Jesus’ mother, Mary, is of great importance when it comes to the story of Christmas. Long before she came into the scene, God told the serpent that tempted the woman in the Garden of Eden this prophecy in Genesis 3:15 (ESV): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
While Catholics may certainly give Mary way too much credit, even praying to her and referring to her as being full of grace and truth, I would argue that we Reformed Christians don’t give her enough credit.
She was a very important component of the Gospel story and were it not for the virgin birth of Mary, there would be horrible implications. The prophets would have to be deemed as liars, Jesus’ righteousness would be called into question since He would be born of the seed of man and God’s word would be null and void; thanks be to God, however, that the virgin birth did happen, and because of that we can now proclaim the Gospel to all nations, and we cannot deny the fact that Mary played a huge part in that.
Of course, though Mary isn’t that well regarded by the mainstream culture as being a key component to the Gospel story, she is still well-known and accredited for being the mother of Jesus. There are many painting of her, some movies, and of course some songs about her, one of which has been covered by many popular artists and has been kind of controversial. It’s called Mary, Did You Know.
Mary, Did You Know was written by a man named Mark Lowry, a comedian and songwriter, but mostly a comedian. He wrote it after thinking about Mary and wondering if she ever knew who she was holding. According to his own words, Mary knew who Jesus was at the crucifixion, but before then, he believed she was probably just a mom who knew her Son was unordinary and didn’t realize what Jesus would do in His life.
Now, I am not gonna lie, there is some truth to that view. I do think that Mary probably didn’t know the specific details of Jesus’ ministry such as His walking on water, giving sight to a blind man, and calming of a storm. Obviously, she would have trouble knowing those things because she was neither a prophet nor divine. That is not my problem with the song at all, and I don’t even think the concept of the song is bad if it was being written in a rhetorical way.
My problem with the song is the premise that Lowry had when writing the lyrics, making the lyrics actually question her theology, particularly her Christology. Lowry claimed that Mary, most likely, didn’t realize who Jesus was until His crucifixion. Is that really true though? Let’s look at the lyrics and claims of Mary, Did You Know as well as examine them through the Scriptures.
The song claims these following things are what Mary didn’t know:
- Her Son would save generations.
- The Son would make out of her a new creation.
- The Son would deliver her.
- The Son walked where Angels walked — Heaven, and that He is the perfect lamb.
- When she kissed Christ, she kissed the face of God.
- Christ is Lord over all creation, and He is ruler over all nations.
- The Son is the great I AM.
These seven claims are gutsy to make. It’s one thing to say that Mary probably didn’t know what would happen in His ministry. She’s human! Even my own mother doesn’t know I have a blog (it’s just a joke don’t worry). However, it’s another thing to say Mary had no idea who she gave birth to, who she held in her hands, and who she was nurturing. That claim had better be backed by Scripture. Well… is it?
No. Simply put, absolutely not.
I would actually argue the opposite of Lowry’s claims: Mary had a better understanding of Christology than any other person during that time — at least until Jesus called His disciples and began teaching them the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Why? Because Mary was the only one who was told who Jesus really was, and it was not even realized by her own intuition, but by the message of an Angel and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But don’t take my word for it, look at the Scriptures.
Exhibit A — Luke 1:30-38
This is one of the most overt giveaways in the Bible that Mary knew who her Son would be through the message of Gabriel. Gabriel instructed Mary to call her Son ‘Jesus.’ The name of Jesus, in Hebrew, literally meant “one bearing salvation,” so I’m sure that she would understand that this Child she would bear would be part of a greater purpose of God’s redemption.
Furthermore, it was revealed to Mary that the Child would be the Son of the Most High, which meant that He would possess Divine attributes and be one with God Himself; that would honestly be a no-brainer. She was even told He would restore the throne of David, and that God would make this throne eternal. As the Scriptures put it, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33 ESV).
Lastly, Mary was explicitly told that Jesus would be conceived by the Holy Spirit and that the power of the Almighty would overshadow her, and that therefore “…the Child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35 ESV). After hearing this, what did Mary say? Did she say, “No way” or “I don’t believe it”? She said, “‘…I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word‘” (Luke 1:38 ESV). She not only didn’t question the angel, but she had faith and rested on the promises of God. It’s pretty clear that Mary not only knew who Jesus was, but also earnestly believed in it.
Exhibit B — Luke 1:46-55
This text is literally (pun intended) the best proof that Mary knew who Jesus was because all that is written in this biblical text is what she actually said about her Son and His birth. Look at what she says:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant… He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name… His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud… He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55 ESV)
From this text alone, it is clear Mary knew that Jesus would save countless generations, that He is as mighty as His Father in Heaven, that Jesus would be the Savior of God’s people, and that Jesus Christ, her Son, is Lord. I think that Mary’s song wraps up the entire conversation on whether Mary knew or not because Mary herself basically says, “Yea! I know!”
In short, yes — Mary did know. She knew her Son, Jesus, was the Christ, promised from the days of old, and that she would be the woman who’s Seed would crush the serpent’s head. She knew He was God in the flesh, Emmanuel, and the Savior of God’s people.
I can’t imagine how much humility it must’ve taken for Mary to nurture Jesus as her own all her life, to watch him being beaten and scorned by a mob, and then to see Him crucified. She knew the Son she delivered would deliver her, but I know that she would’ve never imagined Him dying the cruelest of all deaths in a shameful and naked state. But imagine the joy of seeing her Son conquering death and standing before her saying, “Mother, don’t be afraid. Behold, I make all things new.”
Mary not only knew, but I believe that until death, she knew that her Son’s blood satisfied the Father and that she would one day see Him again in majesty and glory, as King over all. It moves me to tears when I think of the fact that when she died, she saw the One who once was a baby in lowly manger… becoming the King of kings and Lord of lords, triumphant and exalted, and when she saw Him, she fell down in worship saying with the rest of the saints, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”
Soli Deo Gloria.