first Adam and the first Eve – it also restores God’s original plan, too. It lifts the curse and returns us to “Be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion.” Our originally intended nature is to glorify God in the family. In Christ, men are restored to life; and all women are restored to the “motherhood of all the living”.
And more than this — thanks to the new Eve, the mother of the Son of God, we receive life from the new Adam, the life-giving Spirit. And we are all to be conformed to the image of the new creation which God has wrought in revealing Christ. God was satisfied to reveal Himself fully in the son of Mary. He was pleased to clothe His Son in the flesh of Mary. Jesus is equally an image of his mother as he is of the father, just as all of us are. And we are all, men and women, destined to grow into his image. Certainly all women are in the image of the New Eve just as all men are in the image of the New Adam.
What a mighty and high calling, ladies! And by ladies, I mean, gebirahs! Whether you are mothers to earthly children or not – Ladies, you are called to be mothers after the image of Mary just like men are called to be fathers like Christ was the image of the Father. Jesus said, anyone who is childless for Christ’s sake will receive a hundred times as much in the Kingdom of God, even children. That crown John saw Mary wearing, that’s your crown in the Kingdom! If you claim your dominion in the Kingdom, you also take responsibility for the love and care of the children of God. Whether you have your own children or don’t, you are called to live and to love in this special manner.
And to all the mothers out there, we celebrate you and honor you. We love you! We admire you, and we respect you. Just like not all Christian men can or will imitate Jesus in martyrdom, or Paul in celibacy, neither can or will all women imitate Mary in motherhood. Just as the crown of martyrdom and the life of celibacy are special callings from God, so also is marriage and motherhood. Mothers, you have this special calling, and you have this promise in the Bible that you “will be saved by childbearing if you continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Tim 2:15)
Mothers, you offer your body completely to the life of your child in your womb. The moment your child is conceived, your body is no longer your own, but a home for another fragile, innocent, beautiful, miraculous human life with infinite potential – nestled in the safety of your womb. God entrusts you not just with your own destiny, but the destiny of your child. You risk your life in carrying that child to term, and in the pains of labor.
These are risks and pains that even the most loving husband will never be able to take on for you, even if he wanted to. God has given you such an awesome responsibility in all this, and if you’ve had children, you know that he is the one whose hand is on your pregnancy and delivery. You know that childbearing is not just an awesome responsibility, but a miraculous blessing. And not just childbearing, but the life of motherhood.
Mothers, you humble yourself and put your child’s needs first. In all these things, you are a beautiful, living image of Christ’s sacrificial love. You show us the meaning of the name “the mother of all the living”. Just like Mary is a symbol of motherhood itself, so are you. You are a gift from God, and you deserve all of the love and support you could ever need and more from your family and loved ones. You deserve breakfast in bed, you deserve a post-church brunch, you deserve dinner and roses and chocolate, maybe a bit of champagne or a splash of tequila if that’s more your style, and you deserve a bubble bath and a little R&R from your motherly labors, too!