Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Jesus Obeyed the Fifth Commandment - Therefore Mariolatry is ok?
12/07/2010 - Tur8infanJesus explicitly repudiated people who singled out his mother for special attention. For example:
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
When we bring up the fact that Jesus explicitly repudiated people who singled out his mother for special attention, however, we sometimes get a zinger like this one: "Our Lord obeyed all the commandments including ‘honor your mother and father’ and did not repudiate her." (Sean Patrick)
This zinger is faulty for a couple of reasons:
1) Of course, no one is arguing that Jesus sinned. Jesus could say that his flesh and blood relationships with his physical siblings and mother are basically insignificant compared to the relationship every believer has by faith in Christ, without breaking the fifth commandment.
2) The zinger assumes that Jesus was under Mary's authority. It's tempting to make this argument because Mary was - as to his humanity - his mother. But Jesus was unlike every other child - he was his own mother's creator. She owed her existence to him in a much more important way than the way in which he owed his existence (i.e. only the existence of his human nature - and only by choice) to her. It is no dishonor to her, therefore, for Him to repudiate the idea of her having either special devotion or any special privileges with respect to him in the Kingdom of Heaven.
3) The Mariolaters are actually in good company in making this error in reasoning. Peter (who Jesus called Simon here, demonstrating to us that the name "Peter" was a surname, not a change in name) made a similar mistake.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Jesus was Jewish and within the realm of the Roman empire, but whether this was the temple tax or the Roman tribute, Christ was not required to pay. And remember that tribute and honor are different, but fall within the same general category of duties of the fifth commandment.
Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
4) Moreover, Mary herself repudiates this error. Remember that Mary herself describes herself as the "handmaid of the Lord" (ἡ δούλη Κυρίου) not as His mistress. What a strange thing it would be to assert (without divine authority) that it is the handmaid who has authority over the Lord!
5) The only times we have Mary acting in something like an authoritative way toward Jesus, we see her getting shot down:
a) The attempts to get Jesus to come out from the midst of the crowd:
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, He hath an unclean spirit. There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
And – of course – his comments in Luke 11:27-28 (quoted above) fit right in with his other teachings about who his true mother and brethren are in contrast to his physical mother and brethren (sorry if the idea of Mary having children with her husband offends you).
b) The attempt to get Jesus to perform a miracle:
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
Some people say that because Jesus nevertheless obliged his mother, that it proves he was under some sort of duty to do so. But if you really follow that reasoning, you should note that the servants also did what Mary suggested. Do you think they considered themselves under an obligation to obey her? Surely not.
c) The scolding of Jesus for staying in Jerusalem when his family went home:
And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
6) On the contrary, Jesus both ordered his mother and handed off his filial relationship / responsibilities to one of his disciples.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
This zinger to which we've responded to is simply one response that Rome's apologists offer. One of the zinger's co-bloggers tried to come to his assistance with this:
That being said, on the surface it might appear that Jesus is doing what you say Our Lord is doing, repudiating devotion to His mother. But, let us remember Luke as a whole.(Tom Reillo)
But this gets a similar response to the response we've given above. The whole of Luke (and of the gospels generally) supports our position regarding Jesus and his attitude toward to his biological mother.
The commenter continued:
As a reader of the Gospel, we have already learned that Mary is one who has received the Word of God, namely at the Annunciation, “may it be done according to thy word.” And she, we are told, kept the things concerning Her Son in her heart. As Pope John Paul II pointed out in his beautiful reflections on Mary, rather than being repudiated, the reader would already know that Mary is the model of discipleship, she receives the Word of God and she holds that Word deep within her and ponders and cherishes them in her heart.But actually:
And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
a) Note that Jesus "was subject to them." Not to "her," meaning to Mary, but to them - both Mary and Joseph (whom Mary referred to as Jesus "father"). Of course, Joseph has no paternal authority over Jesus now - and people should realize that Mary likewise has no maternal authority over Jesus now either.
b) Note that Jesus "was subject to them." The Greek is "ἦν ὑποτασσόμενος" which is a periphrastic pluperfect. The sense of the verb conveys to us that there was a then existing state of obedience of Jesus to his earthly parents. It was, however, a then-existing state. At that time, he submitted to his earthly parents' request and left Jerusalem.
c) Note most of all "they understood not the saying which he spake unto them." Mary remembered all the things that Jesus said, but she did not understand them. That she kept them in her heart makes her valuable as Luke's eyewitness, but not particularly admirable as a disciple - especially when Mary herself understood the manner in which Jesus had been conceived.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
Again, Mary is apparently Luke's eyewitness to the events, but she "wondered at those things which were told ... by the shepherds," meaning (it appears) that she did not really understand.
d) "Ponders and cherishes(?) them in her heart" - Notice that this commenter has gone beyond the text in a significant way. He adds in the idea that Mary loved the things that she pondered. The text does not say this, nor does it imply it. It's simply an addition.
e) "receives the Word of God and she holds that Word deep within her" - Like many unauthorized typographies, this one breaks down in a rather dramatic way, namely that after nine months of holding Jesus deep within her, Mary pushed him out, never to return! That would make for a terrible illustration of what it means to be a disciple, so naturally the extremely selective mariolater cannot mention that detail. And, of course, there's no connection between that typology and Mary's pondering the things that the shepherds and Jesus said, although the commenter makes it sound as though the two ideas are connected.
In short, while the commenter is right that we need to look at Luke and the gospels as a whole, the whole does not change the perspective we gained from Luke 11:27-28. Jesus repudiated Mariolatry. The fact that Mary was, according to the flesh, Jesus' mother does not change anything. Indeed, in the kingdom of heaven anyone who believes is Jesus' brother and sister and mother. Could Jesus have said it more clearly? I certainly don't think so.