FEBRUARY 15 — Genesis 48; Luke 1:39-80; Job 14; 1 Corinthians 2
SOMETIMES BAD THEOLOGY BREEDS reactionary bad theology. Because Roman Catholicism has gradually added more titles and myths to Mary, Protestants have sometimes reacted by remaining silent about her astonishing character. Neither approach fares very well when tested by this passage (Luke 1:39-80) and a few others we shall have occasion to think about.
Catholics have added titles such as “Mother of God” and “Queen of Heaven” to Mary, neither of which is found in the Bible. The view that Mary was immaculately conceived (and was therefore born sinless), and that she, like Enoch, was transported to heaven bodily, thereby escaping death, are equally unsupported. The latter became a dogma for Roman Catholics as recently as 1950. According to news reports, the current Pope is weighing whether he should establish, as something that must be confessed, another title conservative Catholics apply to Mary, viz. “Co-Redemptrix.”
But Luke’s witness points in another direction. In Mary’s song (1:46-55), tra- ditionally called the Magnificat (from the Latin word for magnifies: “My soul magnifies [NIV—glorifies] the Lord”), Jesus’ mother says that her spirit rejoices in “God my Savior”—which certainly sounds as if she thought of herself as needing a Savior, which would be odd for one immaculately conceived. Indeed, a rapid scan of the Gospels discloses that during Jesus’ ministry, Mary had no special access to her famous son, sometimes failed to understand the nature of his mission (e.g., 2:48-50), and never helped someone obtain some favor from Jesus that he or she could not otherwise obtain. Indeed, the unanimous testimony of Scripture is that people should come to Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28), Jesus says—not, “Come to my mother.” He alone is the true mediator between God and human beings.
Nevertheless, Mary is wholly admirable, a model of many virtues (as is also, e.g., Joseph in Gen. 37—50). She accepts her astonishing role with submissiveness and equanimity, considering what it must have initially done to her reputation (1:34-38). Elizabeth twice calls her “blessed” (1:42, 45), i.e., approved by God; the supernatural recognition of the superiority of Mary’s Son over Elizabeth’s son (1:41-45) was doubtless one of the things that Mary pondered in her heart (2:19). But none of this goes to Mary’s head: she herself recognizes that her “blessedness” is not based on intrinsic superiority, but on God’s (the “Mighty One’s”) mindfulness of her “humble state” and his choice to do “great things” for her (1:48-49). Her focus in the Magnificat, as ours must be, is on the faithfulness of God in bringing about the deliverance so long promised (1:50-55).
This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 1. Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.