Reading: 2 Timothy 1:3-12
2 Timothy is perhaps Paul’s final letter before his death. He writes to his son in the faith and gives him the strongest charge in all the Bible. Chapter 4:1-2. In the opening sentences of this letter Paul reflects on how the torch of sincere faith has been passed down from Timothy’s grandmother and mother to dwell in him also.
Mother’s day is today. This is a good time to focus on the gift and blessing of faithful Christian mothers. Not all of us were so blessed. But those of us who are can thank God for this great benefit.
How many great grandmothers do we have here today? Raise your hands? Grandmothers? Mothers? We thank God for each of you.
Four generations ago, the average size of a family was dad, mom and five to six children. That was average. Many families were smaller and many were larger. Jenny’s mother was one of 13, 11of them lived to adulthood. My mother was one of eight children, seven of which lived to adulthood. Motherhood, back in the good old days was different than today. I was going through Genesis this week and was impressed with the genealogy section of chapter 5. For one thing, they lived a lot longer, but that’s not what impressed me this time. Adam has a son named Seth, but then the Bible says that he had other sons and daughters. Seth has a son named Enosh and then it says he had other sons and daughters. In fact, for the next ten generations the firstborn is named and then it tells us that the father had other sons and daughters. It appears that the minimum size of the first 10 generations was 5 kids. Motherhood in those days included lots of children. Again, Motherhood in those days was different. So was childhood. Today’s family is much smaller. Childhood in a family of six is different than in a family of two. When there’s just two kids, each one can receive a much larger portion of attention from Mom. In such a small family, kids take on a roll of importance that isn’t so easy to express when there are 10 kids. The impact of that on the world view and character of the children is hardly considered. Customizing the size of the family through birth control is a modern phenomenon without a biblical precedent. Modern science has made it possible to customize the children as well. Motherhood faces many challenges in our time. It is refreshing to me to go back to scripture and listen to the things it reveals about parenting, and motherhood in particular.
It is natural for a woman to want to become a mother. While that is not an absolute rule, God did design women for motherhood. When Jacob married Rachel and her sister Leah, God opened Leah’s womb to bear children. She gives Jacob six sons. Rachel is barren. Jealous of her sister, she goes to Jacob and says, “Give me children or I will die!” In the course of time God grants her to bear two sons: Joseph and Benjamin, but she dies in childbirth with Benjamin.
Stories of motherhood in the Bible tend to fall under the family tree of Jesus. Of course His story is the most unique motherhood story of all. Mary conceives Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. The virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. This is the ultimate gift of motherhood to humanity.
It was Eve, the mother of all the living who was tempted and deceived into sin that brought death into the world. It was Mary the mother of Jesus who was faithful and brought forth the Savior of the world.
In Jesus’ family Mark 6:3 names four brothers of Jesus and then says he has sisters too. So Mary had at least seven children, if not more, and Jesus grew up in this family as the oldest son.
Don’t you know that Jesus had to help take care of his younger siblings? Jesus understands the work of a firstborn. Luke tells the story of when Jesus was 12 and the family went to Jerusalem. All modern films picture Jesus alone as an only child with Joseph and Mary. I can tell you categorically that this makes no sense. If Jesus were an only child they would never have left him behind when they took off for home. It makes all the sense in the world that with perhaps six or seven other children, Joseph and Mary could head for home thinking Jesus was in the back of the bus with them. My cousin, Ben Yeager, was the fourth of six kids. He got left behind on three occasions when his family were traveling on vacations. Twice he was in the bathroom. Someone would ask, “Where is Ben?” They’d turn around and go back to the last place they stopped and there he’d be standing outside crying.
The rest of us cousins thought that was hilarious.
When Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem, the family traveled for an entire day. Go to Luke 2:41f.
Three days later, they find Jesus. Three days! Mary is a mother. She’s beside herself. She, rather than Joseph speaks. “Why have you treated us like this!” A mother’s natural instinct is to protect her young. That is such a powerful natural part of motherhood, woe be to whoever would mess with her little ones! Picture a she bear robbed of her cubs. Dangerous!
All that emotional turmoil, Mary went through as they searched for him. I wonder how her voice sounded when she asked him that question. This was nothing compared to what was in store for her in years to come. Mary was probably a widow when Jesus was crucified. John is the only gospel to give us insight into this possibility. When Jesus was on the cross, John tells us that near the cross, as Jesus was dying, stood three women. All three were named Mary, which means bitter. When Jesus saw his mother there and the disciple whom Jesus loved standing nearby (most likely John), he said to her, “Woman, behold your son.” and to John, “Behold your mother.” Then we learn that from that time on this disciple took her into his home. Where were the rest of Jesus’ brothers and sisters? We don’t know. In Acts 1:14 we find that Mary and Jesus brothers were among the 120 waiting in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming.
Mark Lowery’s song, “Mary did you know?” has several ironic lines. One is this: Mary did you know, this child that you deliver will soon deliver you.
Motherhood, even among the faithful is blessed with joys and frought with tears. But God works through faithful mothers to pass on the torch of saving faith to their children. May God bless all of you mothers to be women of faith who successfully bring up faithful godly children.