Mary, Queen of Heaven?
December 28 04
Now that Christmas is over, I'd like to reflect on a trend I saw this year. Perhaps you noticed it in your church's Christmas services. This year marked a shift in the Protestant church toward an emphasis on Mary. Many Christmas services this past week featured messages designed to make us more aware of the suffering of Mary and her importance in the Christmas story.
Why should we be careful not to put too much emphasis on Mary? Because Jesus didn't. We never see Jesus single out Mary for any kind of special treatment. She was no different than anyone who would do the will of God (Matthew 12:46-50) You may point to Mary and John at the cross when Jesus said to John, "Behold your mother" (John 19:26-27). All that this means is that Jesus is recognizing Mary as a widow (for we do not see Joseph at this point and it is assumed that he has been dead for some time) and Jesus, as the eldest son, had been taking responsibility for the care of His widowed mother. Now that Jesus was about to die, He was appointing John as caretaker. Note that Jesus' brothers were not, at this point, His followers. The Old Testament teaches that we are to care for widows and orphans and in Acts we see that certain disciples were appointed for that task in the Church (Acts 6).
Nowhere in scripture are we told that Mary is to be esteemed any higher than another brother or sister in Christ. I know that The Passion of the Christ has done much this year to further the Catholic teaching of the suffering virgin mother. In Catholicism, Mary is not only seen as suffering with Christ, but is seen as co-redeemer with Christ. How do they come up with that heresy? Precisely because Mary is viewed as sharing in the suffering alongside her Son. Her suffering, in the eyes of the Catholic church, is comparable to that of Christ's suffering, thereby giving Mary special status. The Catholic church goes so far as to believe that because Mary participated in the suffering, then her work is equal to that of Christ's work; thus, Mary is given the title Co-Redemptrix.
We don't do that in the Protestant Church. Well, not yet, at least. For now, we see more and more churches bringing Mary into the limelight. Her suffering in The Passion of the Christ has sparked many in the Church to embrace her far more than what the Bible would indicate is appropriate. Many in the Church now believe that Mary took Jesus off the cross and held His dead body in her arms when, in fact, the Bible very clearly states that it was Joseph of Arimathea who took Jesus' body from the cross and buried Him (Luke 23:50-53). Everything that we see Mary do in The Passion is very Catholic and that is precisely why it is in the movie.
In the Protestant Church, Mary was just another disciple, just another obedient Jewish follower whom God used. But this year, we see statues of Mary coming into the Protestant Church. There are United Methodist churches, for example, that have brought Our Lady of Guadalupe into the congregation to make the Hispanic congregants feel more comfortable. The United Methodist church as a denomination has, so far, condoned the action. This is one example among, I'm sure, hundreds across America, in all denominations, where Mary is being exalted as co-sufferer with Christ. In the Catholic church, murals and statues depict Mary above Jesus. Will there come a day when the Protestant churches will follow suit? Even now, they have embraced the Catholic The Passion of the Christ, even calling the movie Biblically accurate. So where do we draw the line? Or will the line between recognizing Mary's suffering and exalting Mary be so blurred that we will not even know when we've crossed it?
The New Testament says very little about Mary and if we read the Gospels we will see that there were at least a few other Mary's who were also followers of Christ. In fact, Mary Magdalene and Mary the sister of Lazarus are given almost as much attention as Mary the mother of our Savior. In fact, it was the other Mary's and Salome who discovered that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. They were the ones who had prepared the spices for His burial. It was Mary Magdalene who first saw the resurrected Jesus. His mother is nowhere to be found in these events. Then, of course, we have the apostles who were given a much greater emphasis, particularly those who wrote part of the Bible. In all of these cases, we see that those who were called by God to follow Him gave the glory to God, not themselves.
The Bible is clear that in the end times there would come great deception and a falling away from the truth. Yet it is the same lie that repeats itself throughout history and this generation is not immune. The Catholic church calls Mary the Queen of Heaven. That is exactly what the pagans call Semiramis, the mother of Tammuz. Worship of the mother is not new. In fact, we see that some 2500 years ago, God's wrath was spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet toward those who worshipped the queen of heaven. See Jeremiah chapters 7 and 44. Also read Ezekiel 8.
So, where is the Church headed today? Are we sliding down that slippery slope of idolatry? Will the Church merge with Catholicism to form one world Church? Well, the Protestants seem to have no problem in exalting men like Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, and Pat Robertson who have all been very instrumental in the ecumenical movement and have close ties with the Catholic church. And, of course, the Church, with very few abstentions, wholeheartedly embraced The Passion of the Christ.
We must be vigilant in these last days, knowing that the devil "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).