A Biblical Look at Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Luke 1:26-38, 46-55
We love rankings, don’t we? Every Monday morning, sports fans clamor to the Internet or to the newspapers to see if their favorite team is ranked, and if so how far up are they? And on occasion, TV Guide ranks the best TV shows in history from no. 100 to no. 1. People Magazine each year has the Sexiest Man Alive issue. We love to see who is the first and the best.
If we were to do that amongst the women of the Bible, the list would be tremendous. Eve in the Garden of Eden, Sarah, Samuel’s mother Hannah, Ruth — so many would qualify. But the one who stands above all the rest is the one on whom we will speak this morning — Mary, the wife of Joseph and the mother of Jesus.
Much talk surrounds the person of Mary. In Roman Catholic dogma, much extra-biblical teaching exists in their Sacred Traditions about who exactly Mary was. According to their doctrine, Mary never sinned nor knew original sin (Immaculate Conception), remained a virgin her entire life (Perpetual Virginity), and was raised where her soul and body were reunited and she ascended into heaven to become “The Queen of Heaven” (the Assumption of Mary). Unless you grew up in a Roman Catholic background, these doctrines may sound very strange and foreign to you, and for good reason. Absolutely none of them is supported in Holy Scripture. In fact, from the Catholic Encyclopedia itself, they say in reference to one of these doctrines, the Immaculate Conception, that “no direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture.”
We hear a wonderful song by Buddy Greene sung around Christmastime called, “Mary, Did You Know?” The song asks Mary whether she know about all that the Christ-child would endure. But I wonder if Mary had any idea about how so many would elevate her to such heights of honor, veneration, and even worship!!
According to a Catholic News article, Pope John Paul II devoted his entire pontificate to her and even had the letter “M” embroidered on his garments. When he was shot in 1981 and his life hung in the balance, he kept saying over and over again “Madonna, Madonna, Madonna!” Not “God,” not “Oh, Lord Jesus.” He spoke of Mary’s name perpetually!
In the West Tennessee Catholic, they convey a report on the Pope John Paul’s 25th anniversary as Pope that he “publicly entrusted himself and the church to the Virgin Mary, again displaying a lifelong personal devotion that he sees as fundamental to his ministry.” He stated in St. Peter’s Square in October 2002:
I place everything into her hands so that with the love of a mother she will present it to her son. I also entrust my future to her.
With that, many follow the Pope’s lead, who in turn was following what other Popes had canonized into Sacred Law.
But where is the Scriptural support? There is none! Mary is only mentioned a few times in the Gospels and none at all after Acts 1. But the Scriptures tell us a number of things about Mary that are incredible examples for us in our daily walk. Understand, some exalt her to a far higher plane than warranted — but too often we Baptists lower her in reaction to Roman Catholic views. Let’s give her the due that Scripture does and see what it says about Mary and what it says to us even now.
1. Mary, did you know they would tell you that you were without sin?
According to Catholic dogma in their doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, they make the audacious claim that Mary was born without sin. As recently as December 8, 1854, in the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the meritsof Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin
According to their view, she received the same safe-keeping as Christ did from that original sin — otherwise, Christ could not be born without sin. But the fact is that not only does Scripture not support this (even from the Catholic encyclopedia, it states: “No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture”,) not even Mary supports this!
She sees that she is in need of a Savior. Verses 46-47 tell us: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The way one seeks out godly humility is to look full-face toward God and see Him for who He truly is — and it is then you will see yourself for who you truly are.” Mary exalted the Lord God above all things in her heart — even in the most trying of circumstances.
For example: earlier in the chapter, the angel Gabriel approached Mary saying “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! . . . Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:28, 30-33).
She inquires as to how this will be — since she has never known a man! When the angel explains that God will implant a seed, she responds, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” She submitted to God because she saw Him for who He was: ‘her savior’ (v. 47), ‘mighty’ (v. 49), and ‘holy’ (v. 49) — for starters!
This is where the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception falls apart. The doctrine states that Mary
“was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin”
Where is this found in Scripture? Nowhere. Scripture clearly states that there were times when even the Lord Jesus rebuked either His mother or those who tried to exalt her above her rightful place.
In Luke 11:27-28, we see a woman coming up to Jesus and saying, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather [‘on the contrary,’ NASB] are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” So here we see someone granting a blessing toward Mary — clearly trying to compliment Mary for her role in raising such a fine boy! But Jesus immediately corrected her by saying there is something greater to bless — those who hear the word of God and keep it!
Note that the only one ever born who was without the stain of original sin was the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Mary understood that she needed a Savior — but she also knew the God who would save and she rejoiced that God would favor her in being the vessel through which Christ would come?
2. Mary, did you know they would tell you that you could help redeem sinners?
A popular song sung during the Christmas season is “Ave Maria.” In fact, many sing this song in Protestant services. Why? Well, for one it is sung in Latin, so most folks who sing this do not know the words they are singing — nor do many care. It is set to such a beautiful setting by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) that this seems to be the biggest concern. (A word here — pay attention to what you are singing! You may love the tune, but Jesus did not tell us that we would be held accountable for the tunes we hum, but for the words we speak.)
Secondly, most do not see anything wrong with this theologically! But look at the words in English:
Hail Maria, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is Jesus, the fruit of thy womb.
Holy Maria, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death!
There are so many issues with this: calling her ‘holy,’ the ‘Mother of God,’ etc. But primarily, the problem is that this is a prayer to Mary! Do we see this? This is a prayer addressed to someone other than God. We call it a prayer because we know from Mary’s faith and trust in Christ that she is in heaven. So this song calls on someone in heaven other than God to hear their prayer and take their prayers to God. This is called intercession.
Is this supported by Scripture? Not hardly! First Timothy 2:5 states, “There is but one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus Christ is the only and exclusive intercessor in heaven between us and God. He is our sole mediator — and He is quite sufficient for the task. We need none other.
But we also notice the thrust of the prayer: “Pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death!” Many believe with all their hearts that Mary brings some sort of salvation. Even recent pronouncements by Popes give credence to this.
In 1964, Pope Paul VI stated:
Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience. For as St. Irenaeus says, she being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.
In 1985, Pope John Paul II recognized Mary as co-redemptrix” during a speech in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He said, in part,
Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity…In fact Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son.
In 1997, John Paul II again stated:
Mary … co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity.
They are so fixated on her that they believe even her image brings some measure of grace. For instance, in November 2004, a stale grilled-cheese sandwich sold for $28,000 on eBay. The owner kept this sandwich sealed up for 10 years — keeping it with her even when she went to Vegas and felt the powers from it help her win $70,000 at the tables. She made it clear to the bidders on eBay that this item was not intended for consumption. But we hear of these ‘sightings’ all the time and hear of how people set up makeshift shrines in her honor. Clearly, people believe that she has some power to either save or to have great influence on her Son to save those who call upon her.
What does Scripture (and, yes, Mary) say? In verse 50, she says, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (italics mine).
Now, before we take issue with those who call on someone else other than Christ to save them, it should be told that many around this world are trusting in something else other than Christ to save them. It doesn’t have to be Mary, but it can be your good works, your money and contributions to the church and other charitable organizations. Martin Luther was right: “The life of Christianity consists of possessive pronouns. It is one thing to say, ‘Christ is a Saviour; it is quite another thing to say, ‘He is my Saviour and my Lord.’ The devil can say the first; the true Christian alone can say the second.” This is what Mary did — directing all the attention to the Lord.
3. Church, do we know what made Mary so highly favored?
As mother of the Savior of the world, the Virgin Mary unquestionably holds forever a peculiar position among all women, and in the history of redemption. Even in heaven she must stand peculiarly near to Him whom on earth she bore nine months under her bosom, and whom she followed with true motherly care to the cross. It is perfectly natural, nay, essential, to sound religious feeling, to associate with Mary the fairest traits of maidenly and maternal character, and to revere her as the highest model of female purity, love, and piety. From her example issues a silent blessing upon all generations, and her name and memory are, and ever will be, inseparable from the holiest mysteries and benefits of faith. For this reason her name is even wrought into the Apostles’ Creed, in the simple and chaste words, ‘Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.'”
We see her humility. Her servant’s heart in responding to God’s angel by simply saying, “May it be according to your word” stands as a classic example and reflects greatly on where we should be. When we find ourselves so discouraged over trivial issues like burning our toast, getting stuck in traffic, our office buildings being too hot or cold — we look to how God worked in Mary’s heart for her to say, “Lord, this will seem like a scandal on the surface, some will shun me, Joseph may leave me — but I’ll follow you if this is your will!” What a great example!
We see her obedience to the Word of God. Psalm 119:14-15 says:
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
Whatever God said, she did. Why? Because she was His servant and she loved Him with all her heart.
We see her as a woman of prayer and praise! Psalm 73:24-25 sums up her attitude and I pray it sums up ours as well:
 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
Psalm 34:2-3 says:
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
We see that God is not partial to the rich and the powerful, but also brings mercy and favor to all who call on Him! In Isaiah 55:6-7, we read:
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Who is He speaking to? “Everyone who thirsts … and he who has no money” (Isaiah 55:1). And who is that? That is all of us. All of us are thirsty and hungry. The rich and the powerful seem to neglect this because they see themselves satisfied by material trinkets rather than the riches and glory of Christ Jesus. Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the Kingdom of God.” Blessed are you when you see yourself in your true condition — spiritually bankrupt! But Jesus goes on, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Note Mary’s words in Luke 1:51-53:
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
God has scattered the proud, the rich, the powerful — all those who set themselves up against a holy God. Those who are hungry (spiritually) are filled — those who try to fill that hunger out of their own resources are sent away empty.
What about you? Do you think you have things under control without God’s help? You’ll be sent away from His presence and provision empty! But once you empty yourself, you will receive good things — God things! What a blessing!
ConclusionSure, some take Mary too far in their devotion to her! But let us make sure we do not dismiss her in reaction! She is the most blessed among women and her example endures. What about you? Will you learn the lesson that Mary teaches about humility, obedience, prayer, praise, and the fact that God looks upon all of us for salvation? That is something that Mary would say, “Yes, I did know — and to God alone be the glory!