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Blessed Among Women When it comes to Mary, the mother of Jesus, people often fall into two extremes: those who venerate her as more than a woman and those who ignore her all together. I have spent most of my years as a disciple of Jesus in the latter camp never thinking much about the woman God chose to give birth to the Messiah. Catholicism’s inordinate adoration of Mary (e.g. perpetual virginity, her intercession on behalf of the saints, her immaculate conception, and her assumption) has caused many Christians to neglect thoughtful consideration of the woman Jesus would have called “mamma” (Aramaic – ’emmah). An example of the excessive veneration of Mary is seen in the Ave Maria: 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. To say that this “prayer” stretches the amount of respect we are to give Mary is an understatement. There is not even a hint of any apostle or saint in the N.T. addressing Mary in prayer and asking for her intercession on their behalf (1 Tim 2:5). So what does the Bible tell us about the life of Mary and what should our attitude be toward her? It is interesting that so little attention is given to Mary in the Scriptures. Her presence in the Bible is mostly at the birth of Jesus, with a few brief inserts in the gospels and Acts 1. Her brevity in the Scriptures causes some to wonder why she is so exalted in the Roman Catholic Church. Mary is mentioned favorably in the events surrounding the conception and birth of Jesus. The angel Gabriel called Mary “favored one” and said to her “The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). This angel pointed out to Mary that she had “found favor with God” (Lk 1:30). Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, while “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:41), said to Mary, “Blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:42). In view of the promised birth of the Messiah, Mary said, “For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed” (Lk 1:48). After the birth of Jesus, when the shepherds came and revealed the heavenly message given to them in the fields, “all who heard it wondered…But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:18-19). Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem to “present Him to the Lord” (Lk 2:22). While there, Simeon (a righteous and devout man who was filled with the Holy Spirit) took the infant Jesus in his arms and blessed God greatly for the young Savior. Simeon then blessed Joseph and Mary, but He singled out Mary saying, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35). It was Mary, not Joseph, who anxiously questioned Jesus (in an apparent rebuking manner) for staying behind in Jerusalem when He was twelve years old. When discovering His reason and response, she “treasured all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51). After Jesus’ birth, the gospel writers use a neutral, unattached, tone, to depict references to Mary. In fact, the mother of Jesus is quite inconspicuous in the topics of choice for the Holy Spirit. It was at her suggestion that Jesus performed one of His first public miracles at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). Mary and her other sons came looking for Jesus when some of “His own people” tried to take custody of Him saying, “He has lost His sense” (Mk 3:21, also Matt 12:46-50). Mary faithfully stood by Jesus when He was on the cross (John 19:25). After the death and resurrection Jesus, Mary was in the assembly of the Apostles and disciples of Jesus in constant prayer (Acts 1:14). There is no further mention of Mary in the book of Acts or the Epistles. In spite of the scarcity of references, Mary will forever be the only woman in the history of the world chosen to conceive, give birth to, and raise the Son of God, making her truly “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42). Her humility, faith, and obedience to the Lord are worthy of imitation, but she is not to be worshipped in any way, nor is she to be considered our intercessor. Jesus made certain that this was understood in several of His comments (Matt 12:46-50, Mk 3:31-35). On one occasion a woman yelled out to Jesus in a large crowd, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But Jesus said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:27-28). Like Mary, we all are blessed of God when we do His will. --Caleb Cunningham

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