“The characteristics of true love are long-suffering, kind, not envious or easily angered or resentful, the sort of love we should have one to another is one that is not easily provoked.”
Reading: 1 Sam 1
What we’re going to do is to look at two women in the Bible, Hannah and Mary, and consider how their lives revolved around their children, and their differing reactions to their God-given sons.
We’re going to start with Hannah and think about she struggled with her barrenness but showed great strength of character and understanding throughout, then we’re going to very briefly consider the Songs of Hannah and Mary, before moving on to Mary who was blessed with giving birth to God’s son, but struggled to understand her son for who he really was.
If you look at 1 Sam 1:2, you read there that Elkanah had two wives, we’re not told why he had two wives, but perhaps similar to Abraham taking Hagar, the barrenness that was inflicted upon Hannah led him in taking a second wife, Peninnah. However we find that this brought similar results in that like Hagar despised Sarah, we too see that Hannah was also despised by Peninnah and…
1 Sa 1:6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.
The passage here is showing us two very different women, Peninnah on one hand showing a very fleshly attitude to Hannah provoking her, but the barren Hannah is shown to be a woman of patience, a woman that refuses to be provoked, of patient faith and like Sarah was to bear a child of promise.
Their names even seem to suggest this theme of conflict, for Hannah means to “favour by grace (or petition)”, fulfilling the meaning of her name through her petition to God for a child. Whereas Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, her name means “coral” or “pearl”. The root word here means to “turn a corner” and suggests she had this sharp edge, this corner and she is described in v6 as Hannah’s adversary, a word that is sometimes translated as trouble elsewhere. She provoked her sore, to make her fret, and that word fret is very strong for elsewhere it is translated as thunder (on eight occasions) and roar (on three occasions), giving a sense that this was no small worry that Hannah was being caused and shows the emotional torment she was going through, it was like a roar of thunder to her and yet she wasn’t provoked as we see a bit later on.
Hannah is the only woman in the Old Testament with her name, and she only appears in these 2 chapters and the beginning of Samuel, but there is a Hannah in the New Testament, or at least the Greek form, Anna, and it’s worth looking at some of the similarities here.
Luk 2:36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
Luk 2:37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
This is the only time Anna is mentioned in scripture, but like her namesake, Hannah, in the Old Testament, here was another faithful woman in Israel, one that was waiting and praying for Israel’s Messiah. One who lived in similar times to the Old Testament Hannah, times when the priesthood was corrupt and she was looking for that one who would bring salvation to Israel, the promised seed, and likewise so was Hannah of the Old Testament. Anna is described as a prophetess in v36, she served in the temple night and day with fasting and prayers. The instant she saw the Lord Jesus Christ she recognised him and gave thanks unto God. She spoke of him to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. So we’ve got a Hannah in the Old Testament and we’ve got an Anna in the New Testament. Both were prophetesses, both prayed fervently in the temple, both were looking for one to bring redemption to Israel.
The first time we see Hannah mentioned is in 1 Sam 1:2 where we are told that Hannah had no children, where that word children is in the masculine. What Hannah was asking for was not children, but specifically as son and if you look in v11 we read that she vowed a vow and asked for a man child, or more specifically that word comes from the word for seed. You see Hannah wanted a seed of man, one who she was willing to dedicate to Lord God, all the days of his life. Hannah’s prayer was for a man to bring salvation to the rest of Israel, a man who would reverse the spiritual decline of the nation.
1 Sa 1:20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.”
She bore a son. Notice anything unusual about this? Of the six barren women in the Old Testament who were given children, they all gave birth to sons of promise. Normally you would expect 50% to be daughters, but with the exception of the Shunnamite woman, all the sons had important roles to play in the purpose of God. Of these women, Hannah was the fifth, five of course is the number of grace and Hannah was favoured by grace.
1 Sa 2:5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.
A prayer for more children, was she to have seven, or perhaps this was just the number for many, for she had only one so far. It is interesting that Samuel was the seventh son born to a barren woman. You’ve got Sarah with Isaac, the first, then Jacob and Esau, Joseph, Benjamin, Samson and now Samuel the seventh to Hannah, and what this emphasises is the hand of God at work here in the opening of their wombs so that they might bear a son. Naturally you’d expect an even chance of a boy or girl, but Hannah prayed fervently for a son, a son that she could give back to God, a son that would serve him from birth, a Nazarite from the womb, one to bring deliverance to Israel.
So it is, a son is given to her, but how do you think she would feel probably about 3 years later…
1 Sa 1:27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.
1 Sa 1:28 Therefore I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.
She takes Samuel to the temple, and presents him to Eli, a priesthood that was corrupt, and she simply turns away leaving him in Eli’s care. How do you think she would feel? How would any mother feel if they had left their only (and earnestly desired) son in the hands of Eli? Hannah is essentially saying, I asked for this son in petition, I asked for him for a purpose for God, my vow was to give him back to the Lord, that’s what I’ve asked for, and now the son is given back to God.
Even if she had promised that son back to God, the motherly instinct must have made it so difficult to part with her son, and yet she rejoiced in doing so, and when we look at Mary later, she is faced with the same difficulty and struggles to come to terms with it. We’ll pick up this idea later on.
Hannah prayed for a son to revive the truth in Israel and she gave him back to God. There had been a turning away from God, the light was going out and so Hannah’s prayer was for a son, for a seed of man to restore that light and to bring salvation to Israel and the parallel with the son of Mary who was to come later is of course obvious.
If we go back to 1 Sam 1:6, there is this word provoked, “and her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret”. If you look in your margin you might see that it means “angered her”. The interesting thing is that we don’t read of Hannah responding to that continual provocation even though it was like thunder to her. Our reading shows that Hannah had a very Christ-like disposition, the same sort that we should show in our own lives.
We read of the Lord Jesus Christ when he was tormented, prophesised in Isa 53. He made no answer, he was like a lamb to the slaughter, like the sheep before the shearers, he opened not his mouth. Surely that was the attitude of Hannah. In the epistle to Peter, who when he was reviled, he reviled not again, when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. Surely that’s the example we see in Hannah. Hannah’s Christ-like example, when Peninnah provoked her sore to make her fret she didn’t respond. There’s a nice little verse in Ecclesiates 7:9, be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry, and that’s the same word as provoked. Hannah was not easily made angry, she was not easily provoked when Peninnah sought to provoke her. Surely an example for us, that we’re not soon angry, that we’re not easily provoked by those provocations that come our way. There’s a beautiful connection in 1 Cor 13, where we consider the characteristics of true love. The characteristics of true love are long-suffering, kind, not envious or easily angered or resentful, the sort of love we should have one to another is one that is not easily provoked.
We’re going to move on now and consider Hannah’s example of prayer. It’s very prominent in scripture, occurring on five occasions. If you recall the words of James when we come to think of prayer, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) availeth much. We’re not going to look at all the examples of her praying, but just quickly look at some of the aspects of her prayers. In 1 Sam 1:10 we read that she prayed in bitterness, and the actual Hebrew word there is Marah so you can make your own connections there. So she prayed out of bitterness, but the prayer was a fervent prayer, it was full of emotion. In verse 12 we read that she continued in prayer and you may think of Luke 18:7 and the unjust judge where we read And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? So Hannah continued to pray, and God would not delay longer than necessary over her request.
In v26 we see that she was a woman of prayer and in v27 we see her acknowledgement of the answer to her prayer:
1 Sa 1:27 For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
It was an answered prayer and gave her such joy that we read of her rejoicing in chapter 2. It was a song of rejoicing, but it was also in the pattern of a prayer:
1 Sa 2:1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
…a pattern for effectual prayer, and given this time in joy rather than bitterness, but it was still a prayer that was active, it was fervent, and full of emotion.
How effectual is the prayer in our lives? Do we make it the centre of our lives, are our prayers living, are they consistent, are they constant? If so, the Lord will answer in his good time, and like Hannah we too will rejoice when he answers.
Again there are connections with the Lord Jesus who was our perfect example of prayer to the Father. Hannah who prayed with crying and tears, her petitions were heard by God as she poured out her soul before Him, and likewise:
Heb 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
So let’s go back to that situation where Hannah was walking away and leaving behind Samuel at the temple. Let’s reflect on how she would feel as she left him there. Samuel as we said was a young child, possibly only 3 years old, maybe older, but he is left with Eli, who failed to discipline his own sons. Yet it was in faith that she left Samuel, not in Eli’s care, she really left Samuel God’s care. She left him with God, she asked for him from God, he was asked of God and now she gave him back to God.
Let us remember that Samuel was in the situation where he was surrounded by corruption, by wrong doctrine, by wrong practice, by the worship that was presided over by Eli and by his sons, and yet we see that wonderful testimony in 2:21 and the child Samuel grew before the Lord.
We haven’t spoken much about Elkanah but I believe that Elkanah, his father was fully supportive of Hannah’s vow to give the child to the Lord. Under the law of course he could have disallowed the vow, that’s what the law allowed him to do, and just remind you what the law says.
Num 30:13 Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.
If he didn’t disallow in the day when he heard it, then he would bear her iniquity. So if she didn’t keep the vow, the husband would bear the iniquity, because he hadn’t disallowed it in the day when he heard of it. We know the importance of vows that thou shalt not slack to pay a vow, that which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt perform, so I believe that Hannah and Elkanah were united together in the keeping of this vow. I think we see a support for this in 1:23 where he is indeed supportive of Hannah and her vow, where we read: and Elkanah her husband said unto, do what seemeth thee good, tarry until thou hast weaned him, only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode and gave her child suck until she weaned him.
The two were united together in the upbringing of the child and the keeping of the vow. Isn’t it remarkable that as she left her son rather than being sad Hannah actually rejoiced and so we move on to consider those first ten verses of chapter 2, this we refer to as Hannah’s Song. As already mentioned, it says a prayer in v1 of chapter 2, but some of the manuscripts actually write it in poetic form. Probably the best description we can come up with is that it’s a prophetic and a poetic prayer, it’s a prayer of rejoicing, it’s a song of joy, it’s a prophetic poem of praise. In these ten short verses we could probably spend many hours, but we’re only going to spend a few minutes looking at this particular prayer.
In these 10 verses, the Lord’s name appears nine times, forming the very basis of both this and the Song of Mary. Very quickly we’re going to highlight some parallels between the two, but this is really a subject of its own whereas this evening I’d like to mainly concentrate on some of the characteristics of these two women.
1 Sa 2:1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
1 Sa 2:2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
1 Sa 2:3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
1 Sa 2:4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
1 Sa 2:5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
1 Sa 2:6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
1 Sa 2:7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
1 Sa 2:8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.
1 Sa 2:9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
1Sa 2:10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
My heart rejoiceth in the LORD,
My soul doth magnify the Lord
I rejoice in thy salvation,
My spirit has rejoiced in God my saviour,
My horn is exalted in the Lord,
He regardeth the low estate of his handmaiden,
My mouth is enlarged over my enemies because I rejoice in thy salvation.
(If the actual words don’t match up the very ideas and thoughts do…)
For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,
None holy as the LORD,
And holy is His name,
Talk no more exceedingly proudly,
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
The bows of the mighty men are broken and the humble are girded with strength,
He shall put down the mighty from their seats and exalt them of low degree.
The full have hired themselves for bread and the hungry ceased.
He hath filled the hungry with good things, the rich hath he sent empty away.
I’m not going to look into these any further, but I wanted to show just how aligned the two women were in their convictions, how they were united in their rejoicing to God. One of the things that we notice is that Mary draws only upon the first five verses of Hannah’s song, from verse 6 to 10 Hannah’s prophetic vision goes beyond the song of Mary. She speaks of resurrection (v6), authority and power, she speaks of inheriting the throne and of glory, judgement upon the ends of the earth, the exaltation of the anointed king, all matters that didn’t relate to the first coming of Christ, but to his second advent. Hannah’s song concludes in the tenth verse by introducing a new theme to scripture. It’s the theme of the Messiah, it’s the theme of the anointed and this is not the first time that the word occurs, but it is the first time that it’s used in connection with a king, it’s been used before in connection with the anointed high priest, however Hannah uses it for the first time of an anointed king. Messiah, the Anointed One. The great debate has always been who is Hannah referring to?
Well, ultimately of course, to the Lord Jesus Christ, but surely we’ve got a fulfilment in the time of Samuel, an initial fulfilment in Samuel’s work. Samuel looked for the Messiah among the sons of Jesse and when Eliab came before him (1 Sam 16) he said, surely this is the LORD’s anointed, it’s the same word. The anointing of David was an anointing of God’s chosen king. We will remember those last words of David when he spake concerning the anointed one of Israel, the Messiah of Israel, the theme of many of the Psalms. No doubt during the time that David had spent with Samuel in the schools of the prophets, this theme would have been fully developed between the two of them, they would have spoken together and surely David would have had his clear understanding of the Messiah, the anointed king of Israel, from his time spent with Samuel.
So Hannah as a prophetess speaks of events far into the future, but also of the change that Samuel’s ministry would bring. The Lord had priests to teach and lead his people, but now the corrupt priesthood was to be removed. God was now going to work through prophets and kings in the education and guidance of his people.
Some 1,000 years later, a woman with the name of Mary was to give birth to a boy who would become that anointed one, the one that Hannah had such a clear vision of.
Mary must have been a remarkable young woman. Out of all the young virgins in Israel, God selected this girl to be the mother of His son. There must have been something very special about Mary, and in fact what we’re going to find is that despite being this special, unique person, she had to struggle with a problem that all other disciple of Christ have to overcome. We’re going to look at her struggle to overcome this problem, and it regards her understanding of the anointed one that Hannah seemed to understand so well. It was the letting go of her special son, something that Hannah seemed to rejoice in, but something that Mary struggled with all her life, and it’s a problem that I’m sure we can sympathise with Mary and understand why she found it so difficult.
We’re going to start with:
Luk 2:22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
Luk 2:23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
Luk 2:24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
What does this tell us about Mary and Joseph? That this was the offering of the poor, they were not a wealthy couple, spiritually rich maybe, but not in terms of wealth and Simeon who was in the temple, an old man blessed them with these words:
Luk 2:34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
Luk 2:35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
You see the first part of v35 is in brackets, so we should have read… this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
One of the passages Simeon probably had in mind here was Isaiah 8, not the only passage I’m sure, but read Isa 8:14-15.
Isa 8:14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Isa 8:15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
There are two key words here, many and fall. This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.
Now what were they going to stumble over? Well of course Isa 8 is part of the Immanuel prophecy and the thing, the doctrine that was going to cause stumbling was the doctrine of God manifest in the Son. Immanuel (or God with us), and some people would rise to that doctrine and see that as the cornerstone of their faith and other people would fall under that doctrine not being able to understand it and stumble against the stone. So you see there was a fall or rising depending on how one reacted to the sign of Immanuel in the nation, God who gives thee a son, remember he asked for a sign in heaven above or earth beneath, God said I’ll give you a sign and the sign of course is the sign of Immanuel. So when Simeon said this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel and for a sign, I think that part of what he had in mind was the sign of Immanuel and the doctrine of God manifest in his Son.
The whole of Israel would be divided into two groups over whose boy this was, those who rose to an understanding of that principle or those that fell away by not accepting Jesus Christ as the manifestation of his Father.
Now if you come back to the bracketed bit in Luke 2:35 you can see that Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, and this was to be a sword that pierced Mary’s heart also and I think it is related to the idea of Immanuel, or God with us.
Where else is the idea of a sword taken up in the New Testament?
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Here we have the sword as the symbol of the Word of God.
Jesus makes reference to the sword himself too in Matthew 10.
Mat 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
…and what is the sword?
Mat 10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Mat 10:36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
What we’re talking about is the influence of the spirit sword dividing families. And down the middle of the family would the spirit sword come, why? And some would rise to the doctrine of God manifestation and others would fall away from that and the spirit sword would exercise that influence right into the middle of families themselves and that was the sword that would pierce the soul of Mary as well.
When Jesus says I’m come to set a man at variance against his father do you think Christ would really do that? Surely Christ wouldn’t come and set a man at variance against his father! So what does he mean? Is Christ saying that he would deliberately come and break up the family? Not that he was deliberately coming to break up families, but that the teaching of the word would inevitably have that affect. It wasn’t that Jesus wanted to do that, but that’s what the influence of the sword would be like, it would divide between families, all he wanted to do was to preach the doctrine of Immanuel or God with them, but some would rise to it and others would fall away and in that very process of his work, it was the inevitable effect of his teaching that families would be divided.
Mat 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
This is interesting. Now here’s the problem you see, he that loveth father more than me is not worthy of me. How was that a problem to Mary? She already loved him as a son, but the problem was that she loved him as her son. She had to learn to follow him as God’s son, and there is a big difference between the two. Mary had to learn that Jesus was Immanuel, God with us, and not merely her son, and the source of this problem was her bond with the child. It’s probably a bond that only a mother can understand, but as the son grows up the mother remembers all the things from when he was a child, like changing his nappies, his first tooth, his first walk. The mother remembers counting all the fingers and toes at birth just to check he is all there. This is how mothers are, they have very strong attachments to children, and sons in particular. You see this was Mary’s firstborn son and she loved him dearly, but it was this bond that was going to cause her problems and divide her own family until she learned who the boy really belonged to.
As we go through some events in Mary’s life I want you to consider five key words. Father, mother, brethren, disciple and son. They are all words that describe relationships, but sometimes the relationship can be flesh and blood, other times it is a spiritual relationship.
Here was the first sword piercing if you like. Keep an eye out for those keywords.
Luk 2:41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
Luk 2:42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
Luk 2:43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
Luk 2:44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
Luk 2:45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
Luk 2:46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
Luk 2:47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
Luk 2:48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
Can you see all the bits of mother here, you see what happens when a child gets into trouble, the mother gets worried. Mothers do, they worry about their children and what happens is when the child comes home safely or is found safely you know what the mother really feels, she really feels an enormous sense of relief that all is well and you know how she shows her relief? She gives the child a jolly good telling off. That true isn’t it? That’s how mothers react. Their actually really grateful it’s all ok, but it comes out as “don’t you ever do that again, you had mummy really worried”. That’s exactly what Mary does here, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing”.
Luk 2:49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
I think Mary felt that. Jesus obviously wasn’t being disrespectful to his parents but it would still have hurt. Your father and I have been looking for you… No, I’m on my Father’s business. Even at the age of 12, he was different, he was her child, but somehow not her child and there was this strange distance between her and the boy that she couldn’t understand.
Luk 2:50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
Luk 2:51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
You see this was going to affect her for a long time to come. The years passed, the family grew and there were other brothers and sisters for Jesus, though it seems that Joseph may have died because he disappears from the scriptural record and we only hear of Mary. It wasn’t a small family, perhaps Jesus, James, Joseph, Judah, Simon, two sisters and with Jesus being the oldest he would have been leaned upon more and more by his mother to solve the family problems, attending to the other children, doing this and that. Then the day came when Jesus’ ministry started and Mary had to face the truth that Jesus was going to walk away from home, for good this time, because he had his Father’s business to do. Though there was to be some more sword piercing before Mary realised that the bond between them had changed forever.
John 2, shortly after Jesus’ ministry has commenced we find him at the occasion of the wedding in Cana of Galilee.
Joh 2:1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
Notice that Joseph isn’t mentioned, he seems to have gone from the narrative, but the mother of Jesus is there, and …
Joh 2:2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
…Jesus himself. Why would Jesus and his mother be at a wedding? It was likely to be a family gathering, wasn’t it? A flesh and blood relationship. But it wasn’t just Jesus and his mother, there was Jesus and all his disciples called to the wedding and because Jesus is now a travelling Rabbi and he has all his disciples following him and perhaps the family felt obliged to invite them as well. And perhaps because of all these extra people, the wine ran out. See now v3.
Joh 2:3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
The first thing is that Mary is the one who notices the wine had run out. Women notice these things don’t they, and perhaps because it was a family gathering she felt a certain responsibility towards making sure the day went smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves. Notice what she is called in verses 1 and 3, we might be reading a little into this, but “the mother of Jesus”, don’t you detect just a touch of pride there? Here’s Jesus the travelling Rabbi and all the disciples and guess who else is at wedding… the mother of Jesus. That’s my boy! The Rabbi! Who wouldn’t feel proud? Wouldn’t you appreciate Mary feeling a touch of pride there, that Jesus was now famous and she says to him, we’ve got no wine, and you see for the last few years she had been used to bringing her problems to Jesus at home and leaning on him to provide a solution like he always had and perhaps she expected, with the commencement of his ministry, that maybe he would perform a miracle, something special, to really make the wedding into an exciting occasion.
Now here is the sword piercing in v4.
Joh 2:4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
That word woman in the Greek isn’t quite as harsh as it sounds in the English, but don’t think he was being rude to his mother here. The Lord would have never been nasty to his mother, but he didn’t call her mother, but woman. That’s a more distant relationship isn’t it, there is no acknowledgement that she is his mother and you see what he is saying to her, I am no longer subject unto you. I have begun my Father’s business and you can no longer depend on your fleshly relationship. She had to learn that the powers given to him by God were for advancing his Father’s purpose, not his mother’s. He could produce a miracle, but only if it served his Father’s purpose, not just because his mother asked him. That was the problem; Mary saw their relationship as merely a flesh and blood one, and not a spiritual one. Mary accepted the rebuff and instructed the servants to standby nevertheless and Jesus did produce wine by a miracle, but he made it quite clear he wasn’t doing it for his mother. Mother, disciples, woman. All these terms of relationship again. This time the emphasis is on the spiritual and the disciples are there also and this is a new sort of relationship that Mary doesn’t quite understand but she is going to have to grow in her understanding of that.
Now here is one of those little stories where you’ve got to picture the scene.
Mat 12:46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
Mat 12:47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
So you see here’s Jesus and in the course of his ministry he is talking to the multitude and on this occasion his mother and his brethren come along in order to have a discussion with him. Why do they want to have a discussion with him? Well in Mark’s gospel (3:21) it says that his relations said of Jesus at this time, He is beside himself, which is a sort of nice way to say gone crazy. They though that the rising popularity of Jesus was such that the fame of it all had gone to Christ’s head and the Lord had become a little bit unbalanced. They thought that in the heat of the moment there was a little bit of mental instability – he is beside himself they said, and so they decided to go and speak to the Lord. Now I think it was the brethren that instigated that because we’re told later in John 7:5 that his own brethren didn’t believe in him. You see what they did was got the mother Mary on their side and said look, we’ve got a problem with Jesus, he’s just about gone potty, we’ve got to do something and Mary’s motherly love and her natural anxiety for Jesus was swayed by the brethren into joining them and coming with them and here they are v46…
There was nothing wrong with Mary wanting to speak to Jesus, nothing at all, but the problem was what could she want to speak about? It’s not actually in the text, but you can imagine that she wants to say, Son, you need a break why don’t you come home with mum for a while? She wanted to protect him, wanted to look after him, wanted to mother him just for a while. You see how magnificent v46 is, every word is so powerful. His mother, and his brethren, stood without. That’s the problem. Mary (and the brethren) stand outside the circle of Jesus and his disciples. They are outside that spiritual circle and when you think about what that symbolises you now see that Jesus could never have gone out to his mother. She had to come to him, isn’t that the lesson?
Let’s think about how this actually could have happened. Mary wants to get a message to Jesus, but can’t get close, Jesus on a slight rise in the middle, surrounded by a great number of people, Mary and the brethren on the outside. How do you get the message to Jesus? Well, you tap someone on the shoulder and ask them to pass the message along. Ask them to pass a message along that the mother of Jesus is here and would like a chat, and so on, until it reached the front row. V47 says, Then one says to him… he was the one right in front of Jesus… and tells him his mother is outside. Mary on the outside sees the man stepping forward to Jesus, and v48 says,
Mat 12:48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
See all the key words here? Father, mother, son, brethren, disciples.
Mat 12:49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
Mat 12:50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
See all those terms of relationship coming out in the text? Once again the fleshly relationship is at conflict with the spiritual one. Those that do the will of my Father in heaven, that’s the only thing ultimately that matters (v50). We should never ever allow our feelings as mothers or fathers to override divine principles. At the end of the day the sole and final judge of what we do is, is it in accordance with the Father’s will? That’s all. That’s it.
The spirit of this is found in Psalm 69. Father, mother, brethren, disciples, son.
Psa 69:8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.
Psa 69:9 For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.
See what Psalm 69:8 says? I am become a stranger. David didn’t seek to become a stranger, he didn’t want to be a stranger to his brethren or mother, he became as such because he was committed to the Father’s purpose and they weren’t. It happened as part of the process because he had risen to the theme of God manifestation and they couldn’t see God manifest in him and so what he didn’t ask for, what he didn’t want, became. I’m become a stranger and notice this in v8… I’m become an alien to my mother’s children. He would never be a stranger to his father’s children, because a father’s children were his disciples. It’s the mother’s children he is alienated from and Mary is in it together with the children, involved in this alienation together and unless Mary can see him as the Son of God, she will always stand without, still desiring to speak to him.
I suppose the other good thing, the positive thing that emerges from that is that we are able to develop relationships in our churches that are based on spiritual pride even if we don’t have family in the church. Some people come in from outside and they don’t have families; they haven’t got mothers and fathers, or grandmas, or granddads in the faith. In the faith it doesn’t matter, we are able to develop spiritual ties and relationships because the church (or ecclesia) is now our family. See how all those words are woven into the story, father, mother, son, brethren, disciples…. It goes round and round over those words all the time doesn’t it. The struggle of Mary was to see who Jesus really was.
Here’s the last one.
Joh 19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
You can understand Mary wanting to be there, can’t you? This was her boy. And although it must have been a terrible thing for a mother to see he son crucified on the cross, she wanted to be there at the end.
Joh 19:26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
He didn’t call her mother, even now. He called her woman. Woman, behold thy son! Why did he say that? Was he asking his mother to look upon him?
Joh 19:27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
See how there is a complete switch here. He said to the disciple behold thy mother, he said to the woman, behold thy son. And so what he did was he invited Mary to look upon John now and regard him as the son that would look after her and then he invited John to look upon his mother and regard her as his mother and to look after her. So he invited them into a new relationship so that they might care for and comfort one another after he was gone. This time you’ve got the two relationships brought together, you’ve got son, mother and disciple. The spiritual relationship was the disciple that most loved him, and how does John’s gospel finish, looking at John 20 here,
Joh 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
Joh 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
John was convinced of this, wasn’t he? Jesus said to Mary, you go and live with him, he knows who I really am. It was a wise decision that of course, because Jesus’ own brethren, didn’t yet believe on him and I think specifically asked John to take care of his mother so he didn’t have to go back into the hostility of his own home. No doubt, in time Mary would be able to unfold all those things that she stored in her heart (remember Luke 2 – his mother kept all these sayings in her heart), and John would be able to help her reflect on the ministry of the Lord and between the two of them they would share many thoughts and learn many lessons. She may never have heard the words of the centurion, perhaps she had departed from that place with John by then, but what she had to understand was summed up in the words of someone else when the centurion said at the death of Christ – Truly this man was the Son of God.
Mary had to learn to come to Jesus as the Son of God, not as her own little boy. It must have been very difficult to overcome that natural affinity that a mother has for her son, and this was the stumbling-block that Mary had to overcome in appreciating the work and purpose of the Messiah.
Hannah as we saw earlier was faced with much the same situation and when the time came to keep her vow and give her son back to the Lord God of Israel she did so with rejoicing. I think this brings out some of the difference in their characters… two women, two God-given sons, each one to change the future of Israel. One woman was able to let go of her son, the other one wasn’t.
But we seem to have a happy ending, it seems that Mary finally came to an understanding – look at Acts 1.
Act 1:13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
Act 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Act 1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
You see all those words again, the mother of Jesus, the brethren of Jesus, but where are they all now? They’re all together in the midst of the disciples of Jesus, they are all inside the circle. Mary has joined the ecclesia, and so have the brethren, they’ve all come in together. They’ve all seen whose son the Messiah is, but it took Mary a long time to get there and there were many a soul piercings to learn that lesson.