Last Christmas, I had the privilege of watching my son perform at the Lancaster Bible College concert. I so enjoyed his enthusiasm, the way he sang so heartily and paid full attention to the director. Not only was he in the choir, but he also played bells and xylophone. But then, to my surprise, he suddenly burst into solo, confident and clear. Wow, was my heart full! I put a proud mother moment on facebook! I wanted the world to know that was my son!
In Luke 11 Jesus was teaching. He was responding to questions from the religious leaders. They were accusing him that his power came from Satan. He rebuked them. Then, very randomly, an unnamed woman spoke up and blessed his mother, Mary. She was so impressed by Jesus’ ability to answer and refute the religious leaders that she wanted to compliment the woman who raised him.
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”Luke 11:27 NIV
I wonder if Mary was in the crowd that day? Did she hear this woman praise her and did she finally feel vindicated? Finally someone had acknowledged her! Finally someone had said what any mother would want to hear—praise for her child. Praise that she had raised a good son. This recognition would have been especially meaningful because in those days, women were not valued for much other than raising sons.
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”Luke 11:28 NIV
Mary probably expected Jesus to heartily agree. But instead Jesus replied that his mother—The Blessed Virgin Mary—was NOT the blessed one! Rather, the one who heard the word of God and obeyed was blessed. This concept is emphasized over and over again in Scripture:
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:17)
Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)
But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25)
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what this written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)
Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll. (Revelation 22:7)
I don’t think Jesus meant to diminish the role of motherhood. After all, Mary nursed Jesus, weaned and potty trained him, fed and clothed him. And greater still, taught him how to act rightly, to know and love God. She taught him his first theology. In the words of my brother-in-law:
Jesus too, although he was also divine, had to learn how to talk and read and write and do math or carpentry properly (none of which is innate or instinctive, but requires training). But more importantly, I think we can assume that as a boy, Jesus also had to be taught how to share his toys, and to not always insist on his own way. In all that sort of training, Mary would’ve played the most important role. [She had] more influence, humanly speaking, over the kind of person [Jesus] became than any other person ever would or could have.Rev. Dr. David Handy
What Jesus is saying is that being his mother was not Mary’s primary role or her main identity. Her primary identity was the same as it is for all women today. We are image bearers of God, representing his heart to the world (Genesis 1:27). We are ezers (strong helpers), warriors partnering with the men in our lives (Genesis 2:18). And we are kingdom builders, followers of Jesus—disciples (Genesis 1:28).
A woman’s life is truly blessed not when she becomes a mother, but when she hears and obeys his Word. The crowning glory for a woman (as for a man) is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is a woman’s true identity, and the only path to blessedness. To base our identity on anything else is to stand on shaky ground. But nothing can ever take away from us our calling as disciples of Jesus.Carolyn Custis James, Lost Women of the Bible
Mary was not blessed (well off) because she was Jesus’ mother. She was blessed because she heard his word and obeyed. And she indicated this when she responded in obedience (“Let it be to me according to your word”) and became a disciple of the Kingdom of God.
Like Mary, I am not limited to the role of mother. I cannot rest on the laurels of the achievements of my son or find my value in the person he becomes. Instead, I am blessed when I attend to and consider the word of God, keep it and obey it. As Jesus called Mary to be his disciple, he calls all of us.
What is your identity based upon?
How are you blessed according to his definition?
Lord God, thank for making me a mother, but thank you for showing me it is not my identity. I am first of all your disciple, and as that, I desire to believe your word and obey you. Teach me more how to do that.
Next in Mary series: Pierced One
For an edited version of this, please purchase Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, available on Amazon.