Mothers on a Hillside
(This message was first preached at First Baptist Church in Carney, Oklahoma. It was preached in the morning service , Sunday the 14th, 1978. It was a Mother’s Day sermon)
Today’s message is universal. Today’s message is for all people. I know of no one here today who either is not a mother, is not married to a mother, or did not have a mother. All of us can share today in this service because today we will strive to honor our mothers.
It is so characteristic of God to do what he did. For only God in His infinite and divine wisdom could choose to have woman to play the role of mother. I can imagine God reasoning with himself in the Garden of Eden. He would have said out loud, “Of this very special role is required one who will strive to sooth, to relieve, to cleanse, to console, and to comfort.” And I can imagine God continuing and saying, “For this role I will use woman; and she shall be a Mother.” And in that manner God set into action the plan that would bring salvation to all mankind. For God choose a woman to be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of mankind.
But now let us look at an event that we are all familiar with. In the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, the 1st through 13th verses, we find the story of the feeding of the five-thousand. The Bible relates this story as follows:
After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). And a great multitude was following him, because they were seeing the signs which he was performing on those who were sick. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Jesus therefore lifting up his eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” And he was saying this to test him; for he himself knew what he was intending to do.
Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for every one to receive a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a lad here, who has five barley loaves, and two fish; but what are these for so many people?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.
An when they were filled, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.” And so they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.
Sitting on that mountain side that day were the mothers of many. But today as we walk among that crowd, we are going to look specifically at three mothers. The mothers that we will examine today will represent three roles that mother play. The first role is that of “love supporting”. The second is that of “love sustaining”. And the third and last is that of “love sovereign”.
The first mother we encounter is Jairus’ wife. This woman is here with her family. She sits very close to her child. By her manner, we can see the love she bares for her little girl and her husband. Her story is told in the Gospel of Mark, the 5th chapter. It is interesting to note that her name is not even mentioned in Mark’s account. In fact the only reference to her is in the 40th verse. And that reference just calls her “mother”. Do you remember the story? Her daughter had fallen seriously ill, to the very point of death. No doubt they had tried everything that they knew of the healing arts, at that time, to assist the child, but to no avail. Then someone in the house remembered that Jesus was in their town that day. And so with Jesus as their only hope they frantically went to find him. They found him; but, the story tells us that they were too late. Because, even while Jesus was on the way to the child, a messenger came to say that the little girl had died.
But you remember what Jesus did; he continued on his way to the child. When he got to the house the wailing women were already moaning and wailing in front of the house, as was the custom when someone of prominence had died. Jesus took the mother and father and two of his disciples into the house to see the little girl. And with the power of his spoken word Jesus said, “Little one, arise.” And she did.
Now, the fact that the writer of the Gospel saw fit not to name the mother in this account is typical of Jewish custom of that day and age. Oh, this does not mean that her role isn’t important, no not at all! Because this woman was the wife of a religious official. She was in the public eye constantly. She was responsible for the well-being and orderly routine of the household. But we need to understand that the Jewish society of that time was strongly patriarchal. I suppose that there would be those people today who would see the treatment of women by ancient Jewish society as being very demeaning. And although it may have that appearance, there are multiple Biblical accounts that verify the reverence and respect that was given to the women of Jesus’ day. I believe that this child’s mother was one of those unsung women.
I believe that she was a person of great spiritual strength. She certainly had an extreme commitment to her family. At this crisis time in her life, when there was only seconds left to save her daughter, she placed her into Jesus’ hands. Now, the religious rulers, of which Jairus was one, were, as a body, against all the claims of Jesus. The appearance and social position of Jesus, poorly clad and poor, did not mark him as the expected Messiah. And yet this woman and her husband trusted Jesus; and, as a result of that trust they heard him say to their child, “Little one, I say to you, arise.”
What is central in this story is the unity that existed between the family members. Jairus had the confidence that he could act according to the manner he felt lead and his wife would be at his side encouraging him. What do you think would have happened if Jairus and his wife had disagreed on seeking Jesus for help? What do you think would have happened if she had put her foot down? What if she had adamantly stated, “You’ll not bring any unknown itinerant preacher here to see my baby!” It could have been disastrous. But, I don’t believe that was the case. Because she supported her family, love reigned in that home. Please understand that I am not saying that she was subservient, but rather she was supportive.
Does love reign in your family today? Mother, are you working within your family in a supportive role? Do you support your husband and children, even when they do not do the things you think they ought to do? And likewise, husbands, understand that commitment to the family is incomplete without your support. Do you support your wife in the manner that you know that she deserves? We must all stop and understand that our wives and mothers do not work for us. They do what they do because they love us. They deserve our unquestioned support.
I’m so grateful for the patience that my wife has with me. I know that there are times when I’m going to really blow it. I know this because of past history. Occasionally I have really blown it. And when I do. At those times when I fail, it helps if there is someone present who doesn’t say, “Boy, you really blew it! I could have told you that you would!” I suppose that occasionally it must take a lot of strength not to say “I told you so.” I believe that there is nothing stronger than the love of a woman that has been strengthened with the love of Christ. When this force permeates the family, then love reigns in that family indeed.
Now, as we walk on through the crowd on the hillside we encounter the Widow of Nain. Her story is told in Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, verses 11 through 15:
And it came about soon afterwards, that he went to a city called Nain; and his disciples were going along with him, accompanied by a large multitude. Now, as he approached the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”
And he came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” and the dead man sat up, and began to speak. and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Quite a few widows crossed the path of Jesus in the days that he walked on this earth. This mother is an example of love sustained. She is a widow. Perhaps she has been left alone by her husband for many years. And as we are introduced to her in this story, she is now separated from her only son, who has died. Jesus found her in a funeral procession. She was weeping as she walked for the last time with her son.
I can imagine the love she felt for that boy. Through all the years of being alone, her son had been her real joy. She had loved him and cared for him during all the hard times of his youth. She had raised him alone and had had great hopes for his life. It is likely that he had not disappointed her. For the account says that the funeral procession was comprised of a great crowd of people, which probably meant that this young man was someone of some social standing. In any case, I can only assume that she had been very proud of her young man. And then one day, perhaps suddenly, he was taken from her by death.
We assume by the size of the procession that the young man was a man of prominence. But, he just as easily could have been an outlaw. For all we know, he could have been a murderer. I doubt that; but he could have been. But, no matter what his station in life was we find a heartbroken mother. It simply did not matter what the son had accomplished on this earth. His mother loved him first of all because he was her son. That’s all the reason she needed. That was all that counted.
Through our lives we accomplish many things. But, the love of a mother sustains all of life’s changes. A mother’s love still sees that man or woman as her little boy or little girl. A mother’s love is unchanging. A mother’s love sustains the trials of time. I suppose that a mother’s love is the closest thing to the love of God.
Many years ago Paul Harvey told a story which exemplifies the endurance of a mother’s love. Mr. Harvey related a story of a young man whose early life had been wholesome and exemplary. He was raised in a God-fearing home; and had the support of both his parents. But during his last year in high school, he came under the influence of someone outside his family who introduced him to a lifestyle that was detrimental to is health as well as his future. The young man became rebellious and sullen and developed a contemptuous attitude. He ignored his parent’s advise; he shunned their company; and he ridiculed their way of life.
One midnight, his father could endure the situation no longer, so he stole softly into his son’s bedroom. The air was heavy with the stale stench of over-indulgence. But to his surprise, he discovered that the boy’s mother had preceded him, and was kneeling silently at the bedside. He noticed how she stroked her son’s hair; and kept on lightly kissing his forehead. And he noticed how her cheeks were wet with many tears. Seeing her husband, she turned to him and whispered softly through her tears, “He won’t let me love him when he’s awake.”
Jesus looked upon this widow of Nain. And, as has happened so often, he was moved with compassion. He touched her life. Out of love Jesus gave her son back to her. I believe that Jesus did this because he was moved by her enduring love...a love that sustains. A love that keeps on loving, even when we don’t let them love us while we are awake.
Let us continue on our walk on the hillside; and let us encounter our last mother. We see a woman sitting by herself, holding the coat of a young man speaking to the multitude. Yes, we are looking at Mary, the mother of Jesus.
I don’t know why God chose Mary to be the one to carry his revelation to a lost world. There are some things that Mary simply could no give her son. She could not surround him with wealth. When, as custom required, she presented the infant Jesus in the Temple, at the time of his birth, all she could afford to offer was a pair of pigeons. This was the offering of the very poor. But, we should understand that little is much if it has as its foundation sincerity, humility, reverence, and love. Mary gave her Savior-Son gifts of infinitely more value than secular and material advantages. What did she give him?
First of all she gave him life. Isn’t it ironic that life was born from this woman to the Savior of all mankind? Then she gave Jesus a home. Although it surely was not very elaborate, it was the only home that he knew in the days he lived on this earth. And isn’t it ironic that the princes of the earthly kingdoms found their homes in palaces while the Prince of Peace found his home in a little hut, which tells me that it doesn’t take much for Jesus to live in, as long as it is made available to him.
Another quality Jesus grew to appreciate in his mother was the sense of the presence of God. To Mary, God was not a far off being. He was not a remote deity who was uninterested in her life or in the world. Mary was ever in the presence of God; and she realized it. I believe that Mary taught the child, Jesus, about his heavenly father. She was not a learned person; but she taught Jesus what she knew, using the scriptures. And the Bible tells us that Jesus grew rapidly in the Spirit.
And one of the glimpses that we receive of Mary has as its setting another hillside. This one is a barren hillside on an overcast afternoon. We find Jesus, her son, hanging from a cross, dying. We find him deserted by his followers; forgotten by the multitudes; and forsaken by his heavenly father. But Mary did not leave him. Even though her son was dying as a criminal between two thieves, we find her loving her son. But it is not just with the love of a mother for her son, although that is surely there; but Mary realized that Jesus was her Lord. This is the one love that transcends all barriers. This love of our Sovereign is required from all of us that profess faith in his name.
I said that Mary was the last mother that we would encounter today. Well, there is one other mother that we need to encounter before we go home today. In most cases I don’t know who this mother is. But you do. It is your mother. No one knows her in the way that you do. Do you remember the light that shines in her eyes when she is filled with joy. Many of us here today only have memories to cling to. But there are some of you here today who still have their mothers near. I urge you to recommit yourselves to honor her in the manner that God would have you to do. If you still have your mother, nothing would make her happier. And if your mother is already with the Savior, what could honor her memory more that to live your life close to God and to raise your own children according to God’s will. God bless you and keep you.