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.Matthew 1:20-21
Holy Spirit, Our Comforter
The above scripture about Mary, mother of Jesus is embodied in the text from the last Bible Study called The Birth of Jesus and it forms part of the dialogue describing his birth as recorded in the gospels. In case it was missed during the last study, a miraculous conception took place through the power of the Holy Ghost overshadowing Mary while engaged to her future husband Joseph. If there ever was a time when the role of the Holy Spirit played an integral role in human history, this was it, …for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit as more commonly referred to today, is indeed far from being some nebulous, detached spirit. Throughout his ministry, Jesus often spoke of the role of the Holy Spirit in a personal comforting. This continued right up to the time when he was preparing his disciples for his eventual departure when he told them, “But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” [John 14:26]
Consider also these further comments from Jesus regarding the Holy Ghost to his disciples, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” [John 15:26] Jesus then makes this further proclamation when speaking of the Holy Ghost that he will only come if Jesus departs as he says to his disciples, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” [John 16:7-8] The Holy Spirit is indeed still playing a very active and comforting role in the lives of believers today.
Mary in Scripture
Let us transition now back to this week’s scripture reading on Mary, mother of Jesus. Little did Mary know the things that were about to transpire with the appearance of the angel Gabriel, “And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, [thou that art] highly favoured, the Lord [is] with thee: blessed [art] thou among women.” [Luke 1:28] Indeed, it was perplexing for her as she responded to the angel accordingly,
“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” [Luke 1:34-35]
Mary’s unwavering obedience under these unusual circumstances were most astonishing based on her comments in scripture,” And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” [Luke 1:38a] Thereafter, shepherds also came to Mary, mother of Jesus after having been visited by the angel of the Lord and, “…Mary kept all these things, and pondered [them] in her heart.” [Luke 2:19]
Interestingly, for Mary’s unique, notable and no doubt blessed role in history as the mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14) she is mentioned only a few times throughout scripture. Perhaps most importantly for her comments expressed to her cousin, Elizabeth with two verses highlighted as follows, “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” [Luke 1:46-47] The acknowledgement of recognizing her need for a saviour and identifying God as her saviour are worth noting in this study.
Further on, when Jesus was of adult age, only certain circumstances were recorded with Mary present such as a wedding in Cana of Galilee, “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” [John 2:3-4] There appeared to be some awareness and knowledge of his innate ability and power since her comments were noted, here “His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do [it.] ” [John 2:5]
The inference here was that something miraculous was about to happen which proved very true, hence this portion of scripture then closes with Jesus creating wine in waterpots filled with water commonly used for hand washing. Matthew records this appropriately in the next passage of scripture, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” [John 2:11]
On another occasion, the disciples of Jesus informed him that his mother and brothers were trying to get to him through a crowd of people but Jesus gave a most interesting answer, “And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.” [Luke 8: 21] This was by no means intended to be derogatory, but rather it helped point his followers to the more important matter of hearing and obeying God.
The last mention in the gospels of Mary, mother of Jesus, was shortly before the death of Jesus upon the cross from crucifixion, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the [wife] of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own [home.]” [John 19:25-27] This compassionate care for his mother while he was dying on the cross is illustrative of the mercy Jesus has on all who come to him.
Aside from these few examples, Mary and for that matter Joseph, are seldom mentioned with the exception of when they had gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus was twelve years of age. Upon returning to their own city of Nazareth, they discovered that he was not with any of the company they were traveling with, “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. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” [ Luke 2:48-49] The direct implication here from Jesus was that he was about his heavenly Father’s business.
Little is mentioned about the genealogy of Mary, mother of Jesus in the scriptures. There is family lineage mentioned in reference to her in Luke 3:23-38 which records her family background all the way back to Adam. The very last mention of her in scripture was when the apostles once returned to Jerusalem and gathered in the upper room, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” [Acts 1:14]
As for Joseph, his family lineage is outlined in Matthew with one verse noted here, “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” [Matt. 1:16] Matthew records Jacob as the father of Joseph while Luke notes it as Heli but that tends to portray his marital relation more so to Mary. For the most part, little is known about Joseph other than that he was a carpenter by trade. He would have no doubt presumably cared for Jesus during his upbringing. It is notable though that Joseph is not mentioned outside of the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Jesus, Saviour of Mankind
To close off this Bible Study on Mary, mother of Jesus, let us reference once again this week’s scripture reading and note the connection given by the angel of the Lord in Joseph’s dream. That connection is between the name that the child will be called, Jesus, and the statement, …for he shall save his people from their sins. As stated by the angel in the book of Matthew, there is a distinct association between the name of Jesus and saving people from their sins. Without getting into Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew, Jesus Christ literally means the “saviour anointed”, hence the reference of the one who saves people from their sins.
This raises many questions, too many in fact for such a short Bible Study on Mary, mother of Jesus. Questions like what is sin, do I have sin, did I inherit sin, am I a sinner even though I am a good person, what does it mean to be saved from my sins, how does Jesus save me from my sins, what am I saved from, am I then saved forever even though I may sin again, what happens if I am not saved, what sins do I need to be saved from, if I commit a really bad sin does that fall out of the realm of Jesus saving me from my sins and do I need to do something in addition to what Jesus did for me. These will all be covered in further Bible studies as the subject of sin is delved into with its many complexities throughout scripture.
In the interim, until next week’s scripture reading, give thought to the role of the Holy Spirit in the world today. Paul once wrote to believers in Eph. 4:30 that our conduct can actually grieve the Holy Spirit of God. With next week’s Bible Study on the nature of sin, the notion of grieving the Holy Spirit will be presented in tandem with the angel of the Lord’s proclamation from above, for he shall save his people from their sins.
Bible Study Questions
- From this week’s scripture reading on Mary, mother of Jesus, who was it that appeared to Joseph in the dream?
- How would you explain the role of the Holy Spirit in the conception of Mary to someone unfamiliar with the Bible?
- Why was it so important in the plan of redemption for Jesus to be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit?
- Why do you think Mary was written about so seldom in the New Testament as the mother of Jesus?
- From the Bible Study above, what does the name Jesus Christ mean in translation?
- How does the meaning of Jesus Christ relate to your relationship with him through faith?
- How would you share the importance of trusting in Jesus to save you from your sins to someone who was interested in learning more about Christianity?
WORD GUIDE – * (thee/thou – you) * (thy – your) * (wist – to know) * (hail – to acclaim enthusiastically)