Mary, Mother of Jesus has been studied, glorified, admired, iconified and revered. Though various denominations celebrate her life and her role in the faith in different ways, there’s no denying the fact that, for Bible-believers, Mary is an important character in God’s story. We all know that she was chosen to be Jesus mother through immaculate conception, that she journeyed on a donkey and gave birth-to the savior of the world no less-in a stable. We see her depicted as a woman in a blue head covering, a glowing angelic creature, an extremely pious and pure saint. However, there is more to Mary than a nativity scene. We would do well to remember that she started off much like you and I, not knowing what her life would hold, trying to honor her God. Since Christmas is right around the corner, I’ve been thinking about Mary a lot and I thought I’d share 12 things you may not have known about mother Mary.
1. Her name is Egyptian
Well, kind of. The Hebrew form of her name is Miryam (such as Moses’ sister, Miriam.) Some scholars believe that Moses, Aaron and Miriam were all originally Egyptian names, which would make some sense seeing as the Hebrew people had been living in Egypt for hundreds of years. If this is the case, then Miryam was probably derived from the Egyptian words Mery or Meryt which means “cherished” or “beloved” (think “merit.”) There is still debate about the origin of the name, but knowing that God often inspired people to name their children something very particular, “cherished” would seem fitting for the mother of Jesus.
2. She may have made her own match
I was always taught that Mary was probably only 13 or 14 when she was betrothed to Joseph and that it was most likely an arranged marriage, but I’ve recently read that in Jesus’ day, women were often given a say in their choice of spouse. Going back as far Isaac and Rebekah, Rebekah was given the chance to turn down the match that had been proposed for her. Matchmaking was certainly prevalent (and still is in Israel!) but it’s nice to think that, maybe, Mary and Joseph were grade school sweethearts (because yes-she probably was very young!)
Breaking off an engagement was like getting a divorce. For Joseph to break his commitment to Mary would’ve meant a lifetime of shame. Still, he was a pretty noble person to go through with it considering the unusual circumstances.
4. She was quite the poet
Outside of the Catholic church, Mary’s song (also called The Magnificat) is often overlooked, but it is a beautiful glimpse into her heart. Moments after embracing her cousin Elizabeth and realizing they were both miraculously carrying babies who would change the world forever, Mary bursts out: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my savior!” That is, if she spoke in Edwardian English. I’m sure it was beautiful in Aramaic as well. Read the rest of her poem here.
5. She had some serious doubts
When Jesus’ ministry got serious (and by that I mean He was being so controversial that there was a plot to kill Him,) Mary and her other sons came to fetch Him and bring Him home because they thought He had lost His mind (Mark 3:21.) Verses 31-35 give us the impression that she left empty-handed, hurt and bewildered.
6. She was an early Christian
One of the coolest things about Mary, in my opinion, is that she later came to understand Jesus’ teachings. She became part of the early church and Acts 1:14 tells us that she and her other sons were devoted to prayer and to the new body of believers. I would’ve definitely wanted her to be my Sunday school teacher!
7. She had several children
You may want to sit down for this one. Mary did not remain a virgin forever! She and Joseph welcomed several more children into their family after Jesus was born. His brothers are mentioned many times and his sisters are mentioned in Matthew 13:56, Mark 6:3
8. She also descended from David
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, he actually notes Mary’s genealogy instead of Joseph’s (yay moms!) This family tree shows that she too was descended from the Davidic line. Which is helpful, since Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father, so-to-speak.
9. She was (probably) an introvert
No, I did not ask Mary myself, so I could be totally off. But watching the way she responds and reacts throughout the story, I feel like we have reason to suspect she was introvert. Luke tells us that Mary “pondered these things and treasured them in her heart.” That sounds like a brown study to me.
10. She once misplaced her kid (yes, that would be Jesus)
You know those frazzled moms who accidentally leave their kids at Walmart or lose them at theme parks? Well, Mary was once one such frazzled mom. When Joseph and Mary decided to take their kids on their annual trip to Jerusalem for Passover (I’m picturing a Kosher ren fest,) they had such a good time, they forgot to count heads when they headed back to Nazareth. There were probably several families traveling together and everyone just assumed Jesus, by that time twelve years old, was hanging out with one of his other friends. They actually traveled for an entire day before realizing their mistake and, like any good mother, Mary panicked. After three days, they finally found Him in the Temple, “sitting among teachers, listening to them and asking questions.” I cannot imagine her relief…and confusion!
11. The Apostle John looked after her when Jesus was gone
There really was no such thing as an independent woman in the society Mary lived in. By the time Jesus was crucified, she had presumably been a widow for some time. Though Jesus’ words from the cross, “Woman, behold your son” sound harsh when we read them, this was actually His last act of love and honor to her before He died. Presumable, the Apostle John was being commissioned to look after Mary as if she were his own mother and Mary was being told to rely on John as she would a son. John was called “the apostle Jesus loved” and so it isn’t any wonder this responsibility went to him.
12. She was super brave
From the very beginning of her story, we see Mary to be a truly courageous individual. When the angel appears in her own home, she is startled, but keeps her head. When she is told she will have a child while she is still a virgin, she is puzzled but then goes on to quickly say, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38.) Then she had to go through the shame and torture of being an unwed mother in ancient Hebrew culture, the long journey to Bethlehem during labor and childbirth in a animal’s stall. Then there was the threat on her child’s life which the Maji warned her of, the flight to Egypt and then the job of raising the Messiah as her own child. Then she went through the confusion of His ministry (He wasn’t anything like the Messiah the Jews had been expecting) and the doubts about God’s plans. She had to hear the news when her cousin John the Baptist is beheaded, go through the loss of her husband and ultimately see her son tortured and crucified in the most horrific way. I can almost see the knowing look in her eyes, so full of sorrow and joy, as she breaks bread in the upper room with the early church. This lady saw it all, and through the ups and downs, she ultimately put her trust in God. What an awesome person we will get to meet one day in Heaven! What a perfect choice God made when He sent His son into the arms of a young mother.