Mary did you know?

I love the lyrics to the carol “Mary did you know?”  I particularly love this version by Pentatonix.

The Carol sets up an imaginary conversation with Mary asking her questions in order to highlight the contrast between the seemingly ordinariness of a little, fully human baby and the wonder of his divinity and his role as Messiah.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy

Is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy
Is heaven’s perfect Lamb?

That sleeping child you’re
Holding is the great, I Am

Now of course there is an obvious answer to the questions, which if we applied it literally would shorten the song considerably.  Just as the correct and short answer to the question “And did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England’s Mountains’ Green?” is a short, firm “No.”  The answer to “Mary did you know?” is a short, firm and clear “Yes.”

Mary knew because she had received clear revelation from God. An angel had appeared to her and told her that she was going to have a child who would save her people.  The evidence that God was at work was presented in terms of her relative’s miraculous pregnancy in old age and that Mary was herself a virgin. God was at work doing the impossible.  Mary believed the angel and trusted God. She knew.

Mary’s own response of praise and trust showing that she knew is found in her song, sometimes referred to as The Magnificat.[1]

The birth itself was accompanied by great signs.  Angels attended the birth bringing the announcement to Shepherds nearby.  A prophet and prophetess at the Temple recognised that it was the time of salvation.  A star led wisemen with gifts from the East, to visit Bethlehem. The king in Jerusalem was spooked and sent soldiers to kill the child. Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt and all through that time, God was speaking to them and they were trusting him. Yes Mary knew.

So before we go any further, it is worth pointing out that God’s revelation is clear and trustworthy.  Just as Mary relied on the angel’s word, so we too can rely on the truthfulness of God’s Word to us.

However, whilst on one level, the answer is obvious, Mary knew. The longer story is more complex than that. In the only recorded incident from his childhood, Luke at the end of chapter 2 tells us that Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem with his parents aged 12. He remained there, reasoning with the religious leaders. His family lost him and so had to go back to find him. 

48 And when his parents[g] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[h] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. [2]

Notice, please the lack of understanding on Mary and Joseph’s part. Notice that Jesus has to correct Mary. She refers to Joseph as his father, he reminds her that God is his father. At the same time, look down the page and notice that Mary continues to ponder, store up and treasure these things in her heart.

In Mark 3:21, Jesus family, which based on verse 31 seems to include Mary, come to get him  because they think he is out of his mind.  The exact role Mary takes in all of this is uncertain but she at least allows herself to be involved in the action.

And yet despite these wobbles, we later meet Mary with John and the woman, one of the last people by Christ’s side, keeping watch at the foot of the cross. There may have been misunderstandings, doubt, confusion along the way and yet there is persistent faith through it all.

This should both challenge and encourage us as we seek to follow Christ. We have clear revelation. We know who he is, we have experienced his love and power in our lives. Does this mean there are never wobbles?  Of course there are, often when we allow circumstances around us to get the better of us.  Yet God is with us in our wobbles and never lets go and ultimately it is he who is able to keep us and guard us from following.

I wonder if Mary knew that?  Yes I’m sure she did!


[1] Luke 1:46-55

[2] Luke 2:48-50

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