As we just finished the last Sunday of Advent and get ready to plunge into Christmas, there is no getting away from the holiday music on the radio(some of which was playing since Thanksgiving). While we have traditional and secular songs abound, the occasional religious one will appear. One that is particular striking is “Mary did you know?” where in the version I most recently heard Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd sung speculations of what Mary may have or may not have known about the child Jesus.
While I’m tempted to write off the entire song as speculative theology which discounts the human nature of Jesus. Which makes the “No crying he makes” line from Away in the Manger theologically inaccurate. I would like to delve into what Mary actually did know and how this knowledge might have affected her.
If we start for the stance that Mary is a mortal woman, she can only know things based on what she is told and can perceive with her senses, just like you and me.
Infancy narrative in Luke
In the gospel of Luke we have the infancy narrative of the Annunciation by the angel Gabriel. Beside explaining to her that she is favored by God what does the angel tell her about her soon to be conceived child?
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1: 31-33
The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35
From this we see that Mary knows some things about the divinity of Jesus:
- He will be great
- He will be called the Son of the Most High
- The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David
- He will reign over the house of Jacob forever
- His kingdom will have no end
- The holy Child shall be called the Son of God
That is a lot of information and it is not clear how much Mary understood since the Angel did not elaborate on the details of all of these things, even though she willingly accepted the will of God.
Mary Encounters Elizabeth
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me Luke 1:41-43
Mary knows that the child causes others to be filled with the Holy Spirit and Elizabeth recognizes the child as Lord.
Mary and the Shepherds
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:17-19
From the shepherds Mary learns:
- Jesus is Savior
- Jesus is Christ the Lord
Presentation of Jesus
29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:29-35
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
Mary realizes in amazement :
- Jesus will be a revelation to the Gentiles
- The rise and fall of Israel
- A revealer of hearts
- Her own heart will be pierced
Finding in the Temple at Jerusalem
And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. Luke 2:49-51
We see that Mary had an understanding based on what she was told by the angels, shepherds and prophets but not of the specifics. Even during the first miracle at the wedding at Cana, she doesn’t come out and say “I know who you are, can you miraculously make wine” she merely told the servants to do whatever he tells you.
So when Kenny Rogers asks “Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?” and “Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?” The answer has a mixed, yes she knew he was the destined to be the savior of the world, but did not know the specific path that would take or the road to Jerusalem that he would follow to give us all that salvation. Yes she did know that her Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb and the sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am.