If there’s one thing God makes certain throughout Scripture, it’s that not one of His chosen human conduits is without fault. This is to keep our eyes on the only human that was completely sinless, Jesus Christ. Roman Catholics make this mistake when they fix their focus on Mary, the mother of our Messiah. The unbridled devotion shown to the woman who birthed the Christ is misdirected, at best, and downright idol worship, at worst. But, how, we may ask could the mother of Jesus not be looked upon as holy and righteous since she was the woman who carried Him in her womb, nursed Him in His infancy, and raised Him up in her household of faith?
Although Mary recited words of worship of the Savior she’d been chosen to birth (Luke 1:46-55), this does not preclude her from falling into sin as her life played on. Think of the forefathers and the great faith they held, but also recount that each of them had moments of weakness and committed unrighteous acts. Abraham, Isaac, David, Moses, and so many more, were God’s chosen representatives, believing in and following His direction; but they all fell short of a life lived in complete and perfect obedience to the Law. This is what makes the realization that Mary herself was also given to sin such a seamless transition, even though it almost tastes blasphemous as I chew on the thought.
Soon after Jesus’ birth, angels appeared and spoke words of praise as the baby Jesus lay in the manger, followed by shepherds sent to also proclaim His arrival. Joseph and Mary were witness to these words of amazement (Luke 2:13-18). “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). It’s this “but” that struck me, as though what and how she is treasuring and pondering is questionable. And again, a “but” appears later in that chapter, as Luke recounts Jesus, at the age of twelve, hanging back at the temple as his parents travelled on unknowingly without their child. He is reprimanded by Mary for His disobedience, but “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).
I’m not going to assert that my interpretation of these verses is spot on, but only that the use of “buts” is enough to give me pause. Is it possible that, in the first scenario, Mary is hearing about the greatness of the son she just gave birth to and relishing that she is this child’s mother? How many of us Moms wouldn’t cherish, and perhaps, overemphasize the wonderment told to us about a child we’ve had to the point that our pride gets out of hand? In the second scenario, perhaps Mary was treasuring the obedience that her child had decided to show after she had found him at the temple? Would this be such a stretch as mothers can easily understand the appreciation of an obedient child, regardless of how misleading it may be? Could it be that Mary’s treasures were found in something other than what God would have her, and our, hearts set on?
In Mary’s defense, she wasn’t fully aware of her part in the summation of all that Jesus would accomplish. Even though her thoughts may have been overcome with all the holy hoopla surrounding her son, her limited knowledge of what was to come would eventually bring her pain as she witnessed the crucifixion. Simeon foretold this for her in Luke 2:34, “Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'” Surely, being the mother of the crucified and risen Christ must have revealed what was on her heart in those times Luke spoke of and, without a doubt, the sword of the Spirit, the Word that became flesh, pierced her soul.
God commands us to have our hearts set on Him and anything that competes with our focus on Him is idolatry, the sin that can seep in so effortlessly as we carry on our days. How could the love for our children become idolatrous? How could our pride get in the way of worshipping God and not self? How could our focus be marred and redirected towards anyone, or anything, other than our God, who calls Himself Jealous (Exodus 34:14)? A constant testing of where we place our treasure will suffice, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).