I overheard this recently: “There was nothing special about Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She was simply the vessel God chose to surrogate his son. He could have chosen any woman for his purposes, she just happened to be the one he chose. She was a young, imperfect girl who could not possibly have understood all the angel was asking of her.”
These kinds of statements are quite common in Protestant churches and literature. They are almost qualified by listing the criteria that Mary met from a biblical standpoint:
A virgin?* Check.
Comes from Galilee?** Check.
Will give birth in Bethlehem?*** Check.
These things are of utmost importance with regard to the prophecy and larger plans of God. At the same time, the Bible tells us that there was so much more to Mary than simply virginity, geography, and uterine availability.
The “there was nothing special about Mary” argument comes almost exclusively from men who, for whatever reason, see such statements as necessary to correct the claims of other traditions that might claim sinless perfection for Mary or pray to/worship Mary. I would call this an overcorrection. In an attempt to push back against those who may elevate Mary to a position God never intended, Mary’s character and her prominent role in God’s story are minimized.
This kind of teaching is not only incomplete, but it can also be demeaning and even destructive. To describe Mary only in these ways is to reduce her value and usefulness to God almost entirely to the physiological, as little more than a pawn in a long strategy.
Mary did not have to be sinless to also be full of grace. There are multiple occasions in the biblical accounts of Mary’s life which display her faithfulness and unparalleled example of godliness among women and also among men. She demonstrated a deep understanding of what God was doing through her, not only because of the angel’s revelation to her, but also as evidence of a mature understanding of the Scriptures and the God of her people.
The Bible tells us that there was so much more to Mary than simply virginity, geography, and uterine availability.
Having said all of this, I have also come to the realization that Mary does not need me, or any man to speak for her. She speaks for herself****, as do countless places in the biblical text. The first mention of Mary actually comes in the first few pages of the Bible (Genesis 3:15), and her significance in God’s plans are a consistent theme throughout. Mary’s own words, prayers, and songs are considered Scripture themselves. Follow this trail from Luke 1:26 to Luke 2:52. Here we learn that Mary was:
- Full of grace – Luke 1:28
- Meek – Luke 1:29
- Pure – Luke 1:34
- A faithful servant – Luke 1:38
- Called “blessed among women” – Luke 1:42
- Favored – Luke 1:43
- Full of faith – Luke 1:45
- Deep understanding of Scripture and the use of Psalm – Luke 1:46-56 (The Magnificat)
- Joyful – Luke 1:46-47
- Reverent before God – Luke 1:50
- Content – Luke 1:53
- Grounded – Luke 1:54-55
- Had strong maternal instincts and skills – Luke 2:7
- Thoughtful – Luke 2:19
- Pious and Devoted – Luke 2:22-23
- Altruistic – Luke 2:24
- Humble – Luke 2:33
- Steadfast – Luke 2:39
- Nurturing – Luke 2:40, 2:52
God could have chosen any means, person or not, to make His dwelling among us (John 1:14). He chose Mary to become a living sanctuary for the Living God.
Throughout the history of the Church, Mary has been referred to as theotokos, which means “bearer of God”. Without a doubt, this is a word that describes what God did for Mary. But does it not also describe what Mary did for God?
As my friend Marissa Carter points out, God not only bore Mary’s burdens but Mary also bore His burdens. She carried Him in her womb. She protected both herself and her pregnancy while enduring difficult circumstances and travel. She brought Him forth in less than ideal conditions, and she nourished His infant body. She nurtured Him as a toddler and raised Him as a child and adolescent. She never ceased fulling the role of mother to God Himself, present among people as Jesus the Christ.
There are multiple occasions in the biblical accounts of Mary’s life which display her faithfulness and unparalleled example of godliness among women and also among men.
This was God’s chosen means of entering time and space as a human being. We call it the incarnation — putting flesh on — so that He might carry our burdens as well. In the same way, the Church is called to be incarnational. We carry the burdens of others, as they sometimes carry ours (Galatians 6:2), each looking out for the good one another (Philippians 2:3-4). Though Jesus modeled this for us in the fullest sense, we cannot miss the fact that Mary modeled it too.
NOTE: For further reading check out: A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF VERSES ABOUT MARY THE MOTHER OF JESUS
*(Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:27)
**(Isaiah 9:1-7, Luke 1:26)
***(Micah 5:2-4, Luke 2:4-7)
****And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” —Luke 1:46-56 (NIV)