Mary as Intercessor in Scripture

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There are two places where Mary acts as intercessor in Scripture:

John 2:1-6
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece…

Acts 1:12-14
Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas [the brother] of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

In the Gospel of John, there are numerous events that are anticipatory of the new creation. This is clearly one such case: note the changing of water into wine, the fact that this is a marriage feast (Christ and the Church), and the manifestation of Jesus’ glory. Mary’s intercession comes in close association with the world to come.

In Acts, the scene is in an upper room, paralleling the Eucharist in Luke. This scene is a manifestation of the unity, authority, and glory of the Church, right after Jesus’ departure at a time of crucial decision and determination. Mary participates in the prayer that begins the first and greatest evangelistic outreach.

We already know that those in heaven are interceding for us (Rev. 5:8, 8:3-4). We already know that they are aware of what is happening on earth (Rev.6:9-11). The Saints have powers that are far beyond our present earthly abilities (Mat 17:1-3). It is okay to pray to (=ask of) angels that they would praise God with us (Psalms 103:20-21). If Mary’s intercession is so intimately connected with the new creation and the inbreaking of the kingdom of God (both of which we participate in) why not pray to her?

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8 Responses to “Mary as Intercessor in Scripture”

  1. Drew Says:

    In regards to the Gospel of John reference , I find your argument hard to buy. Mary believes that her son is the son of God, and can thus do miracles. Good. She better believe that, otherwise she needs to rethink how she got pregnant! Then Jesus did the miracle according to her faith. That sounds like every other miracle in the Gospel. The agent had faith, then Christ performed a miracle that confirms the faith. So, what that Mary does this as well. This proves that Mary is an intercessor as well as it proves that every person of faith in the gospel is an intercessor.

    Acts 1: 12-14 proves nothing but Mary was close to Jesus and close to those who were close to Him. I will openly endorse her as likely the most faithful among that group. She believed that He was Lord since his conception. She certainly is to be praised for her faith, but so are all other saints.

    So, you give me Mary as someone who is intimately connected to the starting of the church. Ok, I think Abraham fulfills this criteria better than Mary does. Heck, Mary is pregnant real quickly, it took decades for Abraham to get Sarah pregnant. Abraham also interceded for Lot (actually Sodom, but that was a lost cause) and that gives him some credence that Mary does not seem to have. He seems just as qualified as Mary, only the passage of time makes a difference.

    If you really need an intercessor, why don’t you pray to someone whom scripture actually references as an intercessor? Pray to Moses, because he interceded for Israel on many occasions. Also, the Israelites came to him for intercession. Moses seems an ideal intercessor, not Mary.

  2. MG Says:

    Drew–

    The point about the Gospel of John is that people go *through Mary* in getting the patronage of Jesus. She is (to use the sociological term–see David DeSilva’s “Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture”) a *broker* of grace who acts as an intermediary between clients (those seeking goods and services) and a patron (the dispenser of gifts). The people wanted wine, and so Mary addressed Jesus on their behalf. She also commanded people in accomplishing her Son’s will. This is different from other instances when people directly approach Jesus for miraculous healing, forgiveness, etc. Mary is doing something out of the ordinary here. I don’t claim this proves she must be prayed to now, but it does lend support to the idea that there is a connection between the Mother of God and the new creation.

    With Acts 1, I think its saying more than that Mary is the most faithful person there. Mary is praying with the Apostolic Church, and is singled out by her title of association with Jesus. Because of the position of this scene in the narrative (it resembles the Eucharist in Luke, and hence is a manifestation of the Church’s mystical unity as the Body of Christ; and it is a time when the glory, authority, and purity of the Church is at its highest) it has special significance. We have to admit that this is a special time for the spreading of God’s kingdom, and that this primarily happens through the evangelism that follows after the Church’s prayer. I don’t claim this proves that we must make intercessory prayer to Mary, but it does give her intercession a privileged location in the narrative of Christianity.

    As for Abraham, we do pray to him as well, so I endorse the conclusion of your argument. However, I think Mary was more faithful and special than Abraham. Mary is one through who the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham’s descendants is accomplished (Luke 1:55).

    Couldn’t it be argued that the short time that it takes for God to do his work with Mary indicates that her faith was greater than Abraham’s–that she was more responsive to God’s requests? This doesn’t seem too ridiculous or implausible, to say Mary had such a great faith; after all, there are only two people who are called “full of grace” in the Bible, and Abraham isn’t one of them.

    Regarding praying to Moses, we do that too. In making these arguments, we need to keep in mind, though, that the things of the new creation surpass those of the old. Because Mary’s pregnancy is the first step in the process of the new creation, we should put her on a higher pedestal than saints of the old creation. And there’s more evidence in favor of her specialness that I have briefly touched on above, as well as mentioning in my post on veneration of Mary in Scripture. Also I will be writing a post in the near future exploring the biblical data on her status as Ark of the New Covenant, and the implications this has for Mariology.

    What I’m wondering is why, given these points and the ones I made in the last paragraph of my post (about the hearing, praying, miraculous power, etc. of the saints in heaven) we shouldn’t pray to Mary or other saints. Is it because its not explicitly stated in Scripture that we should? That would be a peculiar reason to not do it; the support for traditional teachings about the Saints in Scripture is at least as high as it is for many Protestant doctrines. Besides, we don’t want to interpret and believe according to the letter in Scripture, only believing in what is explicitly stated or endorsed. It would be ironic if Protestants only believed in what is explicitly endorsed or approved in the Bible, given their desire to avoid legalism. At that point they would also have to throw out the perpetual virginity of Jesus and the idea that women can take the Eucharist, which would be a bummer… not to mention Sola Fide. After all the only time that “faith alone” is said in the Bible is immediately preceded by the negation “not by”.

    But once we open up to an exegetical method that doesn’t demand conformity to what is explicitly stated or permitted, the support for intercessory prayer to saints is hard to shut our eyes to. Biblical and theological principles favor it; cultural concepts implicit in Scripture favor it; previous Jewish practice favors it; and there are some places in Scripture that are arguably references to it. I can make a more complete case for this if you would like…

  3. Drew Says:

    John 2:3-5
    And when they wanted wine, the servants approached the mother of Jesus and said there is no more wine. The mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

    I added a little bit to verse three. Ok, a lot to verse three. Mary is not clearly an intercessor in this passage. John does not show the servants coming to Mary for their needs, instead Mary simply states a need that could be from the servants or from her own observation. Your argument would be pretty strong if the servants clearly came to her first. Actual intercession would occur.

    Acts 1:12-14. Well I just don’t see intercession here. Mary prays, as do the 11 and “the women.” However, intercession requires a third party that the intercessor is interceding for. So, who is Mary praying for in this scene?

    I don’t want to deny that Mary could possibly be an intercessor, nor that man should not pray to saints. That is not what I am aiming to disprove, in this argument. Instead, I believe that there are those in scriptures who are intercessors (Moses and maybe Abraham) and some who are not (Mary). Mary may be more “special” but she is never clearly and intercessor. Exodus 20:18-21 shows a clear intercessor in Moses.

    As for your last point, regarding exegesis, I don’t think something has to be explicitly in scripture. However, I don’t endorse beliefs that don’t have biblical support. Mary is not conclusively an intercessor. She is however, deserving of utmost honor. I am not entirely opposed to praying to saints for intercession, I just think you should pray to a saint whom God used as an intercessor, and not simply attribute intercessorship (i made that word up) to all saints.

  4. MG Says:

    Drew–

    Worst case scenario: my argument shows that Mary’s prayers are probably really important in the New Creation and the Kingdom of God. That goes far beyond the insistence of some people that Mary’s role after giving birth is just like everyone else. This is enough to make some people squirm.

    You’re right, it doesn’t explicitly say people approached Mary in John 2.

    So, if by intercession we mean “addressing a person and asking them to pray for you, then I suppose that this hasn’t been shown”. However, if by intercession we mean “someone sees or anticipates our needs and asks God to help us” then John 2 and Acts 1 are both examples of this. In John 2, Mary is responding to a situation, and asking Jesus to do something on behalf of other people. In Acts 1, its pretty likely that Mary was praying for the spread of the Gospel. She was probably interceding on behalf of the unsaved.

    Its not ridiculous to think that Mary was addressing Jesus because people had approached her. After all, how would she know their needs if she didn’t hear their conversations? And if she heard their conversations and Jesus didn’t, this makes it more likely that something was explicitly and directly addressed to her. Furthermore, immediately afterwards she addresses the servants and tells them that they have to do everything he tells them. This communicativeness with the servants is what we would expect if they had come to her to make a request.

    Whatever we say about this event, its very different from other places in the New Testament, where people directly approach Jesus to make the requests for themselves or their party, and where Jesus directly issues commands to people. Mary speaks on behalf of those in need to Christ, and Mary instructs the needy in the work of Christ.

    Your points make me realize that my argument doesn’t go as far as I originally hoped in terms of what’s explicitly stated; but then again, the way I originally took these passages still seems fairly plausible. Is there an overriding reason why we shouldn’t read the text the way I have?

    Finally, lets think about this issue of “lets go to the people Scripture designates as intercessors”. Lets assume you grant that praying to Moses is okay. The incident in John may not explicitly show Mary is a person who people addressed to ask Jesus for something like with Moses. But it does show that Mary is a close NT counterpart to that kind of role in the OT. She is at least more likely to have that kind of role than, say, any random old disciple of Jesus. If the saints of the New Covenant are greater than those of the Old, and if Mary is full of grace, and the Ark of the New Covenant, and the New Eve, why hold back? Why assume she has a lesser role than Abraham or Moses? I don’t think we need explicit statements in Scripture to see that she is probably an appropriate person to ask for intercession.

  5. Drew Says:

    I don’t see a strong reason to say that Old Covenant saints are inferior to NC saints. Just because they came earlier chronologically they are necessarily lesser saints? In fact, I would think the faith of some of the OC saints is greater because there was less knowledge and history of God to aid faith. Think of Abraham, that dude just picked up and obeyed. Gen 12:4 “So Abram left, as the Lord told him…” Many other leaders in scripture would initially balk at such a request, but Abraham did not. I think even Mary puts some initial defense against such miracles happening in her life, as she first questions the angel in regards to biological possibility of her virgin pregnancy (Luke 1:34). As I see it, Abraham shows more faith than any other person in scripture. Was Mary asked to have an abortion at three months as Abraham was asked to sacrifice Issac? (that may be the most heretical thing I have ever typed) All this goes to say that I think it is unfair and inaccurate to place NC saints as automatically superior to OC saints. Instead, they should be compared by the actions that bible records and by the attitudes from other parts of scripture. Look at the over-quoted Hebrews 11 list of examples of faith. Does Mary deserve to be placed above these people? Mary went to God on behalf of the people at a wedding, Abraham on behalf of two cities of wicked sinners (Gen 18:16), and Moses for the entire race of Israel (Exodus 32:11). It seems just that the magnitude of what these two OC saints pray for outweighs what Mary prays for. If one’s faith corresponds the magnitude of the miracles one can “bring about” I think Moses, Abraham, or maybe even Elijah with the consuming fire from heaven.

    As for the possibility of Mary being approached, that seems silly. The servant is randomly going to go talk to a person at the party just because? It seems much more probable that Mary is an observant woman and not a woman who was known to be a source of miraculous events. Also, given that the master of the banquet seems to not know that they ran out of wine, it seems unlikely that they would go tell Mary. Thus, I argue that Mary most likely astutely noticed some panicked servants and correctly deduced the problem. She then presented the problem to her Son in whom she had faith, and the miracle ensued. This does involve an observer role of intercession (to distinguish between the two types you mention in your second full paragraph I will call the kind Mary does “observer intercession” and the kind Moses did as “middle-man intercession”). As, for this observer style of intercession, it seems very much non-unique to Mary. I skimmed Luke and found several passages where an intercessor is used in a similar format: Luke 4:38, 5:19, 7:2, 8:41, and 9:38. 7:2 is particularly striking as the centurion sought out Jewish elders to act as intercessors to Christ. However, this still does not help the case for Mary. The quote you have from acts clearly is something that is done by a group of people. I can from that passage deduce that her presence is more notable than the other women, but the disciples are mentioned by name, and I see no reason to place her over the disciples.

    If you want to exalt Mary because she is a great woman, I am with you. I will even admit she is shown to have far fewer flaws than many other men of faith. But, she was not tried as these men were tried and the passages with her present are focused on Christ instead of her, where as the patriarchs and prophets are the focal point of their stories. Regardless, she is a great woman, maybe the greatest ever. However, this does not make her the primary intercessor for the church, it makes her possible the greatest woman ever.

    As for your claim that explicit statements are not needed, let me give an example of why I think they are. In the aforementioned “A-list” of faith people like Rahab, Samson, and Barak are mentioned. Now, I would not pray to any of these three despite the fact they are included on this list. Rahab and Samson both lived in a manner contrary to wisdom, one was a whore, the other lived with one. Maybe if I was pulling for one last ditch act of faith I would think of Sampson, but otherwise he seems like an example of what not to do that happens to turn out well. I admit I am not being entirely fair to these people but my point is that we should pray to those who clearly are the best. And as far as being the best intercessor, or most faithful, I do not see Mary at the top of the list.

  6. ZSDP Says:

    Beazlebub –

    Are you by any chance related to ‘Beelzebub’?

    Also, compelling argument.

    – ZSDP

  7. MP Says:

    Let’s keep it simple 🙂 Mary is not a God. Therefore, we should not pray to or worship her. The Bible says, “thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” God used Mary to birth God into the earth. We should honor her willing heart. Concerning the birth of God, she could have said, “No, not me, can’t be!” But instead, she said, “Let it be unto me as you have said.” (By the way, this thought was said by a certain preacher). We should never pray or worship (bow down/give praise) to her. She’s a human like you and me, full of sin. God is perfect without sin. Worship and pray to Jesus(God) alone!

  8. ZSDP Says:

    Congratulations. You’ve debunked 2000 years of Christian tradition in a single paragraph. I applaud you.

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