We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Questions for Further Thought
- How did Pastor Kenny describe Mary as a disciple of Christ?
- Which aspect of Mary's discipleship impacts you the most?
- What is the significance of Acts 1:14 in light of Mary's role as mother and disciple?
- In what ways is it helpful for us to view Mary as a disciple of Christ and not only the mother of Jesus?
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
This is the first weekend of Advent and this message from Luke 1 will, I pray, begin the Advent season appropriately and continue our series of sermons on discipleship. My aim is that God might strengthen our faith in his saving might and mercy to us in Christ. And I pray that God would work in us an attitude of humility as we follow Jesus as his disciples.
Mary Among the Disciples
After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, Acts 1:12 describes those gathered in the Upper Room prayerfully awaiting as Jesus instructed for the promised Holy Spirit.
They went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (Acts 1:12–14).
That passage in Acts is the last mention of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the New Testament. The first mention of Mary is in Luke 1, along with the shorter parallel passage in Matthew 1.
When I discovered Mary, the mother of Jesus, listed among the disciples in Acts chapter 1, I thought it would be fitting to view her as a disciple of Jesus and see what we can learn from her relationship with God and Christ. She gives birth to Jesus, watches him die on a cross, and then is present with the other disciples, praying with them.
Protestants and Roman Catholics hold differing views on the person, position, and authority of Mary.
Should We View Mary as Blessed?
Yes. Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, was filled with the Holy Spirit and greeted Mary with these words, in Luke 1:42, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Mary herself acknowledges God’s blessing upon her life in her song, in Luke 1:48, “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”
In all human history, God appointed one and only person to be the mother of his Son, Christ. No other woman in the universe will serve as the mother of the Christ. In this, we see her blessedness. Paul writes to the church in Rome, “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:9). To the Philippians, Paul writes regarding Epaphroditus, his partner in ministry, “receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ” (Philippians 2:29-30). So also, I believe we should honor her, to think honorably of Mary as the mother of Jesus because of her unique role in salvation history and her labor for the work of the Lord.
Should We Worship Mary?
No. Mary is a human being like you and me, a woman. She is seated with the disciples in Acts 1, waiting for the Holy Spirit, along with Peter, John, James and the rest. The Bible never ascribes divinity to Mary or calls us to worship Mary. It is unbiblical and idolatrous to worship Mary.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry a woman shouted out an exaltation of Mary, and Jesus corrected her. “A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!' But he said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'” (Luke 11:27-28).
Yet sadly, for centuries and continuing to the present day, millions of people have viewed Mary as central to their worship. Throughout history, the veneration of Mary has been abundant, ranging from shrines to artwork, especially in the Middle Ages and to some extent the Renaissance.
The veneration of Mary has continued, not only in Catholic circles, but also in popular culture. For instance, the associated press reported in November of 2004 that a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich with one bite taken out of it sold on eBay for $28,000 because the sandwich bore the image of a woman claimed to be the image of the of the Virgin Mary.
How Should We View Mary in Relation to Our Salvation?
The Bible teaches that God alone saves us, through the atoning death of His Son Jesus Christ. Clearly Mary is not our Savior; Christ is.
- Christ alone is our Redeemer, not Mary: The Bible never describes her as “Co-Redemptrix”—a joint redeemer with Christ. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13).
- Christ alone is our mediator, not Mary: “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
- Christ is our intercessor, not Mary: Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
- Christ is our helper, along with the Holy Spirit, not Mary: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16).
View Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a profoundly blessed follower of Jesus. View her as a blessed fellow disciple. Honor her,as the Bible says we will and as Paul says we should, for her labor in the Lord for the glory of Christ and spread of the gospel. She followed Jesus and so, like Paul, she might say, “Follow after me as I follow after Christ.” Mary’s life pointed to her son and her God, not to herself. She worshipped God alone as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Summary of Luke 1:26-38
Mary’s path to joining with the disciples in the Upper Room began with the sovereign intervention of God when God sent an angel to her with a message—actually a proclamation of the gospel of salvation and a revelation of her part in bringing it about. In our text, God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, a woman betrothed to marry Joseph, a carpenter. Mary was a virgin. Verse 27 says it twice. She had not been sexually intimate with any man. She was very likely an average teenager of marriageable age.
Marriages were typically arranged with the girl’s father by the bridegroom or his parents. The commitment of betrothal was a legal act as binding as marriage. In fact, ending a betrothal involved divorce. Both Mary and Joseph were descendants of King David and lived in Nazareth, a poor peasant town of Israel.
Gabriel, the angel from God, spoke to Mary, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! But she [Mary] was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be" (vv. 28-29). Mary was “greatly disturbed” because she, understandably, didn’t know what the greeting “O favored one, the Lord is with you” meant. So far, Mary has been told that God has sovereignly favored her but didn’t yet understand what that meant. The angel explained what this grace entailed. Verse 30, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus."
The angel continued telling her that she will carry in her womb the Son of God, the heir of the throne of King David. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (vv 32-33).
Mary replied to Gabriel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”(v 34). Gabriel answered Mary and explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (v 35). The manner of this conception will not be natural but supernatural. Don’t think that there was any kind of sexual relations between God and Mary. That is not what the angel says. God is spirit. Mary would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of God.
For the benefit of Mary’s faith, Gabriel informs her that her relative Elizabeth, who was unable to conceive, was at that very moment miraculously six months into pregnancy (carrying John the Baptist). Then the angel adds, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (v 37).
Now at this point we can summarize the angel’s message about Mary’s child in three points:
1. This child will be the Son of Mary and the Holy Son of God (vv. 31-32). Mary’s son will be a human being, carried to term within Mary’s uterus. Yet, Mary was a virgin and the conception of the child was by the Spirit of God. Thus, Mary’s son is a human being and also the divine Son of God. As the angel explained, he will be the “Son of the Most High God" (v. 32), not merely the son of Mary.
And again the angel explained, that conceived by the Holy Spirit this child would be holy—a sinless divine/man suitable to offer his life as a ransom for us. Verse 35,“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God." This is the sign of the Messiah according to the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (“God with us)” (Isaiah 7:14).
2. This child will be the Savior (v. 31). She will call him Jesus, meaning “Savior." From Matthew 1 we know that an angel later explained this to Joseph in a dream saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21).
3. This child will be the Eternal King (v. 33). God will give him the throne of Mary’s grandfather from several generations prior, King David. “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary’s son would be the Holy Son of God and son of Mary, the divine-human Savior and Everlasting King. But with Mary, there is not a hint of unbelief. She replied to the angel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). Mary then departed to spend the next three months with Elizabeth (Luke 1:56), presumably until John the Baptist was born.
If you look at Mary as a disciple of Jesus, like apostles or other disciples, then we might ask, “What can we learn about being a disciple from her?” Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Do you see Jesus in his person, his office, his work? This is the son of Mary, the son of David, the Son of God. My hope is that you would see Jesus stand forth from his word.
Five Ways We Can Imitate Mary in Her Response
Paul urges us to be imitators of himself, as he is an imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16). Then he adds a helpful clarifier in 1 Corinthians 11. How can we emulate her faith in response to the gospel and following Jesus?
1. Imitate the submission of Mary to the will of the Lord. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v 38). This is a work of grace that Mary can submit to the word of God. This is the opposite of the mind set on the flesh that cannot submit to God’s law (Romans 8:7). This is no easy thing. Simeon, an old man at the temple, prophesied to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
So quite early on, Mary knows she is in for a life of much grace and much hardship. She will have the blessing of nursing Jesus, and she will have the grief of watching her innocent son mocked, beaten and die by crucifixion. Her submission to the will of God is to be imitated. May God give us grace to submit (James 4:7) ourselves to the will and word of the Lord.
2. Imitate Mary’s faith in the promises of God’s Word. Elisabeth said to Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). May God give us grace to believe the promises of God and live accordingly.
3. Imitate her worship of God’s might and mercy. Mary worships God as her mighty and merciful savior. "And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation" (Luke 1:46-50). May God give us grace to worship him at all times in his sovereignty and in his grace and mercy to us. May we never doubt neither his sovereignty nor his grace due to circumstances.
4. Imitate her meditation on the gospel. Twice the Bible tells us of Mary’s meditation on how the salvation story played out in her life. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). "And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51b). May God give us grace to treasure the gospel story played out in our own lives by the work of God’s Spirit and the promises of God’s word.
5. Imitate her humility. In the flesh Mary might be tempted to boast of her role, her status, her grace. But there is not a hint whatsoever of such boasting. When she looks at her own blessing, she sees how undeserved she is. Mary says, “he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).
May God give us grace to be humble before God and before other people. May God give us discipleship grace to follow Mary as she followed after her son, Christ. “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).