Mary:The Virgin Mother
September 18th, 1983 @ 7:30 PM
MARY: THE VIRGIN MOTHER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-18-83 7:30 p.m.
In our Bible let us turn to the first book of the New Testament, to Matthew, the first chapter of Matthew. And we shall begin reading at verse 18 and read to the end of the chapter. And if you did not bring your Bible with you, in the pew rack in front of you, you will find a Bible. And let us all read it out loud together.
And on radio, you who are sharing this moment with us, get your Bible and read aloud with us. Matthew, chapter 1, verse 18—now all of us together [Matthew 1:18]:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn Son: and he called His name Jesus.
This is our introduction to Mary in the First Gospel. In the Third Gospel, in the Gospel of Luke, being a physician, a doctor—and while Paul was incarcerated in Caesarea for three years—Dr. Luke visited with the people who were involved in the gospel ministry of our Lord. And among those he visited with was Mary, the mother of our Savior. And Luke writes the story intimately, and as a doctor would, from the viewpoint of the mother [Luke 1:26-38]. Matthew, of course, writes entirely and completely from the viewpoint of Joseph [Matthew 1:18-25].
And putting the story together, it goes in a brief summary like this: from heaven, Gabriel—who is the messenger of God—came to Nazareth and announced to a virgin girl named Mary that she should be the mother of this foretold and foreordained Child whose name is to be Jesus, Immanuel; “God with us” [Matthew 1:23]. She was troubled at the announcement, but acquiesced in the word and commandment of the Lord through the angel and gave herself completely to the will of the Father in heaven to be the mother of this Child [Luke 1:26-38].
She made a visit to Elizabeth, her kinswoman in the hill country of Judah [Luke 1:39-56]—and there was a deep reason for that visit that we shall see in just a moment. Then coming back to Nazareth, the day came when they were compelled to make the journey to the city of their forefathers. And both of them—being from the house and lineage of David—they returned to Bethlehem for the Roman census [Luke 2:1-5]. While they were there, the Child was born [Luke 2:6-7].
On the eighth day, the Baby was circumcised [Luke 2:21], according to the law [Leviticus 12:3]. On the tenth day, five shekels of silver were paid to the temple for the redemptive money [Exodus 13:13-16; Numbers 3:45-47]. And on the forty-first day, the mother was purified [Leviticus 12:2-4]; at which time Simeon, the old and aged prophet, spoke of the glory of the Child, the hope of Israel, the Savior of the world; and said that a sword would pierce through Mary’s soul [Luke 2:25-35]. And Anna the prophetess took the Baby in her arms and glorified God [Luke 2:36-38].
Then because of the vicious, tyrannical, murderous intent of Herod, the family fled to Egypt [Matthew 2:11-18]. And after an unannounced and undisclosed time and sojourn in the land of the Nile—afraid to return to Judah because of Archelaus, the son of Herod—they returned finally to Nazareth, and the Lad grew up in the city of Nazareth [Matthew 2:19-23].
When the day of His showing forth to Israel came, He performed His first miracle in a wedding of Cana of Galilee [John 2:1-11]. And then the mother, in great care as we shall see, watched over and prayed for her wonderful Son.
Then when He was crucified, she was standing by the cross [John 19:25]. And seeing her, the apostle John heard the Lord say: “Behold your mother!” And to the virgin Mary: “Behold your son!” [John 19:26-27]. And from that day on, she made her home with the son of Zebedee, the sainted apostle John [John 19:27].
Then she is last seen in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, gathered there with the one hundred twenty, waiting and praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:8, 14-15], which came to pass at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4]. Then she disappears from history.
Now to the message: why is it that this girl was chosen—Mary of Nazareth? There are three reasons: number one, whoever was the mother of the Messiah had to be a Jewess. Every Jewish mother in those days prayed that the child to be born would be the Messiah, the promised Messiah.
First: the girl had to be a Jewess of the chosen people and family of God. Second: the girl had to be of the tribe of Judah and of the lineage and household of David. As Paul writes, the Child had to be of the seed of David [Romans 1:3]. The promised Messiah and Savior of the world was through the line and lineage of David. And I think most scholars would defend the view that in Matthew we have the genealogy of Joseph, the legal father [Matthew 1:1-17], and in Luke, we have the genealogy of Mary, His mother in the flesh [Luke 3:23-38]. Second: she had to be of the lineage of David [Romans 1:3]. And third: she had to be a virgin. In Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” ‘Immânῦw’êl, “with us is God” [Matthew 1:23].
So, the Lord found just such a pure and holy and precious girl in Mary of Nazareth. When I read the story of Mary, there are many things in that story that, in a surface, casual, peripheral reading, we don’t understand, we don’t sense. May the Spirit help me in this brief moment to enter into this “Holy of Holies” in the life of the virgin mother of our Lord:
And Mary said to the angel, How could such a thing be, for I know not a man?—
I am not married—
And the angel answered and said, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: and that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God…
For with God nothing is impossible.
And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.
There is more in that than we at first, casually, peripherally, can see. She is unmarried; she has not a husband and she doesn’t live with a man, and yet she is to be the mother of a child [Luke 1:27, 34]. And when she acquiesces in yielded surrenderness to the announcement of the angel and the will of God [Luke 1:26-35], she humbly and obediently vows: “Be it unto me according to thy will” [Luke 1:38].
The embarrassment of it, the shame of it, the inexplicable reason apparently for it—how do you explain that? And I think that is the reason that she went to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. And when she came into the hill country of Judea, Elizabeth was six months pregnant with the little child named John [Luke 1:36]. And Mary stayed there with the aged Elizabeth three months; that is until the little baby John—later called the Baptist—was born [Luke 1:39-57]. And as Naomi was a mother to sweet, beautiful Ruth [Ruth 1:16-17], Elizabeth, the aged Elizabeth was a mother to Mary.
Now, why the visit to Elizabeth? And why do I say Elizabeth was a sweet, aged mother to Mary? Somehow, some way, Mary had to explain what had happened to Joseph. Now in those days a betrothal was as binding as the marriage itself. And a betrothal could only be broken by a writ of divorcement. And when Joseph was told what had happened to his espoused and promised bride, Mary, instead of making her a public example, and bringing her before the townspeople, and accusing her of adultery and fornication—which would carry with it by the law a stoning to death [Leviticus 20:10]—Joseph thought: “I will put her away privately” [Matthew 1:19].
Can you imagine—can’t you?—the hurt, the crushing realization to that sweet girl? “Joseph doesn’t understand, and I can’t make him understand, and he’s planning to put me away privately.” Oh, you’d have to live through something like that, I cannot enter into it. And it was then that the Lord intervened, and appearing to Joseph by night in a dream announced to Joseph:
Joseph, it is true what Mary has said to you. That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a Son, and you are to call His name Joshua—Jesus, Iēsŏus, Savior—for He shall save the people from their sins.
And be it everlastingly written on the books of God forever: “Joseph heeded the admonition of the Lord, and took Mary, and ministered to her, and watched over her, and cared for her” [Matthew 1:24-25].
And now, a second thing: why do you think not only that Mary went to see Elizabeth and stayed with her three months [Luke 1:39-56]—as I say, it was because of Joseph. How will you explain it to Joseph—second thing: why is it that Mary accompanied Joseph to Bethlehem? She was large (the Bible uses “great”). “She was great with child” [Luke 2:5]. To be a mother any minute, any day—why didn’t she stay in Nazareth? Why didn’t she give birth to the Child alone in Nazareth? I think the reason is very obvious when you think of it. When you consider it deeply, prayerfully—she wanted to be close to Joseph when the Baby was born, for the whole community pointed the finger: “Look!” And to give birth to the Child in the circle of Nazareth, with all of the suspicion, and embarrassment, and shame that it carried with it—Mary clung to Joseph. “And if you go to Bethlehem, I’ll go with you,” staying close to that good, great, godly husband, Joseph. And I think that’s the reason she went to Bethlehem with Joseph.
And when the Child was born—poor, poor, poor people, when the payment was made at the purification of Mary, it was to be a lamb. They didn’t have a lamb; so the Lord in the Levitical law provided it could be a dove or a pigeon—a turtledove or a pigeon [Leviticus 12:8]. And they offered a turtledove, the redemptive price; poor, but faithful! [Luke 2:22-24].
And when Jesus was crucified, Mary was standing at the cross [John 19:25]. This is a Latin hymn that has been sung by the people of the Christian faith for hundreds and hundreds of years—“Stabat Mater.”
Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta Crucem lacrimosa,
Dum pendebat Filius…
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed…
Poets oft have sung her story
Painters decked her brow with glory.
Priests her name have deified.
But no worship, song or glory
Touches like the simple story
Mary stood, the cross beside.
[Attributed to Jacapone da Todi]
The beautiful story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Now may I close?
I could not imagine if I wrote it in fiction or in poem or in song, I could not imagine a greater tribute to womanhood, motherhood, than the choice of God, that His only begotten Son should be born of a woman, of a girl, of a virgin [Isaiah 7:14]. What a tribute from heaven to motherhood, to womanhood. God entrusted His only Son to her [John 3:16]. And Mary, motherhood, was faithful [Luke 1:38]. The Lad, when He was twelve years of age, stood in the midst of the doctors of the law in the temple in Jerusalem, and they stood amazed at the depth of the learning and wisdom of that twelve- year-old Lad [Luke 2:46-47]. Who taught Him? His mother! And when Jesus comes forth to announce to the world His messianic mission from heaven, He does it in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the Word of God [John 3:16-17; Matthew 4:17]. When He came to the synagogue in the city where He grew up, they delivered unto Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And as His wont was, He opened the scroll and read from God’s Word [Luke 4:16-21]. All the days of His life, His upbringing, His mother taught Him the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures.
Sweet and wonderful mother, what an infinite blessing God has bestowed upon you; that child in your home, the most perfect creation of the Almighty, omnipotent hands of God Himself; yours, to teach, to love, to train, to guide in the mercy, and grace, and wisdom, and love of our blessed Lord. And to accept the assignment as from heaven is the dearest, sweetest commitment you could ever make in your life. It was the commitment of the virgin Mary, “May it be done unto me according to thy word” [Luke 1:38]. God bless you, wonderful mother. God bless the fruit of your womb, those darling children. And God bless the Josephs in your home who work for you, and walk by your side, who love you and pray for you, and in them may the name of our wonderful Savior be magnified in the earth.
Now may we stand together?
Now humbly before our Lord, may we pray? Our Savior, the more we read in God’s Book, the more our hearts are moved in love and adoration for the grace and mercies from heaven that reach down to us. Oh, to think that the only begotten Son of God should have been born of a woman [Galatians 4:4], know the sorrows and tears and trials of our human life [Hebrews 4:15], suffer and die on a cruel cross that we might have forgiveness of sins [Matthew 27:26-50; 1 Corinthians 15:3], O Lord, give us an eternity to praise and to love and to adore the great God our Savior. And our Lord, in the brief time that the Lord is giving us in our earthly pilgrimage, these present days, may we love Thee and serve Thee and walk with Thee, and above all dear Lord, may we bring our children up in the love and nurture of Christ Jesus [Ephesians 6:4]. What a heritage they are! What a gift from heaven! Oh, the goodness and grace of God that bestows upon us our boys and girls. And our Lord, if we know our hearts, in the home and in the church and in the school, it is our dedication to rear them in Thy love and mercy.
Tonight, while our people pray and while we wait, a family you, to give yourself to the great holy purpose of God for your home and your life, would you come and be with us? A couple you, “God has spoken to me pastor, we’re on the way.” Or a one somebody you, “Tonight I’m accepting the Lord as my Savior,” or “I want to be baptized according to the commandment of God in the Holy Scriptures” [Matthew 28:19-20], or “I want to put my life in the circle and circumference and communion of this precious congregation.” Make the decision now in your heart and in a moment when we sing, in the balcony round, down a stairway, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, here I am, I’m coming tonight.” And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us this precious evening, in Thy dear and saving name, amen. While we sing our song, welcome, welcome.
1:18-25, Luke 1:26-27
A. Luke writes from
B. Summary of the story
II. Why Mary of Nazareth?
A. The mother of the
Messiah had to be a Jewess
B. She had to be of the
tribe of Judah and lineage of David
C. She had to be a
virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
III. The announcement (Luke 1:34-38)
A. She humbly and
obediently vows “according to Thy will”
B. The reason she went
to visit Elizabeth
C. The Lord intervened,
appearing to Joseph (Matthew 1:19-21)
1. Joseph heeded
the admonition of the Lord
D. The reason Mary
accompanied Joseph to Bethlehem
E. They were poor, but
F. Mary at the cross
IV. God’s tribute to womanhood, motherhood
A. God entrusted His
only Son to her