The following article was sent by my friend Scott Tomkins. Enjoy it!
By Scott Tompkins
Every Mother’s Day we give accolades for the love and sacrifice of our mothers. But rarely is heard among the world’s Protestant believers a word of praise for Mary, the mother of Jesus and the greatest maternal role model of all time.
Why is that? Perhaps because many Catholics and Orthodox pray to Mary, and that has long offended Protestant believers. This offense is based on 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” Though the Bible gives no evidence that Mary did anything to project herself as a heavenly mediator, she is held responsible. Most Protestants relegate her to Christmas narratives and nativity scenes.
But shouldn’t we all honour her as a role model? Every week our preachers venerate the Apostle Paul, and he is surely worthy because of his relentless devotion and sufferings. But Mary is perhaps even more worthy. Paul’s highest goal in life was knowing Jesus. In Philippians 3, he cries out with deepest longing, “I want to know Christ…” in all his power and sufferings.
Mary made no such cry. For over 30 years she knew Jesus like no one else on earth. By the time he was an infant she was told by angels, prophets, priests, and kings of who he was – and she treasured every word.
When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, she was perplexed (as any unwed teen girl might be). Then she responded with the most beautiful expression of faith in history, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” From that moment she knew.
Mary knew when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and Jesus was conceived.
She knew when she visited Elizabeth, and the unborn John the Baptist leaped within her elderly cousin’s womb.
She knew when Elizabeth blessed her and called the unborn Jesus “Lord.”
She knew already the blessing of God when Elizabeth declared, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!” Mary had believed from the time Gabriel delivered God’s promise.
Mary surely knew the love of God the moment she held the new-born Jesus and looked into his eyes.
She knew his greatness in new depth when lowly shepherds and kings from afar came to meet and honour him.
And she knew his destiny when the priest Simeon and prophet Anna declared him to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.”
Mary also knew from their warning that her own destiny would be intertwined in the fellowship of her son’s sufferings. She felt that sooner than expected — when she and Joseph had to flee to Egypt to protect him, then back home in Nazareth where neighbours likely whispered about Jesus’ unusual birth and exile.
The Bible gives us little insight on the childhood years of Jesus. But one can only imagine this mother’s delight in a child who was loving, joyful, kind, faithful, obedient, and gracious in all his ways. The one story we have from scripture (Luke 2:41-52) is of the boy Jesus lingering with the learned men of Jerusalem out of longing to be “in my Father’s house.”
No doubt, Mary made a few parenting mistakes along the way. But whatever they were, they are overshadowed by the nurturing love she poured into him.
Even before Jesus embarked on his public ministry, Mary knew her son’s power. Though Jesus scolded her for asking, Mary’s faith prompted a request at a wedding feast that led to the first recorded miracle of Jesus.
At that point, Mary knew Jesus soon would be stepping out to fulfil his calling. When it happened, it came way too suddenly. One day, her beloved son was gone, thronged by masses who were electrified by his power and teaching.
She likely felt motherly pride as good reports of him reached Nazareth. But within months, pride turned to pain as her son was maligned, mocked, and threatened by people who claimed to know God. Mary surely knew then that the prophecy Simeon had spoken over her at the temple was being fulfilled. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against.”
Mary missed Jesus and felt motherly concern for his life. Luke 8:19-21 tells of her trying to meet with him. She and his brothers sent word that they were outside waiting to see him. Jesus loved his mother (who scholars believe was a widow at this time), but he couldn’t allow her concerns to divert him from danger and destiny. He said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” We don’t know if Mary got in to see Jesus that day. But Simeon’s prophetic words must have come back to her with full force. Mary knew she had to release Jesus to do the will of his Father, even though it felt like a sword piercing her soul.
When Jesus was arrested, Mary knew she could stay away no longer. She stood by weeping as he was condemned, beaten, and taken to be crucified. As he hung on the cross, she didn’t run away. With purest motherly love and devotion, she stayed and prayed for him. Jesus didn’t forget his mother amidst his own suffering. Some of his dying words were directed to his friend John, asking him to care for Mary.
One can only imagine her joy at hearing the reports of his resurrection. Though the Bible doesn’t identify her as one of the 500 visited by the resurrected Jesus, she surely was. Mary would have not been surprised that her son was risen. She knew 33 years earlier who he was and is.
It’s likely she was the first person to embrace him as Lord. And considering the respect given to parents and elders in Jewish culture, this simple homemaker from an obscure Jewish village likely was highly honoured in the early church.
Today Mary is worthy of the same veneration (dictionary defined as great respect and reverence). Though she wasn’t a great queen like Esther, a great evangelist like Paul, or a great prophet like Elijah, she was great in that she faithfully executed the most daunting challenge ever given to a man or woman. She nurtured to adulthood the Savior of the World.
That should qualify her as the greatest mom in history.
Scott Tompkins is a former McClatchy Newspapers editor and columnist who joined the staff of Youth With A Mission in 1990. He served as editor, instructor, and communications leader with YWAM’s University of the Nations for 31 years and has edited over 100 Christian books.