No Pain…No Gain

gbradepp

Obstetricians counsel expecting moms, “remember no pain-no gain!”   In 1st century Palestine, there were no analgesics, anesthetics or spinal blocks.  Every birth was natural.   I assumed the mother of our Lord experienced the same painful joyful mess as did every other unnamed mom in Matthew’s genealogy.

Isaiah predicts Jesus’ virgin birth in chapter 7 but did you know Isaiah also predicted how Mary gave birth?

However, when Mary gave birth to Jesus, there was no pain, physical discomfort or change in her anatomy.   Isaiah predicts Jesus’ virgin birth in chapter 7 but did you know Isaiah also predicted how Mary gave birth?   He writes,    “Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?” (Isaiah 62:7)  To paraphrase Isaiah, the Church Fathers wrote,  “Jesus was born as light passes through glass, causing no harm to the glass, leaving Mary’s virginity intact.”  God informs Eve, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16) but to the new Eve, Isaiah promises the virgin birth with an exemption from pain.

Why didn’t my Sunday School teacher inform us about Mary’s painless childbirth?

Even though God removed Mary from the normal pains of childbirth, Mary’s birth pangs were future tense.  She is the promised new Eve of Scripture.  Through the birth of Jesus, Mary crushes the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15).   In Luke 2:34-35, Simeon prophesied, “Behold, this Child is appointed to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed— and a sword will pierce your soul as well.”  Interestingly, Genesis refers to Eve as Eve only once but as the “woman” almost twelve times.    When Jesus referred to His mom as “Woman,” He was hearkening back to the problems the original Eve set in motion.   Unlike the first Eve, the second Eve is present at the second tree that provides salvation to the world.   

Even today, Mary experiences the birth pangs of our salvation. 

After Jesus’ birth, Mary’s body retained her perfect virginity.   John 19:25 records her presence at the crucifixion as she witnessed the bloody mess of a soldier’s spear into Jesus’ side.   The blood and water flowing through Jesus side recalled our saviour’s words in John 3:5, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).  I like how Brent Pitre says it: ” If Adam is created without sin, and Eve is created without sin, then why can’t both Jesus and Mary also be conceived without sin?”  (cf. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary (p. 38)

John writes in Revelation 12, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.  And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”  It’s at the cross, Mary labors to give birth to our salvation. 

What difference does Mary make?

As a Christian, I want my beliefs to line up with the beliefs of Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus of Lyon (2nd century), Tertullian and Gregory the Miracle Worker (3rd century) and basically every Church father (including Luther).   For me, orthopraxy is equally important.  What difference does Mary make in my life?   Do you have a prayer this Lent that remains unanswered?  Ask Mary to pray for all the unanswered prayers in your life and see what happens.

 

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