The Roman Catholic Church teaches not only the historic Christian doctrine of the virginal conception and birth of Jesus Christ, but also the “Immaculate Conception” of the Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne. Although born by the normal means of a sexual union of her parents, Mary was, according to Rome, miraculously preserved in her conception and birth from the stain of original sin. As a result, Mary lived a sinless life and was therefore qualified to be ark of the new covenant, the holy vessel of the Incarnation, just as the ark of the old covenant had been the holy vessel of the tablets of the old covenant. The presupposition behind this argument seems to be that God the Son required a holy dwelling place, free from all sin, for the time of his gestation in the womb, and Mary is the one human being in history uniquely qualified for this role.
I am afraid the doctrine of Mary’s immaculate conception and sinless life not only has no warrant in Scripture, it also stands at odds with the gospel itself. Paul declares in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” But the Roman Catholic teaching about Mary’s unique status as the sinless, and therefore only qualified, vessel of the Incarnation places her in a role of mediation alongside her Son. Furthermore, calling Mary the ark of the new covenant places undue emphasis on the fetal life of Jesus, obscuring the redemptive significance of the cross itself. Jesus does not save us from the womb of his mother. After nine months there, he exited her womb so that he could fulfill the mission for which he had become a man in the first place.
Among the few references we have to Mary in the Gospels, several of them put Jesus’ redemptive work at some distance from any role played by his mother. The most notable passage here is the account of the wedding feast at Cana in John 2, where Mary comes to Jesus to report that the young couple have run out of wine to serve their guests. Jesus’ response is telling: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Of course, Jesus goes on to resolve the situation with his first miraculous sign, but his answer to Mary and the manner of the resolution (a hidden, rather than a public, manifestation of his glory) indicate that Jesus’ ministry is not at all subject to the will of his mother. The “hour” of his public glorification will come according to the plan of his Father. Jesus has a mission, and it is in obedience to his Father, without any unique role for his mother, that he will redeem humanity. And while Jesus, as a faithful son to Mary, provided for her well-being in his final moments (John 19:26-27), it is clear that the kingdom he proclaimed brought with it a new definition of familial relations, where spiritual kinship surpasses bloodlines (Mark 2:31-35).
The incarnate Son of God lived his entire life without sin. But he did not require a sinless mother to do that. He came into the world to redeem sinners, including his mother.