Thursday, February 23, 2012

There's Something About Mary

Ok so I'll start by stating that I am well aware of the differences and issues between Catholics and Protestants. Just know that I know I am not breaking new ground here with my thoughts as I humbly take on this hot button topic. I realize this is 2000 years of the equivalent of a religious pushing contest and a battle of authority and "Says who?" With that disclaimer out of the way, here we go!

My pastor has pointed out that as much as the Roman Catholic religion puts Mary on a pedestal(read: idolatry), Protestants are guilty of overlooking her as an example of great faith. I mean which one of us wouldn't want to say like Mary in Luke 1:38, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” That's not the only example of her trust in God. Just look at Christ's first miracle. Mary knew right where to go. John 2 tells us of the famous turning of water into wine. Let's read it:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Like I pointed out earlier, it's great that Mary knew where to turn(Christ) but I think that there are a couple other examples in this text to take notice of. 1.) Mary didn't have the power to turn the water into wine herself. The number of people who pray to Mary daily has got to be, in the words of Luke Skywalker, "well more than you can imagine!". But why? Mary shows here in the gospel of John that she had no supernatural powers or abilities. She needed Christ to perform the miracle and turn the water into wine. 2.) Jesus' response to Mary is interesting here. He doesn't run to immediately fill her request. He let's her know that even though she was asking the right person, her request was wrong. She was actually outside of God's will for asking because "His time had not yet come".

If we are to have scripture as our authority for all faith and practice on Earth, that authority doesn't stop at, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life". We have to look at every verse as an example and as instructions from God for how he desires us to live. The word Christian, first used in Antioch(Acts11), means exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike. God's desire is for us to be conformed to the image of His Son(Romans 8:29) so it makes sense that the way to do that is to follow His example from scripture. Let's take a look at a couple compelling examples from God's Word to see what Christ's actions and words are in response to Mary.

Luke 11:27-28 reads: As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Jesus doesn't allow Mary to be elevated by this woman in the crowd. Blessed rather, He says, are those who hear the word of God and keep it. If you are in the Word and living by it, you are more blessed than Mary according to Jesus. Let's look a couple more places.

Matthew 12:46-50 tells us of this incident with Jesus' family: While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

And again in Mark 3:31-34: And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

Lastly, Luke8:19-21: Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

Wow. Those verses have always stood out to me because of my Catholic upbringing. I always remember the importance Mary played in the religious life. But when we look at scripture, Jesus does everything He possibly can to keep us from worshiping His mother. These three passages alone are very clear that He holds her in no more esteem than anyone else who does the will of God or who hears the word of God and does it. Combined with Christ's rebuke of the woman in the crowd in Luke 11, we have a clear concise warning in scripture, the examples of Christ Himself, not to elevate Mary to a place of worship.

And that's the point. If we pray to or worship anything or anyone other than God, we are guilty of breaking God's Law against idolatry. Scripture is clear that idolators will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Somehow along the way, in spite of scripture's clear warning signs, Mary has become an idol or god in certain denominations of faith. She has become the 4th member of the Quadrinity. Perhaps it is because some hold to Mary's perpetual virginity. How on Earth people have come up with that idea is beyond me. We see in the above verses that Jesus' siblings were outside with Mary. Were they all immaculate conceptions? Let's look in scripture. Matthew 1:24-25 says, When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus(Emphasis added). I emphasized until because it necessarily indicates that Joseph did know Mary after she gave birth thereby eliminating her perpetual virginity.

The last thing I want to look at is Mary's song of praise in Luke chapter 1. Verses 46-47 she sings, "And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior," Like everyone else on the face of the Earth Mary was imperfect and born into sin. She denotes that in her song by indicating her need for God, her Savior. That goes a long way into showing her humility and also her helplessness in regards to her status before a holy God. Even she, by example in scripture, didn't elevate herself to a position worthy of any undue worship. She humbly praises God and admits her need for salvation! So what's the take away? What am I even trying to accomplish with this one? Sola Scriptura. If this article gets one person trapped in religious tradition to compare what they are told with what scripture actually tells us then it has done what I set out to do. There is so much freedom in Christ that is not found in the yoke of religiosity. My hope is that some would read this and be encouraged to be like the Bereans in Acts 17. The people in Berea didn't just believe Paul, but weighed everything he said in light of the Word. I pray that people would run to scripture to see if what I am saying is true here. I'm not asking anybody to just listen to me. I am nobody. Check it against God's Living Word. Do that with what you hear at church, from your priest, from your traditions. If what you are being told doesn't align with scripture, ask yourself "why am I doing this?"

The bottom line is if your focus is not on Christ and bringing glory to God then the mark has been missed already. To worship an idol, whether it is Mary or any other person or thing that takes the place of God in your heart, is a direct violation of the 1st Commandment. Mary could have been anyone...well, any female virgin, from the beginning of time until now. But Christ is eternal. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him and by Him. Jesus was the one prophesied about specifically to be born of a virgin(any virgin) and has been part of the plan from the foundation of all the universe. That's why He has to be our focus. Christ came as God in the flesh and died for the sins of the world. If we repent and trust in Him alone for salvation we will be saved.

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