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17. Mary, mother of Jesus
17-1 Mary: Our Representative || 17-2 Mary’s Character: 17-2-1 The Loneliness Of Mary || 17-2-2 The Spiritual Ambition Of Mary || 17-2-3 Hannah And Mary || 17-2-4 A Bible Mind: Mary And The Magnificat || 17-2-5 The Faith Of Mary || 17-2-6 Mary And The Virgin Of Isaiah 7 || 17-2-7 The Humility Of Mary || 17-3 Mary In Crisis: 17-3-1 Mary’s Crisis Of Faith || 17-3-2 Mary And Jesus In The Temple || 17-3-3 Mary At Cana || 17-3-4 Mary And Her Other Children || 17-3-5 Mary In Mid-Life Crisis || 17-3-6 The Jesus-Mary Relationship || 17-4 Mary’s Victory: 17-4-1 Mary At The Cross || 17-4-2 The Influence Of Mary || 17-4-3 The Psychological Matrix Of Jesus

CHAPTER 17: Mary


We have so often over-reacted against others’ error to the extent that we ourselves almost fall into error. A classic example of this is in our perception of Mary. We all tend to be children, and therefore victims, of reaction. Our recoil so often blinds us to some aspects of value in the things we reject. Over reaction against Roman Catholic abuses can lead us to almost overlook the woman who was and is to be blessed and honoured above all women; the woman whose genes and parenting contributed to the sinless Son of God. Gen. 3:15, the classic prophecy of the birth of Jesus, is actually a specific prophecy of Mary the woman who would give birth to the Lord. It was not to be merely " a woman"   but the seed of a specific woman, the Hebrew implies-  the woman, i.e. Mary. Her spiritual perception is really something to be marvelled at, bearing in mind it was developed and articulated in a teenager who was likely illiterate. All this said, Elisabeth Fiorenza sums up the other side of the reality of Mary: “The [correct image of the] young woman and teenage mother Miriam of Nazareth, probably not more than twelve or thirteen years old, pregnant, frightened and single… can subvert the tales of mariological fantasy and cultural femininity. In the center of the Christian story stands not the lovely ‘white lady’ of artistic and popular imagination, kneeling in adoration before her son. Rather it is the young pregnant woman living in occupied territory and struggling against victimization and for survival and dignity. It is she who holds out the offer of untold possibilities for… christology and theology” (1)

17.1 Mary: Our Representative

Mary is set up as the representative and epitome of all Israel / the people of God should have been. She was the seed of David, the daughter of Zion from whom Messiah came. The “highly favoured…blessed” woman (Lk. 1:28) is the daughter of Zion of Joel 2:21-27; Zeph. 3:14-17; Zech. 2:14,15; 9:9. She “rejoiced” as the daughter of Zion was to rejoice at the coming of her king. She was the “servant Israel”, the “handmaiden” (the female form of “servant”) who was now “holpen” by God (Lk. 1:54). “Blessed be the fruit (LXX offspring) of your womb” (Dt. 28:1,4) was the promise made to Israel- and these words are applied to Mary in Lk. 1:42. She was who the people of Israel were intended to be, and thus she becomes our representative. Brother Peter Watkins in his excellent book Exploring The Apocalypse even sees the woman of Revelation 12 as a symbol of the church expressed in terms of Mary- for it was her who gave birth to “the man child” Jesus, who is to subdue the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5 = 2:27; 19:15). The stars around her head would, if we let Scripture interpret Scripture, refer to Israel (Gen. 37). There are many links between Revelation and John’s Gospel, and thus it may be significant that in Jn. 19:25-27 Jesus calls Mary “Woman” and then in Revelation, He uses the same title for the “woman” who bears the man child. Yet the point of Revelation 12 is surely to show us from Heaven’s point of view the huge disruption in the universe caused by the birth of Jesus that night in Bethlehem. A baby’s birth, brought about by the quiet faith and indefatigable ambition of a teenage girl, shattered the whole cosmos. This is really what happens when we perform acts of faith based on slowly developed spiritual understanding. We do things which have cosmic consequences. We can, e.g., perform a baptism at which the whole cosmos becomes electric as all the Angels rejoice over a repentant sinner. But the view from here is that we’re just standing in a cold, muddy stream in some isolated valley in Europe or Africa or Argentina or Mongolia. 

Notice how some of the Lord’s very first words on opening His ministry were “Blessed (Lk. 1:48) are they which do hunger (Lk. 1:53) and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Lk. 1:53)” (Mt. 5:6). Clearly He is alluding to His mother’s own description of herself. It’s as if He stands up there before the hushed crowd and lays down His manifesto with those words. This was the keynote of what He had to say to humanity. Everybody was waiting to hear what His message really was. And this is what He said. He was saying ‘This, guys, is what I essentially and most fundamentally seek to inspire in you’. And He saw His dear mother as the epitome of the converts He was seeking to make. I lay great store by this allusion. For it makes Mary, at least at the time of the Angel’s visit, truly our pattern. She heard the glad tidings and believed that word in faith, holding on to it in her heart (Lk. 8:15,21). She was a model for all who hear the Gospel. It could even be that the language of Lk. 1:32,33,35 is framed in such a way as to make Mary appear to be the first person who heard the gospel about Jesus.  

Mary’s quotations and allusions to the OT are nearly all from the LXX, and it is almost certain that she would have been familiar with some of the Apocryphal books bound up with the LXX at that time. Consider the words of 4 Ezra 9:45, where Zion speaks as a barren woman: “God heard your handmaid and regarded my low estate, and considered my distress and gave me a son”. Clearly she saw herself as the representative of Zion. Moses told Israel that God “has done great things in you” [cp. In her womb?] (Dt. 10:21). She felt that God had helped her “His servant Israel”- alluding to Ps. 98:3 LXX “He has remembered His mercy to Jacob”. Unto us, Israel, a son was to be given (Is. 9:6 cp. Lk. 2:11), but it was actually given to Mary.  

Later Scripture seems to allude to Mary’s words of praise in Lk. 1 and set her up as a representative of us all. She speaks in Lk. 1:49 of her “low estate”, alluding to  Ps. 136:23, which describes us all in this way. In Lk. 2:19 we read that she “kept” God’s words in her, yet the Lord in one of His allusions to His dear mother says in Lk. 5:38 that we must preserve or “keep” [s.w.] the new wine of the Gospel in us. The Lord saw His mother as a pattern for us all. When He heard the comment “Blessed are the breasts which you sucked!”, His comment is to draw attention rather to the spiritual side of Mary: “Blessed are they [like My dear mother] who hear the word of God and keep it”. Thus He held her up as an example to them all; she shouldn’t be marvelled at just because of the fact she carried the Son of God (Catholics take note) but rather because of her reflective and tenacious attitude to the word of God.  

Bro. Paul Wyns has spotted the following connections: 

                REVELATION 1


Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein. (v.3)

Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it. (v.28)

Seven spirits (angels) before the throne. (v.4)

Contrast – seven unclean spirits invited into the house. (v.24-26)

The resurrected Christ – I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore. (v.12-19)

The sign of Jonah the prophet. (v.29-32)

The seven golden candelsticks. (v.12,13,20)

The parable of the lighted candelstick. (v.33-36)

The lesson for us is that the Lord even in His Heavenly glory alluded to his dear mother’s attitude, and held her up as the pattern for all His people. She had an eternal influence upon Him. Even in His Heavenly glory, the incidents of that day in Lk. 11, and the example of His mother, remained with Him. This is surely a trmendous incentive to parents- their influence on their children may be a factor in how their children will eternally be.  

Mary felt that through her being granted the honour of bearing Jesus, the hungry had been filled (Lk. 1:53). The Lord in Lk. 6:21 alludes to all this. He speaks of how blessed [=Mary] are the hungry who will be filled, using the same three words as in Lk. 1- blessed was Mary, the hungry, who was filled in her stomach.  He states that there is a blessedness upon all of us who believe (Jn. 20:29)- just as His mother was proclaimed blessed for her belief (Lk. 1:45).  

Mary was “highly favoured” (Lk. 1:28); yet the only other place the word occurs is in Eph. 1:6, where we are told that “He has made us accepted [highly favoured] in Christ”. Thus in the thinking of Paul and the Spirit, Mary is to represent all of us.  

Mk. 15:40,41 makes the point that the women who followed the Lord in fair weather times in Galilee also followed Him to the darkness of the cross: “There were also women beholding from afar: among whom were both Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the little and of Joses, and Salome; who, when he was in Galilee, followed him and ministered unto him”. Mt. 13:55 makes it apparent that Mary the mother of James and Joses is clearly enough Mary the mother of Jesus- for He had brothers of those names. She had followed Him to Cana, and now, she faithfully followed Him to the cross. But Rev. 14:4 alludes to all this by saying that all the redeemed follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Thus Mary and the ministering women, following even to the cross, become typical of us all. Not only following the Lord in popularity, but also in the real and radical demands of His cross.  

Mary Sees Herself As In Christ

Yet not only did Mary see herself as representative of Israel; she also felt a strong connection between herself and her Messiah Son. Any woman would feel this connection and identity with her child; but in Mary’s case, her child was the Son of God, Messiah of Israel. And she had the spiritual ambition to see herself in some way, thereby, as Messiah. Consider the evidence: 

- Lk. 1:38 “the handmaid of the Lord” uses the Greek female form for “servant of the Lord”, a clear title of Messiah.

- She appropriates words spoken in the spirit of Christ to herself: “You have reduced the proud to lowliness like a wounded thing: and by your powerful arm you have scattered your enemies” (Ps. 89:10 cp. Lk. 1:51-53).

- She refers to herself in saying that God has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy; yet His Servant was Messiah, according to Isaiah’s servant songs (Lk. 1:54,55).

- Lk. 1:28,42 “blessed among women” alludes to Jud. 5:24, as if Mary was already as Jael who had killed Sisera, an incident typical of the Lord's destruction of sin with the hammer of God's word. Mary is tied up with her son's victory- for He was part of her.  There is a parallel between Mary and the " fruit of thy womb" , they were both to be blessed together (:42), as if God recognized this link between the mother and Son. The fact He ‘allowed’ this, rather than just using a cold ‘channel’ for His purpose, is simply surpassing in its wonder.

- Her words of Lk. 1:47 “my spirit shall rejoice in God” allude to Ps. 63:11: “But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped”.  Mary parallels herself with “the King”, seeing herself as connected with Messiah.

- “The servant of the Lord" would rejoice in God: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God" (Is. 61:10), and yet Mary as the female " servant of the Lord" also rejoices, sharing the joy of her Son.

- Lk. 1:48 has Mary rejoicing: “All generations shall call me blessed”, alluding to how in Ps. 72:17 “all nations shall call him [Messiah] blessed”. Mary is equated with her son, Messiah, and she recognized this. He was part of her.

- Mary understood that through her conception, God had put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted them of low degree (Lk. 1:52). This clearly alludes to Ez. 21:26, where the princes are to be put down and him that is low is to be exalted, i.e. Messiah. But Mary felt that she had been exalted; thus she shared Messiah’s exaltation because He was in her and she in Him. We too are in Him, and we should feel something of the pride and joy, along with the suffering, that comes from that identification. She parallels her low estate with them of low degree (Lk. 1:48,52)- perhaps referring to her and Jesus?

- She appropriated the promises to Abraham’s seed [which according to Galatians 3:16 is one man, Jesus] to her personally (Lk. 1:55). 


(1) Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus- Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet: Critical Issues In Feminist Theology (New York: Continuum, 1994) p. 187.