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Mary Knew…and She Didn’t… And I Love the Song!

There’s such a great lesson and reflection for us each year in the song “Mary Did You Know.”

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

-“Mary Did you Know,” verse 1

This song that makes the rounds every Christmas for the last 30 years has increased in prominence since the Pentatonix covered it in 2014, garnering 270 million views on YouTube (video below). It brings hope and joy to so many. It helps us to see Jesus in the incarnation clearly. And yet, wherever there is a Christian finding joy and increasing faith, there are Christians who want to rob them of that joy.

It happens with Bible Verses such as Jeremiah 29:11 or Philippians 4:13 (which I’ll address in a later article), and it happens in music. To be sure and clear, any taking of Scripture out of context, is a misuse of Scripture.  And any song that is trying to teach Doctrine, should be doctrinally sound. And anything sung in worship should be true and clear, God Glorifying, and Christ exalting.

But is “Mary Did You Know” trying to teach Doctrine? Or is it a reflection of a human heart amazed at the awe of God that is put into art. What’s the issue you say?  Well, people say Mary Did Know, so this song is Doctrinally incorrect.

Really?  How is that? What makes it “the most Biblically illiterate Christmas Tune?”   It doesn’t say Mary didn’t know. It doesn’t say that Mary is singing this song or asking the question. It doesn’t even imply that.

How do you know it isn’t the questions her friends asked her after Jesus rose from the dead? How do you know this wasn’t asked of Mary dozens, even hundreds of times during the next 20 or more years of her life?

“Mary Did You Know” isn’t a statement on what Mary knew or didn’t know. It isn’t even the statement of someone who is Biblically illiterate. It is a reflection on the Incarnation, that God became Man, and the magnificence of it!  And how humans process the unbelievable!  Could anyone really have known, pondered, or understood that? It’s a way to consider, what Mary did or did not know. (And most of the questions in the song she did not know)

Did Peter know?

It would be like asking the Apostles, actually people probably did ask the Apostles, “Peter did you know that Jesus would be handed over to the authorities? Peter did you know that your best friend and master would be crucified?  Peter did you know he’d be buried and rise again in 3 days?  Peter did you know that your best friend was God?”

Did he? Yes (to all but the last). He, they, were told at least 3 times specifically (Matthew 16:21, 20:19, 26:22) and many more times he eluded to it. And so, armed with this foreknowledge, forewarning, promise from Christ, why would Peter deny Christ? Why would the apostles be surprised that Christ had risen again (John 20:25), why would they doubt even while they were looking at his resurrected body (Matthew 28:16)?

Did Peter know?  He did…and he didn’t.  And whatever he knew about Christ being the Messiah (Matthew 16), he obviously didn’t have full understanding.

So, Did Mary Know?

Did Mary know? She did…and she didn’t.  And whatever she knew, she obviously didn’t have full understanding.  What human would? (And I’ll always argue that she didn’t know that the Son of God meant that Jesus was God, “the Great I AM.”)

Yes, Mary knew that she would bear the long foretold Messiah who would be called God’s Son and she consented to it.  And she obviously knew it was a miracle to conceive without having been physical with a man (Luke 2:26-38).  And she obviously knew Jesus had the power to perform miracles before anyone else knew (John 2).

Yes she was told that.  It didn’t stop her from being human, with real amazement at what she was seeing in her son Jesus.

At Christ’s birth, shepherds came and visited Jesus and Scripture records “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

When Christ is a boy and he goes to the Temple without his parents knowing where he was, and they were worried sick, Mary scolds Jesus, or at least asks him questions in a worried manner (Luke 2:48). Didn’t she know He was God?  Apparently, in that moment she did not.  How do we know?

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?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. (Luke 2:49-51)

And it again said that she “treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)

Again, as an adult when Jesus was making a ruckus, offending the religious leaders, and bringing undue attention on the family, it says that Mary and Jesus’ brothers said “He is out of his mind” and came to get him (Mark 3:21, 31-35).

All of this teaches an important lesson. We all need to be reminded of the Gospel, no matter what we know already.  We are human.  We are all prone to wander, doubt, not fully understand. We forget the meaning of the loaves.  We all need to say with Peter, the disciples, with Mary, and with the man in Mark 9:24 “I believe; help my unbelief!”  We all need to stand in awe of what God has done in the incarnation of Jesus Christ on our behalf.  Let us never lose that awe, amazement, and excitement that the creator of the universe “loves me and gave Himself for me” as Paul says in Galatians 2.

This Christmas (and always) let us say like Mary “My Soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant…for He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-51)  Amen.

Here’s a Podcast Where I read this article and add additional comments on it.

Here’s a time I did a sermon illustration using this song.

Here’s the Song.

George Sayour
George Sayour

George is Senior Pastor of Meadowview Reformed Presbyterian
Church (PCA) in Lexington, NC. When he's not pastoring or writing, he's fishing, kayaking and spending time with his family.

Articles: 187

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