A wean is a small child and, despite the fact it sounds like we just sit and stare at him or her, we mean that we are caring for them. That said, it is in fact normal to watch our children closely. We love to observe them reach their appropriate milestones and to see their wee characters start to develop; we look on as they grow and progress through life and wonder what kind of adults they will become. We pray and hope that as they navigate life, they will be okay.
Recently, I read this verse about Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). As I read, I could imagine Mary’s heart being full as she watched over her new baby lying there in the animals’ feeding trough. She knew she was with a very special baby; an angel had told her that His conception was miraculous and that He was the Son of God.
Mary watched as Jesus grew up in their hometown of Nazareth. When she had other children, she would observe their interaction and notice the difference in her firstborn. Jesus would not taunt His siblings or use angry words; He would never be rude or cheeky. He was sinless and incapable of doing wrong. The Bible says, “the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40). On one occasion in Jerusalem, when Jesus was twelve years old, He got separated from His family. Mary and Joseph went searching for Him and when they found Him in the Temple their worry turned to amazement as they heard how knowledgeably He conversed with the religious teachers. On their return home, Mary treasured in her heart all she had seen of and heard from her Son (Luke 2:51).
I wonder if it was with mixed feelings that Mary watched as Jesus left home at the age of thirty. Did she understand that now He was commencing the work that He had come into the world to do? She knew His purpose was to be the Saviour, but how could she fully appreciate what that would entail? I like to think that Mary was often close by as Jesus taught the people and performed many miracles. She certainly saw His first miracle being performed as it was she who pointed out to Him that the wine had run out at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). I hope she was there when the One that she had brought into the world gently lifted a little child up and taught the people about humility and the Kingdom of God.
A few days before Passover, about three and a half years after Jesus left Mary’s home to start His public ministry, He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. As He rode, a crowd ran ahead of Him, spreading their cloaks and tree branches on the road in a mark of deep respect. They shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). If Mary was there to witness this, I’m sure her heart would have leapt with joy, but in less than a week the fickle crowd’s call would change from words of praise to words of hatred as they shouted, “Crucify Him” (Mark 15:13).
From early morning, after His arrest, Jesus had been interrogated, beaten and ridiculed. Now, as He walked the Via Dolorosa, carrying His own cross and heading for Calvary, among the other women from Galilee who had followed Him there (Luke 23:49,55), was Mary, doubtless watching with devastation at what He was suffering. Worse was to come and she stood by the cross as the One she had borne, watched grow up, believed in and loved was raised up for the brutal soldiers and the jeering crowd to see. The earth was soon plunged into darkness, and I think Mary would have listened in agony as “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46). After the darkness lifted and Mary heard His strong cry, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), she saw Him bow His head in death. The work He had come to do was accomplished.
It is hard to imagine the emotions that would have warred in Mary’s heart over the next two days as she remembered the terrible suffering of her beloved Son but, in contrast, that cry of victory before He died. Did time stand still for her until the word finally came, “The Lord is risen indeed” (Luke 24:34) and one by one the stories of the empty tomb and His appearances to Mary Magdalene, Peter and her friends from Emmaus filtered through to her and filled her heart with renewed joy? His work on earth was finished and He was going to return to His Father in heaven; He had endured the suffering and it was time for Him to receive the glory.
We don’t know how long Mary lived after Jesus went back to heaven, but I love to imagine that, as her death drew near, she knew she would be closing her eyes on earth and opening them to gaze on the lovely face of Jesus, once her Son, now her Saviour and Lord. She had watched Him grow up, do many amazing miracles, be adored and hated, and finally suffer a horrific death and bear her sins as well as the sin of the world. Now she would watch Him be glorified and worshipped for all eternity.
Mary may have had a unique relationship with Jesus in physical terms during His life on earth, but we are all blessed with four accounts of His time here that can bring us into the same spiritual relationship that Mary had with Him. The Gospels beautifully complement each other to give us an insight into what it would have been like to watch the Lord moving around the regions of Galilee, Jerusalem and beyond, doing His marvellous works and sharing life-giving words. May our careful and regular reading of these lead us into a deeper appreciation of His holy character, His efficacious death and resurrection, and a longing to see Him honoured and glorified.