Mary, Did You Know?

by Riaan

One of the more exciting and encouraging Christmas songs to me is the beloved Mary, did you know?” Every Christmas I hear a different version of the song sung by some choir or group of singers. The song is lyrically beautiful and theological rich. However, the song is asking a question that I think needs to be answered. The question in the song is of course, “Mary, did you know”? I think the answer to the question is; yes she knew!

Mary did you know that your baby boy
Will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy
Will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You’ve kissed the face of God
Oh, Mary did you know
Ooh…
 
The blind will see,
the deaf will hear,
The dead will live again
The lame will leap,
the dumb will speak,
The praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy
Is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy
Will one day rule the nations?
 
Did you know that your Baby Boy
Is Heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding
Is the great I am 

The song effectively communicates three essential aspects of Jesus Christ: 1) His Divine Nature 2) His Redemptive Work 3) His Sovereign Lordship. Throughout the song these three theological affirmations provide for us a neat and solid Christology. The song writer/s of course brings these things out through the form of a series of questions (to be understood here as a literary device):

  • Mary did you know that your baby boy Will one day walk on water? (Divine Nature).
  • ”Mary did you know that your baby boy Will save our sons and daughters?” (Redemptive Work)
  • Mary did you know that your baby boy Is Lord of all creation? (Sovereign Lordship)

So, did she know?

The answer to these questions doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on the theological accuracy of the song. We note that the song writer himself doesn’t answer the questions – but uses the questions as a literary device to articulate the glory of Christ. So, though it seems implicit in the song that he thinks she did not know, even if we determine that she did know, the song accommodates such a conclusion as well. In other words, if the answer to the questions is “yes she knows” it doesn’t necessarily mean then that the song is erroneous.

So, did she know? I think she did. Granted, she did not know the specific ways in which Christ would display His divine nature, redemptive work and sovereign Lordship, I think she had an idea of all of these truths. So, in a general sense Mary knew.  How do I know that Mary knew?

When we read the nativity accounts we get the idea that she wasn’t ignorant to what was happening to her and through her. Mary knew her baby will be divine. Mary knew her baby will be a Saviour and Mary knew her baby is Lord over all. Let me attempt to show that very briefly.

  1. Mary knew her baby will have a Redemptive Work:

Luke 1:30–31 (ESV)
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.

In Matthew’s account the angel is said to have also spoken to Joseph with a similar message:

Matthew 1:20–21 (ESV)
20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Mary and Joseph was instructed to name the baby Jesus and this name is very telling of the child’s redemptive work. Even Mary understood this as can be seen in Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 2:46-55)

Luke 1:46–47 (ESV)
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47         and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

It’s very clear that Mary understood that what was happening to her and what will happen through the child she will bear. He will have a redemptive work. Joseph was told the child’s name will be Jesus and he will save his people from their sins.  Surely, he shared this with her. We then see her response to this is to praise God HER SAVIOUR! To my Roman Catholic friends, who insist on the sinlessness of Mary and her co-redemptive role; read carefully what Mary concedes: “My spirit rejoices in God MY SAVIOUR”. Mary understood not only that her child was to be the Saviour but also HER SAVIOUR.

So,

Mary did you know that your baby boy
Will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you

Yes, I think she knew, the angel told her!

  1. Mary knew her baby will have a Divine Nature:

The angel told Mary exactly what will happen to her and she knew that the child born of her would have a divine nature

Luke 1:30–35 (ESV)
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.

Notice everything the angel tells Mary. If there’s a weakness in this song it is that it could present a portrayal of Mary as an ignorant girl who has no clue what has happened to her or through her. The song tends to make Mary out to be theologically clueless, yet the angel gave Mary a staggering revelation in Luke 1. The angel clearly revealed that the child she will be bearing “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). The angel also very explicitly told her “the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God (Luke 1:35). It is remarkably clear that Mary knew the child to be born to her will have a divine nature.

So,

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You’ve kissed the face of God

Yes, I think she knew he was God!

  1. Mary knew her baby will be Lord over all

Another important feature of Christ the song so wonderfully brings out is that He will be the sovereign Lord over all. The song uses the lyrical device of asking questions to bring out this theological truth. One specific verse in the song brings it out like this:

Mary did you know that your baby boy
Is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy
Will one day rule the nations?

Well did she know?

Luke 1:30–33 (ESV)
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.” (emphasis added)

 Again, I think she had an idea. Perhaps she had more than just an idea.

“…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.” – Luke 1:32-33

Let me make it clear that I’m not dismissing the song and I have no qualms with the song, in fact I quite enjoy it. And to dismiss this song because Mary may have actually known the answers to the questions posed in the song would be presumptuous at best and to miss the point of the song entirely at worst. The point of the song isn’t to interrogate Mary, but to enlighten us about the redemptive work, divine nature and sovereign Lordship of Christ. So, by all means let’s sing along. In my head I’ll just be answering the questions the entire time: “Yes I’m sure she did”, “yes I think she did, “yes she knew”.

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