Samuel, Hannah, Mary, Jesus

41Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Samuel 2:18-26

18Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod.19His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home. 21And the Lord took note of Hannah; she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. 22Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.23He said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25If one person sins against another, someone can intercede for the sinner with the Lord; but if someone sins against the Lord, who can make intercession?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the Lord to kill them. 26Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

  1. eph·od
  1.  (in ancient Israel) a sleeveless garment worn by Jewish priests.

Two Stories – hundreds of years apart

Hannah –desperately wanted a child

Mary – surprised by a child

Hannah makes covenant with God if she can have a child

Mary – angel announces that God has chosen her and there is a covenant concerning a child.

Each mother has been given a child that is then returned to the service of God.

The similarities between the stories of two women are reflected in the words of their two songs.  

From the miraculous conception of each woman’s son to each woman’s faithful response of praise, we see God’s purpose and plan revealed. 

1)  What the books reveal:  

The books of 1 Samuel and Luke both focus on the birth of a male child who is born to serve God.  

2) Who the women were:

The roles of both Hannah and Mary in Scripture are limited to that of motherhood. 

Neither is a picture of salvation of Israel, of saving the people, like Esther—or of leading the people, like Deborah. 

Their work for God was simply to raise-up the child whom God had given to them.

Hannah’s pain came immediately when she handed Samuel over to Eli to raise in the Temple.

Mary’s pain would come later.

God choses the marginalized or the downtrodden to break-in upon history.

Sarah, like Hannah, was older and barren. Rachel, too, was barren and jealous of her sister Leah. All three women were dealing with “competitors” — either co-wives or servants.

Hannah was taunted by Peninnah, the other wife of Elkanah.

These stories finally parallel that of Elizabeth, also old and barren, who then conceives and gives birth to John, the baptizer, the last and greatest of the prophets.

Then a lowly maiden Mary is selected to birth Jesus –

Through these surprising and unexpected births, a child is set apart as truly “of God,” dedicated to and willing to serve God.


Having noted the similarities of Hannah’s story with Mary’s story and Hannah’s song with Mary’s song, let’s consider several contrasts.

  • Hannah was marked by sterility and shame.
  • Mary was marked by virginity and purity.
  • Hannah prayed for a son, desiring that her shame be removed.
  • Mary did not seek a son, but was graced with this great gift (Luke 1:28) and shame came upon her and her family.
  • Hannah gave birth to the son of Elkanah.
  • Mary gave birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32a).
  • Hannah’s son was one of a long line of prophets.
  • Mary’s Son was the True and Better Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18).

Hannah is a type of Mary primarily in her role as a mother and as a maidservant of God.  In Hannah we see incredible gratitude to God and selflessness in giving her son to God.  Hannah knew that Samuel did not really belong to her, but to God.  Mary knew that Jesus did not really belong to her…He is God.  In each mother’s story, their love for their child is evident and their love for their God is magnified.

1 Samuel 2:21b  …the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

Luke 1:80  So the child [Jesus] grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 2:52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.


In both passages, we have nearly identical words at the close o0f the story –

         Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

It is a theme of growing – of maturing…

Both boys grow physically in STATURE

Both grow in wisdom and in favor with God – and with humanity –

Jesus did not come into this world gifted with knowledge – wisdom and power.

Like us, he came in as a vulnerable baby – a clean slate upon which life would write –

He would have to be taught –

 The same way Samuel – had to be taught –

Samuel began his growth in wisdom along side the Priest Eli –

Jesus began his with Mary and Joseph and his time in the temple.

And when the time came to return home, Jesus was more interested in learning from the priests—he had questions – they had answers – and his understanding amazed the priests.

Both Samuel and Jesus had to prepare for their life of service to God

Samuel’s preparation was through Eli

Jesus’ Preparation included                                          Wisdom: Jesus grew in Intellectually

Stature: Jesus grew in Physically.

with God”: Jesus grew Spiritually.

“with men”: Jesus grew socially.

The priests in the temple were impressed with Jesus because he was at ease and comfortable in His Father’s house.

But he would continue to grow – as he experienced life in new ways-

I never really thought about how Jesus had to grow – into becoming who he was called to be.

But, it speaks volumes that Samuel – and even Jesus had to learn – and grow and mature in their spiritual and social lives, as well as in favor with God —  just as much as their physical lives.

Jesus models that in order to grow intellectually, we must watch – o0bserve – and experience so that we have WISDOM

We must take care of ourselves physically –                            by eating well – resting when                             needed – and consider our                               bodies temples..

Jesus showed us that we are to always study        scripture, pray, reflect and engage in        our relationship with God – to grow spiritually – and find favor with God –

And to find favor with those around us –                  so that we are all one body in God…

These things are accomplished through small ways of treating one another — small acts of kindness – not huge achievements — 

Sometimes God lets us know we have found favor —

Illustration –

Madeleine L’Engle tells one such story.  While speaking at Wheaton College, word came to her that her 9-year old granddaughter, Lena,  had been hit by a truck while she was walking home from swimming.  The news was not good — Lena had two broken legs, broken ribs, her jaw was fractured in two places, her arms and legs had bruises and contusions, and she had a head wound that laid open her scalp to the bone.

She finished her lecture at Wheaton, and asked there for prayer for her granddaughter.  Returning to her room, she tried to call both an Episcopal clergy friend of hers in New York, and the Episcopal Sisters who ran the school her granddaughters attended. Neither of her calls went through.  Finally, after ringing and ringing, one of the sisters answered.  Madeleine told her about Lena, and the sister said that all of New York was blacked out and that she had to feel her way through the dark building to find and answer the phone.  Later, the same sister would tell Madeleine that hers was the only call that came in that night, that afterward the phones quit working altogether.

As was her custom, that night in her hotel room, Madeleine L’Engle reached for the Episcopal Book of Prayer she carried with her.  She always read Evening Prayer.   However, that night when she turned to the Psalm for that evening, a photograph of Lena stood at the page.  Taken only a few days before, L’Engle had stuck it in her prayer book hastily without thinking.

She said she could barely stand to see the photo, but as she held the prayer book, a piece of paper fell from its pages.   Given to her years before by some Catholic nuns, the card contained a quote from St. John of the Cross, a medieval Christian mystic.  The quote read —

“One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when things go well.”

And so she thanked God for Lena’s nine years of life, for their family, and for God’s blessings.  Ten days later, little Lena emerged from her coma.  Among her first words were “Read to me.”  And so they did, night and day, until little Lena recovered. — Walking on Water, p. 184-186.


Both stories stress the need of growth in faith – growth that is in terms of understanding and practice. We might also call it wisdom in the faith, the beginning of which is, as Proverbs reminds us, the ‘fear of God’.

Not terror but awe and worship;

a sense of God in relation to creation which intimately involves understanding ourselves and those around us.

How much more do we as Jesus’ disciples in every age need to seek to grow in our faith – in favour both with God and humanity.

 Faithful service to God is a slow journey of growth and learning with aspects of loss and vulnerability along the way.