Mary, the First Christian
What to do about Mary?
Some pray this prayer to her billions of times a day.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Some expect her to perform a miracle and heal them.
The Order of Malta uses a beautiful phrase, referring to "our lords, the sick". In Lourdes, the sick and infirm have priority and they flock to Lourdes in search of spiritual strength to bear the cross given to them by the Lord.
Some receive messages from her.
Three messages of Our Lady of Akita to Sister Agnes
When the prayer was finished, the Heavenly Voice said: "Pray very much for the Pope, Bishops, and Priests. Since your Baptism you have always prayed faithfully for them. Continue to pray very much...very much. Tell your superior all that passed today and obey him in everything that he will tell you. He has asked that you pray with fervor." (July 6, 1973)
"In order that the world might know His anger, the Heavenly Father is preparing to inflict a great chastisement on all mankind. With my Son I have intervened so many times to appease the wrath of the Father. I have prevented the coming of calamities by offering Him the sufferings of the Son on the Cross, His Precious Blood, and beloved souls who console Him forming a cohort of victim souls. Prayer, penance and courageous sacrifices can soften the Father's anger. I desire this also from your community...that it love poverty, that it sanctify itself and pray in reparation for the ingratitude and outrages of so many men. (August 3, 1973)
Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved." (October 13, 1973)
—Vatican City—Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now Pope Benedict XVI), gives definitive judgment on the Akita events and messages as reliable and worthy of belief (June, 1988)
Some petition Pope Benedict XVI that Mary be named Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix.
Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man, gave to humanity from the Cross his mother Mary to be the spiritual Mother of all peoples, the Co-redemptrix, who under and with her Son cooperated in the Redemption of all people; the Mediatrix of all graces, who as Mother brings us the gifts of eternal life; and the Advocate, who presents our prayers to her Son. (February 8, 2008)
What to do about Mary?
- May we suggest that her faith is what made her great in God’s kingdom?
- May we suggest that she is a fine example for believers to emulate?
- May we suggest that her faith was founded upon the personal forgiveness of her sins?
- May we suggest she was the first Christian?
Mary, the First Christian
“May It Be to Me As You Have Said”
To Fulfill All Righteousness
“May It Be to Me As You Have Said”
It is hard to figure out what all the fuss is about Mary. She is almost an insignificant figure in the first two gospels. Matthew mentions her repeatedly, but in every instance, she plays a passive role. Joseph, moved by the dream of an angel, takes her as his wife. The Wise Men from the east find her and the baby Jesus and worship him. Joseph whisks Mary and Jesus to Egypt and then takes them back to Nazareth. Mark mentions her only twice, only once in a significant sense.
But when we get to Luke’s gospel, we see what makes Mary special.
Read Luke 1.26-38
What are the initial details we know about Mary?
She is a virgin, living in Nazareth, engaged to Joseph, a descendant of David.
What inner details of Mary do we know from the angel’s greeting?
She is a believer.
What does it mean to be favored by the Lord?
· The root of the Greek word used by the angel is charis, grace.
It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works, that no man may boast. (Ephesians 2.8-9)
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3.23-24)
To “be favored by the Lord” means that person has been “graced” by God, given his grace, the forgiveness of sins, faith, life and salvation.
If we use the Hail, Mary translation “full of grace,” where must this grace come from?
It must come from God, not some sort of grace which Mary has manufactured for herself.
How will this grace from God show itself in Mary’s life?
She will be the mother of the Savior.
What is Mary to name her son?
Who will her son be? Prove your answer from the text.
The Savior will be God—Son of the Most High. He will be a ruler—he will be given a throne. He will be a descendant of David. He will rule over God’s people (Jacob) forever.
Mary is not ignorant. She knows where babies come from. How does Mary’s question to the angel Gabriel show her virtue, rather than unbelief?
She knows where babies come from, she is a virgin and she wonders how this is going to happen when both of those things are in play.
How does Gabriel’s response prove Mary believes what he is telling her?
He doesn’t chide her, as he did Zechariah, but he gives her another sign to confirm her faith.
How do we picture the immaculate conception?
Here’s how Brigham Young pictured it:
"I believe the Father came down from heaven, as the Apostles said he did, and begat the Saviour of the world; for he is the only-begotten of the Father, which could not be if the Father did not actually beget him in person." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 238)
"The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood - was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115)
What is Brigham Young saying?
That God the Father took human form and slept with Mary, impregnating her, just as a normal husband and wife conceive a child.
What did Gabriel say?
The Holy Spirit, in a very chaste miracle, would create life within Mary’s womb and where there was no independent life before, now there would be life and that life would be the Son of God taking human nature upon himself.
Why is it easier for us to rebut Mormon teaching knowing it was it the Holy Spirit who performed this miracle within Mary?
Brigham Young denies the Holy Spirit’s role in the conception of Jesus (the Incarnation).
What additional sign did Gabriel give to Mary to help strengthen her faith?
He tells her her relative, Elizabeth, who everyone thought was barren, is already six months pregnant.
What was Mary’s response to the angel’s message?
She says she believes his message and is willing to be the Lord’s servant.
Read Luke 1.39-45
How does Mary show her faith in the angel’s words?
She goes to visit Elizabeth to see the proof of the angel’s words.
According to Elizabeth, why is Mary so blessed?
She is the “mother of my Lord.”
Some have imagined that Mary doesn’t know she is pregnant with the baby Jesus until this point. Could you argue that point, remembering the time line and the way in which Jesus was conceived? Especially look at the phrase, “mother of my Lord.”
Mary has never experienced pregnancy before, so she doesn’t know what it is like. She has not slept with anyone, so she can’t have any timeline for when she conceived. She is only a couple days or weeks along, for it seems she almost immediately went to see Elizabeth, so she would have noticed nothing out of the ordinary. And Elizabeth uses the present tense—“mother of my Lord,” not, “the one who will be the mother of my Lord.” From this it is easier to assume Mary first hears and believes she is pregnant from Elizabeth’s words.
Read Luke 1.46-49
What does it imply about Mary that she calls Jesus “my Savior”?
It implies that Mary knows she needs a Savior for herself, for she is a sinner, too.
Pope Pius IX in 1854 saw it differently.
"...We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful." (Ineffabilis)
Pope John Paul II tells us what that exactly means in a General Audience on Jun 12, 1996
The freedom "from every stain of original sin" entails as a positive consequence the total freedom from all sin as well as the proclamation of Mary's perfect holiness, a doctrine to which the dogmatic definition makes a fundamental contribution. In fact, the negative formulation of the Marian privilege, which resulted from the earlier controversies about original sin that arose in the West, must always be complemented by the positive expression of Mary's holiness.
Compare and contrast the view the Roman Catholic and the biblical views of Mary’s sinfulness (or lack thereof).
Mary conceived without sin
All are conceived in sin, including Mary
Mary was free from all sin
All are sinners, including Mary
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, except Mary
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, including Mary
How does this teaching play into the request that Mary be Co-redemptrix?
If Mary is without sin, she can be viewed as one who can carry our sins for us.
Why can we as Lutherans not give any credence or shadow of support to a teaching such as that?
It has no biblical support and it contradicts many passages in the Bible that not only say all people are sinful, but also that state Jesus is the only Savior we have, the only way to the Father.
Who is the Mighty One Mary talks about?
God the Father
Why will Mary’s name be immortal?
She is the one through whom the Savior of the world is coming and she, as one of the believers, will experience the blessings the Savior will bring.
If Mary is holy, totally free from all sin, why does she end this section of praise to God with “holy is his name”—wouldn’t “he has made me holy” be more to the point?
Exactly. Where Rome points to the holiness of Mary and extols that, Mary points to the holiness of God and extols that.
Read Luke 1.50-55
God’s mercy is now the focus of Mary’s magnificent song of praise. Why would God’s mercy be so important to sinners?
Without God’s mercy, we would have no forgiveness.
Would it be that important to people who are totally free from all sin?
If you can be your own Savior, the need for another Savior isn’t all that great.
Mary divides up the human race into the humble and the rulers. Contrast them according to Mary’s words.
Those who fear him
Proud in their inmost thoughts
Brought down from their thrones
Filled with good things
Sent away empty
What is Mary pinning all her hopes on?
God’s fulfilling his covenant promise to send a Savior, as he promised to Abraham and the patriarchs.
What is our great heritage, the anchor we pin all our hopes upon?
The revealed promises of God’s salvation, the Bible.
Read Luke 1.56, Matthew 1.18-19
How long did Mary stay with Elizabeth?
At least three months.
How many months pregnant was Mary now?
Close to three months.
What light does this shed on Matthew 1.18-19?
The gossips in Nazareth noticed that Mary was showing, but she had not yet told Joseph. The gossip got to him first.
Would you consider this a sin on Mary’s part? Why or why not?
This is a judgment call.
Sin: She should have told Joseph first thing. By withholding information from him she only made matters worse, giving the gossips something to spread and causing Joseph worries and cares to the point that he was about to call off the wedding.
Not Sin: It is understandable what she did. She shouldn’t have, but it isn’t sin. It would be hard to tell your fiancée that you are pregnant, but it is OK because the child is the Son of God and you are still a virgin.
Conclusion: it is unfortunate what she did, hardly something someone who is perfect and our Co-redemptrix would do.
The First Christmas
Read Luke 2.1-7
From Nazareth to Bethlehem is a trip of 100 miles. Legend has it that it took Mary and Joseph five days to make the journey.
What are the initial details we know about Mary?
She was expecting—probably late along in her pregnancy.
100 miles on foot for a heavily pregnant woman. What is one reason there probably was no room in the inn?
They had slow going on the trip and got there late, as well as probably starting out late because it was a daunting task to go that far on their slender resources.
Why was it highly likely that Mary went into labor almost as soon as they got into town?
The stress of the journey, coupled with the relief of even making it caused her to go into labor.
“He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,” Paul writes to the Philippians (2.7). List the ways already at birth Jesus shows his humble character.
He is born in a stable, with animals around. It is cold, it is drafty. For a bed he has a cattle trough filled with coarse and scratchy hay. Forget about sanitary conditions.
Read Luke 2.8-15
God was unwilling that the birth of his Son should go unnoticed. How does the angel show that this baby is the Savior.
He calls Jesus Savior and Lord and Christ. He also says the baby will be good news for all people.
Why does the angel give the shepherds a sign? How effective is that sign?
That their faith in his words may be confirmed. That’s the way it always is with these signs (like the sign of Elizabeth to Mary). It was a very effective sign in that, while every newborn would be in cloths, only a maniac or someone very desperate would house a child in a stable. The shepherds will find Jesus right away.
The angel choirs appear praising God and laying out the mission of the Savior. Explain how the work of Jesus the Christ will bring:
Glory to God—Jesus will bring glory to God as all the saved will sing his praises here on earth and forever in eternity.
Peace, goodwill to men—Jesus will bring God’s peace and favor to mankind through the forgiveness of sins.
Read Luke 2.16-20
You mothers, how happy were you to see visitors in your hospital room after you had your baby? What might this show about Mary?
Every mother wants to be left alone after labor and suffers visitors silently. Mary is gracious and kind, receiving the shepherds so soon after delivering Jesus in a less than congenial setting.
Looking at verse 19, what do we know about Mary?
She was contemplative. She keeps track of these things and mulls them over, meditating on them and treasuring the memory of them.
We know Luke interviewed eyewitnesses and followed the handed down accounts of those who were eyewitnesses. The first two chapters of his gospel could all have come from Mary, being told from Mary’s point of view. What are the characteristics of Mary that we can glean?
Faithful, believing, impulsive, independent, bold, courageous, determined, has stamina, keeps going in the face of suffering, not petty, contemplative, meditative.
Now, what was her focus—what was the point of the story that she wanted to tell?
She wanted to tell the story of Jesus, not the story of Mary. She wanted people to see Jesus was the Savior of all people.
Read Luke 2.21-52
Mary, the First Christian
“May It Be to Me As You Have Said”
To Fulfill All Righteousness
To Fulfill All Righteousness
Every parent knows the trials and hardships of being responsible for the life of a child. Moments of silence are never good news—they are up to something. You can’t turn your back on them for an instant. You have to do things for them that they cannot do for themselves. You pray for their spiritual welfare and take the steps every believing parent must take to make sure their child is also a child of God.
Mary and Joseph, though they certainly had a better-behaved child than our broods, still faced the uncertainties and sleepless nights of parenthood. And, with most families, it seems mother is the primary care giver when the child is young. Let’s see how Mary fared in this area.
First Things First
Read Luke 2.21
What two things happened to every Jewish boy on the eighth day of their lives? Why? (see Genesis 17.9-14)
They were to be circumcised on the eighth day according to God’s command to Abraham. It was a mark of the covenant that God had made with his people. It showed they belonged to God.
Did Jesus have any say in this?
No, nobody asked the infant if he wanted to be circumcised.
What if Mary and Joseph hadn’t had the baby Jesus circumcised?
If Jesus were not circumcised he would not have been obeying God’s will and would have sinned and, therefore, couldn’t be our perfect Savior.
We speak of Jesus’ active obedience and his passive obedience in his work of being our Savior. In his passive obedience, Jesus let himself suffer for our sins and be subjected to insult and injury. When we speak of Jesus’ active obedience we are thinking of the times Jesus acted to obey his heavenly Father’s will. Jesus regularly being in the worship in the synagogue is an example of the latter, Jesus on the cross is an example for the former. Under which category does Jesus’ circumcision fit and why?
I think we’d have to put this under Jesus’ passive obedience. Certainly he suffered (a little). But the thing is that it was done unto him; he did not actively do this.
People have made much of comparing baptism and circumcision. It is not our point here to do that, but much can be learned about Mary’s (and Joseph’s) attitude concerning fulfilling the Lord’s will towards the youngest of his people. Why should a mother (and father) see to it that her newborn should be baptized soon? What are the drawbacks to a baptism within three weeks of childbirth and how can those drawbacks be overcome?
Children should be baptized soon after birth because they need baptism—they are sinful human beings and need that forgiveness of sins. They should also be baptized soon that they may enjoy the blessings of the Holy Spirit within them, faith and being part of God’s family, complete with his promise of protection to his people.
Yes, there are drawbacks to early baptism. Mom is still sore, the time of year may be inclement, relatives back east are complaining about how expensive the airplane tickets are to come out for just a quick weekend now and maybe dad works on Sundays and Mom is just too beat to put on a big party afterwards. All of these things are human traditions. The important thing is that the baby be baptized. It can be done in a private ceremony when the parents can get there. If it takes so long for the relatives to arrive, maybe a reaffirmation of baptism could take place and have the party after that.
Read Luke 2.22-24
Why is Jesus presented in the Temple (see Exodus 13.2, 12 and Leviticus 12.8)?
In remembrance of the Passover, the first-born belonged to God and was presented to him in this ceremonial way as a thank offering. It was also a time when the mother offered a thank offering for being able to have children and purify herself from the ceremonial uncleanness of shedding her own blood in childbirth.
How is this incident very similar to Jesus’ circumcision?
Again, Jesus has no say in it, but it is vital that he undergo it that the laws of God be kept perfectly. Mary and Joseph see to it that everything is done according to the laws of God.
What does the offering of a pair of young pigeons show about Joseph and Mary’s financial status?
They are poor. This is the offering people could bring if they couldn’t afford a sheep or goat.
Read Luke 2.25-35
Why should we believe what aged Simeon has to say about Jesus and Mary?
He was filled with, inspired by, the Holy Spirit.
How does Luke explain the coincidence of Simeon being right in the Temple when Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus in?
Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to be at the right place at the right time to see the Holy Family enter the Temple.
Prove from Simeon’s words that the salvation Jesus is to bring is not an earthly salvation, namely deliverance of God’s people from the Romans, their current, earthly enemies.
It was a salvation for all people, not just for God’s people as they clobbered everybody else.
What will Jesus do for the Gentiles and why don’t the Jews need that aspect of Jesus’ work?
Jesus will be a light of revelation for the Gentiles. Through his words they will know who the true God is and how to get to heaven. The Jews didn’t need that aspect of Jesus’ work, because they had the written revelation of God, their Bible (our Old Testament).
Why would Jesus bring glory to God’s people, the Jews?
All these years the God they worshiped and the promises he had made that they had cherished, had come true. They had been right all along and they gave glory to God, their God, for it.
What was Joseph and Mary’s reaction to Simeon’s words? Why would they have that reaction—they know who Jesus is!
They marvel at his words. You would think they would expect these words or at least have more insight into them, but Mary and Joseph are simple people and it seems they always expected less than what they would get from God.
Explain Simeon’s words about the effect Jesus would have on the Jews.
People would be saved because of him and people who you think would have been saved would be lost. What the wicked harbored in their heart would become visible to all.
How would Jesus very soon show what was in the murderous hearts of people (see Matthew 2.16)?
Soon Herod would show his opposition to God’s will by trying to kill the baby Jesus and end up senselessly slaughtering the innocents of Bethlehem.
How would people who want to push Mary forward as Co-redemptrix take Simeon’s words, “and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”?
Pictures from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ
They would see Mary suffering for the sins of the world as she stood at the foot of the cross. Mel Gibson shows this by Jesus’ blood which gets splattered upon Mary.
What might be a more natural interpretation of Simeon’s words than indicating Mary is Co-redemptrix?
Events in Jesus’ life will wound Mary deeply.
Do we have to wait that long to see Mary’s soul pierced with a sword? Can you think of days when Mary felt like she could die at the way her Son was being treated?
His first sermon in Nazareth would have filled her with revulsion. Hearing the people say her son was demon-possessed must have hurt and even having her own sons say Jesus was out of his mind and they had to take legal custody over him would hurt her.
Read Luke 2.39-40
Life is a stultifying routine at times, more so for people of ancient times. With familiarity comes forgetfulness. Can you point to incidents we have already looked at that might indicate, though Mary believed Jesus was the Christ, the Savior of the world, it wasn’t always first and foremost in her mind?
She and Joseph are amazed at Simeon’s words in the Temple. She is reluctant to tell Joseph about her amazing pregnancy.
The Lost Son
Read Luke 2.41-50
How often had Mary and Joseph taken Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover?
Every year for the past twelve years—that was what God required of his people, that they all go up to Jerusalem for the Passover.
What religious ceremony does a Jewish boy around the age of twelve normally undergo?
What is the meaning of a bar-mitzvah (or for that matter, a confirmation)?
The youth is now considered an adult male of the religious community who is able to attend the adult Bible classes.
Can you give some good reasons why Mary and Joseph would not be looking for Jesus until suppertime as they were making their way out of Jerusalem after the Passover?
They were traveling with friends and relatives, with Jesus undoubtedly playing with friends as they rolled along the road. Under circumstances like this, Mary and Joseph wouldn’t go looking for their pre-teen son until supper-time, when they had gone a day’s journey down the road.
Did Mary and Joseph look for Jesus for three days in Jerusalem or did they go to the Temple as soon as they got to Jerusalem? Make your argument from what you know about Mary and the words of Luke.
Mary is decisive and religious. She is not going to spend a lot of time looking in the places of ill-repute in Jerusalem for Jesus. They find Jesus right away in the Temple, the first place they looked, once they got into Jerusalem. One day out, one day back—too late in the day to look for Jesus, so they rent a room. Morning of the third day they go to the Temple and there he is.
Where had Jesus been for the past three days?
During the day he had been attending Bible classes in the Temple and for the past two nights he had probably been a guest of the religious teacher.
What astonished everybody in the adult Bible class at the Temple about Jesus?
Jesus had great insight and understanding for he asked the most excellent and penetrating questions of the teacher.
What do most mothers do when they have goofed up?
They blame the kids.
How does Mary show she is a very typical mother?
She blames Jesus—“why have you treated us like this?”
What is Jesus saying about himself and why does Luke record this event?
By his words, Jesus shows he knows his father is not Joseph, but God the Father. The Temple is God’s (and his) house. Luke records this because this is the first proof we have of Jesus’ self-knowledge. At twelve he knows who he is what he has come to do. That knowledge will help him get through the turbulent teenage years with their temptations without falling into sin.
Why doesn’t Mary know what Jesus is talking about?
Over the years a forgetfulness has set in. She and Joseph have gotten used to Jesus and it just doesn’t dawn on them all the time that he is the Savior, the Son of God.
I lost a son once—Andy. We were at Morrell Park where they used to shoot off the Fourth of July fireworks. He was about four years old. We had gotten our spot near the field to watch the fireworks, but they were still a ways off. Andy had seen the big slide (actually four slides connected by tunnels on top) and he wanted to go on them. So off we went. I watched him in the deepening twilight. Down the same slide he repeatedly went—I was always at the right side of it, watching his every move. Up the ladder he went, but this time he was waving people to go ahead of him. I must have looked away. He took a different tunnel and went down a different slide. When he turned his head to the right to see my grinning face of approval, I was not there. I had left him! So off he went to find me. Moments passed. Minutes passed. I started walking around the slides, fearful to leave my first spot. No Andy. After about ten minutes I walked back to our blanket and, as coolly as I could, asked Karen, “Is Andy with you?” Then the fireworks really went off. She walked into the crowd by the slides, when she heard the police loudspeaker calling for “Karen Peeples.” She went to the lost and found and there was Andy, sitting between two of Henderson’s finest. He was irritated. “Daddy left me,” he told her.
I never want to lose my son again, and he wasn’t even the Savior of the world.
What must have been going through Mary’s mind for those three days?
She must have been absolutely panic-stricken. For over a day all she could do was walk back to Jerusalem, praying that Jesus was all right. She must have felt guilt-ridden, not only for losing her own child, but the extra weight of losing the Savior of the world.
Does Luke portray Mary as anything out of the ordinary as a parent? Explain your answer.
No, Mary is doing things that we could imagine any Christian mother would be doing. Far from being our Co-redemptrix, she is one of us.
Read John 1.2-11, Luke 8.19-21 and John 19.25-27
Mary, the First Christian
“May It Be to Me As You Have Said”
To Fulfill All Righteousness
I received a call to serve a church where many of my high school friends still attended. My sister was also a member there. So were my father and mother. It didn’t take long to realize this was not going to work. I thanked the congregation for their consideration, but upon prayer and lots of soul-searching, let them know I was sure the Holy Spirit was leading me to turn the call down. They must have thought the Holy Spirit was behind it, too, for they didn’t turn around and call me again (it has happened in our synod)!
But my mother was troubled. Why wouldn’t her son come to be her pastor at her church? Weren’t they good enough for me?
After numerous long-distance phone calls, we were finally able to joke about it, the sure sign there are no hard feelings.
“Mom,” I told her, “if I had taken that call, the first thing I would have had to do was to put you under church discipline, because I know what you are thinking!”
Without a moment’s hesitation, she replied, “I’d take you down with me!”
There were times of tension between Mary and Jesus as he carried out his ministry. None of the tension came from Jesus—it all came from Mary. Whether that tension was productive or not, you be the judge.
“Do Whatever He Tells You”
Read John 2.1-11
If we are following John’s time references correctly, Jesus had left the Jordan for Galilee with his disciples and, on the third day of their journey, they were at Cana. So it takes place very early in Jesus’ ministry.
What faux pas is about to take place at the wedding banquet?
The couple are going to run out of wine very early in the celebration.
Why is it a good guess that the people who were getting married were shirt-tail relatives of Jesus?
They are so poor they can’t afford enough wine to go around, Mary is in the kitchen helping (a typical shirt-tail relative job for poor people) and they have invited Jesus AND his twelve disciples. No one would expand their list by that much for a stranger.
Who immediately knows what the solution is?
Mary—she knows Jesus can solve the problem.
What does this show about Mary’s faith?
She has absolute faith that Jesus can do anything, since he is the Son of God.
Why would performing some great, public miracle not be in Jesus’ best interests at this time (see John 11.43-54)?
For Jesus to stir the crowds by miracles at this point would bring heated opposition from the nearby religious authorities. They would plan to kill Jesus years before they should and he would not have the time to carry out his public ministry. When Jesus does perform a big miracle close to Jerusalem (the raising of Lazarus), they decide rather quickly to kill him and soon accomplish their intent.
Does Mary take no for an answer?
No, she simply turns around and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them.
Is she pulling rank?
Yes, I think she is.
If you were one of the servants, who probably didn’t know all that much about Jesus, would you have taken ladles of water out to the master of the ceremonies? Argue both sides!
There’s no way I’d obey Jesus
There’s no way I’d disobey Jesus
I would look absolutely idiotic, to ladle out water and give it to the master of ceremonies. Everybody would think it was a cruel joke, exposing the poverty of the wedding couple, that we were pretending to drink wine, just as we were pretending to have fun and pretending to wish them happy days in their marriage.
Water is water is water, and that’s all there is to that.
I may look like an idiot and I may be laughed out of the banquet room and chewed up and down by the embarrassed bridegroom and his bride, but I’ve got Mary threatening to skin me alive in the kitchen if I do not do exactly what Jesus says, so I’d rather look foolish out there than get chewed out by Mary.
We have a Christmas carol which has a line, “Mary so meek, Mary so mild.” Prove that Mary has come a long way from Bethlehem and mention some of the events that may have toughened her up.
She stands up to Jesus here and the servants go against their better judgment in doing what Jesus has said because of the force of Mary’s command to them.
Years of poverty have toughened Mary up. Joseph has probably died and it is up to her to raise her family or with the boys, to keep the family carpentry business going. Living under the thumb of the Romans and the repressive teachings of the Jewish authorities have hardened her. Life was short and you couldn’t waste it twiddling your fingers.
What happened because of Mary’s prodding?
Jesus turned water into wine, the party went on and the wedding couple avoided social embarrassment.
Could those people all drink 180 gallons of wine? What do you think the wedding couple did with the extra wine?
There is no way they could go through that much wine—900 bottles of wine! A bottle apiece would have them in the gutter and there is no way this couple could have invited that many people. Probably the next day the guests returned and asked the couple if they had any more of that wine left, because they would like to buy some. The couple probably ended up with a nice nest egg to get their life started because of Jesus’ generous miracle.
Who were the only ones who knew about this miracle?
Jesus, Mary, the servants and the disciples.
What effect did this miracle have on the disciples?
Their trust in Jesus was strengthened and confirmed. It wasn’t that the miracle created faith in their hearts, for they already believed in Jesus—they were his disciples.
What effect did this miracle have on Mary?
It strengthened Mary’s faith, too, for now she had visible proof that Jesus, the Son of God, cared enough for the humble to help them in any circumstance.
Who Is My Mother?
Read Mark 3.20-22
How has Jesus’ ministry been going up to this point? Prove it.
Jesus is a hit. So many people are crowding around him, coming and going, demanding his attention, that he and his disciples don’t even have time to eat.
When Jesus’ family hears about his frenetic pace, what conclusion do they come to?
Jesus is out of his mind and can’t control himself.
Did Jesus’ family believe in him at this point?
No, not the brothers.
You can imagine the sibling rivalry and the bad feelings it engendered. “Mom, why don’t you ever yell at Jesus?!!?”
What has the family come to do and how would this have affected Jesus’ ministry if they had succeeded?
They have come to take legal guardianship over him. If they had succeeded, Jesus would have ended his days tied up in a rubber room in Nazareth instead of spreading the Word in Israel and dying on the cross. We would have had no Savior and no forgiveness.
Read Mark 3.31-35
Why had Jesus’ brothers arrived?
To take charge of him.
Do you think Mary was the ringleader or did they just drag her along to make their case stronger?
We would like to think they had dragged Mary along, using her as leverage against Jesus. It would be hard to think Mary should be calling Jesus away from his mission.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary was always a virgin, that she did not have any more children. How might they argue around this passage?
The “brothers” of Jesus were either step-brothers from an earlier marriage of Joseph or they were first-cousins, for the Greek word, adelphoi, can mean either blood-brother or first cousin (a close relative).
A rule of interpretation is always to let the words be understood in their simplest way. What is the easiest way to understand this passage?
Mary had other children after Jesus from her marriage to Joseph.
Why do you think they had to call Jesus out of the house instead of just marching in themselves?
There are so many people sitting around Jesus that they cannot squeeze into the house to get to see Jesus face-to-face.
Why should Jesus break off his teaching and talk to his brothers and his mother?
People would expect that family comes first, so Jesus should wrap up the preaching and teaching and talk to his family.
Who takes priority in Jesus’ ministry—his family or his family? Explain.
His family of God. There is no indication Jesus’ brothers even get to see him this day. In fact, in his teaching, Jesus says his first priority is not to a family related by flesh and blood, but to a family united by faith in him, a faith which moves people to carry out God’s will for their lives.
Is Jesus showing disrespect for Mary? Why or why not?
No, for that would be sin and Jesus didn’t sin.
Rather, he wasn’t even talking about Mary, he was reacting to his unbelieving brothers. Besides, what he said was very true, that in the kingdom of God there were no special favors given. Every believer is equally loved and cared for by our God—they are all loved the best!
There are several other places where Jesus extols faithfulness above family ties.
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; Matthew 10.37-38
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19.29
Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Matthew 8.21-22
Can you think of an Old Testament story that teaches the same thing?
Abraham sacrificing Isaac. “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son (Genesis 22.12).”
Hey! What’s the First Commandment and how does that apply to this discussion?
Put God first, even before family. Jesus put God and God’s work first, above considerations towards his family.
Why is it not a good thing for a pastor to take a call to where his family are members?
The natural feelings of closeness to family will either tempt him to treat them differently from the rest of the members or will tempt them to ask for special treatment because they are related. Even if both pastor and family work hard against those temptations and fight them successfully, it will be energy that need not have been expended and, as human beings are, the malicious tongues in the congregation will expect the worst and spread gossip that favoritism is being shown.
Mary is going to appear two more times in the Bible. The last will be one of the happiest. In Acts 1.14 she is specifically mentioned as being among the believers after Jesus’ ascension. Even his brothers now believe in him—the book of James is written by the eldest brother of Jesus.
Read John 19.25-27
What is happening in this section of Scripture?
Jesus is being crucified.
Why is it notable that Mary and the other women are where they are?
They have the courage to appear at the cross to watch Jesus. They are either not afraid of the authorities or at this point they could care less what could happen to them.
Who among all the big, tough disciples is also at the foot of the cross?
John is there, the brother of James, the author of this Gospel.
In The Passion of the Christ, ultra-Catholic Mel Gibson goes Catholic tradition one better. He places Mary in many scenes. She is there at the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate. She is admitted into the Roman Praetorium where they have flogged Jesus. She follows along the Way of Sorrows behind Jesus, sees Veronica wipe Jesus’ bloody brow with her handkerchief. In the traditional Stations of the Cross, Mary doesn’t catch up to Jesus until the death march to Golgotha. The proceedings on Good Friday started so early that it is highly likely Mary didn’t know about any of it until Jesus was marching off to his death. Certainly none of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus the night before were going to knock on her door and tell her how shamefully they had behaved.
How does that toughness we have earlier seen in Mary show itself now?
She gathers the strength to go out to Golgotha and stay there, watching her Son and Savior die with all the crowds mocking him.
Why would Mary need John to look after her?
Evidently she had no one of her family besides Jesus who was a believer who could look after her.
How well did John do his job?
From that day on he took her home and treated her as his own mother.
We started this study with the question, “What to do with Mary?”
Many in the Roman Catholic Church say we blaspheme God by our disrespect shown Mary. Hard-core Protestants (especially Evangelicals) do seem to go out of their way to ignore or downplay Mary, even hesitating to call her the Mother of God.
How can we show Mary the respect that is due her and the worship that is due only to God?
Coupled with this discussion question, consider the phrase for Mary, “Mary, the First Christian.”
We should preach the stories about Mary and tell them the way Mary wanted them to be told—focusing on the saving work of her Son. We should not denigrate Mary or make stupid jokes about her. But to pray to her, to elevate her to the level of Co-redemptrix, that dishonors everything she believed and stood for—faith in her Son. We should also teach Mary as a wonderful example for all Christians to follow, a gritty toughness that took her from calm meditation in a cold stable to heart-breaking pain as she courageously stood by her Son when so many others deserted him. Truly she was the first Christian, the first to know and believe that the Savior, so long promised, had come and was her son, Jesus.
Thank you for your time and effort which you put into this study!