Mothering Sunday — March 22 TLW11A
Previous week March 15 Following week March 29
Sunday readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. First read the passage in its entirety (NIV text) and let it speak for itself; then, the links below take you to the verse-by-verse commentary.
1 Samuel 1:20-28 — Hannah’s motherly instinct is to put what is right before what she wants, and she gives up her son to fulfil her vow
together with Psalm 34:11-20
John 19:25-27 — in His dying breaths, Jesus honours His mother, trusting His disciple John to look after her
Colossians 3:12-17 — As people of joy in the Good News of Christ, we carry the kind of love that can let go and forgive
1 Samuel 1:20-28 — Hannah makes a great sacrifice on behalf of her son
This mother’s instinct is to put what is right ahead of what she wants
20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.”
“Samuel” – sounds like “asked of God” or “heard by God” in Hebrew.
21-22 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.”
23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good His word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
“Make good His word” – an earlier, unrecorded word from the Lord or, possibly, Eli’s pronouncement, v.17.
24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh.
“After he was weaned” – much older than we would expect; he could have been five years old.
“Three-year-old bull…ephah of flour” – or three bulls, either way a substantial offering, indicating that Elkanah was prosperous.
25-26 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD.
“As surely as you live” – a way of emphasising the truth of words. Hannah exalts the Lord by her testimony of what He has done.
27-28 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshipped the LORD there.
“The LORD has granted me…” – following Eli’s earlier words; Samuel is the direct answer to that blessing.
“I give him” – honouring the Lord with sacrificial love. In turn, the Lord honours her with further sons and daughters, 1 Sam. 2:19-21
11 Come, my children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12-13 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
“I will teach you” – like “Come My children”, the language of the Bible genre called wisdom literature. Wisdom here has three components:
- “fear of the Lord”, meaning awe and worshipful attitude;
- intentional avoidance of evil, especially evil speech; and
- v.14, doing good.
14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
15-16 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.
“Turn from evil” – always be ready to change a behaviour and come back to God. These verses are quoted by Peter in his letter to summarise the loving and relational Christian lifestyle, 1 Peter 3:10-12.“The eyes of the Lord” – watching over and protective of those who are maintaining a relationship with Him; by contrast, those whose independence from the Lord leads to evil attract His attention in a different way.
17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
“Brokenhearted… crushed” – exaggeration for effect, of how “the righteous” have dealt with their human pride and stubbornness.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;
“Many troubles” – the psalm is clear that the prevalent evil that we must distance ourselves from, v.14, will bring trouble for both the wicked and the righteous. However there is a very different outcome for the wise and God-fearing who experience God’s love and attention, and can face difficulty with greater resilience.
20 He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
“Not one of them… broken” – the apostle John, commenting on the Roman custom not being fully followed for Jesus, alluded to this together with Exodus 12:46, making the connection between Jesus and the passover lamb, John 19:36.
Hannah’s ability to lay down her right to what she most wanted, a son to bring up, sets the bar high by any measure of sacrificial love. She was determined to do what was right by the Lord and what was best for the son she had been given.
The psalm brings out two related themes:
- how the Lord seeks out those who push through to do what is right by Him, and
- that doing what is right comes at a cost: “The righteous person may have many troubles…”
However, the psalm shows us that the person who persists in doing what the Lord wants, through troubles, sees a very different outcome from the “evil person” who is presented for contrast. There is real cost and difficulty, but with it comes the promise of deliverance: “The LORD delivers him…” One definition of an “evil person” might be one who gives, but with the motive of coercing the Lord into rewarding the action. Like Hannah, we trust the Lord with what gives us and give back to Him, without strings, what counts as His.
What are the similarities between Hannah as a mother, and Mary the mother of Jesus?
John 19:25-27 — Jesus honours His mother with His dying breaths
He trusts His disciple John with the responsibility to look after her
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
“Near the cross… stood” – a number of women, considered a low risk and not kept away as men were. “His mother’s sister” may have been Salome, wife of Zebedee, making the writer a cousin of Jesus, and giving greater reason for His assignment of Mary’s care to John, v.27.
“The wife of Clopas” – possibly the disciple that Luke named as Cleopas, who encountered the resurrected Jesus on the way to Emmaus, Luke 24:18.
• For further study, compare Matt 27:55–56; Mark 15:40; Luke 23:. Mark 16:1.
26-27 When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
“Took her into his home” – in Jewish family law Jesus as eldest son had provision to assign the care of his mother to another. Jesus’ brothers may not have believed in Him at this point, John 7:5. According to tradition, Mary moved with John to Ephesus and both are buried there.
John is teaching the wider point, that those witnessing the scene were the heart of the new community of believers gathered at the Cross (a fair definition of the Church) and Jesus wanted them to start putting into practice what He had commanded earlier, to love and care for each other.
• For further study, see John 13:34, 15:12, 17.
Here we feel a mother’s grief and loss, although it seems impossible to put ourselves in Mary’s place, witnessing the horrific execution of her own son. However, this scene gives us a window to see the kind of relationships that Jesus wanted to be the hallmark of the new community of gathered believers.
- It is family. Some of those standing near the Cross were related, some were not, but they were all family in another way, through sharing a close relationship with Jesus.
- It is about relationships, not the kind that are measured by order of importance (hierarchy) or order of influence (authority), but the mutuality of belonging to one another – “Here is your son… your mother”.
- It is enduring, not transient. This was not an arrangement till Mary got over her grieving, but an adoption for Mary to make her contribution and receive from others as part of this koinonia community – the ‘communion’ or fellowship word that came to mean the gathering to break bread and remember Jesus together.
How good are we at the ‘belonging’ of fellowship? What can be difficult for people joining a close fellowship?
Colossians 3:12-17 — Put on the kind of love that can let go and forgive
Be people of joy in the Good News of Christ
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
“God’s chosen people” – a phrase from the law of Israel about the people of Israel, Deuteronomy 4:37, is now applied to the Christian community, 1 Peter 2:9. Being chosen by God (the theological word is ‘election’) is a common theme in the Bible but never separated from the other face of the coin, our choice and Christian responsibility: here, to live as God’s chosen people in loving attitudes.
13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
“Forgive one another” – a central part of the Good News is that, in Jesus we can know we are completely forgiven by God, which brings “the peace of Christ”, v.15 below. But our being forgiven brings the expectation that we, on our part, will readily forgive, and treat others with the generosity of spirit we received from God.
• For further study, read Matthew 6:12, 14; 18:21-35.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
“Put on love” – another central part of the Good News, because knowing that we are loved by God, enables us to love in our relationships with others. Our imitation of God’s unconditional love for us, is the glue that binds together the distinctive values that witness to others, as in v.12 above.
• For further study, read Matthew 5:43-48; Mark 12:28-33; Romans 13:8–10; 1 Corinthians 13:1–13.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
“Let the peace of Christ rule” – knowing Jesus brings us a wholeness, through freedom from bitterness and anger, because it empowers us to practice God’s grace in our relationships, vv.13-14. To paraphrase: ‘Let Christ rule your heart — and therefore Christ’s way be the umpire of all your actions.’
16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
“The message of Christ” – specifically, let the Good News of Christ be the central, joyful core of discipleship and worship. More broadly, Jesus’ teaching generally.
“Hymns and songs from the Spirit” – a parallel thought to “be filled with the Spirit”, Ephesians 5:18, which results in singing and gratitude. “Hymns” refers to songs of praise, e.g. Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Timothy 3:16 and “songs from the Spirit” singing in tongues and other freestyle, inspired and prophetic forms of worship.
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
“Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” – not a formulaic saying but an intention to honour God and give glory to Him by Christlike speech and actions.
The third strand about learning God’s way and living it out, highlights the inner life we have. Mothers are given the ability to bring comfort – compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience sound like the mother most of us can remember crying out for at times.
But they are not just maternal or feminine attributes! This “peace of Christ” is what the Holy Spirit gives all believers who receive new life in Jesus. It comes from the love for others, that we find through knowing that we are loved ourselves, and this is at the heart of the Good News message of Christ.
That love for others, the unconditional kind that comes from the Holy Spirit, is what enables us to bear with the dysfunctions of others and go further – forgive them the way God forgave us. That is where we find inner peace.
Keep that truth fresh and central, the apostle seems to say, and you will find yourself being good news to others and bringing glory to God as you go.
Who has caused you hurt and distress, through being unfair, untrue, unkind and unappreciating? Have a trusted friend pray with you and help you apply v. 13 above to forgive from the heart and have the Lord’s peace.
Thank You, Father, that we can give, and also give up, knowing that You first gave. You give us love, joy, peace and every provision – and you also give us the generosity of spirit to forgive others and cancel out the moral debt they owe us, just as You forgave us our debts. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit to live trusting You, and giving glory to You, by the inner peace we carry. In Jesus’ name. Amen.