The Virgin Mary, Jesus' earthly mother, is best known for her spiritual wisdom. Her example of trust in God and faith inspires thousands of people. Most time, artwork portrays her as a grown woman, but how old was Mary when she had Jesus? Historians believe that she was a young teenager when she gave birth, between the ages of 12 and 14.
As a teen, Mary answered the call from God for a purpose that she couldn’t have imagined. She didn’t let her age stop her from moving forward with God’s plan for her life. By learning Mary’s story, we can find out how to respond when God calls us to take action in our lives.
Mary’s life before giving birth.
Mary was raised in a Jewish family that loved God during the first century. When she was three years old, her parents, Anne and Joachim, took her to a temple to dedicate her to God. Her parents raised her in Galilee, which was part of the Roman Empire at the time and is now part of Israel. Once she became a teenager, Mary became engaged, which was common in her culture. She was all set to marry Joseph, a devoted, faithful man. However, God had a different plan, sending the angel Gabriel to share a shocking announcement with her. Gabriel’s visit to Mary became known as the Annunciation, meaning “the announcement.”
Luke 1:28-38 describes the events. Gabriel went to Mary and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was surprised by his words, wondering what type of greeting this was. Gabriel continued, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” Then, Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to a baby boy and she would call him Jesus. He also said to her that this baby would be called the Son of the Most High. God will give him the throne, and he will reign forever. Mary was puzzled, wondering how she could have a baby if she was a virgin. Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will surpass you.” Gabriel brought up Elizabeth, who had a child in her older years, although it was said that she couldn’t conceive. Then, Mary answered, “May your word to me be fulfilled,” and Gabriel left.
In Mary’s culture, her age wasn’t the issue, but her unwed pregnancy would turn heads. Often, unwed mothers were shamed and sometimes killed by stoning, so Mary was courageous for answering God’s call. God guarded her by sending an angel to visit Joseph in his dreams to tell him the real story. Joseph was disturbed by Mary’s pregnancy that he wanted to end the engagement faithfully but not expose Mary to public shame. However, another angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be scared because Mary was giving birth to a baby who would save his people from their sins. After that, Joseph confidently supported Mary and moved forward with God’s calling for his life. Mary celebrated by singing a beautiful song, found in Luke 1:46-55.
How old was Mary when she gave birth to Jesus?
So how old was Mary when she gave birth to Jesus? Historians believe she was between 12 and 14 years old when Jesus was born. She was a teenager, which may be shocking in our modern culture to be a mother at such a young age. However, in Mary’s culture, having a child at that age was common. Couples got married and had children sooner than they typically do now. So Mary and the people around her didn’t find it odd to get married and have children as a teenager.
It may have been advantageous for Mary to be a teenager when she learned about God’s plan. She was still young enough to have the wonder that young people have but sadly lose as they get older. Jesus urges us to have the sense of wonder that children are known for having. An open heart and a curious mind can strengthen our faith, as referenced explicitly in Matthew 18:3.
Mary’s young age helped her choose admiration for God instead of cynicism which older people typically struggle with. However, Mary was more spiritually mature than her age suggested. God knew her soul and chose her soul out of numerous others to be the earthly mother to the world’s Savior. Mary could handle her calling because she focused on cultivating a bold faith.
What can Mary teach us?
Mary’s example shows God calls people with solid faith to achieve extraordinary purposes. Hebrews 11:1 tells us the conviction that God is looking for. This verse says faith is about having confidence in the things we hope for and assurance about what we can’t see. When Mary heard about her calling to be Jesus’ earthly mother, she didn’t know the journey ahead, but she was confident that her hope in God would help her achieve something extraordinary. Mary’s faith enabled her to play an essential role in God’s plan to save humanity. When God calls us, He’ll accomplish something important through our lives if we respond with solid faith.
Sometimes, when God pushes us to act, it feels like we’re teetering on the top of a cliff and being encouraged to jump. God constantly challenges us to grow in our faith. We might not understand why He leads us to act or the outcome. However, our purpose lives in love. We won’t be afraid if we choose to respond in love when God calls us. When we remove fear from our lives, we’re free to explore God’s work.
God calls us to help Him in His work in the world, and He likes when we respond in faith. From Mary’s example of faith, we can learn how to put our trust in action and know that God will reward us when we do. Mary may have been a teenager when she gave birth to Jesus, but she was mature in faith and trusted God’s plan for her life. Perhaps we should all adopt Mary’s faith.