Six women in the New Testament had the name Mary. The lesser known of these were the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12; for details see MARK), a member of the church in Rome (Rom 16:6), and a woman who was wife of Clopas and mother of two sons, James and Joseph (Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40,47; 16:1; John 19:25). This last-named Mary was one of several women from Galilee who helped look after the needs of Jesus and his disciples. They travelled with Jesus around Palestine and were present at his crucifixion. Another in that group was also named Mary. She came from the town of Magdala in Galilee and was known as Mary Magdalene, to distinguish her from the other Marys (Matt 27:55-56; Luke 8:1-3). Mary Magdalene had become a follower of Jesus early in his ministry, when he had healed her of evil spirits (Luke 8:2). On the morning of Jesus’ resurrection, she and some others, including Mary the mother of James and Joseph, went to anoint the body of Jesus, but found the tomb empty (Matt 28:1-5; John 20:1). She brought Peter and John to the tomb, then, after they had left, met the risen Jesus (John 20:2- 18). Another Mary was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The three lived at Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, and were close friends of Jesus (John 11:1,5). In the biblical record, Mary and Martha are usually mentioned together. (For further details see MARTHA.)

The mother of Jesus

By far the most important Mary in New Testament times was the mother of Jesus. She was blessed above all women, for God chose her to be the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:28,32,42-43). At the time God revealed this to Mary, she lived in the town of Nazareth in Galilee, where she was engaged to be married to a local carpenter named Joseph. (Concerning the families from which Mary and Joseph came see JOSEPH THE HUSBAND OF MARY.) God revealed to Mary that, while still a virgin, she would become pregnant. This would come about through the direct creative power of God’s Spirit, so that her son would be unique. Though fully human, he would also be the Son of God (Luke 1:30-35). Mary accepted the will of God for her without question (Luke 1:38). She praised God that he chose her, just an ordinary person from a humble family, to be the means by which he would bring his blessing to the world. Through her baby, God would fulfil the promises given to Abraham and David (Luke 1:46- 56). For the next three months Mary stayed with her friend and relative, Elizabeth, in Judea. When she returned to Nazareth pregnant, Joseph was deeply troubled, but he too submitted to God’s will after he received a revelation of the divine purposes (Luke 1:56; Matt 1:18-25). Some months later, Joseph and Mary moved to Bethlehem in Judea for a census, and there the baby was born (Luke 2:1-7,19). When Joseph and Mary later took the baby to Jerusalem for certain Jewish ceremonies, Mary learnt a little of what lay ahead. Although her son would be a Saviour, he would also attract bitter opposition, which would in turn cause Mary pain and sorrow (Luke 2:22-23,34-35). Because of the threat of violence from Herod, Joseph sought safety for Mary and the baby Jesus by taking them to Egypt.

After Herod’s death the family returned to Palestine and settled in Nazareth (Matt 2:13-14,19-23). Joseph and Mary brought Jesus up to be obedient to his parents and to be instructed in the teachings of the Old Testament (Luke 2:42-46,51). They did not, however, have a clear understanding of the unique relationship that Jesus had with his heavenly Father (Luke 2:49). Even when he began his public ministry, Jesus found it necessary to remind his mother that he was to use his divine power solely in accordance with his Father’s will. He would not use it merely to please friends and family (John 2:3-4). The children born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus were James, Joseph, Simon, Judas and at least two daughters (Matt 13:55-56; Mark 6:3).

When Jesus set out on his public ministry, his brothers did not believe him to be the Messiah. They thought that he was suffering from some sort of religious madness. On one occasion when they expressed their annoyance with him, Mary was with them (Mark 3:21,31-35; John 7:3-5). Nevertheless, Mary was convinced of her son’s messiahship and remained devoted to him even to the cross (John 19:25-27). Jesus’ resurrection seems to have changed his brothers, for in the days immediately after his ascension, they along with Mary were among the group of Jerusalem believers who met for fellowship and prayer (Acts 1:14; cf. 1 Cor 15:7).

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