Witness: Woman of Sorrow, 04 January 2015

Big Idea: Mary experienced great joy as a mom…and great sorrow.

Key Scripture: John 2:1-11; Mark 3:20-35; John 19:25


Happy 2015! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. The highlight for me was undoubtedly spending nearly a week with our entire family that now resides again in three different states.

Many churches today are talking about the new year, resolutions, goal setting, and ways to have your best life now. I’m deliberately avoiding the temptation for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my desire to finish what we started with regard to Mary. As I said last Sunday, we can’t just throw her in the attic with the nativity set until next year. While her most significant moment may have been Jesus’ birthday, labor and delivery is the beginning, not the end of motherhood. We looked at Mary the mom last week as she brought Jesus to the temple for dedication where they were blessed by Simeon.

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)

In full disclosure, I’m not a mom! I’ve never been a mom…and I never plan on becoming a mom! I am, however, a parent. Nothing in life has been more challenging for me—or more rewarding—than being a parent. I’ve experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. I’ve felt every conceivable emotion and been impacted physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially, and relationally by parenting three incredible humans.

I believe love is the reason parenting is so significant. Love involved risk, and the more you risk, the greater the joy and the greater the sorrow. During lunch on New Year’s Day, Heather and I were reflecting on our parenting journey and how it has taken us through tragedy and triumph, horror and happiness. She asked if I’d do it again if I could turn back time and I said absolutely though nothing could prepare me for all of the challenges. Perhaps nothing has shaped me into the man I am today more than being a parent.

Today I want to look at a few final moments in Mary’s motherhood adventure.

The First Miracle

Jesus began His public ministry by making wine. We often miss Mary in this story.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” (John 2:1-3)

Remember, children were to honor their parents according to the fifth commandment (which I believe is still relevant today!).

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
(John 2:4)

“Woman” could also be understood as “mother.” “My hour” was a reference to the crucifixion. Note Jesus does nothing until Mary directs the servants to obey Him.

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:5-10)

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

This wedding began a public shift in Mary’s life. Imagine her joy! Talk about a proud mama! She would learn to be obedient to her Son. He was the One before whom she was to have no other gods. Honoring God meant following her own Son while surrendering her own honor.

Scot McKnight says, “If Jesus alone knew God’s will, then the only ones who knew God’s will were the ones to whom Jesus revealed that will. For Mary to know and do God’s will, she would have to follow Jesus. Her honor would have to surrender to his honor. Jesus’ words were subtle, and they pierced Mary’s heart. She would have to allow her son to become her Lord. This interchange between Mary and Jesus is nothing short of stunning…Because Mary directed the servants to do as Jesus said and because the servants obeyed, Jesus converted six thirty-gallon jars of water into the best wine yet served at that wedding.”

This was only the beginning.


Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)

“Thanks a lot, Son! Your mission is more important than your mom?!” Was this the sword Simeon said would pierce Mary’s heart?

Sometimes honoring God and honoring your father and mother come into conflict with one another. Of course, in our western culture, honor is a word rarely spoken. We focus on our own rights rather than selflessly honoring others. The Jewish priorities were God, parents, family, society…and lastly one’s self.

Mary and her other children were ambivalent about Jesus, perhaps much of the time. They expected the Messiah to be a prophet like Moses, like ancient prophets, a descendant of David, and a reigning King combining the glory of David with the wisdom of Solomon. He would be powerful, ruling over all governments and peoples. He would restore Israel, establish peace, righteousness, and holiness.

Jesus didn’t fit their expectations…and the most unimaginable was yet to come.

The Cross

I have heard the worst experience on earth is losing a child. I was reminded of this a few days ago as I heard the wails of a grieving mom whose child died. My mind raced to Mary’s agony watching her Son die. She not only witnessed the loss of her Son, but also her Savior, her Messiah, her hope.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

About fifty percent of the first century Jewish women were named Mary!

She was near the cross (all of the males fled except for John!). She saw it all. She remained faithful to Him. A sword pierced the side of Jesus…as Mary’s heart was pierced.

Anglican poet G.A. Studdert Kennedy said:

She claims no crown from Christ apart,
Who gave God life and limb,
She only claims a broken heart,
Because of Him.

Are you near the cross? Has your heart been pierced?

The Rest of the Story

Mary does not vanish at Calvary. In the Upper Room following Jesus’ ascension into heaven we are told of the early followers of Jesus.

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:14)

She no doubt had a tremendous role in the early church, including the telling of stories that we now read in the Gospel biographies of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. She was an eyewitness to His birth, life and death.

One More Appearance?

Mary may appear one final time in the Bible…in Revelation 12. Look it up! It may refer to Mary and/or the People of God and/or Israel and/or the Church.

So What?

May surrendered to her Son. Family is important, but obeying and glorifying God the Father is most important. We are to love our children and honor our parents, but even family can become an idol, a god.

Jesus revealed a new family in which His brothers and sisters and mother are those who do God’s will.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34-35)

Mary is not a perfect example, but a real example of someone who trusted God and surrendered to His will, a real human with a real faith in the real world.

“Do whatever He tells you” is the motto and mantra of Jesus’ family.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.