WONDER WOMEN — MARY
by Pastor Mike Fortune
July 30, 2011
Emanuela Chimoiu [beginning to 03:14]
- Rehearse the mighty acts of God (Luke 1:46-55)
- Learn to let Jesus be Lord (John 2:1-5; Mark 3:31-35)
- Cope by caring (John 19:26-27; Acts 1:14; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Emanuela Chimoiu lives in Spain. At first she wanted to go to Romania as a missionary supported by Maranatha, but didn’t make it. So she decided to support the Maranatha family of missionaries by faith pledging a small amount of money for several months even though she did not know how she would manage to pay it. But each month she discovered she could and so she increased the donation. Because of this young woman’s faith, God blessed her and the company she worked for financially. And continues to do so. Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, she learned to let Jesus be Lord. Like Mary, she also sees significance in rehearsing the mighty acts of God. To see what I mean, please open your Bibles to Luke 1:46-55 to see what I mean.
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Mary is the equivalent of the Hebrew word Miriam. The name is derived from the Hebrew word for “bitter.” She came from Nazareth in Galilee. According to John 19:25 she had a sister. And according to Luke 1:36, she was a relative of some kind to Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. While she was a virgin at the time of the annunciation, she didn’t stay that way. The idea that she remained a perpetual virgin is not true because Matthew 13:55 says both Joseph and Mary were the parents of Jesus’ brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (though these are not the same guys as James the brother of John, Simon Peter, or Judas Iscariot). The opening stanza of the beautiful poetic verses we just read, also known as Mary’s Maagnificat, speaks of God as her “savior” thus reminding us that she knew she needed one. Let’s take a closer look at those verses. Because doing so highlights point number one: Wonder women rehearse the mighty acts of God.
Luke 1:46 begins by saying Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. Which sounds an awful lot like the words of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1 who upon the birth of her son Samuel said, “My heart rejoices in the Lord.” In a couple weeks, on August 13, we’re dedicating Joe and Julie’s long awaited baby girl Sethlina to the Lord. If you’re here that week, you’ll see and hear why we rejoice with her parents as they rejoice in the Lord as well.
But Mary continues in Luke’s account explaining why she’s rejoicing in the Lord. Verse 47 says it’s because God was her Savior! She must have been familiar with the words of the prophet Isaiah who said in Isaiah 45:21, “There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior.” And though she was a lowly servant girl, a teenager still, her amazing faith in what God prompted her to claim the words from the Psalmist in Psalm 102:17 that, “He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas.” When she said, “From now on all generations will call me blessed”, she wasn’t bragging. She was quoting Malachi 3:12 and the promise of God who according to Psalm 71:19 and 126:3 has done amazing things for us. 1 Samuel 2:2 says, “No one is holy like the Lord.” For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth according to Psalm 103:11. Mary knew about God’s “mighty arm” from Psalm 89:3 and that God scatters his enemies in Psalm 89:10. She knew Job 34:24 says, “God brings the mighty to ruin without asking anyone, and he sets up others in their place” and that He really does fill the hungry with good things according to Psalm 107:9 and that He always stands by his covenant—the commitment he made to a thousand generations and remembers His promise to Abraham and his children forever according to Psalm 105:6-9.
Although at first Luke 1:29 and 34 says that Mary was troubled and had questions about the angel Gabriel’s announcement. Her questions probably rose not just about how as a virgin she was going to conceive, but also about the social ramifications a pregnancy out of wedlock would bring the rest of her life—if she got to live it—for law allowed Joseph to have her stoned to death for breaking her engagement vows. Instead, there’s no evidence that either of these scary results lingered long in her mind. Like every wonder woman since Eve, she too longed for the Messiah. And her joy that the Redeemer was on the way and that she would His mother trumped all the fears she had. So to combat those fears, from day one, she started rehearsing the mighty promises and acts of God she knew.
Some people say Luke manufactured her response. And no doubt it is poetic and beautifully structured obviously based on two of Hannah’s prayers and numerous allusions to the the law, the psalms, and the prophets. But even if he did, Mary was obviously familiar with these verses as well. For when Jesus was twelve, and speaking to the religious teachers of the law in Jerusalem, when he wandered away from his parents, all the religious teachers and those listening were amazed at Jesus’ understanding. And He had to get that from somewhere! Luke 1:40 says Jesus, “Grew up healthy and strong and was filled with wisdom.” But from whom? The verse before says his parents! Luke 2:51 adds, “Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.” I think wonder women rehearse the mighty acts of God because they are familiar with the word of God. It was normal for Jewish mothers to recite God’s past faithfulness to His people (cf. Exodus 15; Judges 5; Psalm 68; 78; 104; 105; 114; 135; 136; 145; Habakkuk 3). And Godly moms like that pass along that love for God and His word to their children.
Everyone knows what Piaget and the experts in child psychological development agree is true. The first 10 years of a child’s life, mom is most important. Practically everything a child needs to know he learns from his mom. That’s why you still see giant football players running into the stands to give their pint sized moms sitting in the front row the football with which they scored a touchdown. But what is equally true is that the next 10 years of a child’s life, the father becomes most significant. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, the teen years are all about what the child sees in their dad that will determine whether that child will also work hard, be respectful of others, love and respect their spouse, and serve God with all their heart long after their parents can’t encourage them to do so any longer.
If it’s important to dad, it will be important to sons and daughters! God designed it that way on purpose I think. To give value to both parents. So children can watch and learn and rehearse the mighty acts of God like their parents did. This is why going to church together and bedtime stories and family worship and prayers are so important. Even as teenagers, words of affirmation and hugs at home and family worship is a must. It embarrasses my kids like crazy, they say “eew” and dive under the table, but I try to remember to kiss Jackie in front of them and apologize in front of them when I mess up. So they know I know I’m not perfect. But that even when I’m not, I admit it and try to make things better. If we don’t love on our spouse and kids and unplug and rehearse the mighty acts of God together with them, what makes us think they will do so later?
Moving on, point number two, wonder women learn to let Jesus be Lord. This is probably the most significant take away from the life of Mary. Perhaps you’re familiar with the first few verses describing the wedding at Cana thirty years after Jesus’ birth. John 2:1-5 says, “The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus' mother told him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, that's not our problem," Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." But his mother told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you.”
Now that is some good advice. Do whatever Jesus tells you. On another occasion, Luke 11:27-28 says a woman in the crowd called out to Jesus, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!" But Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”
Jesus wasn’t being rude in either case. The modern translations like the NLT we’re using today accurately captures the Greek by adding the word “dear” before woman in John 2. That was a common way of respectfully addressing a woman. Even the very rabbinic follow up question, “What does your concern have to do with Me?” is a familiar refrain throughout Scripture (cf. Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; Ezra 4:2-3; Matthew 8:29) to convey concern and disagreement but not disrespect. And though many people today believe Mary was some kind of super saint, who intercedes for others, it’s interesting in Scripture to notice in her own words that she needs a Savior and that her Mediator was Jesus. Maybe that’s why 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.”
It is ironic that the centrality and supremacy of Christ is often obscured by the adoration of his mother when Scripture goes out of its way to disagree with her and put Jesus above her. The book of Hebrews does a fantastic job of highlighting the supremacy of Jesus and aside from Revelation, whom you all can hear about on a regular basis on Wednesday nights if you’re interested starting up again on August 31, the second most voted for book when I asked you to vote a few weeks ago what you wanted to hear me preach next was Hebrews. So that’s what we’ll be closely studying this fall after school begins. Rightly understood, Jesus alone is to be venerated. And prayed to. For Jesus, not Mary, is our Mediator and heavenly high priest that Hebrews 7:25 says, “ever lives to make intercession for us.”
So it’s interesting when you read the Scriptures and discover that two of the three recorded times Mary appears in Scripture during Jesus’ ministry following the annunciation, two of them involve Jesus publicly disagreeing with for interceding. We just read the first. The second is in Mark 3:31-35 which reads, “Then Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, "Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you." Jesus replied, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" Then he looked at those around him and said, "Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Which sounds an awful lot like the reply Jesus gave that random woman in Luke 11 wanting to bless Mary for raising Jesus right doesn’t it? In reply, Jesus himself pronounced a bigger blessing on those who “hear the word of God and put it into practice.” And now here in the 2nd time Mary shows up in Scripture during Jesus’ ministry, he’s saying the same thing. “Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” So if Jesus did not exalt Mary above anyone else, why should we? Yes, He honored his father and mother, but He didn’t always agree with her. And respectfully said so. And we must do the same. Because wonder women rehearse the mighty acts of God. Point number one. But they also learn to let Jesus be Lord. Point number two. Jesus was Mary’s son. But He was also her Savior. And Lord. From the very beginning, she was rehearsing the Savior part fine. But the Lord part, well, that took a little more time. Just like it does for all of us! But after these public reprimands, Mary remains in the background of the rest of Scripture. She doesn’t intercede for miracles, special favors, or blessings on behalf of others anymore. She learns to let Jesus be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. She learns to worship “only God” as the angel in Revelation 19:10 says we should.
Years later, when all the disciples fled, apparently except John, who joined her at the foot of the cross, Mary shows up again. Not to assist in bearing the world’s sins—including her own—but to simply be there. She knew that just showing up and being there for your child is really the best thing any parent can do. Especially when your child is going through a difficult time. Even if you know why and understand the questions and answers, like Mary did since day one, when Simeon and Anna prophesied regarding the Messiah and that one day a sword would pierce her soul also, she knew the encouragement that meant the most to Jesus would not come from prophetic words but from presence.
Why? Because wonder women cope by caring! This is point number three. Simply by showing up, she reminded Him of the very words He told His disciples. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And that is what she had become. His disciple. When one thief was mocking Jesus and guards pierced his side with a sword and the religious leaders taunted him to come down from the cross, she stood silently watching her son die. But before He did, He interceded for her! John 19:25-27 says, “When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, "Dear woman, here is your son." And he said to this disciple, "Here is your mother." And from then on this disciple took her into his home.”
After Jesus’ death, Mary appears only one other time in the Bible. Acts 1:14 says the disciples, “All met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.” Apparently, Mary continued to cope with the loss of her son by caring for others. And that is something all of us can choose to do as well. When we’re hurting and confused and wondering where God is, we can choose to care for others who may or may not feel the same way. Because in caring for others, whether they ever care for us back, we become living parables of grace by rehearsing the mighty acts of God and showing others that we still trust God—even if don’t always understand or even always like His ways. All of us are learning to let our Savior become Lord. And God delights in both the saving and our learning.
That’s the way God is working in the life of Emanuela—that young woman in Spain today. And that’s the way God worked in the life of an ordinary teenager named Mary who became the mother of the Son of God—her Savior and Lord. She learned to let Jesus intercede. And when He did, her weaknesses became His strengths. Let’s close by reading out loud all together our memory verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV). “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” For more info, see John MacArthur’s book Twelve Extraordinary Women pp. 107-127.