Mary, Witness to the Entire Life of Jesus

Who was Mary besides being the famed mother of Jesus? She was present throughout the exceptional life of her son from beginning to end to beginning.[1]

As a mother, every amazing detail about her son was memorable. In a distinguishing characteristic of Luke, twice before Jesus turned 13, the Gospel says Mary “treasured all these things in her heart.”[2] The author of Luke says the Gospel is based on witness accounts “from the beginning.”[3]

Mary’s remarkable life took a turn from ordinary to extraordinary in only a moment. As a girl who had become of marriageable age at 13 living in Nazareth, a town of about 2000 or less, Mary soon agreed to marry Joseph.[4] Her betrothal was no different than for any other Jewish girl…until Mary was visited by the angel Michael who announced she would be impregnated by the Holy Spirit and would give birth to the Messiah.[5]

Not telling Joseph her magnificent secret, Mary promptly left to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, the wife of a priest, Zachariah.[6] Merely a few days pregnant and otherwise not physically apparent even to Mary herself other than Gabriel’s message, Elizabeth confirmed Mary’s pregnancy as soon as she arrived.[7]

It was a perfect ice-breaker opening the door for Mary to confide her secret with someone who would understand. Aside from being cousins, they both had something in common – miraculous pregnancies.[8] Elizabeth had been married for many years but had been barren. Even her husband doubted the possibility of her becoming pregnant because of her age.[9]

When it was time for Elizabeth to give birth to her son who would become known as John the Baptist, Mary went back home to Nazareth, but she still didn’t tell Joseph of her private circumstance.[10] For how long she withheld her secret is not known, but “she was found” to be pregnant apparently not because Mary divulged it.[11]

Clearly Mary’s secret was difficult to handle, much more than because of the Jewish religious society’s negative view of pregnancy before marriage. When Joseph found out, knowing he was not the father, he considered a divorce which could have dire consequences for Mary. It is safe to assume it caused stress on both sides. Archangel Gabriel paid a visit to Joseph who then had a change of heart deciding that God’s divine plan trumped the difficult situation for himself.

As if things in Mary’s home life weren’t tough enough, a few months later as Mary was preparing to give birth any day, the town crier announced a family registration decree by Caesar August. On very short notice, it required Mary to travel to Bethlehem 90 miles away with her new husband, Joseph, who was of the royal lineage of David.[12] Making matters worse, the inns in Bethlehem were full and Mary was forced to give birth in a stable.

Joy overcame the difficult circumstances followed with more amazing events. Shepherds heralded by a choir of angels left their herds in the country to see her baby.[13] That was followed by Magi who came from a faraway country bearing expensive gifts including gold and they worshipped her baby![14] Events again took another dramatic turn for the worse – the King of Judea, Herod, wanted to kill her baby forcing Mary’s new family to escape to Egypt.[15]

Finally things settled down with the death of Herod and the three returned to Nazareth. Over the following years, Mary and Joseph raised a family of five boys and at least two girls.[16] A stark reminder that their 12-year old son, Jesus, was distinctively different from his siblings came when they lost him during their trip to Jerusalem for the Passover.[17] When they eventually found Jesus in the Temple, he declared, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”[18]

Mary knew her son had special powers who could perform miracles. When a wedding party ran out of wine, she asked Jesus to turn the pots of water to wine. He appeared not to be ready to reveal his miracle capabilities, but in-spite-of being a grown adult, Jesus did as his mother asked performing the first recorded miracle.[19]

Before choosing his Disciples at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus moved to Capernaum. At his new home, Mary and her family tried to meet with Jesus after he had cast out demons and performed healing miracles that roused the crowd, but they could not reach him because the crowd was too dense.[20]

Next mention of Mary three years later was the most dreadful of scenarios, all the more horrifying for a mother, as she watched her tortured son being crucified.[21] What emotions she experienced can scarcely be imagined.

Great joy again returned when Mary saw her son alive again! She celebrated with those who saw Jesus ascend into Heaven 40 days after his Resurrection.[22]

Mary was the sole witness to the entire life of Jesus from her miraculous conception, the circumstances of his birth, his miracles, his crucifixion and his Resurrection. These events are corroborated by many sources as documented in the Gospels as well as those not so readily apparent outside of the Gospels.

Magi visiting Jerusalem, an entire city full of people could have refuted the conspicuous visit if it hadn’t happened – it wasn’t repudiated by those still alive when the original Gospels were made public. History confirms the registration decree of Caesar Augustus, the death of King Herod and other Roman, Jewish and history authorities during that same time. Judaism, historical accounts and all four Gospels corroborate the crucifixion of Jesus witnessed by Mary.

Much attention is made of  Mary Magdalene’s Resurrection encounter at the tomb…if anyone could confirm or refute that it was Jesus who was alive after his death on the cross, it was his own mother and family.

Joseph and Mary no doubt talked about their amazing experiences in their home and at private gatherings. If there were disparities, as adults family members would have been expected to expose them – they didn’t. Mary’s children became followers of Jesus costing Mary another of her own sons who became a martyr for his belief in Jesus as the Messiah:[23]

“…he [Ananus] assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions.]  And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned…” – Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews [24]

Considering Mary’s witness of a miraculous conception and seeing her son, Jesus, crucified and Resurrected – was Jesus the prophesied Messiah who was Resurrected from the dead?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Northcote, James Spencer. “The Life of Mary in the Gospels.” 1856-60. <https://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-182/LifeMary14.htm> “Who was With Jesus When He Ascended?” Pathos.com. 2017. <https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/12/15/who-was-with-jesus-when-he-ascended>
[2] Luke 2:51. NASB. NASB, NIV. Luke 2:19.
[3] Luke 1:2.
[4] “Nazareth.”  New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/nazareth>  “Nazareth.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/nazareth> Kiddushin 3b.  Sefaria. <https://www.sefaria.org/Kiddushin.3b?lang=bi>  “Marriage.” Judaism 101. <http://www.jewfaq.org/marriage.htm>  “Majority.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10310-majority>
[5] Luke 1:26-35.
[6] Luke 1:39, 56.
[7] Luke 1:39-45.
[8] Matthew 1:18-19, 36-37, 58; Luke 1:36.
[9] Luke 1:8-25, 57-66.
[10] Matthew 1:56.
[11] Mathew 1:18. Net.bible.org. 2019. Greek text word “heurisko.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=2147> Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=greeklexicon&isindex=2147>
[12] Luke 2:1-6.
[13] Luke 2:8-20.
[14] Matthew 2:1-12.
[15] Matthew 2:13-17.
[16] Matthew 13:55; Mark 3:31-32, 6:3; John 2:12; Acts 1:14.
[17] Luke 2:41-51.
[18] NASB.
[19] John 2:1-11. CR John 4:46.
[20] Mathew 4:13; Mark 3:20-32; Luke 4:16-30.
[21] John 19:25. CR Luke 23:49.
[22] Acts. 1:3, 12-14.
[23] John 2:12; Acts 1:12-14.
[24] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XX, Chapter IX.4.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Angelic Encounters at the Empty Tomb – a Gospel Conflict?

Angelic encounter descriptions at the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels seem to vary posing a potential conflict. Were there one or two angels? More questions:  Why two angels? What did they look like?

Setting the scene, by Jewish day-reckoning the Saturday Sabbath began at sunset on Friday evening. Earlier that afternoon, Jesus of Nazareth had been executed by crucifixion requiring a hasty burial before Jewish Sabbath Law restricted various activities.

Sabbath formally ended Saturday at sunset. With the Sabbath restrictions no longer a factor, this is where the chronicles of the Resurrection of Jesus begins. The three synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – join the story line at different points.

Mark’s account establishes the earliest timeline identifying Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the James, and Salome purchasing burial spices as soon as the Sabbath ended Saturday night.[1] The women worried about how they would move the stone from the entrance clearly not aware the tomb was sealed and guarded.

Matthew’s account sets the scene at the tomb as sunrise approached Sunday morning. The joint-contingent, armed Roman-Jewish koustodia , established by the command of Pilate at the request of the Jewish council, were on-duty guarding the tomb to prevent the theft of the body. Arriving at the tomb were the two Marys, Salome, Joanna and other unnamed women.[2]

Suddenly a great earthquake struck when the women witnessed an angel rolling away the stone from the entrance to the tomb. Matthew described the angel:

MT 28:2-3 “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.” (NKJV)

At this point Mark and Luke join the storyline at the tomb with each describing differently, though consistently, the physical attire of the angels:

MK 16:5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side…” (NKJV)

LK 24:4 “… behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.” (NKJV)

Luke unambiguously says there were two angels, while both Matthew and Mark only refer to one angel. Is there a conflict? Factoring in the details of each account into the entire scenario is revealing. Keep in mind, Luke’ investigative report was written after Matthew and Mark wrote their accounts.[3]

Matthew says that after an angel rolled away the large stone, he did a curious and unusual thing – he sat on it. Not standing or hovering in the air like the stereotypical image of an angel; instead, in dazzling array there he sat, perhaps with his legs draped over the side. Unnecessary and unexpected information, yet personifying and specific detail adding authentic realism.

Mark describes the angel inside the tomb specifically on the right side also sitting, not standing. Logically, this angel cannot be the same one sitting outside on the rolled-away stone. Such descriptive details are typically absent from a deceptive statement. Their body language indicates they were relaxed and inviting in demeanor.

As one angel sat on the tomb’s entrance stone, he spoke to the women inviting them to go inside the tomb:

MT 28:5-6  “”Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”(NASB)

At the angel’s invitation, at least some of the women entered the tomb. Inside, Mark describes the second angelic encounter who also spoke to the women, his message similar to the first:

MK 16:5-6 “Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.’””(NASB)

Pointing out where the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth had lain was to the very witnesses – the two Marys, Salome and perhaps other unnamed women – who had on Friday watched Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus preparing the body for burial on that same spot.[4] Had the angel’s statement been untrue, the women would be expected to refute it and the angel’s message would have been suspect. They didn’t.

Witness statements to the same event are expected to vary and, as long as they are consistent on key information, it is a hallmark of authenticity and credibility. On the other hand, if two or more statements are very nearly or exactly the same, it is a strong indication of deception.

Evaluating witness statements requires investigators to consider the key facts, information, perspective, sequence of events, etc. and then, if possible during an actual interview, probe deeper. Interviews not being possible, the statements then must be evaluated based on their own merit as compared to other statements and evidence.

All three Gospels’ descriptions vary, yet they are all tightly consistent on the main details – there was angelic presence who spoke to the women; the tomb was empty; the body of Jesus was gone; and the angelic pronouncement that Jesus is alive, just as he had predicted.

Corroborating information is provided by the eyewitness John. His personal knowledge begins when the terrified women burst into the room where he and Peter were mourning announcing the empty tomb. The two Disciples, John and Peter, raced to see it for themselves.[5] Also arriving back at the tomb was Mary Magdalene.[6] Marveling at finding the tomb empty except the burial cloths used to wrap the body, John and Peter decided to go home leaving Mary behind.

Standing outside the tomb crying, Mary stooped and looked back inside where she saw two angels who spoke to her, this time she responded:

JN 20:12-13 “And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”(NKJV)

John was not there although his source, by all indications Mary Magdalene herself, consistently described the two angels dressed in white sitting on each end of the stone slab.[7] Mary Magdalene’s reaction, or lack of one, to the supernatural beings indicates familiarity. Unlike the first encounter, this time she is not alarmed and she spoke to them.

One other validation, though one not called out by the Gospels, is a Jewish legal fact that, if not in met, could diminish the credibility of the Resurrection event. God’s Law required two witnesses to corroborate the same point of evidence to establish a fact…two angels were witnesses at the Resurrection scene of Jesus of Nazareth.[8]

Longstanding investigative principals to decipher credible and truthful statements from deceptive ones through the use of literary analysis and other evidence, all point in one direction. Were there actually two angels at the empty tomb who witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Mark 16.
[2] Luke 24.
[3] Kirby, Peter. “Gospel of Luke.” EarlyChristianWritings.com. 2019. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/luke.html>  “The Book of Luke.” . Quartz Hill School of Theology.  n.d.  <http://www.theology.edu/biblesurvey/luke.htm>
[4] Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23.  Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.1883. Book 5, Chapter XV. pp 1419-1420. <http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/The%20Life%20and%20Times%20of%20Jesus%20the%20Messiah.pdf>
[5] John 20.
[6] Luke 24; John 20.
[7] Shanks, Hershel.  “Crucifixion Bone Fragment, 21 CE” The Center for Online Judaic Studies. 2004.  <http://cojs.org/crucifixion_bone_fragment-_21_ce>   Romey, Kristin. “Unsealing of Christ’s Reputed Tomb Turns Up New Revelations.” National Geographic. 2016. <https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/jesus-christ-tomb-burial-church-holy-sepulchre>
[8] Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Numbers 35:30.  Soncino Babylonian Talmud.Sanhedrin. 9a; 30a; 56a, footnote #1. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html>  Resnicoff, Steven H. “Criminal Confessions in Jewish Law .“ Project Genesis. 2007.  <https://web.archive.org/web/20160122222638/http://www.torah.org/features/secondlook/criminal.html>