Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a great example for all believers and God presents her as such in the Scriptures. Yet what is this example? Who was this woman and what can we learn from her?
I understand that this is not a casual read, but it was done as a resource to address questions which have been raised. Hopefully it will be helpful in others' personal studies.
A God-fearing Servant
After the angel Gabriel informed Mary of God's amazing request for her to bring Jesus into the world, she agreed although she did not fully understand.
"And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." Luke 1:38
Mary knew that her calling in life was simply to do the Lord's will. Even though she was faced with that which seemed impossible, she trusted that, "For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37).
When her cousin Elizabeth remarked about how blessed she was, Mary did not magnify herself, but she magnified the Lord (Luke 1:46-55). Mary understood that all glory was due to Him alone for the favor He had chosen to bestow upon her.
|Being a servant of God was more important to Mary than the opinion - and even potential dishonor - of men. She was not afraid to sacrifice her person and her earthly reputation for the glory of God. Although she appreciated the great blessing God had given for her to bear His Son, she didn't elevate the receiver of the gift, but directed all praise to the Gift-giver.|
A Woman in Need of a Savior
We know from Scripture that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The only individual that God tells us was without sin is Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 2:22; I John 3:5).
Mary did not believe that God's request to bear Jesus was due to any special merit or worth on her part. On the contrary, she recognized herself as "lowly" (Luke 1:48). This word doesn't mean that she was simply being humble. It is the word tapeinōsis meaning "spiritual abasement, leading one to perceive and lament his moral littleness and guilt".
One might say, "But wait! Jesus said that He too was lowly." Yes, but that is not the same same word. The word "lowly" in Matthew 11:29 is the word tapeinos which means "not rising far from the ground, lowly in spirit, humble." The word used for Mary is a derivative of this word, but there is one major difference. Jesus was "lowly" because He humbled Himself, but it was not because of any association with sin - for He had no sin. On the other hand, Mary's condition of being "lowly" was directly related to the guilt of sin.
Mary was keenly aware of her human condition in being under sin, and this caused her to praise God for the wonderful things He was performing in her life - in spite of her "lowly" estate. In doing so, she refers to God as her Savior.
"And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." Luke 1:46-47
Jesus is our Savior precisely because He came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21; I Timothy 1:15). Mary too was in need of God's forgiveness of, and deliverance from, sin; she needed a Savior.
After giving birth to Jesus, Mary had to undergo a period of purification just like every other Jewish mother (Luke 2:22-24). Regarding this process, the Scriptures say:
"Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean...And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest." (Leviticus 12:2, 6)
The references to being "unclean" is in the ceremonial sense; the woman needed to be sanctified and purified due to the issue of blood during childbirth. Mary also was deemed "unclean" in that sense and was in need of this same purification as other women. Further, we are told that she likewise presented a personal sin offering to the temple at the end of her purification, as also required by the law of Moses (Luke 2:22-24).
|The magnitude of God's request made Mary more mindful of her own "lowly estate" and the spiritual guilt of sin. She would not need to abide by the Mosaic laws of purification and present a personal offering for her own sin if she were not tainted by sin. Like all humanity, Mary needed a Savior to redeem her, and she praised God for bringing that to pass in her life.|
A Submitted Wife to Joseph
Contrary to what some teach, Mary was not set apart as the 'wife of the Holy Spirit' or the 'wife of God'. Neither was Mary's marriage to Joseph simply in name only just to provide legitimacy for Jesus' birth. Joseph and Mary were already betrothed and planning to marry before the angel Gabriel appeared to them with this great news (Luke 1:26-27, Matthew 1:18-25).
God did not curtail their marriage relationship, and neither did He circumvent the authority He gave Joseph as her husband and her head. While Joseph lived, God provided direction for the family through him (Matthew 2:13, 2:19, 2:22).
God's word is quite clear that Joseph and Mary had a biblical marriage in every sense of the word. She was not "ever-virgin".
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 1:18
In discussing the timeline of Jesus' birth, God references a specific point in time when Joseph and Mary "came together". This term, in relation to marriage, means to have a sexual union.
The timing of their consummation in marriage is important because God is addressing the conception of Jesus Christ. By stating that Jesus was conceived before Mary & Joseph "came together", God establishes that Joseph could not be Jesus' biological father. This speaks to fulfillment of the prophecy that Jesus would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
"Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." Matthew 1:24-25
Not only was Jesus conceived before Joseph and Mary "came together", but Jesus was also born before that time. Mary remained a virgin up until the time when Jesus was born.
|Along with being the mother of Jesus Christ, God's plan for Mary was that she also be a faithful helpmeet chosen specifically for Joseph. Her unique and special relationship with the Lord did not supplant her responsibilities to Joseph as his wife. God honored the patriarchal authority He had established in their marriage and like every wife, Mary was expected to honor that as well.|
A Loving Mother to her Children
One such text refers to when Jesus returned to his own country to preach.
"And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him." Matthew 13:54-56 (Also Mark:6:3-4)
Jesus' countrymen could not receive His preaching because they considered Him to be just like them. Even some of Jesus' own brothers and sisters could not receive the truth of His words (John 7:3-5). In confirming that Jesus was one of their own, the people began referring to His immediate family - or as Jesus put it, those of His "own house" (Matthew 13:57). They confirmed knowing Joseph & Mary, as well as Jesus' four brothers and several sisters who remained among them at that time.
Some say that Jesus leaving Mary in the care of His disciple John at the cross proves that no brothers existed, since this responsibility would have fallen to them. However, this is a false assumption refuted by the Scriptures.
Jewish custom was for the nearest kinsmen to assume responsibility for the caring of widows (Deuteronomy 25:5; Ruth 3:12-13; Luke 20:28-33; I Timothy 5:3-5). Even those who deny that Jesus had brothers and sisters acknowledge that Jesus had near kinsmen, for they say that this is the proper context of the word "brethren".
Does Jesus not leaving Mary in the care of these "brethren" prove that they didn't exist? Of course not. They are referenced throughout the New Testament and some were even present in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). So there was a reason why Jesus chose not to leave Mary with these "brethren", who otherwise should have had this responsibility.
We know that Jesus' "brethren" did not initially believe in Him (John 7:3-5). We also know that the spiritual family of God was more real in Jesus' eyes than His biological family (Mark 3:33-35). So in deciding with whom to leave His mother, Jesus chose whom He saw fit from within His family (the family of believers in God). And He did this in spite of the fact that there were near kinsmen who could have done so.
The Scriptures describe Mary as a caring mother whose heart was with her children. Once she was widowed, Scripture cites her as often being in the company of her other children (Matthew 12:46-47; Mark 3:31-32; Luke 8:19-20; John 2:12, Acts 1:12-14). Her own soul experienced anguish at what Jesus suffered in life (Luke 2:35).
Yet, there were times when she did not understand God's will for Jesus and had to ponder many things about God's calling for Him in her heart (Luke 2:19-51). There were even times when she and his brethren wondered whether Jesus had lost His senses (Mark 3:21-35). Through these experiences, Mary had to learn that it was not her place to guide Jesus' ministry (John 2:3-4). This is why we see less recorded about Mary in the Gospels as Jesus comes into maturity.
Mary's role was to carry Jesus to term, give birth to Him, nurture and raise Him, and love Him throughout; but she had no authority in His ministry work. It was not her place to question or even to provide suggestions in that regard, but merely to trust the Father to guide Jesus in doing the Father's business.
It should also be mentioned that nowhere in Scripture is Mary called the "Mother of God". The title Theotokos (from which "Mother of God" is translated) was attributed to Mary in 431 A.D. to attest that Jesus is God. I too agree, of course, that Jesus is God. However, not only is this title a misnomer, implying some sort of divinity to Mary, it also perverts the very nature of God.
God is the Creator of all; self-existent and eternal. Jesus, as God, has existed from the beginning as the Word of God prior to being made incarnate (John 1:1-2). Although Mary certainly imparted to Jesus His humanity (making Him the Son of David), Mary cannot be the "mother" of that which existed before her creation. Further, while Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is not the mother of the Holy Spirit - who is God - nor of the Father - who is also God. One can debate ad nauseum over the legitimacy of man-made titles such as this. However, it is enough to know that God never deemed to call her such.
|Mary was not a perfect mother, but she neither did she have to be. She was a woman devoted to her children; who sacrificed for them, and was there for them throughout her life. As do all believers, she had to learn that Jesus didn't need her direction in doing His Father's will.|
Mary was not exalted by Jesus above all others.
One of the illustrations which refute this is in Mark Chapter 3. Jesus was in a house teaching, and His mother & siblings stood outside asking to see Him. They believed that Jesus might have gone out of His mind and they had come to take Him away with them (Mark 3:21).
When made aware that they stood outside of the house asking for Him, Jesus said the following:
"And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." Mark 3:33-35 (Also Matthew 12:48-50 and Luke 8:19-21)
Jesus did not exalt Mary as His mother, nor defer to her in all matters, nor grant her a special role in His ministry. Rather, He continuously reminded her - and His followers - that our spiritual heritage in the Body of Christ takes precedence over our earthly heritage (Luke 14:26). This didn't apply to everyone but Mary; rather Jesus makes it clear that even His own mother was no exception to this truth.
In spite of Jesus' teachings, various Marian doctrines have been created to set Mary apart from other believers. One such doctrine is that of the "Assumption" where it is taught that Mary ascended bodily into Heaven at the end of her life and was crowned by Jesus as the "Queen of Heaven" to be enthroned with Him. However, like many Marian dogmas, there is no support for this in Scripture. It is also worth noting that the title "Queen of Heaven" is used in Scripture to reference only the worship of idols (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-25). How disparaging it is to use a title reserved for idols as a reference to the mother of Jesus Christ!
|In Jesus' own words, the honor which is due to Mary for bringing Him into the world is no greater than the honor which is due to any believer who does the will of the Father. Everyone who obeys God is "the same" as Jesus' mother. Mary is the equivalent of every other obedient child of God...in Jesus' own eyes.|
Mary was blessed because of obedience, and we can be too!
Mary is called "highly favoured" (Luke 1:28). However, the same word is applied to all believers in Ephesians 1:6 which states that we are "accepted [highly favoured] in the beloved."
Mary is said to be "blessed above women" (Luke 1:28, 42). Yet, Jael was also called "blessed above women" for taking vengeance on Sisera (Judges 5:24). It is also said that Mary would be called "blessed" by all generations (Luke 1:48), however that same word is used in James 5:11a for those enduring in the faith: "Behold, we count them happy [blessed] which endure."
They key to Mary receiving the blessings and favor of God was her obedience to Him. According to Jesus, this was not something for which she is to be exalted, but it is a pattern of faith that we should desire to emulate.
"And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." Luke 11:27-28
While Jesus agrees that Mary is blessed, He qualifies the woman's statement saying "rather" are those who obey God blessed. Once again, Jesus corrects those who try to place a focus on Mary or exalt her for being His mother. Once again, Jesus places Mary's blessedness on the same level as every believer who keeps God's words.
In the same manner in which Mary was blessed, we also will be blessed when we obey Him. Mary was obedient to God's word and this resulted in His Son being physically formed within her. Likewise, when we are obedient to God, Jesus will be spiritually formed within us (Galatians 4:19).
Yet, we must consider why Jesus felt it necessary to correct the woman's statement at all. Mary certainly is blessed for the favor God has shown her, so why not just agree and leave it at that? Because Jesus knew that man is prone to idolatry.
This woman was looking in the face of God and hearing Him speak; yet, her inclination was to start singing Mary's praises. Standing in the presence of the Creator, man's unconverted heart will always drift into worship of that which was created (Romans 1:18-25). This is why Jesus preached consistently against exalting any person other than God, including His own mother.
|The truth about Mary's significance as Jesus' mother is that she is an example of faith in and obedience to the Lord. This is an example that Jesus continuously emphasized to His followers, even while rebuking attempts by many to exalt her. We too - like Mary - can receive the blessings and favor of God when we keep His words. To perceive Mary's obedience as something divinely different than any other believers' obedience is idolatry. |
So who is this "other" Mary?
According to religious historical accounts, she is Semiramis, the Queen of Babylon.
As the legend goes, Semiramis was the wife of Nimrod, who is recounted in Scripture as a "mighty hunter" and the great-grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:8-9). Nimrod (whose name means "Rebel") raised a great idolatrous empire based in Babylon which sought to construct the Tower of Babel.
The Tower of Babel was a zigurrat; a temple built on raised platforms. It served two purposes: One, to directly challenge God by extending it beyond the reach of His judgment should He send another flood; and Two, it was to be high enough to worship what the Scriptures call the "the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven" (Deuteronomy 4:19, 17:3; Also II Kings 23:5, Acts 7:42), this host representing Satan's army of fallen angels.
Regarding Semiramis, the accounts of her identity vary. However, it is said that she was the owner of a brothel before meeting Nimrod and that her image was reinvented for the people to make her a more suitable bride for him by presenting her as a virgin born from the sea (The "other" Mary is also given the title of Stella Maris meaning 'Our Lady, Star of the Sea').
Semiramis was said to be instrumental in defining Babylon's religious system, which involved an occult mixture of astrology/zodiac worship, magic, and sexual rituals. In order to retain her control over the people after Nimrod's death, Semiramis announced that Nimrod had ascended into Heaven and became one with the sun, making him the Sun-god. She also claimed to have become miraculously pregnant by Nimrod when - as the Sun-god - he sent a beam of sunlight to create a reincarnation of himself within her in the form of his son, Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14-16). It is then that she began to be worshiped as not only the wife of God, but also the Mother of God.
As the people in the Babylonian empire dispersed after God had destroyed the Tower and confused their language, each resulting culture took with it the remnants of this perverse religious system including their own version of worship for the 'madonna and child'. Whether the name used is Semiramis, Isis, Ishtar, Diana, Venus, Athena, Minerva, Cybele, Juno, Rhea, Gaia, Devaki, 'Mary' or any name, all roads lead back to Babylon and reflect the nature of what Scriptures call the "Whore of Babylon" (Revelation 17:1-5).
While the specifics of the legend of Nimrod and Semiramis may be debated, certain things stand sure:
- We know that Babylon is referred to in Scripture as the "Mother" of all harlots and abominations in the earth. All religious perversions have roots back to this city/culture.
- Images of this 'other' Mary often show her with a halo, which was a symbol used in pre-Christian pagan/profane art to honor the Sun-god.
- Images of this "other" Mary often depicts her with the stars, the moon, and the sun (as in the picture above) consistent with the Babylonian religion's worship of the "host of Heaven".
- As is found in all idols of 'madonna child' worship, when this "other" Mary is shown with her 'Jesus', He is depicted as an infant; which is very peculiar being that Jesus grew fully into a man. Yet, Jesus is shown as frail, helpless, dependent on Mary and submitted to her authority. Such depictions are all about elevating Mary as goddess and have absolutely nothing to do with the actual Son of God.
- The attributes & titles applied to this "other" Mary including being ever-virgin, sinless, the Wife of God, the Mother of God, Our Lady of the Sea, and the Queen of Heaven are all unscriptural and do not reflect the actual identity of the mother of Jesus Christ. These descriptors have no relationship with the biblical Mary, however they do closely align with the legends of Semiramis.
In closing, I thought it would be good to let Mary speak for herself.
During the wedding in Cana, after Mary had brought the issue of the lack of wine to Jesus' attention, she gives an important directive:
"His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." John 2:5
Do you want to be a servant of God? If so, the standard is simple. According to the Scriptures, according to Jesus, and according to Mary herself, the key to serving God is to obey His Words.
Should we look to man? Should we look to traditions, thoughts, or opinions of men...no matter how revered? Should we look to our own understanding or what we feel is right? Should we look to "divine revelations" that are at odds with God's words? Should we look even to Mary? Did Mary ever represent herself as an intermediary for others to reach Jesus? Did Jesus ever present her to others in such a role? Do we need to think up other things to do beyond what He says in order to give Him honor? The answer to each of these questions is, "No".
The best way to honor the sacrifice and memory of the mother of Jesus is to consider the very words she gave: Whatsoever HE saith, do IT.
We would do well to heed her instructions.