What We Can Learn from Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Alicia Searl

Contributing Writer
Updated May 03, 2023
What We Can Learn from Mary, the Mother of Jesus

...even though her fate was on the line, she managed to share the news with Joseph, travel 90 miles with child through the desert, up hills, and along the Jordan River back to Bethlehem, all to deliver her precious and holy baby in a dark stable with animals surrounding her. 

Mary, sweet and gentle Mary. From a young age, she was given the most extraordinary task of all time – to carry the Savior of the world. As a grown woman, she was a witness to her son’s (the Son's) grotesque and brutal death upon a rugged cross. The scene of those final hours of His life is a painful reminder of what was foretold thirty years prior, and Mary was an integral part of that master plan. 

Quite honestly, I don’t believe I can even do “this woman” justice with my fallible words here. She has always been a woman I have held in high regard, possibly the most intriguing to me. Growing up in the Catholic church, Mary was a figure of awe, a woman to behold, and one that many find solace in through reflection. 

However, as I have grown into my own role as a mother, I see Mary with a fresh pair of eyes and have gained a whole new respect for her. My perspective on this truly remarkable woman’s life and her tenacity and faithfulness to obey God’s will still amazes me, but has somewhat shifted now that I have daughters of my own. My daughters are currently at the age Mary must have been when she received the news that would change her life and the lives of us all. That pulls at my heartstrings a bit differently now.

Mary’s story is so beautiful and breathtaking, as she gives us a unique glimpse into our beloved Messiah. So, my friend, I invite you to come and sit at the table. Pull up a chair, grab your coffee, and let’s discover what Mary’s story has to offer us as women. You may be surprised at how parallel her story is to your own. 

Young Mary

We meet her in the pages of the New Testament, each of the Gospels shares a similar story, offering a message of hope. Tucked within these precious words lies the fulfillment of prophecy. What has been long awaited for – the birth of the Messiah. And Mary is merely the vessel, the humble servant of the Lord. How exciting, right? Well, probably not so much for Mary. She was absolutely terrified – at least at first.

But let’s rewind a bit to see how we got there. Mary, a simple girl born in Nazareth, became betrothed to Joseph, probably around the age of 12 or 13. Yes, that’s extremely young, but this was custom at the time. And, while Joseph was quite her senior, most likely in his thirties, this was more about preserving family bloodlines and securing future generations. Young girls lived under the protection of their fathers until they hit puberty and were able to conceive and bear children to start a family of their own.

Pre-arranged marriages were very standard and used as a means to carry on family traditions. However, it is important to note that both father and husband took their roles very seriously, aiming to guard and protect the daughter/wife. It was their duty to honor and care for the women in the family. That being said, women were to remain innocent and pure until the consummation of marriage. If this was broken, it could lead to a brutal death, such as stoning, as it brought shame to both families involved. 

So while engaged to Joseph and being a virgin, Mary is visited by the angel, Gabriel, and told she will conceive a son (Luke 1:26-28). You could see why she would have been frightened in many ways to hear this news. But not only that, she yearned to gain understanding by asking how this could be since she was still pure (Luke 1:34). Of course, the angel assured her of God’s plan, even sharing that her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, was with child (Luke 1:35-37). This may have prompted Mary to visit Elizabeth and find a safe refuge there while gaining wisdom and counsel (Luke 1:39-45).

Joseph’s Role

Upon hearing the news of his future bride’s pregnancy, this naturally devastates him. But, because Joseph is a faithful man, he considers divorcing her in private to save her life, knowing she would forever be known as the woman that bore a child out of wedlock (Matthew 1:19). 

Then God shows up again to reveal His plan. Joseph is visited by an angel of the Lord in his sleep and softens his heart (Matthew 1:20-23). We see Joseph’s faithfulness here. While he must have been heartbroken at first and torn on what to do, he did what the angel said and what the Lord had commanded. He took Mary home as his wife and lovingly protected her until the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25). He must have been so frightened as well. Wondering what others might think while trying to protect Mary. His actions show his deep love for Mary. His willingness to save her life even if, at first, he felt betrayed. Then his heart to carry out a plan that he must have felt ill-equipped for.

But God chose him, just as He chose Mary. The Lord knew the heart behind the man and the willingness to obey and serve Him. God knew that together they would be able to carry out His plan that would give everyone on earth from this point on a new purpose – to live with passion for the coming Messiah. We can still say that as we await His return!

Mary – The Mother of Jesus

We see many accounts of Mary raising the Son of God and the trials and tribulations that come along with that. Who would have thought there would be struggles? But, yes, there were. And, just like any momma, I am pretty sure she felt inadequate at times and questioned herself regularly, as we all do.

One such story shared in Luke 2:41-49 shows us the behind-the-scenes of Mary’s maternal heart. Mary and Joseph took a trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, and upon returning home, after being on the road for nearly a day, they discovered that Jesus was not in their caravan of family members. Mary frantically searched for Jesus for three days. Three days! Can you imagine? When she finally finds Him in the temple, her reaction shows us what any mother’s reaction would be–one mixed with relief and a tinge of anger. We can hear it in her statement, “Son, why have you treated us like this?” (Luke 2:48). 

At some point, Mary becomes a widow and ends up raising at least four sons and two daughters. That wasn’t even the most difficult part, as most of her children did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God and even mocked Him (John 7:3). Talk about a divided home. The tension and turmoil Mary must have faced was likely heart-wrenching, yet we don’t read about that too much in the Scriptures.

Then there is the notion that has brought many to question why Jesus calls her “woman.” This happened on several occasions. Once at a wedding and another time as He is about to take His last breath on the cross (John 2:1-4, John 19:26) Why "woman"? Why not mother? While there are many views on this, in short, I believe Jesus was denoting her original role as a woman and the power of that precious role we all carry as women. Jesus loved His mother. He loved and honored her at the wedding by turning water into wine for a couple to be blessed, doing just as His mother asked. And He honored her at His death by recognizing the endless love and care she gave while raising Him.

How Mary’s Story Parallels with Our Own  

You may be thinking, how am I anything like Mary? She was so faithful and holy, and raised the Son of God. And, maybe, like me, you’re running on little to no energy and hanging on by a thread of faith. I hear you–I really do.

I used to hold Mary in this super saint light believing she must have done no wrong and that she had to have been some supernatural human. But this is just not the case. God chose her as a meek young woman–as a human with her own distinct flaws. But, even in her humanness, God saw her faithfulness. He saw she had a humble heart and was of great courage. He saw things in her that she didn’t see in herself. God sees beautiful traits in you too!

Here are three ways you can relate to Mary and believe in the calling God is placing in your life:

Be of BIG faith

Mary had no idea how this plan was going to unfold, and while she may have been frightened, she fully trusted God and willingly obeyed. We are commanded to do the same. We will encounter times in our lives that don’t make any sense, or we seem to be venturing down an unknown path. But, when we feel God’s pull to go in a certain direction, we must soften our hearts and be willing to obey. Trust Him, my friend. His plan for you is greater than you could possibly know, even in the pain.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Humbly Submit

Mary submitted to the Lord when the angel appeared and told her the news of her unexpected but very glorious pregnancy. She willingly said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Do you humbly submit to the Lord when He lays something on your heart and calls you to do things in His name? It’s easy to dismiss it or feel ill-equipped or unqualified. Fear can easily hold us back, but please don’t discount the calling that God has given you to share with the world.

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:7-8

Live with Courage

Mary’s courage is truly admirable. Knowing she was carrying a child as an unwed woman, then realizing it’s not just any child, but “the One” who will come to save the world. Talk about all the reasons to have an anxious heart! Yet, even though her fate was on the line, she managed to share the news with Joseph, travel 90 miles with child through the desert, up hills, and along the Jordan River back to Bethlehem, all to deliver her precious and holy baby in a dark stable with animals surrounding her. 

While we may not be facing the same giants, we live in a world filled with hurt, pain, and brokenness. We must live boldly, ready to share our gifts, talents, and love with others to spread light and love. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/yudhistirama

Alicia SearlAlicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy.  Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.