That song has been reverberating in my head for a couple of weeks now. “Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?” Did you know that “when you kiss your baby’s face, you kiss the face of God?” What did Mary know, and how could she have known it?
Gabriel told her the good parts – that He would be called “Son of the Most High.” He told her that He will sit on David’s throne perpetually (Luke1:29-33). The only hint she has of His eventual horrifying death is in the name Jesus. Yeshu’a, Iesous – or God Delivers, God Saves. Gabriel told Joseph that the name meant, “he [who would] save his people from their sins.” We can suppose that Joseph mentioned this to his wife.
But could she have known how He would do that? Could she have known he would be the Lamb of God, sacrificed on the Temple altar on Passover? Quite possibly, depending on how much she knew of the ancient scriptures. She was, however, only in her early teens when this birth took place, she wasn’t from a wealthy family, and she was female, so it’s not likely that she’d had much education, however, she may have been paying attention – many of the old prophesies were common knowledge among the Jewish people.
She wouldn’t have known that He would “one day walk on water” (or calm the storm, or that because of Him, "The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The dead will live again. The lame will leap. The dumb will speak…"– those miracles weren’t mentioned in the prophesies, but she would have known that the baby she would “deliver, would one day deliver [her].” The 9th chapter of Daniel makes that clear. She would have understood that kissing her baby would also be kissing “the face of God. ”Psalm 2:7 tells us that, and Gabriel had told her that this baby would be “called the Son of the Most High.”
The book of Isaiah tells us much of what would happen to this son– that He would be rejected by His own people and hated by many, that He would take the place of the Pascal Lamb – the sacrificial Passover Lamb, that He would be pierced, but that His bones would not be broken. If Mary had only read the 53rd chapter of this prophetic book, she would have known much of what awaited her first-born son. I hope she didn’t know; no mother should have that hanging over her head.
She no doubt was aware that both she and her fiancé Joseph were descended from King David, and that the Messiah would come from his line and one day rule on his throne – an eternal throne. She may have heard the prophecy about the baby being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and that He was to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:13 and 14). We can assume she would have found that comforting. I know that if I’d had that conversation with an angel, I would have later wondered if I’d gone nuts; any confirmation would have been welcome. And that three-day, mid-winter trip on the bony back of a donkey when she was 8+ months pregnant must have been awful – traveling so far from everything that was familiar, facing the prospect of giving birth before they could return home, far from any known midwife, with only her new husband to help. I can’t imagine. Ah, Mary, did you know what you’d walked into?
Could she have possibly understood that her son, of His own free will, would on Passover, the year He turned 33, allow Himself to be beaten beyond recognition, nailed to a cross and left to hang there while He suffered the penalty due all of us for our sins?
Could she have had a clue that this child she had born while she, herself, was still a child would be the pivot point on which all of human history would turn?
Could she have had even an inkling that 2,000 years later much of the world would celebrate this ignoble birth in a stable-cave outside a tiny hamlet south of Jerusalem?
Did she grasp the fact that, while her baby was a real human baby, He was also “the Lord of all creation?”
How could she have comprehended such a profound and puzzling concept as the hypostatic union?
How could she have wrapped her young mind around the idea that her son would be the eternal King of the Jews?
How could she have comprehended that the “sleeping child [she] was holding [was] the Great I Am?”
And what do we know? We know, or have the opportunity to know, everything Mary could have known that day Gabriel came to call. We can also know that the Old Testament prophesies about the First Advent all happened – the birth in little old Bethlehem, the lack of room in an inn, the swaddling clothes (actually death wrappings similar to those Christ’s body would one day be bound in), and the star and its appearance over the tiny town. All of the minute details about Christ’s final week in Jerusalem – His Palm Sunday entrance on the white donkey, His arrest, illegal trial, His crucifixion on Passover, fulfilling the very purpose of that feast day set in motion as the Jews left Egypt almost 1500 years before -- to say nothing of His resurrection.
And we know bits and pieces from non-Biblical historians writing not long after these events – Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, and several others all mention this amazing man, a man whose Roman following, just 20 years after the resurrection, had become so influential that they had to be expelled from Rome – in spite of horrible persecution their devotion to this obscure man from Galilee just kept growing. This, more than any other evidence convinces me of the resurrection. Why else would thousands and thousands of people go willingly to grizzly deaths unless they were very very sure that it wouldn’t really be death?
We can know now much of what Mary couldn’t have guessed. Because of the Pauline Epistles and the Revelation of John we can know quite a bit about when her Baby Boy will turn up in history again – information she knew a little about – that He will come back for His church, and return again to rescue His land of Israel and that He would “one day rule the nations.”
Dear young Mary, lying exhausted in the hay, holding the most important baby ever born. What a burden for a teenage girl far from home. What dread and wonder she must have held in her heart. And what joy. Someday her Son would heal all the wrongs of this world and the lion would lie down with the lamb.
Merry Christmas to all of you, and thank you for reading. dc