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Personal Friendships Of Jesus by Elizabeth Miller

CHAPTER II. JESUS AND HIS MOTHER.

Sleep, sleep, mine Holy One!
My flesh, my Lord! -- what name? I do not know
A name that seemeth not too high or low,
Too far from me or heaven.
My Jesus, that is best!
* * *
Sleep, sleep, my saving One.
MRS. BROWNING.

The first friend a child has in this world is its mother. It comes here an utter stranger, knowing no one; but it finds love waiting for it. Instantly the little stranger has a friend, a bosom to nestle in, an arm to encircle it, a hand to minister to its helplessness. Love is born with the child. The mother presses it to her breast, and at once her heart's tendrils twine about it.

It is a good while before the child becomes conscious of the wondrous love that is bending over it, yet all the time the love is growing in depth and tenderness. In a thousand ways, by a thousand delicate arts, the mother seeks to waken in her child a response to her own yearning love. At length the first gleams of answering affection appear -- the child has begun to love. From that hour the holy friendship grows. The two lives become knit in one.

When God would give the world a great man, a man of rare spirit and transcendent power, a man with a lofty mission, he first prepares a woman to be his mother. Whenever in history we come upon such a man, we instinctively begin to ask about the character of her on whose bosom he nestled in infancy, and at whose knee he learned his life's first lessons. We are sure of finding here the secret of the man's greatness. When the time drew nigh for the incarnation of the Son of God, we may be sure that into the soul of the woman who should be his mother, who should impart her own life to him, who should teach him his first lessons, and prepare him for his holy mission, God put the loveliest and the best qualities that ever were lodged in any woman's life. We need not accept the teaching that exalts the mother of Jesus to a place beside or above her divine Son. We need have no sympathy whatever with the dogma that ascribes worship to the Virgin Mary, and teaches that the Son on his throne must be approached by mortals through his more merciful, more gentle-hearted mother. But we need not let these errors concerning Mary obscure the real blessedness of her character. We remember the angel's greeting, |Blessed art thou among women.| Hers surely was the highest honor ever conferred upon any woman.

|Say of me as the Heavenly said, 'Thou art
The blessedest of women!' -- blessedest,
Not holiest, not noblest, -- no high name,
Whose height misplaced may pierce me like a shame,
When I sit meek in heaven!|

We know how other men, men of genius, rarely ever have failed to give to their mothers the honor of whatever of greatness or worth they had attained. But somehow we shrink from saying that Jesus was influenced by his mother as other good men have been; that he got from her much of the beauty and the power of his life. We are apt to fancy that his mother was not to him what mothers ordinarily are to their children; that he did not need mothering as other children do; that by reason of the Deity indwelling, his character unfolded from within, without the aid of home teaching and training, and the other educational influences which do so much in shaping the character of children in common homes.

But there is no Scriptural ground for this feeling. The humanity of Jesus was just like our humanity. He came into the world just as feeble and as untaught as any other child that ever was born. No mother was ever more to her infant than Mary was to Jesus. She taught him all his first lessons. She gave him his first thoughts about God, and from her lips he learned the first lispings of prayer. Jewish mothers cared very tenderly for their children. They taught them with unwearying patience the words of God. One of the rabbis said, |God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.| This saying shows how sacred was the Jewish thought of the mother's work for her child.

Every true mother feels a sense of awe in her soul when she bends over her own infant child; but in the case of Mary we may be sure that the awe was unusual, because of the mystery of the child's birth. In the annunciation the angel had said to her, |That which is to be born shall be called holy, the Son of God.| Then the night of her child's birth there was a wondrous vision of angels, and the shepherds who beheld it hastened into the town; and as they looked upon the baby in the manger, they told the wondering mother what they had seen and heard. We are told that Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. While she could not understand what all this meant, she knew at least that hers was no common child; that in some wonderful sense he was the Son of God.

This consciousness must have given to her motherhood an unusual thoughtfulness and seriousness. How close to God she must have lived! How deep and tender her love must have been! How pure and clean her heart must have been kept! How sweet and patient she must have been as she moved about at her tasks, in order that no harsh or bitter thought or feeling might ever cast a shadow upon the holy life which had been intrusted to her for training and moulding.

Only a few times is the veil lifted to give us a glimpse of mother and child. On the fortieth day he was taken to the temple, and given to God. Then it was that another reminder of the glory of this child was given to the mother. An old man, Simeon, took the infant in his arms, and spoke of him as God's salvation. As he gave the parents his parting blessing he lifted the veil, and showed them a glimmering of the future. |This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against.| Then to the mother he said solemnly, |Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also.| This was a foretelling of the sorrow which should come to the heart of Mary, and which came again and again, until at last she saw her son on a cross. The shadow of the cross rested on Mary's soul all the years. Every time she rocked her baby to sleep, and laid him down softly, covering his face with kisses, there would come into her heart a pang as she remembered Simeon's words. Perhaps, too, words from the old prophets would come into her mind, -- |He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows;| |He was bruised for our iniquities,| -- and the tears would come welling into her eyes. Every time she saw her child at play, full of gladness, all unconscious of any sorrow awaiting him, a nameless fear would steal over her as she remembered the ominous words which had fallen upon her ear, and which she could not forget.

Soon after the presentation in the temple came the visit of the magi. Again the mother must have wondered as she heard these strangers from the East speak of her infant boy as the |King of the Jews,| and saw them falling down before him in reverent worship, and then laying their offerings at his feet. Immediately following this came the flight into Egypt. How the mother must have pressed her child to her bosom as she fled with him to escape the cruel danger! By and by they returned, and from that time Nazareth was their home.

Only once in the thirty years do we have a glimpse of mother and child. It was when Jesus went to his first Passover. When the time came for returning home the child tarried behind. After a painful search the mother found him in one of the porches of the temple, sitting with the rabbis, an eager learner. There is a tone of reproach in her words, |Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.| She was sorely perplexed. All the years before this her son had implicitly obeyed her. He had never resisted her will, never withdrawn from her guidance. Now he had done something without asking her about it -- as it were, had taken his life into his own hand. It was a critical point in the friendship of this mother and her child. It is a critical moment in the friendship of any mother and her child when the child begins to think and act for himself, to do things without the mother's guidance.

The answer of Jesus is instructive: |I must be about my Father's business.| There was another besides his mother to whom he owed allegiance. He was the Son of God as well as the son of Mary. Parents should remember this always in dealing with their children, -- their children are more God's than theirs.

It is interesting to notice what follows that remarkable experience of mother and child in the temple. Jesus returned with his mother to the lowly Nazareth home, and was subject to her. In recognizing his relation to God as his heavenly Father, he did not become any less the child of his earthly mother. He loved his mother no less because he loved God more. Obedience to the Father in heaven did not lead him to reject the rule of earthly parenthood. He went back to the quiet home, and for eighteen years longer found his Father's business in the common round of lowly tasks which made up the daily life of such a home.

It would be intensely interesting to read the story of mother and son during those years, but it has not been written for us. They must have been years of wondrous beauty. Few things in this world are more beautiful than such friendships as one sometimes sees between mother and son. The boy is more the lover than the child. The two enter into the closest companionship. A sacred and inviolable intimacy is formed between them. The boy opens all his heart to his mother, telling her everything; and she, happy woman, knows how to be a boy's mother and to keep a mother's place without ever startling or checking the shy confidences, or causing him to desire to hide anything from her. The boy whispers his inmost thoughts to his mother, and listens to her wise and gentle counsels with loving eagerness and childish faith --

|Her face his holy skies;
The air he breathes his mother's breath,
His stars his mother's eyes.|

Not always are mother and boy such friends. Some mothers do not think it worth while to give the time and thought necessary to enter into a boy's life in such confidential way. But we may be sure that between the mother of Jesus and her son the most tender and intimate friendship existed. He opened his soul to her; and she gave him not a mother's love only, but also a mother's wise counsel and strong, inspiring sympathy.

It is almost certain that sorrow entered the Nazareth home soon after the visit to Jerusalem. Joseph is not mentioned again; and it is supposed that he died, leaving Mary a widow. On Jesus, as the eldest son, the care of the mother now rested. Knowing the deep love of his heart and his wondrous gentleness, it is easy for us to understand with what unselfish devotion he cared for his mother after she was widowed. He had learned the carpenter's trade; and day after day, early and late, he wrought with his hands to provide for her wants. Very sacred must have been the friendship of mother and son in those days. Her gentleness, quietness, hopefulness, humility, and prayerfulness, must have wrought themselves into the very tissue of his character as he moved through the days in such closeness. Unto the end he carried in his soul the benedictions of his mother's life.

The thirty silent years of preparation closed, and Jesus went out to begin his public ministry. The first glimpse we have of the mother is at the wedding at Cana. Jesus was there too. The wine failed, and Mary went to Jesus about the matter. |They have no wine,| she said. Evidently she was expecting some manifesting of supernatural power. All the years since his birth she had been carrying in her heart a great wonder of expectation. Now he had been baptized, and had entered upon his work as the Messiah. Had not the time come for miracle-working?

The answer of Jesus startles us: |Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.| The words seem to have in them a tone of reproof, or of repulse, unlike the words of so gentle and loving a son. But really there is in his reply nothing inconsistent with all that we have learned to think of the gentleness and lovingness of the heart of Jesus. In substance he said only that he must wait for his Father's word before doing any miracle, and that the time for this had not yet come. Evidently his mother understood him. She was not hurt by his words, nor did she regard them as a refusal to help in the emergency. Her words to the servants show this: |Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.| She had learned her lesson of sweet humility. She knew now that God had the highest claim on her son's obedience, and she quietly waited for the divine voice. The holy friendship was not marred.

There is another long period in which no mention is made of Mary. Probably she lived a secluded life. But one day at Capernaum, in the midst of his popularity, when Jesus was preaching to a great crowd, she and his brothers appeared on the outside of the throng, and sent a request that they might speak with him. It seems almost certain that the mother's errand was to try to get him away from his exhausting work; he was imperilling his health and his safety. Jesus refused to be interrupted. But it was really only an assertion that nothing must come between him and his duty. The Father's business always comes first. Human ties are second to the bond which binds us to God. No dishonor was done by Jesus to his mother in refusing to be drawn away by her loving interest from his work. The holiest human friendship must never keep us from doing the will of God. Other mothers in their love for their children have made the same mistake that the mother of Jesus made, -- have tried to withhold or withdraw their children from service which seemed too hard or too costly. The voice of tenderest love must be quenched when it would keep us from doing God's will.

The next mention of the mother of Jesus is in the story of the cross. Ah, holy mother-love, constant and faithful to the end! At length Simeon's prophecy is fulfilled, -- a sword is piercing the mother's soul also. |Jesus was crucified on the cross; Mary was crucified at the foot of the cross.|

Note only one feature of the scene, -- the mother-love there is in it. The story of clinging mother-love is a wonderful one. A mother never forsakes her child. Mary is not the only mother who has followed a son to a cross. Here we have the culmination of this mother's friendship for her son. She is watching beside his cross. O friendship constant, faithful, undying, and true!

But what of the friendship of the dying son for his mother? In his own anguish does he notice her? Yes; one of the seven words spoken while he hung on the cross told of changeless love in his heart for her. Mary was a woman of more than fifty, |with years before her too many for remembering, too few for forgetting.| The world would be desolate for her when her son was gone. So he made provision for her in the shelter of a love in which he knew she would be safe. As he saw her led away by the beloved disciple to his own home, part of the pain of dying was gone from his own heart. His mother would have tender care.

The story of this blessed friendship should sweeten forever in Christian homes the relation of mother and child. It should make every mother a better woman and a better mother. It should make every child a truer, holier child. Every home should have its sacred friendships between parents and children. Thus something of heaven will be brought down to our dull earth; for, as Mrs. Browning says, --

In the pure loves of child and mother
Two human loves make one divine.

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