Mary is arguably one of the most popular Bible characters. She has been venerated as a saint by some Christian denominations (e.g. Catholics) which adds to her popularity today. Incredibly, the Bible doesn’t say a lot about Mary – at least not as much as it does about other characters who are not as famous as Mary is today. So what happened to her?
After the ascension of Jesus, Mary went to live with John in honor of Jesus’ last wishes. Jesus had told John to consider Mary her mother and Mary to consider John her son. While Mary could have gone to live with any of the remaining disciples or her children, both Jesus and Mary trusted Apostle John. That’s why she went with him, as portrayed in the scripture: ‘From that time on, this disciple took her into his home’ (John 19:27).
Early Life of Mary Mother of Jesus
The mother of Jesus comes from a priestly line. She is Elizabeth’s cousin, the daughter of Aaron (Luke 1:36). Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but they didn’t consummate their marriage until after Christ was born. In fact, she was a young Jewish woman living in Nazareth when Angel Gabriel gave her the good news that she would conceive through the Holy Spirit.
The pregnancy did not sit well with Joseph. He considered divorcing Mary. However, an angel appeared in a dream and explained the pregnancy was to fulfill God’s will. This convinced Joseph to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:18-25).
A few months later (while Mary was still pregnant), Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census of the Roman Kingdom would be carried out. As a result, Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem. It was in Bethlehem that Jesus was born. The Bible states that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son in a manger (Luke 2:1-7).
Mary and Joseph lived in Egypt after the birth of Jesus until King Herod’s death (Matthew 2:13-23) when they went to Nazareth. One notable aspect of Jesus’ childhood mentioned in the Bible is attending the Passover in Jerusalem when He was 12.
The feast of Passover is a way for Israelites to remember their deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Luke 2:41). This implies that Mary and Joseph ensured that Jesus grew up in a faithful Jewish household and obeyed God’s commands.
Additionally, Mary’s song of praise when she finds out that Elizabeth is pregnant shows she is knowledgeable about the bible teachings. This is illustrated when she says, “He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever” (Luke 1:54-55).
After celebrating the Passover, Jesus’ parents started their journey back to Nazareth. They had already covered a day’s journey when they realized that Jesus was not among them. So they returned to Jerusalem, searched for three days, and found Him in the temple. Mary was worried about Jesus missing, as portrayed by what she said:
“Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:48).
This gesture points to Mary as a caring mother to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary Was Part of Jesus’ Ministry
The next time the Bible mentions Mary is at a wedding in Cana Galilee. By the time Jesus attends this wedding, He has been baptized by John and selected the 12 disciples. During the celebration, the wine supply runs out, and Mary turns to Jesus to communicate the problem (John 2:1-11). This can mean Mary knew Jesus could perform miracles and wanted Him to use divine power to solve the problem. Jesus went on to turn water into wine to solve a problem that His mother had and to display His glory.
Jesus also had a public encounter with Mary in Capernaum. The gospel of Mark gives an encounter Jesus had with His mother and brothers (earthly family). Jesus was in the city of Capernaum with a large crowd gathered around Him. Most of these people came to see Jesus from far away. Religious leaders who opposed Him because of what He was preaching were also among those who came to see Jesus. The religious leaders who opposed Jesus pointed to a growing danger that might have concerned Mary. Together with other family members, she decided to talk to Him (Mark 3:20-35).
Mary Witnessed the Crucifixion of Jesus
Another public encounter that Mary had with Jesus was during the crucifixion. She was one of the people present when Jesus died (John 19:25). According to John 19, several people stood near the cross during the crucifixion. The scripture states that when Jesus saw Mary standing there, He spoke to her, saying, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ He also addressed the disciples, telling them, ‘Here is your mother.’ Mary then went to John’s home (John 19:25-27).
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he promised his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit. He charged them to wait until the gift came before they embarked on the work of ministry. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the remaining disciples gathered in the upper room together with Mary to pray. It is therefore safe to infer that Mary and Jesus’ brothers were among the 120 people baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:13-14)..
Did Mary Have Other Children?
In fulfillment of scripture, Mary was a virgin when she was pregnant with Jesus. As such, Jesus was her firstborn. However, we also know that Jesus had siblings and some of them have been named in the Bible. It is therefore clear that Mary had other sons and daughters after Jesus. For instance, when the people of Nazareth, who were familiar with Jesus’ upbringing, identified Him as the carpenter’s son and mentioned His brothers: James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon (Mark 6:2-3). The Bible also mentions daughters as well.
Several public encounters between Jesus and Mary are recorded in scripture. These include the Jerusalem temple, Capernaum, and Calvary. In all these three instances, she was a caring and loving mother. Mary also raised her son to be a faithful Jew, and after He ascended to heaven, she went to live with Apostle John to honor the last words of Jesus. Some scholars argue that John was missing in the earlier missionary work of the early church because he was taking care of Mary.