Skip to main content

How much did Mary love Jesus?

Author: Noel Amos, 8 March 2024

I can still see myself this time last year, a couple of days before Mother’s Day, realising that I had completely forgotten to send my mother a card or gift. Frantically, I started thinking of how I was going to get something shipped to America in a matter of days. 

If you’re familiar at all with American holidays, you can laugh with me now. I had forgotten that in England, where I had only recently moved, Mother’s Day is in March, but in America, where I’m from, it’s in May. You can imagine my relief.

In Britain, Mother's Day falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent and started as a church tradition, where Christians would travel to their hometowns to visit their ‘mother’ churches and their mothers. In America, it was President Woodrow Wilson who declared in 1914 that the second Sunday in May would be an official US holiday, devoted to expressing love for mothers.

It’s fitting that so close to Mother’s Day I felt how mothers probably feel all the time. There’s an expectation placed on them to be aware of and remember everything, and amazingly, they usually manage to do it.

Mary's example

While you won’t find many verses in the Bible directly hailing motherhood (there is, of course, the commandment to honour our fathers and mothers), it’s easy to see through the stories of Bible moms the love that God has for them. I’m reminded of these searing lines about the mother of Jesus that Chine McDonald, Director of Theos Think Tank, wrote for Rooted last year: 

‘I put myself in Mary’s shoes and wonder if she too thought about the first time she looked into Jesus’ eyes and how over 30 years later, here she was standing at the foot of the cross at his crucifixion. The story of the incarnation is a story about bodies. It is intensely physical: brutal, messy, bloody. So too is the human journey from birth to death – so too the reality of being a woman.’

Think about the messiness of the human journey that Chine refers to. Think of what it cost Mary to love Jesus. Think of the lost sleep and the hours of prayer. Think of the meals prepared, the journeys to Jewish festivals, the losing Jesus and finding him again. Think of the greetings, the nicknames, the inside jokes, the daily routines. Think of all she did to create and maintain a life for Jesus, the care she poured into the fully human heart, mind, soul, and body of her son. And then think about that body made unrecognisable to her, hanging on a cross above her. She could have gone far away that day, but she stayed.

Could we blame her if she left? Certainly not. Hagar, when she and Ishmael were exiled by Abraham into the wilderness, left Ishmael as he was dying, thinking, ‘I cannot watch the boy die’ (Genesis 21.16, NIV). Mary could have done the same, and we would understand. She had even heard Jesus say to his followers, ‘“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? ... Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”’ (Matthew 12.48–50, NIV). How easily would it have been for Mary to misunderstand, to be hurt or offended by these words? But she stayed.

More amazing mothers in Scripture

The Bible doesn’t present mothers as weak or passive. They’re active, even beyond their bearing of children. Mothers in Scripture are catalysts whose sacrifices are essential in progressing the biblical narrative, and they’re frequently honoured by God. 

Hagar, abused and discarded, is the one who gives us the mighty revelation: ‘You are the God who sees me’ (Genesis 16.13, NIV). Jochebed, who risks her life hiding Moses from Pharaoh for three months before courageously surrendering him into another woman’s care, is heralded in Hebrews 11 for her faith (Hebrews 11.23). The Syrophoenician woman, who risks public humiliation in the hope that Jesus can heal her child, is the only person in the Gospels to be intellectually honoured by him: ‘“Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter”’ (Mark 7.47, NLT). And with some of his last words, Jesus establishes a new family for Mary, saying to her and the disciple he loved, 'Here is your son ... Here is your mother'. (John 19.26–27, NIV).

Mothers, inside the Bible and out, are our daily examples of Christ-like love.  Often, their attitude is that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2.5). The same love we see in them we can have for the Lord, and by extension, his people. A love that overcomes our tendencies towards self-preservation, self-consciousness, and self-importance to be with him instead.  

Noël Amos is the Editor of Rooted, Bible Society’s devotional subscription journal

Share this:

You might also be interested in:

Read the Bible icon Read the Bible
Open the full Bible