Mary had a front-row seat for an unbelievable life full of amazing stories: the angel Gabriel showing up out of the blue to tell her that she, a virgin, was pregnant (Luke 1:26-38)-and not just expecting, but expecting the Son of God; the baby’s birth in an animal shed far from home (Luke 2:1-7); the odd parade of well-wishers saying beautiful and occasionally frightening things (Matt 2:1-12; Luke 2:8-38); the mad dash to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath (Matt 2:13-14).
After Herod’s death, Mary and her husband. Joseph, eventually returned to the land of promise and settled again in Nazareth (Matt 2:19-23). They had other children (Matt 13:55). But her oldest son, the one the angel had insisted they name Jesus (which means “the Lord saves”). was different.
When he was twelve, she watched him dumbfound the religious experts at the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-50). When he was a young adult, she had to watch him leave home in obedience to the call that was infinitely deeper than her won fierce love.
Every veteran mom knows that parenting is a whole lifetime of learning to let go. The mother of a son knows this truth even more acutely; I can’t keep him. He has to live his life. For Mary it was deeper and more excruciating than even that: I can’t keep him. He has to give his life.
She was there for his first miracle-providing exquisite wine for a wedding reception in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). She heard the stories of his skyrocketing popularity. Perhaps for a time she thought back to the old gentleman she’d met at the temple, just eight days after Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:25-35), who had spoken of ominous things, warning of opposition to this child so intense it would pierce Mary like a sword. As public sentiment grew for Jesus to become Israel’s next king (John 6:15), one wonders if Mary thought, Maybe the old man at the temple was wrong-maybe he was just a kindly old fool.
If she had such thought, she was jerked back to reality when she heard the reports of her son’s increasingly heated verbal confrontations with the Pharisees and scribes. Then, when someone told her the Sadducees and Sanhedrin were getting involved, she felt nauseated. Vicious political enemies and bitter religious foes aligning in lockstep against her son? Her mother’s intuition told her, This is it; you need to be there. So she went.
Mary was there when the Roman authorities (with the full approval of the Jewish leaders) took her oldest boy, hammered his battered and naked body to a wooden cross, and lifted him up before the mocking crowd. Helpless to do anything, she could only shake with grief as she wanted his precious life ebb away. She was there when he drew his final breath.
You have to believe she was never able to forget the gruesome images of those terrible hours. You hope that somehow they paled next to that beautiful gesture by Jesus in his final moments when, from his bloody perch, he arranged for his mom’s care (John 19:25-27).
The Bible isn’t clear if Mary was there for all the joyous confusion surrounding Jesus’ resurrection, but she is mentioned a few weeks later as being with the group of disciples who were waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of God’s Spirit.
It’s worth noting that the last recorded words we have of Mary are found in John 2:5: “Do whatever He tells you.” And maybe at the end of it all, that ‘s how she would most want to be remembered-less as Jesus’ loving mother and more as his obedient follower.