I have always had a certain fascination, I guess you could call it, with Jesus’ mother, Mary. She was a young girl, a teenager, engaged but unmarried, and yet out of all of the thousands of women God could’ve picked to bare His Son, He chooses her. I wonder what the people around her would’ve said about her. All we really know about Mary is God’s opinion of her. I’d say His opinion is the only opinion that really matters. However, with all that she endured I still wonder, Mary did you know?
Who is Mary, mother of Jesus?
We know from scripture that Mary is descended from David through his son, Nathan. (Luke 3:31) She was also of the tribe of Judah. (Luke 3:33) From what scripture says of her, she was also a caring person. When she heard her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, Mary rushed to her side and stayed with her for three months. (Luke 1:56) Those three months would’ve been long enough for Mary to be present at the birth of Elizabeth’s son, John. She also didn’t take things at face-value.
When the angel Gabriel came to her and called her favored, Mary’s first act wasn’t to run away or preen. Instead we’re told that she kept carefully considering what kind of greeting this was. (Luke 1:29) She was confused, definitely, and probably a bit terrified, as we see in Gabriel’s reassurance to her, but she didn’t write off the angel’s words. Instead she waited and considered. What would she have used to weigh Gabriel’s words against? Her knowledge and understanding of Torah.
Another thing about Mary, she knew the consequences of the Law should she be found pregnant and unmarried. According to Mosaic Law, she very well could’ve been killed. (Deut. 22:13-29) So for her to say, “Yes,” to God, she would’ve been putting her complete and total trust in Him. She would’ve put her trust in Gabriel’s words, that this wasn’t a trick.
In this light, hearing Elizabeth’s greeting must’ve been such a relief to Mary. She probably had no further evidence of this miraculous work until then. It was only after she saw Elizabeth and her cousin greeted her that Mary rejoiced, singing what is known as The Magnificat. (Luke 1:48-55)
But even at this point there is the question: Mary, did you know?
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Israel as a nation had not been free for a long time. First they were put in captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Then Babylon was conquered by Persia and Persia conquered by Alexander the Great. They experienced a period of independence under the Hasmonean rule before being conquered once more by the Roman Empire.
With such a long line of captivity, it’s safe to say there were at least a few rebellions, a few people claiming to be Israel’s Messiah. All of those men would’ve been put to death and their rebellions extinguished. Israel had been waiting for their prophesied Savior for thousands of years. When looking at the prophesies, it’s easy to see how they would mistake their Savior to be one who freed them from earthly rule and brought them into a mighty earthly kingdom. The key to this misunderstanding would’ve lied with God’s covenant with David.
The Lord declares to you: The Lord Himself will make a house for you. When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for My Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever…Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever, and your throne will be established forever.2 Samuel 7:11-16 CSB
The belief in Israel was that their Savior, their Messiah, would free them from their pagan oppressors and restore the might of Israel’s nation forever. They would be unconquerable with this Messiah at their helm.
Mary knew all of this even before Gabriel told her that her Son would inherit David’s throne. I wonder, though, if her first clue that the interpretation of Messiah was off was that He would be the Son of God, not of man?
So they went in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known what had been told them about this Child, and all who heard it were astounded and wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart.Luke 2:16-19 AMP
We see here again, Mary pondering things in her heart. Strangers have just come to them, probably with a crowd in tow, and revealed what they experienced in the fields. The Angels of Heaven declaring the birth of her Son and His purpose. She’s meditating not just on was going on around her, but doubtlessly on the prophesies.
We have to remember that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s husband, Zachariah, were of the tribe of Levi. Zachariah was performing his priestly duties when Gabriel visited him and told him about John’s conception and purpose. After spending three months with her cousins, she was sure to know the prophesies if she hadn’t before. Only now they held a new meaning because they applied to her and her Son.
Something else we need to remember is that God’s Holy Spirit came upon Mary (Luke 1:35) at Jesus’ conception. I, personally, believe that His Holy Spirit did not leave her until Jesus’ physical body parted from her own at His birth. The Holy Spirit is the same forever, the attributes that are available to us through Him are the same attributes that were available to Mary while He rested on her. I imagine that for Mary, Pentecost was akin to welcoming an old friend back.
When Mary stored all those things in her heart and contemplated them, I bet she was seeking God’s wisdom as to what they meant for her Son. But this was not the end for her.
Eight days later, when they took Jesus to the Temple to fulfill the Law of circumcision and purification, there was a prophet named Simeon who had been diligently awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise to him that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. (Luke 2:25-26) Along with Simeon’s praise to God, he prophesied to Mary.
Indeed, this Child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed –and a sword will pierce your own soul–that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.Luke 1:34-35 AMP
This prophesy could be taken as a double-edged sword. Not only would her Son’s doings and words pierce her own soul and lead to her salvation, she would also suffer by watching her Son suffer.
We don’t know how clear this all was to Mary. We’re told that her and Joseph were amazed at was being said about Jesus. (Luke 2:33) They were in awe and possibly didn’t know how to take all of this.
The last time scripture mentions Mary treasuring things in her heart is when they found Jesus in the temple after looking for Him for three days. (Luke 2:41-51) I would dare say it wasn’t the last time she actually did it, though. Mary probably spent a lifetime treasuring, contemplating, and seeking.
Mary was There
From Jesus’ first miracle to Pentacost, Mary was there. In fact, it was Mary who first encouraged Him to do something.
When the wine was all gone, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no more wine.” Jesus said to her, “[Dear] woman, what is that to you and to Me? My time [to act and to be revealed] has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”John 2:3-5 AMP
I kind of hear this as Jesus being slightly, albeit fondly, exasperated with His mother. How many times before now had she encouraged Him to do something? What happened in the time between Jesus’ three day disappearance and the wedding that allowed Mary to be so confident in her Son?
Mary, Did You Know?
In truth, I don’t think she had the full picture. She knew that her Son was special, destined for more than mere rebellions and overthrowing dictators. As she followed His ministry, she learned. Mary had eyes to see and ears to hear. (Matt. 13:13-16)
Even with all that she came to know, I don’t think she ever expected to see her precious Son raised up on a cross. I cannot imagine the pain she felt when she learned of Judas’ betrayal. The hope and panic that warred within her as she watched her firstborn stand before Pilate, the mob around her crying out for her Son’s death. What did she feel as she stood at the foot of that cross, hearing Jesus’ last words to her?
And then, what joy she felt at being reunited with Him after He rose from the grave? His full glory on display at last. His purpose fulfilled.
In contemplating what Mary knew from the start, I’m sure she saw the potential of her Son’s life. I’m sure there were many things along the way as He grew up that hinted at His true purpose. Did He heal His siblings when they were sick? We know He expressed a Wisdom and Understanding that amazed and confounded all who heard it, even as a child. We know that He grew in strong in the Holy Spirit, that He was filled with Grace and Wisdom that could only come from His Father. (Luke 2:40)
But at the start, looking down at His precious face, dealing with the feelings and thoughts of becoming a mother for the first time, the wonder of Jesus’ conception and birth? I know it’s impossible to truly say what she knew, what things God had revealed to her within those nine months. She knew Jesus in a way we never will, as only a mother can know her child. Yet she was as human as any of His other followers.
I, for one, will take great pleasure in one day asking her, Mary, did you know?
What are your thoughts on Mary?
Have you ever considered her beyond knowing her as the mother of Jesus? Have you ever wondered at her role in Jesus’ life and ministry?
To read more about Mary, check out my post Looking at the Christmas Journey: Joseph and Mary.
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