Mary, the Lord’s mother, was the “virtuous woman” if anyone was—her price was “far above rubies”, for she was to be the mother of the Son of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who said through His servant Nathan the prophet, “He shall be my son”. Uniquely, he is “the seed of the woman”.

Joseph, too, was the most virtuous of men, as was shown by his reaction to the devastating news that his betrothed, whom he loved so dearly, “was with child”. To him also appeared the angel of the Lord, who said, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife…Then Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife”.

He showed a readiness to comply with the angel’s words, just as Mary herself had responded: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word”. For his role was also one of deep spiritual responsibility towards his wife, and her Divine son.

So that holy thing which was born of her is called the Son of God. “For with God nothing is impossible.”

The record spares us the details of Mary’s feelings, and of her estrangement from her neighbours; the loneliness she must have felt in a situation which would not be understood then, nor was it to be later (John 8:41). We can almost feel the spasm of fear that would enter her heart at the angel Gabriel’s words, as her mind instinctively thought of Joseph’s probable reaction, a fear at once rejected in recognising her greater calling. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed”, or happy. For had not her cousin Elisabeth, being filled with the Holy Spirit, said, “Blessed art thou among women….blessed is she that believed”? Truly God’s service has promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

And remember, this so spiritually mature mother to be, was only about sixteen or so years old! For marriage in those days was normally contracted in mid teens. Even then, the birth was not without difficulties, for it was necessary for Joseph to take her on a most arduous journey in her condition. And when she so wearily arrived in Bethlehem, “there was no room in the inn”. Through the compassion of the innkeeper, they were given room in a stable. It was there that the cry of her newborn child gladdened the stillness of the night. It was there the shepherds found him of whom the angelic chorus had sung.

God’s Son was born, “but Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart”!

They did unto him according to the law of the Lord; making the offering of the very poor, “a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons”. Some consolation came from Simeon and Anna. “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.” Though even then Simeon had warned Mary, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also”.

Warned by an angel, Joseph took them to Egypt. What did this beautiful young mother know of Egypt? What added fears did Egypt hold for her? Where would they live? How would they survive? Her great forebear David had said, “Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread”. And forsaken, we can be sure, they were not! In heaven is a Father who loved this Son as no other was ever loved by his father. This was His beloved son in whom He was well pleased, and Mary’s fears, expressed in her prayers, were allayed.

It is here that we might add a note about Mary’s own family. The inspired genealogy gives us the names of her parents but no other information about them. What we do know is that she must have come from a very godly home, and from a line that contained some very godly members. Not just the stock of David (who weren’t always fine, godly people) but of Tamar, Rahab and Ruth. Her sister was Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John. There was history and tradition in this family of David. And Mary was a thinker and a Bible reader. Her faith carried her through very great trials for one so young.

Who of us has sought for a child three days “sorrowing”—surely an understatement! And he, God’s son, only twelve years old. When found in the Temple he said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” And though they understood not the saying, “his mother kept all these sayings in her heart”.

At about thirty years of age, Jesus and his disciples, with his mother, attended a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Although Jesus had done no miracle before, Mary’s faith shone out. “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come”, is plainly not a rejection of Mary, for she said to the servants, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”. “Woman” was a term of respect. It was the title by which he addressed her when he was on the cross (John 19:26).

Mary was always there. Now she stood at the cross to comfort him to the last—she had always known what was in store for her son, and trembled for him. That is probably why she had once sought to restrain him (Matt 12:46–50).

“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” This was John, one of the “sons of thunder” who had wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans. To judge by his epistles written years later, John learned a lot about love from Mary. She left a deep and lasting impression upon him.

Did Jesus appear to Mary after his resurrection? We know that he appeared to his brother James who then believed. Surely he appeared also to his widowed mother, though we do not have a record of that event.

In the final reference to Mary in Scripture, she is in the upper room where “these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication”. We can imagine her, greatly respected and loved by all, a mother in Israel to the believers, the first of many subsequent generations to call her blessed.

The Lord Jesus loved his mother, the finest of all women. Every true brother and sister in Christ will love her also, and look up to her. For it is not just to Mary, but “unto US a child is born”. May we soon see her kindly and gentle face, free at last from pain, in the resurrection. What special joy awaits her then, when she is reunited with her son and with her husband, when “all generations shall call her blessed”.

Mary Magdalene

The Lord crossed the Sea of Galilee to Magdala in Dalmanutha. But the Pharisees and Sadducees, who knew well enough who he was, came to tempt him, asking for a sign. “And he left them and departed.” A fruitless visit you say? No! The Lord had come for one terribly distressed woman possessed with seven devils. Healed, she became the most devoted follower of her Lord.

There are six Marys mentioned in the gospels. This Mary is distinguished by being called Magdalene, after her place of origin. Just for her the Lord had gone out of his way and faced a hostile and unbelieving reception. A lesson to us indeed!

Though mentioned twelve times, there is no mention of her family. She was, we might say, “without father, without mother, without descent” and, we might add, without husband. We have sisters like that, too, who have no history, and can at times be very lonely in ecclesial life unless we, like the Lord, show loving compassion toward them.

Christianity unjustly identifies Mary as a harlot, though “seven devils”, or evil spirits, is really a description of one who has complete madness (cf our Lord’s parable in Matthew 12:43–45).

She was in need of saving, and the Lord saved her; just as, later, he was to destroy “the devil” in his own death and to be perfectly healed at his resurrection. His mission was to save sinners, those not in their right mind, and he still does!

Mary must have been a woman of some substance, though she had no husband, for she was able to continue with, and minister to, the Lord. Her ministrations were persistent and humble. Her complete devotion arose from her heartfelt gratitude for her restoration. How does our level of gratitude and devotion compare?

Mary truly did “fellowship his sufferings”. At first standing with the other women “afar off” (Matt 27:55,56), she drew near to the foot of the cross when darkness mercifully hid the worst of her Lord’s humiliation (John 19:25). As gross darkness covers the world today, we “who were once afar off” should draw closer to him, “made nigh by the blood of Christ”.

Mary was not to leave him, but remain faithful, even after his death. She, with “Mary the mother of Joses, beheld where he was laid”, with deep pain and sorrow in her heart—her name means bitterness! She still, in her mind, clung to him as he was laid in the tomb.

It was Mary who, with other women, came to the tomb at the rising of the sun on the third day bearing sweet spices to anoint his body, only to find the tomb was empty. After telling Peter and John, she followed them back to the empty tomb and beheld her risen Lord in the garden. Not, of course, that she knew him at first through her tears, but when he said, “Mary”, she knew instantly. “Rabboni”, she gasped, and flung herself upon him.

“Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren.”

“She went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they… believed not” (Mark 16:9–11). No doubt they thought Mary was overwrought and had suffered a relapse. How frustrating it must have been for her.

Mary’s love and her reaction on seeing her Lord, remind us of the Bride in the Song of Solomon. “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not… I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go” (Song 3:1–4).

The first man had fallen into a deep sleep while his bride was formed from his side. On his awakening she was presented to him. Similarly, Jesus fell into the deep sleep of death, “a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water”. In John’s record it was Mary Magdalene who, as she wept, looked into the sepulchre and saw two angels in white sitting. They said to her not, “Mary”, but, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She turned back “and saw Jesus standing but knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus said unto her, “Woman [he didn’t use her name either!], whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener [Adam’s occupation]… saith, Rabboni… go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God , and to your God”.

So Mary, in this allegory, represents the Bride of Christ, the second Eve, who will say, “My Father and your Father”, as any bride does when she is joined as one to her husband.

What a wonderfully devoted woman Mary Magdalene must have been that the risen Lord should choose to appear to her first, even before his mother, “because she loved much”.

Let Mary Magdalene be an inspiration in grateful, loving devotion to us all.

Some Questions and Thoughts for Discussion Around the Daily Readings from Matthew

1 Discuss Mary’s obedience (Luke 1:38) and how we can reflect the same attitude in our lives. Would the Lord have still caused Mary to conceive if she had not said, “be it unto me according to thy word”?

2 When Mary pondered these things in her heart, what Scriptures would she have considered concerning the virgin birth and the effect divine begettal had on the Lord Jesus Christ?

3 Mary Magdalene ministered to her Lord. In what ways are we able to minister to our Lord? Consider the statement, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.

4 How well do we know our Lord? Are we able to recognise him from his voice alone like Mary Magdalene, and if so, how?