Paul identified the spiritual mind as making the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death. For to be “carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom 8:6). Mary was a child of God and therefore spiritually minded. What features of this mind, so essential to life and peace, may be seen in her life? And we might also ask, Does this Word, as a mirror, reflect back a spiritual mind in ourselves?
The spiritual mind has a heart for the Word. Mary’s prayer in Luke 1:46-55 shows an intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures. It is all very reminiscent of Hannah’s prayer and praise in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. The same elements characterise both songs: praise to God, thankfulness for His goodness, His mercy to the poor, and victory over the enemy. But Hannah’s song is not the only Scriptural allusion, for Mary evidently drew on Psalms 98, 103, 107 and 147, as well as on Genesis, Exodus and Job. She referred to the promises, holiness, mercy and power of God. The spiritual mind lays up stores of the Word and is especially drawn to the Psalms.
The spiritual mind has a place for mercy. “Who thought on our low estate”, Mary said. She was the daughter of a king, and such a king as had under God brought Israel to the height of its power. Jesus was David’s son, as the Lord made plain to him (2 Sam 7:16). Mary was of the house and lineage of David, but her situation was a reflection of just how far that house had fallen. She was a citizen of Nazareth in Galilee of the Gentiles – a region characterised above all others by spiritual darkness (Matt 4:15,16). The gospel finds us also in a low estate, fallen as we are from the image and likeness of the King of kings that was ours at creation; we are now so low spiritually that we have something to learn from the ox (Is 1:3) and the ant (Prov 6.6). The spiritual mind will find itself in Psalm 40; there David’s experience is recorded: “I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me”.
The spiritual mind delights in the covenant of grace. Mary says, “As [God] spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever” (Lk 1:55).The words spoken to Abraham so many years before came with the same living power to Mary’s heart as they had to Abraham’s, when the Lord said to him, “I will make My covenant between Me and thee” (Gen 17:2). The very same free and sovereign covenant terms in which God had revealed Himself to Abraham belonged to Mary just as they had to Abraham. The promise of that covenant was that God would provide a Seed through whom the nations of the world would be blessed. Abraham had seen afar off the day when that One would come, and his heart had been glad. Now Mary as a daughter of Abraham was to give birth to Jesus, the promised Seed, and her heart also was glad; she was filled with praise to God. The spiritual mind rests on the unchanging nature of the covenant of grace – a covenant of salt – and rejoices in the hope of having a part in that covenant.
The spiritual mind has a desire after holiness. “He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is His name.” The formation of the child in Mary’s womb was a great work, characterised by holiness. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her so that the holy thing born of her was Immanuel, God with us. In the same way, the creation of the spiritual mind is a great work. Life arises out of death, grace out of rebellion, the heart is transformed; and all of this is the work of the Holy Spirit of God. The outcome of this great work of grace is that in the heart a principle of holiness is set up which has an affinity with the holiness characterising the name of God – all by which He makes Himself known: His holy Word, day, worship and laws.
The spiritual mind dwells on the things concerning Jesus. There were two occasions when Mary is said to have “laid up these things in her heart”. The first was when the shepherds came to find Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem and reported what the angels said of the Child: “Unto you is born this day . . . a Saviour which is Christ the Lord”. At the same time a sign was given of a child lying in a manger. Both the greatness and the lowliness of Jesus were reported in Mary’s ears and passed before her eyes. And she laid it up in her heart. The second occasion was Jesus’ meeting with the doctors in the temple, when He explained that He must be about His Father’s business. Again Mary kept in her heart the greatness of Jesus’ work as God’s Son, and the lowliness of His mind as submissive to her and Joseph, and she meditated on it. Jacob took similar note of Joseph’s dreams (Gen 37:11), and Daniel (7:28) laid up the vision of Christ as the Son of man coming to receive a kingdom from the Ancient of Days. Joseph was a type of Christ and Daniel had a vision of Christ, but the humility and the glory of the Redeemer were faithfully represented in both. Jacob, Daniel, Mary; it is a mark of the spiritual mind to give heart room to the lowliness and the greatness of Christ, whether in type, vision, or in the flesh. May that mark be ours!
The spiritual mind discerns between true poverty and true riches. When Mary magnified the Lord, she recorded that “He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away” (Luke 1:53). Mary certainly had few of this world’s goods. The usual offering for purifying after the birth of a child was a lamb of one year for a burnt offering and a young pigeon for a sin offering (Lev 12). When Mary brought the infant Jesus to God in the temple, she brought the offering of the poor: two young pigeons. It is not certain when Joseph died but, as he is not mentioned during Jesus’ public ministry, it is generally thought that he passed away before Jesus’ baptism. This would have meant the removal of her husband’s financial support from Mary’s meagre income. Of course, Mary was speaking of spiritual hunger and of how she found that her spiritual desires had been amply met by the Lord, while those who come spiritually rich or self-righteous were sent empty away.
This is a materialistic and money-centred day, although there is nothing wrong with riches as such. Abraham the father of the faithful was rich, yet he was a friend of God. The danger is that the love of riches will creep in, and then we are in trouble, for this is one of the weeds which choke the seed of the Word. Mary never became rich; it would appear that she was in danger, after the crucifixion, of being, like her Son, without a home. Jesus graciously provided one for her in His dying command to John from the cross. But Mary rejoiced in finding, at a throne of grace, mercy and grace to help in every time of need, and she praised God for it. There the poor are made rich and the rich are sent away empty.
The spiritual mind is being conformed to the image of Christ. The last sight we have of Mary is in Acts 1, where she was waiting for the promised Spirit in Jerusalem with the rest of the infant New Testament Church. At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, the Lord had told her: “Mine hour is not yet come”. Mary had run ahead of the Lord then, but now she waits for God’s time. Mary earned another rebuke when she claimed a special relationship to Jesus as mother (Mk 3:32), sending a message requiring an audience. But now she is of “one accord” (Acts 1:14) with the other believers. All who heard the Word of God and did it were mother, sister and brother to Jesus. But Mary the mother of the Lord was at one now with all the other mothers, sisters and brothers of Jesus. The evidence is plain; Mary was growing in grace. When we see a mother with her son; we often remark that the son is becoming like his mother. But here the mother is being conformed to the image of her Son. This is the spiritual mind which is life and peace. “Let this mind be in you.”
1. This article is based on a section of a paper given at this year’s Youth Conference, entitled, Mary the Mother of our Lord, Some Practical Lessons.