Topical Scripture: Matthew 12:46-50
Laura Bush made history with her remarks at the White House Correspondents Dinner last Saturday night. Her most repeated line complains that her husband, “Mr. Excitement,” is in bed each night by 9:00 o’clock, leaving her to watch “Desperate Housewives.” Then she added, “I am a desperate housewife.”
Some of you know the feeling. This is a wonderful day for many of you. Your family is with you today, or will be in touch soon. Your husband loves you, and your children and even grandchildren are doing well. This is a day of celebration and joy.
This is a hard day for others. You’re worried about children who aren’t making the choices you wish they would. Or you’re a single mother trying to be mother and father to you children and support your family. Or your child is already in heaven, and this is a hard day for you. Or you want to be a mother–you’re happy for those who are, and a bit envious as well, wondering if this will ever be your day.
God has a word for every woman I just described, and every person who cares about the women I just described. Here is help we can get nowhere else but God’s word. First we’ll explore the connection between Mother’s Day and the Lord’s Day, the spiritual significance of this occasion. Then we’ll apply what we learn to our families and our own souls.
Be the person you want your child to become
Our text reminds us that Jesus had a mother, brothers, and sisters. Remember how it all started, as the angel Gabriel appeared to a peasant teenage girl to ask her to be the mother of the Messiah. If she agreed, she would likely lose her fiancée–how will he ever believe a virgin birth story? Her family and his would reject her. She will then be a single mother; her only options would be prostitution or begging. That’s just the reality of the moment.
But remember her response: “I am the Lord’s servant–may it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). She submits herself to God.
Now consider her Son’s response when he faced his own life-and-death test of obedience. When he struggles in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that he will die if he agrees to God’s request. What is his reply? “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away from me unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42). Mary’s Son submits himself to God. I wonder why.
Now skip ahead to Mary’s visit with her relative Elizabeth, where this young mother-to-be prays one of the most remarkable prayers in all of Scripture. It’s composed entirely of parts of the Bible, including 1 Samuel, Psalms, Isaiah, Micah, and Exodus. She quotes God’s word and claims its promises as his own.
How did her Son respond when faced with the attacks of Satan? Three times he quoted Scripture. How did he respond when challenged to name the greatest commandment in the Law? He quoted Scripture. How did he respond when he was on trial for his life? He quoted Scripture. How did he respond when dying on the cross? Mary’s Son quoted Scripture. I wonder why.
Now move ahead to Jesus’ problematic relationship with Mary’s other children.
When Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth to teach, the people responded: “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3).
Now Jesus, the oldest brother and caretaker for this family, has left them to begin his public ministry. Opposition against him affected his siblings. John informs us that “even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5).
With this result: “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He’s out of his mind'” (Mark 3:21).
Then, when they arrived, they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd, so they sent someone to call him (v. 31). His response is in our text: “Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:49-50). His own siblings are clearly not acting in that will.
But Mary never gave up on her eldest Son or her other children.
She continued to trust in Jesus and his mission. She was at his cross to watch him die. She stayed with his followers, risking her own life. She must have continued to pray for her other children to trust in her Son as she did.
Then came the pivotal moment when, after his resurrection, Jesus “he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:7). This James was his oldest half-brother, the oldest child of Mary and Joseph. He eventually became the first pastor in Christian history, leading the Jerusalem church to reach the world and writing probably the first book of the New Testament, the letter of James.
And he and his mother had a remarkable influence on the rest of their family. A few weeks later, in the upper room, Jesus’ disciples gathered along with “Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). His once-rejecting brothers received his Holy Spirit along with the rest of his church, joined the first witnesses to the world, and led the movement which would win a million converts within a generation to their older brother, now their Savior and Lord.
Mary would serve her Son as her Lord for the rest of her lives, and so did her children. I wonder why.
Learn to be a deliberate mom
We have established today the clear link between a mother’s faith and that of her children. What Mary was, her children became. While our children have free will and may not follow our example, the chances are much better that they will. The vast majority of conversions and baptisms in churches across our land come from Christian homes. The same is true of our church as well.
So, how can you who are blessed to be mothers maximize your influence? How can you help your children grow in their faith? I asked Dr. Brad Schwall that question this week. Brad is the director of our HomeWorks ministry, an enormously effective outreach program to children and their families across Dallas and beyond. A published author and frequent guest on local television, Brad is also a godly father and committed minister of the gospel. I asked him for the practical steps he gives those who attend his workshops. Here is his advice, with my paraphrased comments and biblical references.
First, be calm. Know that there will be daily challenges in parenting. Don’t be surprised when problems come and crises arise. Choose to respond to your children rather than reacting. Keep your heart close to the Lord, so that he can give you his peace and wisdom. Go to him first, and find the calm you need.
Claim this promise: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Claim this remarkable assurance: “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
Then you can heed this warning: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
Meet the Father before you meet your children. Start the day with him. Surrender your family to his Spirit, and your day to his power.
Second, be consistent. Since children learn from what they see, show them your consistent faith. And children learn from repetition, so that every interaction with them is instructive. So consistently teach the values you want your children to develop. Be consistent about your expectations for your children’s behavior. Be consistent in your responses to their choices. Seek the wisdom of God, then walk in that wisdom whatever comes.
God’s word promises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Pray for God’s wisdom and will, then be consistent in fulfilling it.
Deuteronomy 6 instructs us: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Show your children a consistent faith, no matter your circumstances.
Third, be committed. Focus your efforts on your children’s faith, putting their souls ahead of their social success. Invest in their spiritual lives before you invest in their grades, athletics, popularity, appearance, or status. Prioritize your time around this commitment, avoiding outside obligations which prevent you from nurturing your children in the faith. Put eternity before today.
Claim Jesus’ promise: “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). As C. S. Lewis says, put heaven before earth, and you’ll get earth thrown in.
Above all, be Christ-like. Model the faith you are training your children to follow. Be the same at home that you are at church, the same when you talk to people as when you talk about them. Seek places to serve, identifying and using your spiritual gifts for God’s glory. Give his grace to your children and family. Love unconditionally. And worship the Father every day and every weekend.
Paul wrote his son in the faith, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Follow your Christ, and the chances are excellent that your children will also.
So mothers must model the faith they want their children to follow. How can we encourage them in their hard, relentless, demanding job? How can we help our mothers with the tremendous pressure they feel every day? Here are Dr. Schwall’s very practical suggestions for making every day Mother’s Day:
Understand how much she does. Do things to help her; pick up after yourself; do your chores, and hers as well.
Understand that she gets tired. Give her time to rest; allow her to be alone. Be proactive in finding her time to get away, to rest, to relax.
Understand that she deserves appreciation. Show your gratitude; applaud her verbally (and maybe even literally); tell her you notice all she does. Give her flowers “just because”; show affection; throw a party for her (and don’t let her clean up).
Understand that she wants your best. So listen when she speaks; have a good attitude; follow her directions; speak and act respectfully. Understand that she is on your side, and that she’s your best friend in the world. And you’ll make every day into Mother’s Day, which is the way it should be.
The most important work you and I can ever do is the molding of other lives. You’ve never met a mortal. Your children and friends and associates will be alive long after this planet is gone. If you’re a mother, renew your commitment to the spiritual influence you are called to give your children. If you’re not, make this your day to do the same for those you influence. And as a mother’s child, use this day to thank God and your mother for their eternal influence on your soul.
I read this week the story of Joseph Rosenbaum, a 19-year-old Jewish concentration camp prisoner. He was marked to die, when his mother stepped in line and took his place. Though it was many years ago, he says he will never forget her last words to him: “I have lived long enough. You have to survive because you are so young.” Every mother here would do the same thing. Rosenbaum comments: “Most kids are born only once. I was given birth twice–by the same mother.”
If you can say the same spiritually, you are blessed indeed.