In 1991 Buddy Greene and Mark Lowery combined their talents and came up with a very popular song. It’s called, “Mary Did You Know?”
Let’s let Mark tell the story, “In 1984, Jerry Falwell, the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, called and asked me to write the program for their next Living Christmas Tree. As I wrote the ‘speaking parts’ I began to think about Mary. I have always been fascinated with the concept that God came to earth.
In a conversation with my mother, I remember she said, ‘If anyone on earth knew for sure that Jesus was virgin born - Mary knew!’ That was a profound statement that stuck with me. One thing they couldn’t take from Mary was that she knew her Child was not ordinary.
At the cross on Mount Calvary, while Jesus was dying, her silence was a great testimony to the fact of who he was and is. He said to them, ‘When you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’ Of course, for this they nailed him to a cross, and his mother never said a word.
As my mind went back to the manger scene, I began to think about the power, authority and majesty she cradled in her arms. Those little lips were the same lips that had spoken worlds into existence. All of those things were contained in the young child lying quietly on her bosom. Even now, he was the very one who had given life to his mother, Mary.
I began writing a list of questions I would like to ask Mary if I could sit down with her - questions such as, ‘Mary, do you know who is in your arms?’
‘Did you know the one who holds creation together, and the one who holds you together is lying helpless in the manger?’
‘Did you know that your baby boy will walk on water, give sight to a blind man and calm a storm at sea with his hand?’”
Lowry carried his lyrics with him for the next seven years. In 1991, he asked his good friend, Buddy Greene, to write suitable music for his poem.
Greene said, “Mark handed me his lyrics, and I held on to them for about two weeks. One day I pulled them out and looked at them. They seemed to suggest a minor key approach to writing an accompaniment. I completed the musical setting in about 30 minutes. I called Mark at his home in Georgia and on the phone played and sang the song to him. He was ecstatic! He said, ‘That’s it!’
Two weeks later, we met in Mark’s hotel room in Nashville where we recorded the song on a small portable machine. It was then taken to Michael English who was preparing to make an album. He was the first person to record “Mary, Did You Know?”
We must not leave the Biblical account behind. In the next few weeks I would like to present what we believe Mary might have known. We need to think on what was clearly known about her baby boy and also what might have been.
Her first introduction to the baby happened while she was engaged to be married but before she was married. Luke gives such details that only Mary would have known. It is my opinion that the gospel writer must have interviewed Mary. Luke 1:26-39, In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 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. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Some preachers and teachers believe Mary may have been as young as 12 or 13 years of age. Usually these teachers also believe Joseph was 15 to 17 years of age. However, the Bible teaches that men were not able to go to war before age 20. I realize marriage is not warfare, at least it should not be. At the same time, I believe 20 would be an appropriate age for Joseph at the time of Jesus’ birth.
In the culture of the first century there does not appear to have been an adolescent gap between childhood and adulthood. The way people were brought up was simply go to bed one night as a child and wake up in the morning an adult! We do know that there was no such ceremony as bar mitzvah at the time of Jesus’ birth. The first record of such an event was during the 15th century!
Some people hold that Joseph was an older man because he is not mentioned after the trip to Jerusalem for Passover when Jesus was 12. The Bible is silent on the subject and therefore we must also be careful. I suspect that those who hold to an older Joseph want to support the teaching of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Since the Bible does not mention Joseph again, he probably died before Jesus’ ministry began. That allows for 30 years of marriage. During those years there was plenty of time for Mary to conceive other children. After all Jesus was introduced as her “firstborn son” (Luke 2:7). That certainly implies there were others. Matthew remembered and recorded: While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. (Matthew 12:46). Mark, in his gospel recorded the words of the people in Nazareth, “Is not this the carpenter, son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” (6:3). Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, (1:19) referred to James as the Lord’s brother!
Now let’s go back to the original question! “Mary Did You Know?”
First of all, she knew that this child conceived in her definitely came from God. She is one of the few people on earth who ever met an archangel! Luke assures us that it was Gabriel who was sent from God to the little town of Nazareth to a young woman named Mary. The angel began his time with Mary greeting her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Remember she is a virgin committed to marry a man named Joseph. Remember also, we do not know for sure her age or Joseph’s age. As such she was not expected to be totally comfortable in the presence of one of the highest angels. She should not be concerned about her fear because almost every time an angel presents itself to anyone that person is first described as being afraid, or at least troubled by the contact. So Mary knew she was confronting one of God’s highest and mightiest angels.
Second, she must know that the Lord is with her because the angel said he was! I am not sure she had that concept pinned down very tight. Imagine her position — one day she is simply the engaged daughter of a family in a small town, off the beaten tracks. She had little to do other than prepare for her wedding day or week as it was at that time. Now she was in the presence of angelic authority. I am sure she needed to know that God himself had sent the message!
So throughout her life she knew that the Lord was with her.
The angel assured her that she had found favor with God. I am not as sure as many are that she was surprised by this statement. She might not have been a reader in synagogue for two reasons: first, she was probably too young. Second, she was a woman. She was highly favored by God so I believe she had a fellowship with the God of Israel
Next, she knew that the child that would be conceived in her womb was the son of the most high, the heir to David’s throne! She knew that he would have a name that had deep meaning. “Jesus” is a variation on the name “Joshua”! The meaning of the name Jesus would not be a surprise to her. She would know that it meant “the Lord is salvation”!
When the same angel appeared to Zechariah, a mature priest, he was troubled and fear fell upon him. Anyone who says they are comfortable around angels never met one. Certainly they have never met an archangel. Those are not little cherubs with chubby cheeks and tiny wings they are powerful warriors that live in the presence of God himself.
From what Gabriel said Mary would have known that the child would be the heir of David the King. From that throne this child would rule over the House of Jacob forever. His reign would be such that he would rule forever — his kingdom would never end. I am impressed by Mary’s question. She did not ask how the heir of David would be in her. Instead, Mary immediately questioned, “How will this be, since I’m a virgin?” She did not want to get into the complications of the spiritual side of Jesus. She wanted to know how she could be involved.
Gabriel had an answer, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of The Most High will overshadow you.” Nothing is impossible to God.
From this exchange Mary knew that the most High God would place a baby in her. She would have known that the child came from God and not a man. The human part of Jesus came from Mary and therefore she must have been of the House of David! Jesus certainly did not inherit anything from Joseph. Joseph really impresses me as being a man who would take care of a baby that he was not the physical father of. We don’t know how soon Mary produced more children that would have been Joseph’s.
In this exchange Mary’s final words were, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
If Mary had any doubts her visit to Zachariah and Elizabeth would have helped settle them. Let’s read Luke’s account, “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45).
We are told by Elizabeth that Mary believed what she had been told. This was an affirmation of Mary’s faith as well as the faith of Zechariah and Elizabeth. They believed what they had been told and confirmed for Mary what she had been told.
We have little evidence as to what the next 12 years. Luke 2:40 tells us that upon the return to Nazareth, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. and the favor of God was upon him”.
When Jesus was 12 years old you went with his parents — as they were called – when the celebrations were over and the family left with their friends to go back to Nazareth Jesus stayed behind. They traveled at least a full day before they realized he was not with them. Because of this I believe he was very trustworthy. They searched for him along the way and throughout the city. Their search ended when they got to the Temple they found that was where he had been the whole time. During those 12 years Mary and Joseph did not fully understand who they were dealing with. If they had, he said, they would have known he would have been in his Father’s house.
Jesus continued to live in the home in Nazareth for another 18 years. At that time he began his ministry.
Luke 2:50-51 tells us that, “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 51 Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
When I was first impressed to present this sermon I wasn’t sure I would find enough material for more than one. Next week I will take up the same subject.
Mary was a Godly woman but, like all of us, she needed a savior. Her baby would take the sin of all who come to him in faith and died as our substitute. By God’s grace, through faith, we have the hope of salvation. Have you come to him for salvation? Today could be your day of salvation.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.