Summary: Motherhood for Mary was a painful privilege. It was a privilege for her to be chosen to bear the Son of God, but so very painful to have to witness his death.
A Painful Privilege
December 11, 2005
I read a very interesting comment about motherhood the other day. One commentator said that motherhood is a painful privilege. I guess that it is easy for me to say, being a man, but I like that. A painful privilege.
I know that my wife…and I am fairly sure that all of you mothers here today feel the same way…feels that it has been a privilege to be able to give birth to a child who bears the stamp and image of God. Even women who have not given birth, but who have adopted children, feel the same way; that it is a privilege to be able to guide a life so that he or she will be able to accept Christ and the Christian way of life. To be entrusted with so great a task is humbling indeed.
In our case, each one of our three children was wanted, expected, and anticipated. Look back to the biblical record however, and you see that some babies, although desperately wanted, were anything but anticipated.
Let me remind you of a few babies in the Bible. Do you remember Abraham and Sarah? Their story is told back in the book of Genesis. Abraham was ninety-nine years old and his wife Sarah was ninety. Sarah had been unable to have children during her life and so at this point, was resigned to the fact that she would die childless. But God had other ideas. An angel visited them with the news that Sarah would indeed have a baby. And she laughed. Can you blame her? But God’s word can be trusted, and it wasn’t too long when they welcomed son Isaac into their new family (Genesis 21).
The generation of Isaac’s grandchildren went into slavery in Egypt. After they had escaped and were beginning to settle into the Promised Land, but before they had kings to rule over them, they were governed by a number of Judges. It was during this time when there lived a fellow by the name of Manoah. His wife had been unable to have children, and so they were resigned to the idea of having to find pleasure in the children of others. But an angel came to her as happened to Sarah before her. The angel told her that she would have a son. She did indeed conceive and give birth to a son, Samson, who would grow and become one of the great Judges of Israel (Judges 13).
Sometime after the death of Sampson, there was another man named Elkanah who was married to a woman named Hannah. Hannah, unable to bear children, went to worship and prayed to God to allow her to give birth. God granted her request and she gave birth to Samuel (I Samuel 1).
This is beginning to be a familiar story, but let’s remember one more. In the first chapter of the gospel of Luke, we find the account of the angel Gabriel coming to stand before a man named Zechariah. Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, was getting older and had not yet been able to have a child. Zechariah prayed and prayed about the situation. Finally his prayers were answered. Elizabeth found that she was pregnant and was soon to give birth to a baby named John, who would grow to be the one who would announce the coming of the Messiah. We know him now as John the Baptist.
Motherhood is a painful privilege. These mothers gave birth to sons who brought them much pride and thanksgiving, but their offspring didn’t always take the easy path. Isaac, Sampson, Samuel, and John would all grow to discover struggle and hardship. They would call their people to do things that weren’t popular or easy, yet were necessary for the people of God. Sampson and John would have their lives tragically ended. For their mothers, the physical pain experienced in the birth process would become heartache.
We really want to talk about one more mother this morning. This mother is on the opposite end of the age scale as the first four. She was young; a teenager actually. We are not sure how old she was, but I have heard speculation that she might have been as young as thirteen or fourteen.
She wasn’t married. The other four mothers had the support and companionship of their husbands, but Mary did not enjoy that. She was betrothed to Joseph, but they were not living together yet; the marriage had not actually taken place.
Like the other four, she was visited by an angel and told that she would bear a son. That, however, is where the similarities end, for this son would be divine in origin. This child would grow, not just to bring help to his people for a time, but also to bring salvation to the world’s people for eternity. As great as his forerunners were, they weren’t even worthy to stoop to untie his sandals.