Each year this nation sets aside a Sunday to pay tribute to mothers. It is to be a day of appreciation. We are not merely saying to our mothers, "Thanks for giving birth," though that is worthy of more respect and appreciation than we men can comprehend. It is a day for expressing our appreciation for the love, sacrifices, unselfishness, nurturing, devotion, and tending we received from our mothers. We are declaring that you not only gave us our lives, but that you are a powerful, primary influence that helped mold us into the persons that we are.

Once I was talking with Gynnath Ford, a fellow preacher. His mother was in poor physical and mental health, and her condition was declining. Virtually every day that he was at home he visited and spent time with his mother. Many days she was hardly aware that he was there. Someone marveled that he spent so much time with her when she often was not responsive. He explained, "I am just expressing my appreciation for the years that she took care of me when I was helpless and even more difficult to care for."

I doubt that there is any challenge in all of life that is as demanding and difficult as being a godly, loving mother. No man will ever fully comprehend either the difficulty or the challenge.

As in all challenges confronted by people, for some the challenge is much greater than it is for others. This morning I want you to think about the woman for whom motherhood presented the greatest challenges any mother has experienced.

  1. I think motherhood presented challenges to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that have never been equaled.
    1. Consider the occasion when Mary learned that she was to become a mother. The Gospel of Luke in 1:26-38 tells us about that occasion.
      1. An angel by the name of Gabriel was sent by God to a town called Nazareth in the region called Galilee in the nation of Israel (1:26).
      2. Gabriel brought a special message to a young lady who was engaged but not yet married (1:27).
        1. This young lady was likely in her teen years.
        2. She was a virgin; she had never been sexually active.
      3. The conversation between Gabriel and Mary was fascinating.
        1. "Greetings, woman richly blessed (favored one). The Lord is with you."
        2. While I am sure that the presence of the angel shocked her (angels had not appeared to her, either), the greeting troubled her more than the presence of the angel (1:29).
          1. What did these words from the angel mean?
          2. Luke says that she "pondered" these words.
        3. "Don't be afraid; you have found favor with God" (1:30).
          1. "You soon will be pregnant."
          2. "You will have a son."
          3. "You will name him Jesus."
        4. "This son you will have is not just any child" (1:32).
          1. "He is destined for greatness."
          2. "He will be called the Son of God" (an incredible designation).
          3. "God will give him David's throne" (thus fulfilling an old and long anticipated promise that God made).
          4. "He will become the eternal ruler of Israel, and his kingdom will never end."
        5. Mary is suddenly thrust into the same situation that Abraham experienced when God appeared to him hundreds of years earlier.
          1. God made some incredible promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), but all those promises were dependent on Abraham having a son.
          2. Nothing God promised Abraham could happen unless he had this son, and Abraham was seventy-five years old and childless after many years of marriage.
          3. All the angel's promises were dependent on Mary having this son.
          4. She asked an obvious question: "How can this be possible? I cannot be pregnant because I have never been sexually active."
        6. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of God will overshadow you. "
          1. "That is why your son will be called the Son of God."
          2. "In fact, today, Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant--and you know that she has never had a child and is well past childbearing years" (1:36).
          3. "Nothing will be impossible for God" (1:37).
        7. Listen carefully to Mary's response: she said, "I am the female slave of the Lord. Let it happen to me according to your word," or, "May I as an unmarried virgin be pregnant with this child just as you have said."
    2. Please carefully consider what an incredible statement of faith, of acceptance, and of surrender this is."
      1. In the entire history of the nation of Israel, in all of God's workings in the nation of Israel, in all of the unusual and unexpected things God had done in Israel, how may times had virgins had children in the past? None.
      2. What had God ever done in all His known deeds that was similar to this decision and action? Nothing.
      3. Place yourself in Mary's position:
        1. What did the law of Moses say?
          1. Exodus 20:14--Do not commit adultery.
          2. Leviticus 20:10--Execute those who do commit adultery.
        2. What was Mary's situation in this matter?
          1. An engagement arrangement was binding.
          2. It could only be broken by divorce.
          3. The minimum that could occur was severe disgrace with significant consequences.
        3. If you were unmarried, had never been sexually active, and were engaged to be married, and an angel told you the same thing Mary was told, how would you like to explain your pregnancy to your parents? To your fiancé?
        4. When you were about seven months pregnant, how would you like to explain to anyone:
          1. An angel came to see me.
          2. God has give me the special task of having this child.
          3. I am having the child for God by the power of God--the Holy Spirit made my pregnancy possible.
          4. God will use this child for special purposes.
          5. The angel even told me to name my son Jesus.
        5. How would you like for God to select you for that purpose?
      4. Her response was incredible: "I am the Lord's slave. I am willing to have the child."

  2. Have you ever thought about what it was like to be Jesus' mother?
    1. The night that he was born some shepherds visited (Luke 2:8-20).
      1. They told this young family that an angel told them about the birth and told them where they would find the newborn infant.
      2. Mary listened to them and stored what they said like one stores a treasure.
      3. She pondered these things in her heart.
    2. Eight days after Jesus was born he was circumcised just as the law of Moses commanded (Luke 2:21; Leviticus 12:2, 3).
    3. She, as all Jewish mothers who had sons, was impure for thirty-three days after the birth.
    4. As soon as those 33 days were completed, she took Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord as prescribed by the law of Moses (Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:6-8)
      1. While they were at the temple, they encountered Simeon (Luke 2:25-35).
        1. The Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would see the Christ before he died.
        2. He took the infant in his arms and confirmed that Jesus was the Christ.
        3. Both Joseph and Mary were amazed at the things that he said.
      2. Also at the temple they met an 84 year old widow named Anna (Luke 2:36-38).
        1. Anna never left the temple area--she fasted and prayed there day and night.
        2. When she saw the infant she immediately began to praise God for sending the redemption of Israel.
    5. It was perhaps about this time that the wise men came for their visit (Matthew 2:1-15).
      1. Their visit placed Jesus' life in danger because the jealous King Herod knew why they came.
      2. Immediately after their visit, an angel told Joseph to flee to Egypt with his young family, which he did.
      3. They did not return to Nazareth until King Herod died.
    6. I cannot imagine what it was like to be mother or father to Jesus as he grew up.
      1. The only incident from his childhood that is preserved for us is the family visit to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover when Jesus was twelve (Luke 2:41-51).
        1. Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem when the family headed back to Nazareth.
        2. They thought he was in the crowd and did not miss him for a full day.
        3. They finally found him in the temple area listening to teachers and asking astounding questions.
        4. Mary scolded him for causing them so much anxiety.
        5. Jesus asked, "You did not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
        6. Neither Joseph or Mary understood his statement.
      2. Again, we are told that Mary treasured these things in her heart.
    7. I cannot imagine what it was like for her during Jesus' ministry.
      1. How would it affect her to see his soaring popularity--for him to be in such demand that it was very difficult for her to have access to him?
      2. How would it affect her to see the most powerful men in the nation become his enemies?
      3. How would it affect her to see the kind of people that he taught and helped?
      4. How would it affect her to see and to hear about all the miracles?
      5. How would it affect her to hear his teaching?
    8. The things she saw!
      1. She was there watching when they crucified her son--she saw the pain and heard the mocking and ridicule (John 19:25). Have you ever thought about the whole crucifixion ordeal through the eyes and ears of Mary?
        1. In her grief and broken heart could she still see God at work?
        2. At that moment, what did she think of giving birth to Jesus?
        3. Did she wonder where God was and how God was going to make him king of Israel?
        4. She not only was there, she was so close to Jesus that she could hear him when he spoke to her (John 19:26, 27).
      2. Interestingly, the accounts do not specifically state that Jesus appeared to his mother after his resurrection.
      3. But when everything quieted down and the disillusioned went home, Mary the mother of Jesus was one of the one hundred and twenty disciples who remained in Jerusalem after Jesus died (Acts 1:14).
        1. She helped choose a replacement for Judas.
        2. On that basis, I presume that she was among the first who became a part of the first congregation of Christians in Jerusalem.

One of the most difficult and critical tasks that God ever gave to any person, He gave to a woman. She responded with faith and surrender. It was not a task that would require great faith, surrender, and sacrifice for a day or a year or five years. It was a task that would consume over thirty years of her life. At every stage of Jesus' life, her task changed and become even more challenging. That task ended when she witnessed the execution of her own son. She watched and listened as people killed that special son that God gave her. When the angel told her that her son would sit on the throne of David and rule Israel forever, I sincerely doubt that Jesus' execution on a cross entered her thinking.

With great faith and courage she accepted the task. She told the angel, "I am willing to do what God wants." And that courage never faltered. Can there be any greater documentation of the power and importance of motherhood? God always makes special use of godly mothers who, in faith and courage, willingly surrender to the purposes of God.

Mary has an important lesson of life to teach all of us. Mary's focus on her life had nothing to do with her sense of convenience. She accepted the task God gave her. It was more often a liability rather than an asset to Mary to raise Jesus. In her concept of life, God's purposes and mission were bigger than she was. The focus of her life was serving God's purposes.

Do you define your life as "I am here to advance the purposes of God"? Take the focus in your life off convenience and advance the purpose of God. The greatest rewards in life are not in our own purposes. Let God use you to accomplish His purposes.

We are not ashamed to invite you to be a Christian.
We are not ashamed to ask you to devote your life to Jesus Christ.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 11 May 1997

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