As the holidays are approaching, many of us are making plans to visit with family. For some people, this is an exciting time when they are joyously hustling around getting ready for Christmas. For others, it means having to work on relationships that have been strained over the past year and lengthy arguments or uncomfortable silences.
Relationships, especially in families, are typically complicated. Everyone has a different perspective, no one has the same exact experience, and we all have opinions. Then we have our sinful nature. The Bible is chocked full of many different families’ dramas that changed the world. Every one of these families had “relational issues” we could learn from.
However, there was one family, I had never closely looked into: the family of Mary, Joseph, and their son, Jesus, our Savior. There are 3 actual conversations that are recorded between Mary and Jesus. The first interaction was when he was 12 years old at the temple in Jerusalem, then when Mary, Jesus, and his disciples were at a wedding in Cana, and the last was while he was dying on the cross. There was also one time when his biological family waited to try to talk with Jesus, but He was busy teaching. I wondered if there was wisdom I could glean from the relationship between Jesus and His mother that would shed some light on how to better relate to one another.
While studying Luke 2:41 – 53, Mary and Jesus’ interactions at the Temple, I quickly realized there were some cultural differences I would need to take into account. For example, as a parent, I would have most certainly chastised my son if we left to go home, and he stayed behind, even if it was in a church. He would have been “grounded” for quite some time. Further, I would have seen Jesus’ response as disrespectful. The sheer authority with which he spoke to his parents would have been unpalatable for me. Mary did a much better job of handling the situation than I would have.
We know that Jesus was perfect in all He did, and Mary was imperfect since she was human. My initial reaction to the exchange showed that we were in the same boat. My sinful nature was taking ahold of me. So, instead of looking at it from a parent’s perspective, I began to look at it through the interrelationships, character traits, and personalities that could be observed. I believed the exchanges would help us to relate to one another better.
She showed how much she loved Him when she and Joseph looked for Jesus for 3 days straight. Mary didn’t yell at Jesus or chastise him; she asked a question. She didn’t punish nor did she lose control of her emotions even when his answer was perplexing to her. Mary’s quiet strength definitely shows in this conversation.
Jesus’ answer, although curious, was not inaccurate; in fact, he was speaking truth. Obviously, God would not have seen Jesus’ response as disrespect because He was perfect and doing what the Father would have wanted Him to do. Even though His mother was questioning Him, He didn’t disrespect her in any way. He didn’t yell at her, nor did he become “snarky”.
We can definitely hear in Jesus’ tone, His quiet God-given authority, even at the tender age of 12. The shift had already begun to manifest itself from the obedience of a child to the parents to His parents being a part of “man-kind” and His role as God the Son, the Savior of the world. This is highlighted by Mary and Joseph taking Jesus’ answer, and then letting the incident go.
While studying John 2:1 – 12, the wedding in Cana, I found 2 things quite curious in this exchange. First, Jesus told her it wasn’t his time and then proceeded to create the solution anyway. The second was when she totally ignored what He said. Right after He tells her it isn’t His appointed time; she began to tell the servants to do whatever He told them to do and then walked away as if it was done.
Relationally, I found this exchange to be quite normal in family-life. There have been many times I asked my adult sons to fix something that I, as their mother, knew they could do. Further, there were times when they didn’t see it the same way I did, but out of respect and to honor me, they did what I asked.
I have also seen in some of the exchanges I have had with my own sons, where I have totally ignored their first reactions and continued to make way for what I believed they could and should do. Mary’s reaction to this exchange reminded me that she was a human-being with a sinful nature. I felt we could be kindred spirits.
However, if we were to dig a bit deeper, she had a compassion for people, and in particular, the groom and his family at the wedding that I hadn’t recognized before. She knew they would be embarrassed if people found out they had run out of wine. It doesn’t give an explanation, but Mary, for some reason, felt compelled to find an answer to a problem that wasn’t technically her problem. She was advocating for the groom and his family. Mary knew exactly where she could go with such a problem as this, she had an advantage. She had a son who was the Son of the living God who could speak, and it was done.
I was astonished at the knowledge and faith Mary had. She knew exactly who Jesus was and what he could and would do. She seemed to know that his power and his pure love for mankind would begin to manifest itself in a way that would bring honor and glory to His Father. She was like that proud mother who can’t wait for their child to show Himself for who and what He was.
Jesus honored his mother, even though He told her that it wasn’t His time yet. He was and is God, and yet He had compassion on the groomsmen and his family and His mother and her heart for the family. He cared more about the people than the timing.
While studying Matthew 12: 46 – 50, I was interested to see how Jesus reacted to the request of his biological family to speak with Him. Jesus is perfect in every way and yet it appears as if He had “fluffed’ His family off. In my human mind, as a mother, I would have been offended. It doesn’t say whether He spoke with them or not, nor does it say they said anything back to Him. I just couldn’t understand why He would react the way He did.
As is evident, I needed to take a second look and re-evaluate my conclusions. I am sure that whatever it was that Mary and her other children wanted to talk with Jesus about was of importance to them, but I realized by this time, Jesus’ main focus was not on the here and now, but on the eternal.
As important as whatever the biological family wanted was, it could not have been as important as what he was doing. Jesus was teaching who His Father was and what He expected of His children. He was teaching that later He would be their only hope of salvation. He was showing how to live and how to read into the laws of their fathers. He was teaching the difference between religion and a relationship with God the Father. He was also explaining who we are to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and how we are to treat one another. Jesus knew, in His perfection, what had to be at the top of His agenda. He knew He would soon no longer have the opportunities to teach them how to be saved and how to live out the remainder of their lives as saved people.
While studying John 19: 25 – 27 the exchange between Jesus and His mother as He was on the cross was curious. Jesus didn’t assume that the oldest living male sibling would take care of His mother, Mary. In Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, John 7:3, Acts 1:13, I Corinthians 9:5 speak about Jesus’ siblings: James, Simon, Judah, Joses, Thomas and 2 sisters; Reachel and Lea. Why would Jesus feel the need to have His mother taken care of by a disciple instead of His half-siblings?
Jesus, while on the cross, made sure to take care of His mother by requesting that John (His beloved disciple) take-in His mother. I found it interesting that He was thinking about His mother while literally dying on the cross. In my humanness, I am not sure what I would be thinking during a time like that, but I am sure it wouldn’t be that.
After contemplating this scene for quite some time, it seems to be a continuation of how Jesus saw the distinction between biological, earthly-family and the heavenly-family that we are born or adopted into once we become saved. Not only were his siblings not present for the crucifixion, but they were not believers until after His resurrection which may be why He decided that one of His adopted heavenly brothers should take care of His mother.
I also found His compassion, His ability to love on us, while He was on the cross in pain and agony, His body literally dying to be significant. His death, itself, showed love beyond measure, but to also to be thinking of His beloved mother while He was in that kind of pain – can only be done in His Godly strength. He was doing one of the last things he needed to do for her, as her son, to honor and cherish her as she deserved, by making a way for her after He was gone. He had so many other things that could have been on His mind. Instead, His love for her to the very end and His attention to even the most trivial things, was on display for the world to see for generations to come.
Wow, after I analyzed the 3 exchanges and the request for attention, I realized there was so much we could learn about relationships and how to live as family from Jesus and His mother. Both were slow to speak, slow to anger, and quick to listen. They both showed patience toward one another and self-control. They both accepted each other and their positions. They both had compassion for others and honored one another in different ways. Not only did they both put others first, but they loved others with such complete abandon.
Mary taught us not to jump to conclusions nor to allow ourselves to be hurt or offended easily, but to fully embrace our relationships as she was able to do with her son. Jesus taught us to honor our relationships, even when it would be easier to let go.
God knew what he was doing when he gave us the following verse to live by: Galatians 5:22 – 23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” This one verse sums up all of the attributes I saw in the exchanges between Jesus and His mother.
I am amazed that we don’t look at Jesus’ family and how they related to one another more as they are the prime example of how a family COULD work when we are all dedicated to putting God first and loving one another completely.
Which attribute are you going to focus on achieving while with family this year?