Thursday, May 8, 2014

Does Jesus Disrespect Mary in Luke 11?

Q. You Catholics give too much honor to Mary! Don't you read the Bible? Look at what Jesus Himself says when a woman praised Mary to Him:

As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Lk 11:27-28
We have to always remember to read Scripture in context. There is an old saying, "a text without context becomes the pretext for a proof text." That is why Peter warns us that men can twist the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). I'm afraid that's what we have going on here.

To get context, let's go back to the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, the same Gospel you're quoting from, verse 38
 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.
Mary is the prime example of "those who hear God's word and keep it." Jesus isn't disrespecting Mary, He is correcting the woman. Mary is certainly blessed (remember the word's of the Spirit-filled Elizabeth, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb," also from the Gospel of Luke, 1:42), Jesus isn't contradicting the Spirit. The woman, however, was praising not the wrong person (i.e. Mary), but the right person for the wrong reason. Mary is blessed not primarily because she is the biological mother of Christ, but because she was docile to the Word of God. In fact, Mary's complete willingness to do God's will, is why she was able to assent to becoming the Mother of God in the first place!

We can also know that Jesus isn't disrespecting Mary, because Jesus is like us in all things except for sin (Heb 4:15). You'll certainly recall that breaking any of the Ten Commandments is a sin, a serious one at that. You'll also recall the fourth (third for Protestants) commandment, "Honor your father and mother." (Ex 20:12). If Jesus was disrespecting Mary, then He was breaking the fourth commandment. If He broke the fourth commandment, He sinned. But He never sinned. Therefore, Jesus couldn't possibly have disrespected Mary, at any time during His life, including in the scene recounted in Luke 11.

Jesus and Mary
Jesus and Mary


  1. In 6th grade catechism I tell the kids that Jesus' point is that her blessedness doesn't come from her status as His mother, but from what she does; she heard the Word of God, and observed it. Jesus is telling the crowd that blessedness comes from faithful works, not status. And notice he doesn't say, "...blessed are those who hear the word of God and believe it." Jesus knows real belief, real faith is shown by one's fruits, one's actions.

    1. Great point, Christian, especially about how we must not only believe the word of God (which even the demons do - and shutter! - James 2:19), but also act upon it. Faith without works, after all, is dead (James 2:14). Nice tie in!