1. The first came when as a young girl, perhaps 16-years-old, the angel Gabriel visited her. What she heard surely was loaded with powerful and positive emotions. Gabriel told her she was “highly favored,” and added, “The Lord is with you.”
Talk about a swing of emotions: “You will be with child and give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the Name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His Kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked Gabriel, "since I am a virgin?"
“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God…. For nothing is impossible with God.’"
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38).
Her heart must have been pounding as she tried to process what she had just been told. How does a 16-year-old handle that kind of message?
2. A negative, wide swing in her emotional pendulum occurred when she realized with heartbreaking sorrow Joseph was seriously thinking about putting her away privately, because he knew the baby Mary was carrying was not his child.
3. Her emotions swung again, this time to positive joy, when Joseph shared with Mary an angel had appeared to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because her Baby was “of the Holy Ghost.” And the angel added, “she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His Name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21, KJV).
4. Mary’s emotions must have been off the charts when she as a very brave female teenager and expectant mother started out, obviously alone, on the ninety-mile trip to the Judean Hills southwest of Jerusalem. Seeking verification from Elizabeth that she was in her sixth month could have been one of the reasons for the trip. Another might have been to get away from the wagging tongues of Nazareth who spread the word Mary’s baby in her womb was illegitimate.
Think about who was in the room when Mary stepped over Elizabeth’s threshold: a pregnant teenager, a six-months-pregnant lady old enough to be a grandmother, and the Holy Spirit. I’ve wished many times I could have been over in a corner watching and listening.
It had to be a huge confirmation to Mary when Elizabeth told her she was in her sixth month. The spirit of prophecy came on Mary in those moments, and she starting singing, composing a psalm as she sang. We know it today as the Magnificat. It is has lived for 2,000 years as a masterpiece of God-honoring Hebrew poetry. It starts like this:
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and Holy is His name…. (Luke 1:46-49).
Please understand, dear reader, Mary also had to make, alone, the ninety-mile trip back to Nazareth. Wow! What a strong young woman.
5. About three months later, Joseph and Mary had to make the trip again, this time to Bethlehem, about five miles south of Jerusalem, to register and pay their taxes. Mary’s delivery of her Baby was so near. Mary’s emotions had to peak when she actually delivered Baby Jesus in the stable and held Him in her arms for the first time. Any mother would surely agree.
6. How could Jesus’ mother ever forget when she and Joseph took Baby Jesus on the five-mile trip to the temple in Jerusalem for His dedication eight days after His birth. Simeon the prophet shook their world. “A sword will pierce your own soul too,” the prophet told Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:35). I don’t think Mary ever forgot that statement. Her emotions had to swing back to the negative.
7. Wouldn’t you have liked to have witnessed Mary’s reaction when the Wise Men showed up at the house where she and Joseph were staying? (Matthew 2:11). Then those men stepped off their camels and started walking toward the house, holding presents. Their interest was to see Baby Jesus.
How does a teenager handle all of that emotion?
Did Mary’s mouth drop in awe and amazement when the wise men bowed down and started worshiping her Baby? When those same Wise Men presented Baby Jesus with their gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh, did this poor couple hug each other as the tears poured? It was surely more wealth than they had ever seen.
8. Not too long after this visit so power-packed with emotion, Joseph had another dream. "Get up," the angel said, "take the Child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him."
When Joseph told Mary the dream, surely Mary’s emotions swung again; her Baby was in grave danger. But how would they live in Egypt? I wonder which one of them said it first: We’ll live on the gold the Wise Men gave us! They obediently headed for Egypt that same night, this time with their little Baby Boy cradled in their arms (Matthew 2:13-15).
9. After they returned from Egypt and settled in Nazareth, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple as a young Boy of twelve, only to lose Him when they headed back to Nazareth. They thought He was in the crowd, but were oh so wrong! Mary’s emotions surely nosedived. For three long, heart-breaking days they searched all over Jerusalem. Many parents can identify with this frantic emotional swing, when they realized they didn’t know where their Child was and began to fear for His life.
Captured and made a slave? Murder? Will we ever see him again?
But the one place they had not looked was in the temple. It was there they found Him. The temple scholars were amazed at the lad’s sharp questions and answers.
Predictably, “His parents were not impressed. Instead, they were upset and hurt” (Msg.). After all, they had lived with the pain for three days and surely thought of themselves as inadequate parents who had failed the Lad and, even worse, failed God by letting Him get lost.
Many women can image Mary’s tone. Dear reader, please stop reading and try saying it like you think Mary did. Go ahead, give it a try: “Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you" (Luke 2:48, Msg).
"Why did you need to search?” the Lad answered. “Didn't you realize I would be here at the Temple, in my Father's House?" But they didn't understand what He meant. Then He returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them; and His mother stored away all these things in her heart (Luke 2:49-52, TLB).
10. A multitude of widows can easily identify with Mary’s negative emotional plunge when she lost Joseph, her husband. None of the Gospel writers tell the story but it is not hard to imagine. In fact, Joseph is not mentioned again after he took Mary and twelve-year-old Jesus on that trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem to worship in the temple (Luke 2:42-51).
10. Dear reader, will you please try to put yourself in Mary’s shoes at her horrible, first sight of her Son, mangled and bloody, hanging on that cross? The scene surely burned into her consciousness and stayed with her as long as she lived.
“Why couldn’t it have been me?” Mary surely screamed. Any good dad or mom would have had the same thought.
The sharpest sword driven into her body could not have hurt any worse than the razor-edged emotional blade that cut its way into her soul. Part of her agony surely was she could do nothing to help Jesus, neither to ease His shame, nor even to lessen the off-the-charts pain.
A thousand memories surely flashed through her mind in that moment. One of them, I think, was Simeon’s prophecy some thirty years earlier; she remembered it like yesterday. She and Joseph were young then and so very happy to be taking Baby Jesus to the temple for dedication and circumcision (Luke 2:21). Now it was almost certain she was thinking, “Oh my God, this is what the prophet meant!”
According to the social customs of the day, the primary responsibility for caring for a widowed mother went to the oldest son. In this family, it fell to Jesus who was literally, right before their eyes, dying in the most intense agony. Yet, Jesus tenderly honored Mary’s undying love. As her firstborn, Jesus proceeded to provide for His mother’s future. He assigned her care to the Apostle John who was standing at the foot of the cross with Mary and the other women. John described himself as “the disciple Jesus loved” (John 20:2; 21:7, 20). Jesus told John to take Mary into his heart as his own mother. Jesus also told His mother to receive John as her own son. It is a warm and caring portrait.
Jesus’ action laid the foundation for a ministry of completion in the church. Mothers are often left as widows to finish what a dad for whatever reason started but will not be finishing. The numbers also continue to grow of fathers left to provide for children without the blessing of a mother. Two of the most common reasons are death and divorce (which is also death in a form).
11. We do not know how long Mary stayed at the foot of Jesus’ cross. But powerless to help, she had to walk away at some point and leave Jesus hanging there. A deeper and deeper emotional plunge went with every step. She probably simply wanted to go into hiding and grieve with maybe a handful of safe friends.
12. Her agonizing grief lasted for three days that seemed like an eternity. My dear reader, will you also let yourself picture Mary’s emotional swing when some unnamed person brought her the message, and it began to sink in, that Jesus had walked out of His tomb?
Go ahead. Let yourself try to identify with the huge swing in her emotions from watching her Son die on a cross, to having a resurrected Son. Please let yourself try to imagine both, and them only three days apart. Please drink it in and you will comprehend anew what a strong woman she was.
13. Mary was with the group who watched Jesus’ ascension. I can only wonder what those emotions were like.
14. Mary was also in the Upper Room on Pentecost and was with the 120 when the Holy Spirit fell on them. That exciting-beyond-expression morning is the last reference to Mary in the New Testament.
If you capture these ups and downs – the pinnacles and the crashes – Easter will definitely have new meaning for you this year.