A Mother’s Love

“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us”

1 John 4:12

First we must remember what kind of love “His love” is. John has told us: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). It is unconditional and sacrificial love. This kind of love neither asks nor expects anything in return. “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and the outworking of this is that He loves in this way as will those who love Him.

A child may be asked why they love their mother. The answer that this question provokes is usually along the lines of benefits to the child. She is kind, a good cook, picks up after me and so on. However, this is not a good question to ask. If love is based on performance then it isn’t God’s kind of love. It treats love as a reward for behaviour. If that was true concerning God’s love for mankind Jesus would never have come down and stayed on the cross to redeem us. Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own [kind of] love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Apart from the enactment of God’s kind of love perhaps the nearest we have in this fallen world is a mother’s love for her child. Rarely will a mother cease to love her child no matter what they do. She may not approve all the actions or words of her child but she will still love her child.

Our society has for a few decades moved in the direction of moving children from the care of their mother to the care of hirelings. They care for the child for pay and not for love in the way a mother loves her child. Jesus said, “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees” (John 10:12). While most child carers probably love children and their work, they can never love the child like their own mother. Unfortunately not all mothers have the choice whether to work or not. Society pressure dictates that many need to work to some degree to pay the bills. Parents need to wait on the Lord and allow Him to lead them in the best direction for their children. Our society does not know Christ so we should not allow it to be the decision maker for us. There is something special about a mother’s love for her child. It knows deep love and deep grief like no other just as our Heavenly Father knows.

In His Image

“Adam called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living” Genesis 3:20

In the first chapter of Genesis we learn that God created man in His image, “Let Us make man in Our image” (v 26). Since God is a plurality of Persons yet one God He created mankind in that image, a plurality of persons yet one flesh (Genesis 2:23-24). Lest we fail to grasp this it is repeated in 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” To be in the “image” of God means to be a physical expression of God. We read this of Jesus in Hebrews 1:3, “who being in the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person …”

As the Persons of the Godhead are equal in every respect except role, so are the man and the woman equal in every respect except role. As the Persons of the Godhead are complementary, so are the man and the woman (Genesis 2:18). Marriage and parenthood are God’s means of revealing this and other aspects of His glory in the world. It should not surprise us that Satan is doing his utmost to mar or destroy this revelation of God.

How sad it is that people who are the objects of God’s love serve Satan’s interests and hatred of God. No matter what people may try to do, they cannot change that part of the role that God has given them by His determining their sex. Eve had the unique position of being the first mother; she is the only mother without any precedent to follow. She had no mentor or role model, no mother or mother-in-law to comfort and help her – or to tell her she was doing it wrong!

Adam honoured her position and role by the name he gave her. She is the mother of all persons who live or have ever lived on earth (except for Adam and herself, of course). She is the ultimate mother of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. On Mothers’ Day we reflect on the special place and role that mothers have within the family and society. Mothers are God’s gift, and they share with fathers the joy and privilege of revealing the glory of God into the world. Since we are corrupted by sin that revelation is marred; but as we allow Christ to live in us God’s glory is revealed, even if a little dimly. Many men and women, who have achieved much, credit their mothers as being the primary earthly reason for their achievements.

Let us give glory to God for this wonderful expression of Himself in His creation revealed in our mothers.

“Behold Your Mother!”

“Then [Jesus] said to the disciple [John], ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” John 19:27

When Jesus spoke these caring words to John he was already nailed to the cross and suffering excruciatingly from that cross and events leading up to it. We are not told how or when Joseph had died but from this passage it is clear that Jesus had assumed responsibility sometime before this for His mother’s care and well being. In Paul’s letter to Timothy Paul writes concerning the care of believing widows and the responsibility a son has for his widowed mother. He writes that it is unthinkable that Christians would not care for their ageing parents (1 Timothy 5:8). After all, it is an aspect of the fifth commandment!

It appears that Jesus was not just asking John to look after Mary until she could get back to her other sons in Galilee. He was commanding John to treat Mary as he would his own mother and Mary was to relate to John as her own son – indefinitely. At this time none of Jesus’ half-brothers believed that He was the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah. That would come later but for now they seemed to have little interest in His teaching or what was happening in His life.

Jesus wanted to ensure that a godly man was caring for His mother. That John was chosen ahead of other disciples may be for several reasons. John referred to himself as “the disciple whom [Jesus] loved” (v 26) so there was already a very special bond between Jesus and John and most likely between Mary and John also.

The society and culture in which we live is quite different but the principle remains the same. We have a privilege and a responsibility to care for our parents when they are unable to do so themselves and especially our widowed mothers (1 Timothy 5:8; John 19:26-27). As a church body we have the privilege of being able to care for them according to their need. Paul writes that we should honour such mothers by caring for them (1 Timothy 5:1) just as Jesus provided for His mother’s care even while on the cross.

There are several places in the Bible where we are told that the Lord will care for the fatherless and widows (cf. James 1:27; Psalm 146:9). The church is Christ on earth and is therefore His heart, arms and legs to minister to the need of believing widows when family is unable or unwilling to do so. The church is the “John” to the widowed mother without believing children. The application of that caring may be as varied as there are widowed mothers. We honour and reveal Jesus Christ in the world when we apply His example.

Persistent Love

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter … ” Matthew 15:22

Could there be any one more determined than a mother pleading for a sick child? It may surprise us to read that Jesus did His best to discourage this Gentile woman from seeking His help. He ignored her and the disciples told Him to send her away. She was a Gentile and in their view she could have no expectation of blessing from Israel’s Messiah. Jesus seemed to affirm the disciples’ thinking but for a completely different reason. He wanted to draw out and strengthen her faith.

Being a father and grandfather I know the pain and feeling of helplessness when one of my children or grandchildren is suffering and I cannot help relieve it. From observation I believe that mothers feel that pain even more acutely than fathers.

Instead of being discouraged by Jesus and the disciples this mother persisted. Had one of us been an observer on this occasion we might have become angry with her for distracting Jesus’ attention from what we wanted or maybe with Jesus for prolonging her suffering and apparently making it even worse. Notice that no amount of humbling by Jesus discouraged or hurt her.

Jesus wanted to give her much more that what she was asking. She was absolutely sure that Jesus was who He said He was and could do what He said but Jesus wanted to reveal Himself to her. He rewards faith with more faith.

The faith of this mother in Jesus is a lesson to us all. She would not be put off until she had what she wanted. At no time did she demand that Jesus heal her daughter. She begged as one who has no right and deserved nothing. She did not plead her good works, kind deeds or offer to live better in future. She humbled herself and begged. This is quite a different picture than what we sometimes see today. It appears that some people demand Jesus heal them or their loved one. They twist Jesus’ words apparently trying to manipulate Him into doing what they think they have a right to. Satan used this tactic with Jesus and failed (Matthew 4:1-11).

If we have this attitude toward Jesus we can hardly expect our children to come humbly to Him for the Gift of salvation. The greatest need our children and grandchildren will ever have is forgiveness of sin and they must come to Him in full humility. We have no right to forgiveness and neither do we deserve it any more than this mother had a right for her daughter to be healed.

A mother’s love for her daughter was the means by which Jesus drew out her faith in Him so that He became the focus and not her daughter’s plight. She came humbly with nothing in credit, and she promised nothing for the future but she received much more than she asked.

Many a child thanks their mother for begging Jesus Christ for their salvation. Many a child has their mother’s prayers to thank for keeping them from or delivering them out of a destructive life brought about by sin. Let us follow this woman’s example, be of the same mind as her, as we plead for the salvation of our children and grandchildren.

Compassion of a Mother

“We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7

There are a number of comparisons in relationships to that of a mother to her child in the Bible. The Lord Himself compares His compassion for Israel with that of a mother for her nursing child, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). It is most unlikely that a mother would ever cease to have compassion for the child she has nursed. The Lord states that He will never cease to have that kind of compassion for Israel. The Lord used a mother’s love and compassion for her child because it is the nearest earthly evidence available that compares to His own kind of love and compassion for Israel. Had there been a better illustration available he would have used it.

The other side of the coin is that the love and compassion a mother has for her child is evidence that she is created in the image of God. That a mother might forget is a consequence of the fall which has corrupted the image of God in mankind but that was never a part of the original creation.

Paul also uses a mother’s love and compassion for her nursing child for comparison (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8). In an attempt to remind the Christians in Thessalonica of his own love and compassion for them he speaks of the great affection that a nursing mother has for her child and the pain she suffers upon separation or rejection. He, too, could find no greater example of tender compassion than that of a mother for her nursing child. Clearly, the context reveals that he would be broken hearted if they turned away from him and the teaching he had given them.

The greater the love one has for another, the greater the pain when the object of love suffers. A woman suffers pain in child-birth but it doesn’t end there. “A foolish man despises his mother” (Proverbs 15:20), “a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1) and, “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

Not all pain for a mother comes from the foolish behaviour of her child. Mothers feel more acutely than others the suffering of the child they have given birth to and nursed when they suffer injury, are ill or suffer abuse at the hands of others. Mary knew this kind of suffering. Simeon told her before it happened that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35). The context is Simeon’s prophecy of the opposition and persecution that Jesus would endure. Mary’s pain no doubt was at its worst when Jesus was on the cross and the spear pierced His body. It would be as though a sword had pierced her own soul. Her pain turned to joy when she saw Jesus risen from the dead (Acts 1:14).

“God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Without the witness of mothers our comprehension of our God and His Divine Nature would be the poorer.

Four Generations

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

Job 2:10

It is perhaps more customary on Mothers’ Day to focus on mothers in the Bible who came through with “flying colours.” However, as with men, not many match their performances of faith. How can we identify with someone who shows great faith when we know that we have fallen short of that?

There are a number of mothers in the Bible who did not do so well for at least part of their lives yet they had a measure of faith in the Lord.

Job and his wife suffered great adversity, perhaps more than any other couple. When they married it is possible that Job was already wealthy materially or at least showed signs that he would be. His wife may have had certain expectations concerning their future and no doubt was overjoyed with the arrival of their seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2).

The incredibly great sorrow and grief that she felt over the deaths of all her children in one event is released in her words, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Job understood her deep sorrow and corrected her but did not rebuke her. He endeavored to give her a correct perspective even though he was floundering in similar grief.

Job’s wife must have accepted her husband’s correction because she apparently stuck with him. He was a faithful husband (Job 31:1) and she proved to be a faithful wife amidst the most trying circumstances.

What was her reward for her faithfulness?

The last few verses of the book of Job reveal that they had another seven sons and three daughters, not to replace the other ten, but in addition to the other ten.

All the material wealth of Job was returned two-fold (Job 42:10) and so were their children. The first ten would be waiting in the presence of the Lord (Job 1:5) and the second ten grew, married and had children. During the next 140 years Job and his wife rejoiced in their descendants for four generations (Job 42:16).

Job’s wife is not even named in the Bible and is not mentioned in Hebrews 11 but it would appear that she endured more than most women. Though in grief she may have faltered she ran the course of faith and received the reward.

The reward was a more intimate relationship with the Lord. Associated with that are the ten additional children and all their descendants. There were probably quite a number of them. The material wealth she eventually left behind, just as we all must, but this would not have been a concern to her after the proving of their faith in the Lord. Her security was now in the right place, in the Lord, and not in material things.