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Portraits of Mary #1: Her Roots and Beginnings

Lori loves to read, study, and teach the Bible. Part of understanding the Bible is to know the culture of those times.

Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women."

— The Angel Gabriel, Luke 3:28

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a remarkable woman, full of grace, wisdom, virtue, faith, and perseverance. Like her son Jesus, she was humble and had a heart that pondered all the important things God revealed to her. Imagine being the mother of the Savior of the world.

Mary went through difficult times and did so with unwavering faith. When the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would give birth to the Messiah, she accepted it with joy.

As we look into the remarkable life of Mary, we start with her lineage and humble beginnings and how those played into her role as mother of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Why Mary's Lineage is Important

The Old Testament predicts where the Messiah's family line will come from. In Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Isaiah 11:1 (among others), the prophets establish and predict that the Messiah will come from the royal line of David. The genealogies of Jesus in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, prove the fulfillment of those prophecies. Since both genealogies are obviously quite different, a common explanation from bible scholars is that Matthew 1:1-17 is the legal lineage of Jesus through Joseph, and Luke 3:23-38 is the biological lineage through Mary. The Messiah was to have legal rights to the throne of David. Joseph, as Jesus' legal father, provided through his lineage Jesus's royal rights to the throne of David.

Luke 3:23-38 is the biological lineage of Jesus through Mary. Considering the status of women in ancient Israel, it is rather striking that Mary's lineage is recorded. But then we are talking about Jesus, the promised Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel. And the circumstances of Mary's pregnancy made this no ordinary case. Jesus was born of a virgin, as prophesied in the Old Testament, so Mary's ancestry is vitally important to substantiate the fulfillment of that prophecy.

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph in a dream after Mary became pregnant, that blessed angel wanted to confirm to and reassure him that Mary's story was true. Gabriel spoke these words to Joseph:

"Now all these things took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Mary's line also includes David. Here's an interesting thing to note: Joseph's genealogy goes back to Abraham, while Mary's goes all the way back to Adam. John Piper suggests that Luke, the writer of the gospel of Luke, is giving his account to a gentile (Theophilus), conveying the idea being that the gospel is for all men. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, thus Joseph's genealogy only goes to Abraham. 1

Mary is not mentioned by name in her genealogy but there are definite clues that it is hers:

  • In Joseph's genealogy, it lists his father as Jacob (Matthew 1:16). In the Luke genealogy, it says Joseph's father is Heli. If the Luke genealogy is Mary's, then Heli is Mary's father and Joseph's father through marriage. There was no Greek word for father-in-law, 2 so Heli was simply said to be Joseph's father.
  • Joseph's genealogy does not list him as the father of Christ, but calls him "Mary's husband who gave birth to Jesus, the One who is called the Christ." This is one confirmation that Joseph's genealogy is a legal one.
  • Joseph's line goes through David's son Solomon, a king, and Mary's goes through David's son Nathan.

Jesus also had the biological birthright to take the throne of God through Mary.

God covered all the bases in both genealogies to qualify Jesus to be the Messiah.


Mary, Mary, Quite Ordinary

There are some faiths that elevate Mary, mother of Jesus, to a level of perfection, above Jesus even. They even pray to her. Through the centuries paintings show her glowing, wearing a halo, and bearing the immaculate heart on her chest. But Mary was never physically illuminated, never was a halo seen hovering above her head, and her heart was flesh and blood just like everyone else's. When we first meet Mary, she's an ordinary girl, from a small, podunk village called Nazareth, known for nothing special. It was the disciple Nathaniel who said "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46). Mary did not come from wealth and live in splendor. She did not wear a tiara or crown. She was clothed in common clothes and got her hem dirty as she went about her daily chores. Her family was so ordinary we do not even hear about them. No one in the rest of the world had ever heard of her until she became the mother of Jesus. But even after the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, she lived an ordinary life in Nazareth raising Jesus and His brothers and sisters. Her husband was a working-class man, just trying to put food on the table. Seeing that they lived in Nazareth, we can conclude they lived in a modest home. She wasn't trying to keep up with the Jones's.

At the time when the angel Gabriel appeared to her, estimates are that Mary was between 13 and 16 years old. She was betrothed to a man named Joseph, an average Joe, a carpenter. Joseph was probably much older, which was typical of that day. We don't know if it was an arranged marriage, but we learn later on how much Joseph loved her. We can assume she loved him too. And she was a pure girl, a virgin.

When Gabriel surprised Mary that one glorious, day, perhaps she was fetching water, sweeping the floor, milking the cow, or gathering eggs, while pondering her future with Joseph. We don't know how grand he looked, but clearly, she was stunned by his appearance.

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” he said to her (Luke 1:28).

It says that his greeting troubled her and she considered what this greeting meant (vs 29). The word "troubled" means to disturb wholly, i.e. agitate (with alarm):--trouble. 3 The romantic side of this story the world would have us believe is that Mary gasped in joyful glee. "Oh, look at this beautiful angel who thinks I'm special." No, it says Mary was troubled at his beautiful greeting. 'Who me?' she must have thought. 'I'm just a nobody, a little girl from Nazareth. I am not worthy of this high honor from God. What does this mean?'

Gabriel could see her troubled countenance and allayed her fears.

"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (vs. 30).

He said her name in his efforts to quiet her, as if to say, "Yes Mary, it is you that has found favor with God. That is why God had sent him.

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (vs. 30-33).

How overwhelming this must have been for Mary. She asked an ordinary, logical, and vital question: "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

She hadn't had her wedding night yet. She'd never been intimate with any man. The angel did not rebuke her for disbelief. He knew she had a legitimate question and was trying to understand. And he filled her in. His answer was no less incredible.

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, also, the Holy One that is to be born will be called the Son of God."

No comment, she's still listening. She's curious, despite her confusion and discomfort. Gabriel is able to bring it home by telling her about her relative Elizabeth. This makes it even more personal and easier to grasp...a little bit anyway. He tells her that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, who is past the age of childbearing, is six months pregnant because nothing is impossible with God.

Strangely, this ordinary girl fully accepted his message with humility.

"Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."

She declared herself a maidservant, a humble, obedient slave girl of the Lord. This was not demeaning herself, it was her way of saying she was a willing, obedient servant of God. May all of this come to pass. I am willing."

Why Did God Choose Mary to be the Mother of the Savior?

Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of the Savior? He didn't choose her at random. We just covered the importance of her lineage. There may be reasons we will never know about, but as we read her story, we learn some things about her that give us insight into His possible reasons. Cliche as it sounds, God most often chose ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He chose plain old country girl Mary to be the human vessel through which Christ came as a human being. Mary was an extremely humble woman and one can't help but think that was a major reason for God's choice of Mary. She was innocent and humble as a child. As such, she was obedient and faithful. Certainly, she was a compassionate person. Isn't it likely that Jesus learned humility, obedience, faithfulness, and compassion from the example and teaching of His parents, Mary and Joseph?

Mary did not spoil Jesus and allow Him to sit on His high horse all day and watch His siblings do all the work just because He was the Son of God. She and her husband taught Him the virtue of hard work, responsibility, and raised Him in the way of God. As for Mary's humility, she didn't go around bragging about her and Joseph's Davidic lineage or that her Son who was to take the throne of David one day. She didn't boast that her Jesus was the Son of God, or flaunt to her friends that none of their kids could live up to Jesus' perfect example. She probably gathered with the ladies at the well and they talked about the weather, the mundane responsibilities of raising a family, the latest family news, how to get manure out of their clothing. Probably the biggest brag Mary had was how tall Jesus and his brothers and sisters were getting, or how Jesus finally learned how to make something in His father's carpentry shop. Certainly, she was proud of her boy and His siblings. But she loved them and didn't make a big fuss. She was a mom.

Knowing to some extent, Jesus was to one day take the throne of David, Mary and Joseph did not have Him schooled in politics, military strategy, or How to Be a King 101. They were just honest, humble parents who loved their children and raised them with wisdom. It is no wonder when Jesus became a man He was a humble, itinerant preacher with nowhere to lay His head; who had compassion on the lost because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He hung out with the poorest and the worst sinners. And He loved those nasty Pharisees and other religious leaders. He had the strength and authority to chastise them, but He loved them and sought to bring them to Himself. Most of them rejected Him nonetheless.

When God calls someone, He always provides what they need to do it and we see this throughout the Scriptures. Many of those He called lacked confidence, were fearful, and even tried to convince God He had the wrong man. But He said, "Trust Me." He always kept His promises.

Mary was uncertain in the beginning, but she accepted God's call with humility and grace.


1 Piper, John. “The Baptism and the Genealogy of Jesus.” Desiring God, 23 Feb. 1981, Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

2 "Why Are Jesus' Genealogies in Matthew and Luke So Different?" (n.d.). Accessed 19 October, 2021, from

3 Strong's Concordance #1298. Accessed 19, October 2021,

© 2021 Lori Colbo

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