The Servant-Mother

From The Servant-Son: Jesus Then and Now (1995)

Mary’s reply is the more powerful for its superb simplicity: “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be as you have said.”

“The Lord’s servant.” Here is Mary as the Servant-Mother. Hold on to that reply and ponder it. For it may be that it gives us a clue – the clue! – to the meaning of her son’s life and death. The Servant-Mother was about to bear him who, above all others, was to be the servant of the Lord.

Who knows the influence of a mother on her unborn child? Here is a world of mystery which is still not wholly understood. But is it not possible that something of the concept of dedicated servanthood which was at the very heart of this young pregnant woman “got through” to the child as yet unborn, and became an integral part in the shaping of his manhood and ministry? There may be more in this than has generally been recognized.

Be that as it may, of this we may be certain. Mary saw, with a God-given clarity, at the moment of her greatest crisis, that servanthood lies at the very center of the meaning of life as God intends it to be lived. Servanthood, obedience, in the great crises of life and in the little decisions of everyday, Mary saw as things of first importance. And so she doubtless taught the little boy on her lap, at her knee, through all his formative years. What greater prayer could she offer for her son than that he might grow up to be a servant of the Lord – possibly (did she glimpse it as she pondered on these things in her heart?) he might be even the servant of the Lord.”

The Most Rev. Donald Coggan (1909-2000) was a New Testament scholar who taught at several evangelical Anglican seminaries before his consecration as Bishop of Bradford in 1956. He served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1974-1980 and was a champion of ecumenical engagement and the ministry of women. He was admired for his skills as an expositor of Scripture.  


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