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I tread very carefully as I write this, because I have enormous love and respect for Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother and our sister. At the same time, I don’t want to trample on the sensibilities of anyone who sees her as something she is not. But it’s important for the sake of the Gospel – God’s Truth – that the record on Mary be set straight. It’s also important for her legacy that she be seen as she is, not as some religious authorities want us to see her.
Mary was a mother first and foremost before she became a follower of Jesus. In fact, her role as Jesus’ mother initially blinded her to who Jesus was. Throughout Jesus’ lifetime, including during his ministry years, Mary saw Jesus as her son and perhaps maybe as a prophet (like his cousin, John), but she didn’t see him as the Messiah. It wasn’t until sometime after Jesus rose from the dead that she understood who he was and became his follower.
I’ve written before about how difficult it is for most people, especially unbelievers, to see born-again believers as the new person they’ve become. If you’re genuinely born-again, you know what I’m talking about. It can be frustrating, but it is what it is. You roll with it, like Jesus did. If they don’t want to hear what you have to say, you move on. If you and God’s Word are not welcome, you move on. You don’t force the Word on anyone; Jesus never did. But he was always adamant that the record be set straight in matters of scriptural Truth. That was his special ministry to his enemies in Jerusalem.
I now offer the same special ministry to my enemies.
Mary did not live her adult life as a virgin. She was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, as we know from Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah and also from the Gospel. As well, we know that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. But after that she assumed her wifely duties with Joseph. The Gospel specifically tells us that Joseph did not “know” Mary until after she had given birth to Jesus. I don’t know how much more explicit the Gospel can be about Mary and Joseph’s conjugal relations, short of dropping a sex tape. So yes, Mary was a virgin when she conceived, carried and bore Jesus, but she then had marital relations with Joseph, from which children were born, of which we know of Joses and James by name, and also Jesus’ sisters.
Mary was not Jesus’ first disciple. She was not anywhere near the front of that line. Yes, she gave Jesus the nudge that had him perform his first public miracle (at the wedding in Cana), but that in no way signalled her discipleship to Jesus. In fact, Mary was more a stumbling block than a disciple throughout Jesus’ ministry years, so much so that she even attempted to stop his ministry work altogether when she, accompanied by her daughters, went to his house in Capernaum to take him back to Nazareth. She knew that what he was doing was dangerous and she was trying to protect him, but so was Peter, and we know what Jesus said to him.
Again, we need to learn and absorb scriptural Truth rather than what some religious authorities want to force-feed us. Nothing I’m saying here is in any way contradicted by scripture. Mary, as we know, was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, but we have no evidence that she held his lifeless body in her arms, as Michelangelo would have us believe. What we do know is that Jesus gave her into John’s care while she stood near the foot of the cross, and that she likely joined the disciples from thereon in. But again, even none of the disciples at that point (Jesus’ crucifixion) believed that Jesus was the Messiah. They considered him a great teacher, yes, and a great prophet, but not THE Prophet foretold by Moses in his farewell speeches.
It wasn’t until Jesus rose from the dead and showed himself to them that the penny dropped for most of them and they believed. This likely includes Mary, but that is speculation on my part. What we do know is that Mary was with the disciples and other followers shortly after Jesus’ ascension and before Pentecost. That scriptural passage (Acts 1-14) also mentions that Jesus’ brethren (her children) were there with the disciples and followers as well.
I love Mary. In temperament and demeanor, we couldn’t be farther apart, but I have utmost respect for the fact that God chose her to bear Jesus and to mother him, and that when it was time, she turned. She converted and became a follower of Jesus. Yes, she was still his mother even then (she is and will eternally be his mother), but she is first and foremost his follower. Her relationship is no longer that of a mother to a son, but that of a follower to the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Messiah.
When Christianity became the state religion of Rome back in the 4th century A.D., the figure of Mary was conflated with those of Isis (an Egyptian ‘deity’), Artemis (a Greek ‘goddess’), and Diana (a Roman one) in order to make Christianity more acceptable to the pagan masses. The conflation continues to this day. Rather than the humble mother of Jesus who eventually became his follower, Mary was mischaracterized as a perpetual virgin and “Queen of Heaven” who needs constant worship, petitions, prayers, and offerings. The Roman church authorities superimposed the pagan deities on Mary, mainly because of her storied virginity at Jesus’ conception and birth. Needless to say, those authorities were wrong to teach their adherents to worship Mary. We shouldn’t worship her (she’s our sister and fellow believer; we’re to worship God), and we definitely shouldn’t pray to her or bow down before statues that represent her. If you find yourself mumbling a “vain repetition” addressed to Mary, stop yourself. We pray to God and God only, in Jesus’ name. We do not pray to people and we do not pray to angels: We pray to God and God only, as Jesus did, and in his name.
If you’ve been caught up in the cult of Mary-worship, please consider the above. But be warned: In reading this far, you no longer have a cover for your guilt. It’s only your ego and pride keeping you from acknowledging God’s Truth, and it’s high time you let those things go.
I hope that you get to know Mary someday, if and when you make it Home. I know I’m looking forward to getting to know her, if and when I make it Home. We’re polar opposites in personality, Mary and I, but we’d find our common ground in our love for God and our discipleship of Jesus. There is nothing better, whether here on Earth or in Heaven, than to love God and to follow Jesus wherever God’s Truth leads.