Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Moms are people, too.
That might seem obvious but take a moment to think about when you finally realized that simple fact. Moms are people, too. When we’re kids, we don’t often see our moms as being like other people. We don’t imagine them with vulnerabilities or feelings like the rest of us. They’re more like SUPERMOM! Able to leap large stacks of toys in a single bound! Then at some point in our lives, our moms seem so out of touch. They just don’t understand. And then as we grow and mature, we come to realize that mom had a pretty good head on her shoulders the whole time. At least that’s how it was for me. Looking back, I don’t know how much I appreciated my mom until I became a parent myself and all of a sudden that veil over my eyes was lifted and I could empathize with her in a whole new way. I also realized how tough it must have been at times to put up with my back talk. I did well in school. I never got in trouble. But I had a mouth and sometimes I wonder if that was worse.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase in the Bible, “Honor your father and mother.”
And not just with my own mom but with my wife, Cassie, too. This is the first time Cassie isn’t spending Mother’s Day with us and I know she misses both of her girls. Eve’s pretty much grown up (although I don’t know if we ever truly see our kids as completely grown up) and so it might not be as hard to be away from her. But Emma’s still pretty young and I know as weird as it is for us, it’s probably even harder for Cassie. No worries. We promised to celebrate Mother’s Day when she comes home. But I wonder if I do enough to honor Cassie as the mother of our children. Because if you think about it, this mandate to honor your father and mother isn’t exclusive to your biological mother but to all of those who act as mothers in our lives. And that includes the mother of my kids. Paul writes in Ephesians that husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the church – and since Christ was willing to sacrifice everything including his life for the church, it seems we owe our wives an awful lot.
But what does it mean to honor your mother?
For the first time ever, I read the Bible with this thought running through my head. I tried to see for myself what it might look like to honor your mother and it made me look at the life of Jesus in a different light. When I read the Bible, I tend to look at Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. But we also believe he was also the Son of Man and specifically he was the son of Mary and Joseph. We don’t really read much about Joseph outside of Jesus’ birth, but with Mary we have a somewhat richer history. There were three distinct incidents of Jesus throughout his life that made me realize what it meant to honor your mother. Each one took place at a different moment – when Jesus was a child, when he first began his ministry, and on the cross before he died.
The first was when Jesus was in the temple as a child.
This is the only incident we read about Jesus’ life as a kid. The only one. His family traveled from his home in Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival and after it was over, the whole family was headed home, a journey of about 75 miles. After the first full day of travel, Joseph and Mary realize that Jesus isn’t with them and immediately head back to Jerusalem to find him. You might wonder why his parents didn’t notice before, but at his age it was just as likely he was walking with some of his other relatives instead of his parents. Any of you with pre-teens or teenagers can probably empathize with that. I imagine they assumed he was with his cousin John or someone else in the family because the Bible tells us they were all traveling together. But at the end of that first day when they are setting up camp for the night, they can’t find him and immediately Joseph and Mary head back to Jerusalem.
I can’t imagine how worried Mary must have been.
I still have nightmares about the time Emma was trapped on the school bus headed to Visalia and I had to drive after it like a mad man. The bus driver forgot to let Emma off the bus at her usual spot and just started heading out of town. We drove after her, finally catching up to the bus, frantically honking and waving to try and get him to pull over. Finally some kids noticed us and the driver stopped and we got Emma out safely. The next day we bought her a phone – and she stopped taking the bus. That was only for a few minutes we were missing Emma. Mary must have been worried to leave her 12-year old all alone in another city overnight. When they made it back to Jerusalem, Jesus was like a rock star in the temple, dazzling people with his wisdom and insight. But Mary didn’t care about that. She went up to him and said, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” Jesus was bewildered and said, ‘“Why were you searching for me?” Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Of course, they didn’t understand at that time what he meant, but then Luke writes what happens next, “…he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:51-52).” The only passage we have about Jesus’ childhood is one where we focus on Mary and how proud she was of her son.
Then there was that time at the wedding.
It’s the first recorded public miracle in the Bible and it happens because of his mom. Jesus and Mary were at a wedding and the family runs out of wine. Mary turns to Jesus and simply says, “They have no more wine.” Now, I don’t know if Jesus has done this sort of thing before, but I imagine he must have because that’s all she has to say to him and he knows what she expects. Jesus responds with “…why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” I guess that’s the 1st century version of “Ah, gee, mom. Do I have to?” But Mary knows Jesus will do it, despite his remark and he tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” And they do. Even though Jesus knows it isn’t time for him to reveal himself openly to the world, he does what his mother asks and he turns water into wine. The first recorded miracle happens because of his mother. He honors her by being dutiful.
And then there’s the moment of his death.
As he hangs on the cross, about to die, his mother, along with John the disciple and some of the other women who were close to Christ come to stand with him and give him their support. And right before he dies, he tells John to take care of his mother and asks his mother to adopt John as her own. Why Mary didn’t go to stay with one of her other children or what happened to Joseph, the Bible isn’t clear. But Jesus wanted to make sure before he died that his mother would be taken care of. In those days, a woman without a husband wouldn’t have the means to take care of herself and would end up destitute and alone so Jesus before he dies asks John to take care of her and he does. Only then does Jesus allow himself to die.
In each stage of his life, Jesus honors his mother.
It’s funny because we have no other story about Jesus’ childhood except this moment in the temple. And while most people remark on Jesus’ wit and wisdom, the bulk of the story is about Mary and Jesus. Not about Jesus’ time in the temple but about the relationship between mother and son. And we read that Mary’s heart becomes full watching her son. Then we see Jesus honoring his mother by doing as she asks despite the fact that it wasn’t time for him to reveal himself. Still, he does what she wants and Mary doesn’t have to say any more. And even at the moment of his death, Jesus makes sure that his mother is taken care of. He doesn’t die before he knows she will be alright. Throughout his life, Jesus never disrespected her, always cared for her, and lived a life that brought her honor. Jesus is the very model for how we should treat our moms.
I hope the life I have lived fills my mother’s heart.
I know my mom’s proud of me, but I hope I have honored the many sacrifices she has made for me in my life. I hope that I properly show my appreciation and love because I know it’s so easy not to. Not on purpose. Not because I mean to disrespect her. But because as a human being, I’m bound to make mistakes. The same is true for Cassie. I hope that I am the husband she needs me to be, to show her honor and respect for what she does for our family. I hope she knows that even when we disagree, I still love her and am proud that she is Emma’s mom. And although I can’t possibly expect to be like Jesus, I can try. Jesus is the model for our lives. He exemplifies for us what we should strive for. On this day, most of all, we should honor the women in our lives who have given so much of themselves to us. And hopefully, we will fill their hearts as they have filled ours. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.