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Who was Mary of Nazareth and 13 Inspiring Lessons We Can Learn From Her

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The story of Christ’s birth has always been a favorite for me to read on Christmas Eve. I love how it brings our family together to celebrate Jesus’ birth and Mary of Nazareth.  

Mary’s faith is truly amazing. What must have gone through her mind when Gabriel, the angel, approached her? How must she have felt when she learned that she and her betrothed, Joseph, were to raise the Son of God?  What depths of sorrow did she endure while watching her Son die on the cross? 

While there are many lessons we can learn from Mary of Nazareth, I’d like to share just thirteen of them with you today. But, before we do, let’s recap Mary’s story.

The life and times of Mary, mother to Jesus, will be remembered through our lives on this earth and in heaven. Her importance in Christianity cannot be understated- she is one of the most influential figures in the Bible.

image of Mary of Nazareth and the other women at the opening of Jesus' tomb with the text Mary of Nazareth and 13 lessons we can learn from her

She was the Virgin Mary, chosen by God to bring forth Jesus Christ.

She is revered among many religions, venerated by others, and has been given specific honor in Christianity.

Mary, or Miriam as she would have known in Hebrew, is an endlessly fascinating woman, but she has been interpreted differently by every culture she’s ever touched. Mary of Nazareth has been portrayed in stories, icons, sculptures, paintings, music, songs, prayers, liturgies, spiritual writings, theologies, and official Church doctrines.

Mary of Nazareth (ca. 18 BC-AD 50) was just a girl, about fourteen years old when she was betrothed to Joseph. Her home in Nazareth was a dusty backwater town in Galilee known for producing troublemakers. 

“Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 

John 1:46 (ESV)

One day Gabriel, an angel and a messenger from God, came to Mary and informed her that God chose her to conceive and bear God’s Son, who she would name Jesus.

When Mary heard the news, her world turned upside down. She had just been betrothed to Joseph -a carpenter from Nazareth- and now she’s pregnant with the Son of God!  Fear was her first response. The presence of this divine messenger scared her. She wondered: How would she explain this to Joseph? What would her parents think? What would the community think? Why did God choose her?

The angel’s response to Mary was elegant and touching. It showed that even though she had never been with a man, her faithfulness could still bring God joy in heaven above as well to the people on Earth.

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Luke 1:35-37 (ESV)

Gabriel’s reply must have convinced Mary of Nazareth that he was indeed a messenger from God. The angel’s last sentence probably helped to persuade Mary: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” She immediately replied:

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her..”

Luke 1:38 (ESV)

Mary’s response to God was an act of faith and trust. She took a step in obedience, saying “Yes.” When we respond to God with yes without question or analysis, our lives become better because He is there working on His plan for us and humanity. 

Unfortunately, Mary has been virtually ignored in many Christian churches today. She has been pushed to the edges of the story of salvation. But Mary of Nazareth plays a critical role in God’s plans to save the world. Not only did she carry God’s son in her womb, but she was also the one who nursed, mothered, and raised Jesus into the man who changed the world, the Savior and Lord of the universe.

The first follower of Jesus Christ was God’s chosen vessel, Mary of Nazareth. As God took on human form to live among us to carry out His plan of salvation.  She trusted her life with God. Mary was among the circle of disciples he gathered around himself.  When Jesus was abandoned by his followers at the cross, Mary was among other women who never left him. Mary of Nazareth, Jesus’ mother, and Mary of Bethany were among the first people to see Jesus after he rose from death.

Mary is a perfect model for us as we strive to be Christ-bearers in the world. God has a unique plan for each one of you. You are all chosen and called by him to be like Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus.  When we look at Mary, it is clear that God wants Christ to grow and be seen in each of us. If you are a follower of Christ, then your life should be an offering. You bear him in the world and offer Him to others.

We bear Him in our hearts as Mary bore Christ into the world. And, like Mary of Nazareth, God comes to us with the assurance that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). We face our fears head-on and overcome them through hope in Jesus. As Christ’s representatives in the world, we live as God wills it, and Mary’s song becomes our song.

image of statue of Mary of Nazareth for the post Who was Mary of Nazareth and 13 Inspiring Lessons We Can Learn From Her

Mary of Nazareth’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

    and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him

    from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;

    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

    and exalted those of humble estate;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

    and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

    in remembrance of his mercy,

as he spoke to our fathers,

    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

Thirteen Lessons We Can Learn from Mary of Nazareth

  1. Say “yes” to God’s plan for your life. Mary was a humble, obedient, and submissive woman.  Are you willing to say, “yes, Lord,” to whatever task He calls you to?  Are you ready to be an obedient and faithful servant?

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. 

Luke 1:38 (ESV)

2. Be prepared to be used by God. Mary was an unwed young woman from Nazareth with low social status, but God didn’t seem to mind. Mary of Nazareth is one in a long list of regular people, sinners, and those who felt inadequate (Moses, Rahab, David, Jonah, Naomi, for example) that God used to fulfill His promises and carry out His plan.

3.  Turn to Jesus for Help. Mary of Nazareth turned to Jesus for help when she needed help. When you are facing an issue or need in your life, where do you turn for guidance?  Do you seek Jesus first or turn to others?  Do you try to solve it all on your own? Do you worry and fret? Do you point others toward Christ?

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

John 2:3-5 (ESV)

4.  Know and Live God’s Word. The life of Mary of Nazareth is an example for all Christian women. She was most likely illiterate, but she still heard God’s word and kept it hidden in her heart. How well do you know God’s Word?  Are you able to speak the Words of His truth to others?  Is your time in the Word an essential part of your day?

He has helped his servant Israel,

    in remembrance of his mercy,

as he spoke to our fathers,

    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” 

Luke 1:54-55 (ESV)

5.  Be filled with the Spirit.  The presence of the Holy Spirit is manifest in our lives; there’s nothing we can accomplish without His power.  Do you tap into the power of the Spirit, or do you rely on your strength to get through difficult situations and trials?  May we submit our lives to Him working in and through us just as Mary of Nazareth did.

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 

Luke 1:35 (ESV)

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6. Put your faith in God. Her cousin Elizabeth described Mary of Nazareth as the one who had believed, despite her husband Zechariah’s doubts.

The father of John Baptist did not believe what Gabriel said about him being born with a son, but Mary had great faith; She believed His word and trusted in God even when others did not.

 “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Luke 1:45 (ESV)

7.  Be Quiet Before the Lord and Show Gratitude Toward Him. Mary of Nazareth’s life was full of hope and gratefulness before the Lord. She spent time daily meditating on what He had done in her life.  How often are you truly quiet before the Lord, remembering all He has done and is doing in your life?  Do you take the time to meditate on His Word?

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 

Luke 2:19 (ESV)

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Luke 2:51 (ESV)

8.  Mary of Nazareth was a chosen vessel of the Lord.  If you are a believer, you are a chosen vessel God uses to fulfill His plan and purposes.  God has called you to be a channel of His grace and blessing. As your God, He wants the best for each in His flock that he loves so much! Mary was chosen to give spiritual life to the Son of God, and we are chosen to give spiritual life and encouragement to others.  Are you living an eternally focused life?  Do you take the time to share the truth of the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ with others?

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 

Luke 1:30-31 (ESV)

9.  Mary of Nazareth was a woman of worship.  Knowing that the road before her was going to be difficult, she praised Her Lord.  Do you praise Him in and through all circumstances in our lives, both good and challenging?

 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,”

Luke 1:46-47 (ESV)

10. Live your life as a servant of the Lord. Mary ultimately responds to Gabriel with the powerful words:

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38 (ESV) 

God used Mary to show us how we can be a living sacrifice. We should follow her example and make ourselves available daily for God’s work.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 (ESV)

11.  Mary of Nazareth Trusted in the Lord and His timing.  A virgin betrothed to be married to Joseph just had a visitation from an angel of the Lord telling her she is to give birth to the Son of God.  How would you explain this to Joseph?  Mary didn’t try to convince him of this news. Instead, she let the Lord change Joseph’s heart.  How often do you feel the need to change our husbands instead of letting God do His work in them?  Women are born controllers, but we need to learn to trust God and wait for Him.

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 1:19-20 (ESV)

12.  Be a faithful servant.  His mother, Mary, followed Jesus to his cross, showing that she believed in him even when others did not.  Today, not many professing believers are ready to follow Jesus to the cross.  Are you a true follower of Christ?  Are you faithful to Jesus no matter the circumstances or the difficulty of what you may be called to endure? Unfortunately, many claim to be followers of Jesus but are deceived (Matthew 7:21).

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:25 (ESV)

13. Mary knew Jesus was dying on the cross for her redemption.  Jesus was her son, but he was also her Savior.  She also watched the child she loved die on a cross for the world’s sins.  Do you know that Christ died for your sins?  Have you repented and put your faith and trust in Him and Him alone for your salvation?

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Romans 10:9-10

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:34-35 (ESV)

Mary of Nazareth is an example for all Christians, regardless of age or stage in life. She was obedient to God and humble in the face of great adversity. As we reflect on her story, we can learn thirteen essential lessons that will help us live more faithfully. Which lesson resonates with you most? No matter what challenges you face right now, know that you are a chosen vessel of the Lord, and He is with you every step.

You may enjoy this movie of Mary of Nazareth. It’s a compelling movie about her life and faith.

You may also enjoy one of these highly recommend resources for further study.

Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross by Edward Sri

The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs

Mary of Nazareth: A Novel by Marek Halter

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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