Throughout the years I’ve heard lots of things about Mary and about people’s views of Mary. There are those who sing her praises and those who seem to go out of their way to downgrade her role in Jesus’ life. One phrase I’ve heard many times is, “Mary was just a vessel.”
“Mary was just a vessel,” with the emphasis on “just.” The insinuation here is that God was looking around Earth for a suitable surrogate, spotted Mary and said, “Hey, Gabe! There’s a promising one. Why don’t you go ask her?” Mary was not “just” a vessel anymore than I am “just” a vessel to bring six souls into this world. Some may argue that Jesus, being God was different. Remember, Jesus became Man. He chose to lay down His equality with God to become Man. For thirty-three years He laid aside the rights of His divinity to live fully as Man.
Thomas Howard said in Evangelical is Not Enough that evangelicals aren’t comfortable with the Incarnation. Both Nolan and I were taken aback at that comment, but I understand now what he means. The emphasis among evangelicals is so much on Jesus’s divinity, that we forgot that He went through a genuine growing-up process. Yes, He’s God, but He’s also fully, completely, totally a human being. And every human person needs a mother, and not just to get into this world.
Jesus needed a mother not just to nurse Him as a baby and change His diapers. She nurtured Him, loved Him, protected Him, taught Him the Scriptures and His prayers. She gave Him chores to do and curfews. I used to think Mary had it easy since she had a child without sin, but I wonder how often she had to mediate when He was accused by someone else of doing something she knew He didn’t do! How often was she unjustly accused to being over-indulgent to her Son?
Jesus never sinned, but we know He was tempted and in the same way and to the same degree as any other man has been tempted. Probably more. Yet, He lived a perfect life, fully obeying all the Commandments. And those Commandments include, “Honor your father and your mother.”
Imagine what you would think of a young man who heard someone complimenting his mother on what a fine young man he turned out to be, who would then say to that person, “Look. I’m the important one here. You really don’t need to discuss this with her. After all, she’s just a vessel.” Wow! Whatever positive opinion you’d had of him would be shot! History is full of prose and poetry in honor of mothers. If mere men could write such verse, what do you think Jesus would write about His own mother? Especially when He had the privilege of creating her?
Venerable (Bishop) Fulton Sheen said:
“We should not be surprised that she is spoken of as a thought by God before the
world was made. When Whistler painted the picture of his mother, did he not have
the image of her in his mind before he ever gathered his colors on his palette?
If you could have preexisted your mother (not artistically, but really), would
you not have made her the most perfect woman that ever lived—one so beautiful
she would have been the sweet envy of all women, and one so gentle and so
merciful that all other mothers would have sought to imitate her virtues? Why,
then, should we think that God would do otherwise? When Whistler was
complimented on the portrait of his mother, he said, “You know how it is; one
tries to make one’s Mummy just as nice as he can.” When God became Man, He too,
I believe, would make His Mother as nice as He could—and that would make her a
perfect Mother. ”