17-2-7 The Humility Of Mary
Mary perceived the importance of humility. Her song of rejoicing is a
consciously arranged poem by her. It is in two strophes, each climaxing
with the themes of lowliness / exaltation. She saw humility as the true
exaltation, and the structure of her little song reflects this. She perhaps
prepared the song in her mind as she walked down from Nazareth to the
Judaean hills to meet Elisabeth; there is a rhyme established by the last
words of the four lines in Lk. 1:52,53: thronon with agathon,
and tapeinous with kenous. In all this she reached a
new paradigm for humility was a concept foreign to the first century mind.
Strength, wealth and ability were to be demonstrated; to show strength
by being humble was just unheard of. Only those who were forced into humble
submission by the stronger were ‘humble’. To clean the toilets when nobody
else notices, and the host of other such opportunities for service in
ecclesia life...this is the true humility, the real strength and exaltation
When Mary spoke of all generations calling her blessed, her mind was
in Gen. 30:13: " the daughters [i.e. future generations of
them] shall call me blessed" , and yet at the same time on Zilpah
the servant maid [cp. Mary the handmaiden] bearing Asher [happy]. These
women were seen by Mary as representatives of her. She was so humble to
compare herself with the servant girl. Yet she also had in mind Prov.
31:28 , where the virtuous woman is blessed by all. She saw herself as
the virtuous woman who excelled all- yet she was so humble. She was the
most highly favoured woman, but was so humble. It’s hard to know your
true value without being proud about it. It seems to me that we must learn
to value ourselves far more, to love our neighbour AS we do really love
/ respect ourselves, without being proud. The ability to see your own
worth and value in God’s purpose is crucial; we tend to be either
proud, or too negative about ourselves. Mary was so spiritually ambitious
to want to be the mother of Messiah, understanding He would be God manifest.
Mary realized that her great honour was being given in response to her
humility- God had regarded her “low estate (Lk. 1:48) , her humility.
She was humble enough to know God had noticed her humility- and still
not be proud about it. She had enough self knowledge to perceive this.
It’s as if she is saying ‘'Thank you for taking note of my humility' .
This is really a deep essay in humility- to recognize she was humble
without being proud about it. And to be able to say it sincerely. Mary’s
humility was programmatic for Jesus on the cross; for there He humbled
Himself that He might be exalted. This was the theme that, according to
Phil. 2, was ever in His mind.
In passing, one is hard pushed to find women-only scenes in contemporary
literature written during Biblical times. The women are presented in terms
of the men with whom they inter-relate. Yet Elizabeth and Mary are recorded
as having a conversation with no male present (Lk. 1:39-45); and there
are other such passages in Scripture (Gen. 19:32,34; 30:14,15; Ex. 2:1-10;
Jud. 5:28-30; Ruth 1:6-2:2; 3:16-18; 4:14-17; 2 Kings 5:2,3). The narrative
of the women at the tomb and the resurrection is another example (Lk.
23:55-24:4). In all these passages, the reader is invited to share the