What did Mary know about Jesus, and when did she know it? That’s the question posed by the classic Mark Lowry song, Mary, Did You Know? I decided to dig a little more deeply into the biblical text and preach about it. Here’s what I came up with.

Mary had several sources of information about the baby she would bear. First, there was the announcement of the angelic messenger.

26 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.” (Luke 1:26-33)

Second, there was the report of the shepherds.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:8-19)

Third, there was the blessing of Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the temple.

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

Fourth, there was the blessing of Anna.

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin,37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

In view of all of these reactions to the birth of Jesus, it clear that Mary knew that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the Anointed One of God who was coming to redeem and deliver Israel and reign over the nations. Indeed, as the text emphasizes, Mary treasured and pondered these truths. This doesn’t mean that Mary understood everything about the nature of Jesus. Remember the occasion when Jesus was left behind in the temple as a child?

 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”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. 51 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. (Luke 2:46-51)

Did Mary grasp at this point that Jesus was more than the Messiah – that he was in fact God incarnate? No. But even as Mary was perplexed by some of Jesus’ actions, she was intrigued by them and “treasured up all these things in her heart.”

There is one more reaction to the birth of Jesus that we should consider before we start answering the questions raised by Mary, Did You Know? And that is the reaction of Mary. After Gabriel tells her that she is going to have a baby, Mary responds in a effusive song of praise and adoration that has come to be known as The Magnificat. It is a remarkable medley of quotations and allusions to the Old Testament, and reflects a heart filled with God and saturated by the Scriptures.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the lyrics of Mary, Did You Know? and give some answers.


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 have kissed the face of God
Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know
The blind will see, the deaf will hear and 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

Based on what we have seen in the various passages we’ve looked at, the answer is YES to the following:


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

After all, these are simply different ways to describe the work of the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament and testified to by Gabriel, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and Mary.

Some of the questions raised by the song can be answered with a definite MAYBE.


Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
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?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Why do I say “maybe”? When the Old Testament pictured the coming of the Messiah, it sometimes portrayed the blessings of the new age in terms of these very sorts of miracles. Here’s an example:

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:3-6)

In fact, in his first public message in the synagogue at Nazareth, when Jesus wanted to explain who he was and why he came, he offered just these sorts of passages (see Luke 4:17-19).

So if the coming of the Messiah was to be marked by miracles, and if Mary believed that is who Jesus was, then at least implicitly she understood that Jesus could do such mighty works.

And finally, I believe we would have to say that the answer to some of these questions was NO.


Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?

And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am

I realize my Catholic friends have a different answer to these questions based on certain extrabiblical traditions regarding Mary. And sadly, many of us Protestants have overreacted about these disagreements to the point that we hardly think about Mary at all! But in my view, as the story about Jesus in the temple as a child illustrates, there was a lot about Jesus’ identity that Mary did not grasp for a very long time.

And yet, she stayed with him. How perplexed she must have been at so many points in his ministry. But she followed him and pondered him, even to the end, even when the apostles had abandoned him.

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

I wonder what Mary thought at the foot of the cross. When she heard the crowd scream for the death of her son, did she think about the time Simeon and Anna praised his birth and wonder how it all went wrong? When the disciples deserted her son, did she think that God has deserted her? As the soldiers pierced his side with a spear and the sword of anguish pierced her soul (just like Simeon said), did she think that God’s promise had failed? And as Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus in burial cloths like she and Joseph wrapped him in swaddling clothes, did she think this was the end of the story?

I don’t really know. What I do know is that sometimes that is how I feel. When I see loved ones suffer, and godly people die, and evil people thrive, I have questions like these.

But there is another set of questions we can think about because of the resurrection of Jesus.


Mary, did you know that the way he would save your life is by giving his?
Mary, did you know that when it looked like the King was defeated that he was winning the victory?
Mary, did you know that when it seemed like God’s promise had failed that it was being fulfilled?
Mary, did you know that when it may have seemed like God had abandoned us that he was with us more profoundly than we could imagine?

After the first day of the week, she knew the answers to those questions.

And so do we.