Mary: Born into the Church by Faith
Mary is unique among women in bearing the Christ-child. It is little wonder that she “pondered these things in her heart”! We sense her godly confusion. Did she, like many others, assume that Jesus would physically take the “throne of his father David”? The prophet Simeon had predicted that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul. And we find it unsettling that Jesus seems to rebuff Mary. Was she cut to the quick when Jesus said “Who are my mother and my brothers? …Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33–34). Did the sword pierce her soul when Jesus responds to her request for help with the wine at the banquet with a seemingly curt response: “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” (John 2:4)?
Jesus’ tender love for his mother is not to be questioned! Nevertheless, he may have needed to make clear to her that she could not count on entering the kingdom of God solely because she was his physical mother. No. Jesus is not being cruel to her. He knows that she must belong in the family by faith.
One might say that he gives Mary the honor of the first church membership. Seeing Mary and John from the cross, Jesus says to her: “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to John: “Here is your mother.” Jesus had not forgotten to provide for his mother, only to think about it at the last minute. No, he is deliberately and specifically showing them what the church is to be like. All who believe in Christ are his sons and daughters, mothers and fathers and are members of the family of God, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For that church to exist, Jesus had to be born in the flesh, live in the flesh, die in the flesh and be raised in the flesh! The writer of Hebrews says that those who need saving and the one who does the saving are “brothers” and “have one origin” (Heb 2:11). Jesus, the baby who is the Savior, is known as the “second Adam” because he is born in a physical body and becomes sin for us, dying to pay the punishment for our sins, rising in triumph over death, and ascending to the throne of God, there to intercede for us and to present believers faultless before God (Col 1:21–22).
As we celebrate Christmas, we must understand that our true family is that created by our Lord Jesus. Of course, we treat our physical family with tenderness, serving them sacrificially and sharing the love of our Lord with them, whether they are believers or not. But we must also recognize the everlasting nature of the church family, founded by God through Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ ascension. We are born into that family not physically but through the power of the Holy Spirit.
John took Jesus’ command seriously. Church history has it that he looked after Mary, taking her to live with him in Ephesus. May we take seriously our Christmas calling to “ponder these things” in our heart and to pour out Holy Spirit empowered love on our brothers and sisters in the church of Jesus Christ. We are all in the family of God not by physical lineage, but by faith in the Savior, born of Mary.