In view of Christmas being this week, I wanted us to meditate on a passage that would be a little more appropriate for the holiday. I wanted something that would be more suitable in getting us ready to celebrate the birth of our Lord.
So earlier this week I asked my wife if there was a passage that she thought would be a good for a Christmas meditation. And my wife suggested we consider this passage.
[So if you don’t like it, you can blame her!]
One of the sermons she has come across was by Jonathan Edwards. The text that he preached was this one here. My wife found it quite thought provoking, and that’s why she suggested this text.
It certainly isn’t a text you would immediately think of as a Christmas passage, but the theme is certainly there. It has to do with the Birth of Christ and how special this event was. More specifically, it has to do with the lofty position that Mary enjoyed as the mother of Jesus.
The text tells us that some random woman who was in the crowd, cried out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed.” You can likely sense her emotion. There can be no doubt that this woman was overwhelmed by the richness of the teaching that Christ had been presenting.
And it might be that this lady recognizes that Jesus is indeed the Promised Christ and Messiah from God. So impressed is she with the person and the work of Christ that she exclaims how great a blessing it must have been to be his mother.
You know, that’s one thing we as Protestants don’t often think about. We don’t really recognize how grand that must have been. Mary is one who holds a rather significant position in Church history. To say that she was blessed, is probably something of an understatement.
You will also notice that Jesus does not object to what this woman says. There can be no objection laid against it because she is indeed blessed. As a matter of fact, there are a number of Scriptures that testify to the fact that Mary is.
For instance, way back in Luke chapter 1 we see it repeated 2 times (and perhaps even 3 times). The first time we hear it is when the angel Gabriel first brought the news to Mary that she was going to give birth to the Son of God. Now there is a texual discrepancy here. This is what the King James Version reads. In Luke 1:28 Gabriel greets her with the words, “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
Now, again. There is a textual discrepancy here. But that doesn’t discount the other two passages. Look over at 1:42. You will remember that after the Angel visited Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. And when she arrived Elizabeth spoke prophetically. And she said, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” And she repeats it in verse 45, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
After that, Mary bursts into song. By the inspiration of the Spirit she lifted up her voice. And in verse 48 she sang, “He has regarded the low estate of his handmaid: for, behold, from this time forth all generations will call me blessed.”
Now I realize that all of you are die hard Protestants and in your mind little red flags are waving furiously. Your Catholic Alarm is going bonkers right now. But I want to assure you that I have not converted. Neither am I advocating any sort of Mariology. We are certainly not going to sing the Ave Maria at the end of our message today and ask if there is anyone here who would like to ask Mary into their hearts.
But as Protestants, have we really thought seriously about how blessed Mary was? Do we really understand the favor that was bestowed upon her and the elation that she must have experienced as a result?
After all, that’s what the idea of being “blessed” is all about. It is that state of happiness and fulfillment that comes as a result of being the one singled out to be the recipient of the bounty of God’s kindness.
And I want us to consider for a few moment just how blessed Mary was. I think that it couldn’t be a better thing for us to think about as we stand here at the brink of Christmas.
I. How greatly blessed Mary was for having born the Christ child.
After all, Mary was the “God bearer.” That title might make some of you a little squeamish. I understand that. And for good reason. As a matter of fact, there was a whole Ecumenical council held early on in church history over that very term.
Some of you might know the controversy surrounding the guy by the name Nestorius. Around 430 people would sometimes talk about Mary and use the term “Theotokos,” which means “God bearer” or “the mother of God.”
I’m not going to go into the details of the controversy, but the controversy had to do with that term. And there is a sense in which yes, we have to be careful. On the one hand, we don’t want it to sound like the divine nature of Jesus started with Mary—as if to say if there were no Mary, the second person of the Trinity would never have existed. We know that the Son of God has always existed (there never was a time when he was not).
Neither do we want to make it sound like Jesus did not have a human nature. He most certainly did. Technically speaking, Mary wasn’t just the bearer of God. She was the bearer of the God-man.
But it is not theologically incorrect to say that she was the one who brought forth God. For Christ is indeed was wholly divine. And to say that she was the God bearer is most certainly an orthodox statement because she did carry in her womb He who was divine.
There is the radical mystery (and profundity) of Christmas. He who was the very substance of God, dwelling in the unimaginable excellencies of heaven, came down to earth—and more than that, he entered her womb. Though the world could not contain him—being that he is infinite God and so exceeding vast reaches of the universe, he made his home within the Virgin Mary. This lowly girl, who was for all practical purposes entirely obscure—a complete nobody, was chosen by God and raised up for this one purpose: to be the instrument through which the second person of the Godhead would come.
Just think of that! In the reproductive organs of this little lady, you have the manifestation of the three persons of the Trinity. The Father, before all time, ordained that she would be the one in whom the Savior would be housed. Remember that Jesus came “in the fullness of time.” That means that the Father had ordered all history so that at just the right moment Christ would be born. That of course implies that He had not only foreordained all the events of history, but he had specifically written her into his divine decree.
Of course, it is obvious how the second person of the Trinity is involved. But you also have the third person of the Trinity operating here too. The Holy Spirit, was the one who caused the Christ to be conceived within her. Due to the nature of the miracle it was necessary that the Holy Spirit descend upon her. For, if there was to be a Second Adam who did not have the spot and stain of sin, the ordinary rules of conception had to be overridden. And as the Angel Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
So, of all places to witness the Trinity at work, it was here in the womb of Mary! Now, how blessed is that? I would say that to have the Trinity so openly acknowledged anywhere is a grand thing. But that it was (of all places!) within Mary’s body, should make us pause and consider the wonder of it all.
But of course, her blessed state is most clearly expressed in that she was given the honor of bearing the Lord Jesus.
Now we would all agree that someone is most certainly blessed of God if they are His instruments in sharing the gospel. To have the opportunity to talk with someone about Jesus is a blessing. He or she is even more blessed if they not only be the one who communicates the content of the gospel, but he go on to actually see that person with whom he is talking convert.
But to talk about the gospel and to actually give birth to the gospel are two entirely different things! To speak about Jesus is a great blessing. But to be the one who bears him and gives birth to him is blessing on a whole different level!
Listen to what Jonathan Edwards once said:
“Some [people] G are blessed with a very Great and extensive knowledge in matters of Religion. They are Great Divines and [the Lord]& makes them Instruments of doing a Great deal of Good. They are means Instruments of the Conversion of many souls;they are Gnot & not only are are they means of a Great deal of Good in their own Particular flocks but tha many have been Great Lights in the [broader] Church; n Generalthey by their Preaching & writings have done a Great deal of Good towards advancing the Cause of Truth & Piety thou throughout a whole nation; or all in many nations some have Gloriously defended the Cause of Truth against heretics & Gainsayers; there have some have been Instruments of Propagating Religion & Instructing Poor heathens & Converting them to Xtianity; some [such as Luther] have been Great Reformers andLuther have been the meansend of Reviving the Church after a Long night of darkness & time of General Corruption; some Xtian Kings & Emperours have been Privileged by being made Instruments of a Great Good to the Church: Constantine the Great was a Establishing theChristian who overthrew the heathen Rom Empire & setting up a Xtian [government in its place]Rom.”
If these are all considered blessed, ought we not to understand how greatly blessed was she who did bring forth the Son of God and Savior of sinners?
And think about how blessed she was for having nursed that child and raised him all through his years.
We sing, “In Christ Alone.” It is one of our favorites. You know, there is the line in that song that says, “Fullness of God in helpless babe.” That boggles my mind every time I sing it. The God who upholds all things, was a helpless babe. Isn’t that crazy? I mean, if it were not for Christ holding them in their positions, the stars would fall right out of the sky. The stars were not hung there like ornaments on your Christmas tree. They don’t just sit there by themselves. They have to be held in place by the hand of God at all times.
Yet, this God, who upholds all things, was a helpless baby. He was completely dependent upon Mary. She was the one who gave him food and drink. And understand, without her, he would have been in a lot of trouble. His survival rested upon her and her tender care.
He who was divine was coddled in her arms and fed by her breast.
The incarnation is by far one of the greatest wonders known to man and the preeminence of Christ cannot be fully comprehended by any one of us. And all that only serves to highlight how superbly blessed of God Mary was.
But why is it important to point all of this out? Why is it wrong for us Protestants to downplay Mary’s status? And why is important that we not shirk back from acknowledging the extent of her blessedness?
Well, for one, it provides us with a great opportunity to remember the incarnation of our Lord. But more than that, it reveals how blessed we are if we take the word of Christ to heart.
II. How much more blessed are we if we hear and heed the word of Christ.
I said earlier that Jesus does not object to the truth that this woman spoke. But you’ll notice that he doesn’t dwell on it either. He doesn’t correct her, but he does redirects her focus. He says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” One way you might translate it is, “Yea, more than that blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
All that is to say, don’t focus on Mary. Sure, she might be blessed, but Jesus wants those around him to know that there is a blessing to be had that is greater than the one that was bestowed on Mary.
Now, I doubt we can fathom just how blessed Mary was. The favor that the Lord bestowed upon her was no doubt a rich and glorious thing. And we might say that we haven’t even begun to plum the depths of what she experienced. But Jesus tells us that it pales in comparison to how blessed one is if he is a disciple of Christ.
To be one of Christ’s disciples and to make His word the very foundation for your life is enter a state of virtually infinite blessing.
You remember what it says Psalm 1. Blessed are those who walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor sit in the seat of the scornful nor stands in the way of sinners. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on it he meditates day and night.
Who is the one who is blessed? It’s the one who delights himself in the law of the Lord.
The psalm goes on to give an illustration of just how blessed he is. It says, “He is like a tree planted by steams of water, which yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not wither.
That tree is a metaphor for the blessing that we experience when pledge to live by God’s word. The analogy speaks of life and vibrancy. The fruitfulness of the tree illustrates how productive and successful one becomes. The whole picture of a tree by a stream of water is one of abundance and peace. In sum, when you take Christ to be the Lord of your life and you make his law the standard for your life you are filled with the fullness of life.
And that is much greater than being the God bear. vessel used in bringing forth Christ.
I’m told that Christmas is sometimes the time of year where many people experience discontent and depression. Many are disillusioned. But the cure for this is found here. The way to find happiness is spelled out right in these words. It is by looking to Christ. It is taking heed to every word that was uttered by his tongue.
The moment you say, “I will follow you, dear Jesus, and I will follow your word.” That is the moment you enter into a new world of joy and peace.
And may this Christmas you not only take joy in the birth of the Savior, may you take joy in the fact that as his disciple you enjoy the vast measures of his blessing.
Jonathan Edwards, Sermon on Luke 11:27:-28 http://edwards.yale.edu/archive?path=aHR0cDovL2Vkd2FyZHMueWFsZS5lZHUvY2dpLWJpbi9uZXdwaGlsby9nZXRvYmplY3QucGw/Yy40NDoyLndqZW8=
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.