10 December 2015

Mary: Mother of Jesus, Sinner saved by grace

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in December 2010. Dan offered his thought on the proper way to view Mary's role in history.

As usual, the comments are closed.
I've often had two thoughts about Mary:
  1. I dearly hope that her heavenly bliss has not been spoiled by the knowledge of how monstrously men came to pervert her significance and place in relation to her Son. And...
  2. In that view, I've thought that my article on Mary in a Bible dictionary might read, "The mother of Jesus. A pivotal yet minor figure in the New Testament, mentioned by name in only four books."
On the subject of Mary -- as on all other subjects -- the world divides into two kinds of people: those who affirm the binding sufficiency of Biblical revelation, and those who rebel against it. With the latter, their issue is spiritual in origin, and no amount of reasoning or Biblical evidence will suffice. With the former....

My semi-humorous summary above makes a point, but it is scarcely fair to the real woman, who was a truly remarkable individual. Few if any of us (and certainly no men) can do much of a job of imagining ourselves in her sandals. She was clearly a God-fearing young lady, as we shall see, who found a massive weight laid on her small, young shoulders.

We once dwelt on the difference between aged priest Zechariah and young Mary. The trained expert, faced with a word from God that would bring him blessing and cost him nothing, doubted and was judged. The rustic young girl, receiving a word that would also bring blessing but potentially cost her dearly, simply responded "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). For this, her cousin later said, "blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45).

That tells us a great deal about Mary.  Also, when she went to see Elizabeth, Mary burst forth in a song of praise that could be described as a glorious patchwork of quotations from (and allusions to) previous written revelation (Luke 1:46-55). Given that this is presented as a spontaneous outburst of praise, we surmise that Mary had hidden God's word in her heart. This gives us a strong indication as to how she could embrace the angel's word with such believing grace.

Think of it: this is in all likelihood a young teenaged girl. No formal education, no Bible college, no conferences, no Christian blogging or bookstores. Probably not even a personal copy of the Torah -- just what she heard in synagogue and at home. But Mary received what she heard with such faith and eagerness that it prepared and enabled her for this absolutely and literally unparalleled place in history. It would be churlish at best to denigrate Mary as a believer solely because cultists deify her.

In fact, it is ironic that cultists themselves slander Mary by insinuating that she was in effect an ungodly, faithless wife in standing aloof from her wifely obligations to her husband (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Though any word of Scripture can be twisted to say anything when subjected to alien agendas, we do best to take the text in its most natural meaning, and affirm that Jesus was the first of a number of children (Matthew 1:25; 12:46; 13:55; Luke 2:7; 8:19; John 2:12; 7:3, 5, 10; 1 Corinthians 9:5), sharing the same mother but separated from them by His virginal conception and birth, and His divine nature.

Yet (and all Christians will add "of course") Scripture portrays Mary as a flawed sinner, saved by grace alone just like every other believer. She knew and confessed that she personally needed a Savior (Luke 1:47). When she tried to hint to her adult Son what she thought he should do, she received a respectful reminder of how their relative roles had changed (John 2:4). We must note the grace with which she accepted that word (John 2:5).

So what would Mary say to us today, were she to speak? Would she bid our attention on her, summon the spotlight from her Son to herself to any degree, try to increase her place in the Christian's worshipful consciousness?

Or would she not rather reiterate what she had already said - "Whatever He tells you, do" (John 2:5)?

To ask the question is to answer it. We best honor Mary not by idolatrously focusing on her person, but by embracing her example of humble, devoted, Biblically-informed, self-disregarding, God-centered faith.