Did Mary know that Jesus would walk on water and heal the blind? Maybe not, but she did know that the baby she carried was the fulfillment of God’s promises to save His people. She knew Jesus was the Messiah and rejoiced!
Let us not be ashamed to receive instruction from her who carried in her womb Christ the eternal “wisdom of God.”—John Calvin
Every year as we get close to Christmas, we begin to hear familiar carols, hymns, and songs. We also begin to hear familiar debates over Christmas music. Should we wait until after Thanksgiving, or is it ok to play Christmas songs whenever we want? What’s your favorite or least favorite song? Is “Mary, Did You Know?” rhetorical or a genuine question?
I understand the concerns some raise over “Mary, Did You Know?” Of course, Mary knew who Jesus was and why He came. But to be fair, it’s not entirely clear that she knew everything Jesus would do and what all of it would mean.
Attitudes about Mary range from adoration and veneration to indifference and disregard. Given Catholic teachings about Mary as “co-redemptrix,” “mediatrix,” and “queen of heaven,” Protestant and Reformed churches have been reasonably apprehensive of over-emphasizing Mary. However, where Catholics are encouraged to pray to Mary, some Protestants seem to view Mary as merely a human incubator. Others focus on Mary’s quiet submission and obedience. They commend her for her feminine virtues and encourage women to follow her example.
Without falling into either of these extremes, it’s worth considering what the Scriptures teach us about who Mary was and what we should learn from her. What did Mary know? Let’s look first at what the angel told her.
We’re introduced to Mary in Luke 1 when the angel Gabriel appears to her in Nazareth. Mary was a young Jewish virgin, betrothed to Joseph, a descendant of David. The angel greets her and tells her she is favored and that God is with her. He tells her that she is going to conceive and bear a son and name Him Jesus. He says that Jesus will be “the Son of the Most High,” that He will sit on David’s throne and reign forever and that His kingdom will never end.
Mary asks how she can have a child since she’s a virgin. The angel explains that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and that Jesus would be “the Son of God.” He tells her that her barren cousin, Elizabeth, was expecting a child and that nothing is impossible with God. Mary responds, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
From this passage, we can see that Mary knew quite a bit about who her son would be. As a Jewish woman from the house of David, she would have understood that her son was the Messiah. The promised Savior who would rule on David’s throne. She knew she would conceive through unusual circumstances. Whether or not she understood the full implications, she also knew that Jesus would be “the Son of God” and “Son of the Most High.”