At times, evangelicals struggle with what to do with Mary. There exists the real danger of honoring her above biblical warrant and of also ignoring her, despite biblical warrant. While I’m unable to address this issue in any great detail here, I do hope that somehow this post would help us see that there is a lot we can be clear on when it comes to Mary.
One of the more exciting and encouraging Christmas songs is the beloved “Mary, did you know?” Every Christmas I hear a different version of this lyrically beautiful and theologically rich song that asks a series of questions directed at Mary.
The song is actually not about Mary’s knowledge, but about the greatness of Jesus, summing up three essential aspects of who Jesus is. The lyrics of the song are questions posed to Mary that can be grouped together under three headings and point our attention to three great truths about Christ:
1) His Divine Nature
2) His Redemptive Work
3) His Sovereign Lordship.
Throughout the song these three theological affirmations provide for us beautiful solid Christology. The original song writer brings these things out through a form of rhetorical questions.
- “Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water? (Divine Nature).
- ”Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?” (Redemptive Work)
- Mary did you know that your baby boy Is Lord of all creation? (Sovereign Lordship)
So, did she know?
I think she did. Granted, she did not know the specific ways in which Christ would display His divine nature, redemptive work and sovereign Lordship, but I think she had an idea of all of these truths.
Though Mary was not, and I repeat was not, omniscient, she certainly was also not ignorant or uninformed. When we read the nativity accounts in Scripture, we get an idea that she knew what was happening to her and through her. Mary knew her baby would be divine. Mary knew her baby will be a Savior and Mary knew her baby will be Lord over all. Let me attempt to show that very briefly
1) Mary knew her baby would be Savior of his people.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. (Luke 1:30–31 ESV)
In Matthew’s account the angel is said to have also spoken to Joseph with a similar message:
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20–21 (ESV)
Mary and Joseph were both instructed to name the baby Jesus, a name that is very telling of the child’s redemptive work, specifically his work as Savior! Mary very much understood, which can be seen in Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree. He has filled the empty with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
It’s very clear that Mary understood that magnitude of what was happening to her through the child she was going to bear. He was going to have a mighty redemptive work.
Mary and Joseph were told that the child’s name was to be Jesus and the angel explained to Joseph specifically that he will save his people from their sins. Mary’s response to this was to praise God, whom she calls her Savior.
To my Roman Catholic friends, who insist on the sinlessness of Mary and her co-redemptive role, read carefully what Mary concedes: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior”.
Mary understood that not only will her child be the Savior but was also to be her Savior.
2) Mary knew her baby was going to have a divine nature.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (Luke 1:30–35 (ESV)
If there’s a weakness in this song it could be that it presents a portrayal of Mary as an ignorant girl who had no clue as to what happened to her or through her.
However, the angel gave Mary a staggering revelation in Luke 1.
The angel clearly revealed that the child she was going to bear “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).
The angel also very explicitly told her “the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
It is remarkably clear that Mary knew the child to be born to her was to have a divine nature.
3) Mary knew her baby will be Lord over all.
Another important truth about Christ that the song magnifies is that He will be the sovereign Lord over all.
Luke 1:30–33 (ESV) tells us, And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary knew that her child will be one day be Lord over all and his kingdom will never end.
In reality, this song is not about what Mary knew but about who Jesus is. The identity of Jesus is made clear throughout the song. The intent of the song was not to interrogate Mary, but to enlighten us about the redemptive work, divine nature and sovereign Lordship of Christ.
As we listen to this song during this Christmas season, instead of letting our thoughts gravitate towards asking the question “Mary did you know”, let’s be assured that she knew.
However, the bigger question is – do WE know the truth about Christ’s identity?
Let us come to know Jesus the way Mary did and to grow in the knowledge of the identity of her child, our Divine Redeemer and King who rules over us and all.