Mary and the Apostles, Part 1

Luke 1 & Mark 9-10

The quality of HUMILITY seen in the teenage Mary radiates within the pages of Luke chapter 1. Quite a contrast from the apostle, as we’ll see. First, let’s review what we see in Mary’s Magnificat as she worshiped and prayed.

  • And Mary said, behold, (I am) the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word, 1:38. This is humble submission to God’s will and providence.
  • And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 1:47. God saves the humble.
  • For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave, 1:48. God chose a humble teenage girl to mother the Son of God.
  • And His mercy is…toward those who fear him, 1:49. Reverence is the response of the humble toward God.
  • He has scattered the proud…and has exalted those who were humble, 1:51, 52.
  • He has given help to Israel His servant, 1:54. God hasn’t always blessed Israel’s pride and waywardness. But he always blesses them when they repent in humility. 

Fast Forward

Now, fast forward about 33 years. After Jesus spent nearly three years mentoring the disciples, we read of a scene that gives a stark contrast to the quality of humility seen in Mary.

They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He (Jesus) began to question them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ 

But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’ Mark 9:33-35


Kingdom Life

The disciples had constant issues with pride. It shows up everywhere in the gospels. It could be rooted in the fact that they clearly understood Old Testaments references of the Messiah as establishing a kingdom on earth. Yes, these prophecies will come true when Jesus comes to earth in power and might and touches down on earth in magnificent glory and splendor. But Jesus came the first time as a servant, to suffer and die, (Mark 10:45).

The disciples were consumed with aspirations of kingdom life. They had given up everything to follow Jesus with the hopes that they had hitched their wagons to the powerful and majestic Messiah. Very soon, they thought, we will be rewarded for following Him in humility. Soon they will be placed into positions of power. When Jesus subdues the Romans and takes over the leadership of Israel from the Pharisees, then the faithful disciples will live like princes in the Messiah’s kingdom. That was their dream!

With that context, read this story in Mark 10:35-45:

James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.  (If you’re a parent, your children probably used a similar strategy when they wanted something they knew you didn’t want to give them). And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?

They said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ (He was speaking of the suffering and persecution He was to endure shortly). They said to Him, ‘we are able.’ We are able. Really?


The Means and the Ends

Mary began with the ‘means’ of humility; to be a slave of Jesus. And Mary said, behold, (I am) the bondslave of the Lord…and left the ‘end’ to God:  may it be done to me according to your word, 1:38.

James and John had a different approach. They began with the ‘means’ of self-exaltation: to be great alongside Jesus. ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You. Their ‘end’ (so they hoped) was pre-determined by themselves: ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in glory.’


What a contrast!

Next time, we’ll dig in further into this stark contrast of humility and pride.

Father, subdue our pride and fleshly pursuits greatness. Instead, fill us with Your grace to serve and give ourselves away. There are many around us in need. Grant that we would have joy as we serve others as if we are serving You. May You be glorified in our simple acts of service and love. We are Your servants, and we are honored to do Your work here on earth. Amen!