I have so many questions about Mary. Why is it important that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born? Why do some people worship Mary? Can you help me learn more about her?
Can you imagine that Mary, as the mother of Jesus, was a critical figure in His life? And that she might be an important person for us to understand as we come to know more about Jesus? I’d like to share with you the ten questions that I receive most often about Mary and the Virgin Birth, as well as how God used her in Jesus’s life and ministry. Let’s begin:
Question One: Why is the Virgin Birth so important?
The foundation of all Christianity rises or falls on the truth of the virgin birth.
If a man impregnated Mary, as many have claimed, then Jesus could not be fully God. He’d be like every other human on the earth; He would have died and His body would have decayed just like anyone else’s. But, the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary, enabling Him to be both fully God and fully human.
This truth, called “the hypostatic union” by theologians, is a critical tenet of our faith. Because He is fully God and fully human, Jesus was able to pay the price for all our sin through His death and resurrection. (See Galatians 4:4; 1 Timothy 2:5.)
Question Two: Why are there so many different, even seemingly contradictory accounts of Jesus’s birth?
For example, Luke tells us that Jesus was born in a stable and placed in a manger (See Luke 2). Matthew describes Jesus and His family in a house (see Matthew 2). Luke tells us that the sky was filled with stars. Matthew tells us that there was only one star … and it moved.
Deciphering the puzzle is simple. The record in Matthew is from Matthew’s point of view. We find here kings and riches and expensive gifts, everything needed to sustain Jesus and his family for two years in Egypt. Luke shares the record of the birth of Christ from his perspective, describing that very first night in Bethlehem.
Each account is true, and when we pay close attention to the timeline and historical data, the puzzle pieces fit together.
Question Three: Why did God choose Mary?
Gabriel brought to Mary the news that she had “found favor with God” and would give birth to a son to reign forever on David’s throne (Luke 1:30–33).
Mary was of the right lineage. Luke traces her lineage through David, Boaz, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. Her son would be qualified to bear the title “Son of David” and be the righteous “Branch” that was to come from David’s family (Isaiah 11:1).
Next, Mary engaged a man whose heritage required him to visit Bethlehem at just the right time. Micah 5:2 foretold the birthplace of the Messiah, pinpointing Bethlehem in Judah. Many virgins may have known God’s favor and may have descended from King David’s line, but not many would also be in the small town of Bethlehem when it was time for the Messiah to be born.
Also, Mary was from Nazareth. Prophecies given hundreds of years before Jesus’s birth declared that the Messiah would be of little reputation (Isaiah 53; Zechariah 9:9; cf. Matthew 2:23). To be called a Nazarene or a Galilean was something of an insult in those days (see John 1:46). Had Mary been wealthy, socially prestigious, or from an affluent city, Jesus could not have easily connected with lowly people, the ones He’d come to save (Luke 19:10; Mark 2:17). But because He was from Nazareth, Mary’s hometown, the humility and commonness prophesied about Him was fulfilled.
Question Four: Did Jesus have any brothers and sisters?
Mary remained a virgin until the Savior’s birth, but later she and Joseph gave Jesus four half-brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). Jesus also had at least two half-sisters, although they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:55–56).
Note that Jesus’s brother, Judas is not Judas the disciple who betrayed Jesus. In fact, before His death and resurrection, Jesus’s brothers didn’t believe He was who He said He was (John 7:5). But in remarkable evidence of Jesus’s resurrection, Jesus’s brothers all came to believe in Him. James even served as the leader of the early church in Jerusalem and wrote the book of James.
Question Five: Did Mary need a Savior?
Yes! We all need a Savior. Mary recognized herself as a sinful human being who needed Jesus Christ as her savior, even when the angel Gabriel declared her “highly favored.” (Luke 1:28), (see Luke 1:46-47).
Question Six: Is there any biblical evidence that Mary was worshiped?
Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus or anyone else direct any praise, glory, or adoration toward Mary. Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, praised Mary in Luke 1:42–44, but her praise is based on the blessing of giving birth to the Messiah rather than any inherent glory in Mary. In fact, after this, Mary spoke a song of praise to the Lord, thanking Him for His faithfulness to her, even though she was a “humble servant” (Luke 1:46–55).
Question Seven: Why was Mary present at the crucifixion of her Son?
She was present at the cross when Jesus died (John 19:25), no doubt feeling the “sword” that Simeon had prophesied. He said a sword would pierce her soul. Can you imagine the horror of seeing your Son brutally executed? She must have felt such agony. But God the Father witnessed the same scene. He must have grieved too. It was there at the cross that Jesus asked John to serve as Mary’s son, and John took Mary into his home (John 19:26–27).
If Mary had any doubts about her son’s deity after all the persecution He received, she would have been reassured by the darkness of the sky and the earthquake that accompanied His death. The centurion was convinced. He cried, “Truly this is the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).
Question Eight: What became of Mary after Jesus’s resurrection?
Mary was also with the apostles and her sons on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14), when the Holy Spirit came down and filled Christ’s followers. However, Mary is never mentioned again after Acts 1. The apostles did not give Mary a prominent role. The Bible does not record Mary’s death and does not mention her ascending to heaven or having an exalted role there.
I do hope that in heaven, I have the chance to ask her all of my own questions about what she experienced as Jesus’s mother. What a childhood He must have had!
Question Nine: Why do the Roman Catholics believe Mary remained a virgin throughout her life?
Roman Catholics believe that “Mary conceived and gave birth to her Son without any damage to her virginity and she remained a virgin also after the birth” (Denzenger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum).
The perpetual virginity of Mary is a major doctrine of the Catholic church. However, the Scriptures clearly teach the virgin birth of Jesus, but they do not support the idea that Mary was always a virgin. Mary and Joseph had many other children together (see question four above). For example, in Matthew 13:55-56 we read: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?”
Question Ten: Should Mary be venerated and worshiped?
The Bible nowhere indicates that Mary can hear our prayers or that she can mediate for us with God. Jesus is our only advocate and mediator in heaven (1 Timothy 2:5). If she were offered worship, adoration, or prayers in person, Mary would say the same as the angels: “Worship God!” (See Revelation 19:10; 22:9.)
In fact, Mary herself sets the example for us, directing her worship, adoration, and praise to God alone: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. from now on all generations will call me blessed, for The Mighty One has done great things for me — Holy is His Name” (Luke 1:46–49).
I hope I’ve helped you understand more about Mary and the virgin birth, her relationship with Jesus, and what we can learn from her. Please let me know if you have other questions.