Every mother remembers the details of her pregnancies: each visit to the doctor, finding out the gender, what she was doing when she went into labor, and those statistics of birth weight, length and presence or absence of hair etc. Jesus’ mother, Mary, was no exception. But she had much more to remember and many puzzling, even troubling things to contemplate about the birth of Jesus. Luke points out that
Mary treasured all these things [rhemata], pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
And after Jesus’ boyhood visit to Jerusalem Luke says, [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things [rhemata] in her heart. (Luke 2:51)
So, what were the “things” that she pondered and treasured? Luke uses the Greek word rhemata1 nine times in his first two chapters. It is translated with various bland English words, so we miss the significance of it. Rhema is often translated, “word”. But it frequently indicates a statement with special significance, often a prophecy. Sometimes it refers to an event.
- Luke 1:35-38 refers to Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that, although she was still a virgin, she would bear a child who would be the Son of God.2 “Nothing [not any rhemata] will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word [rhema].”
- An angel visited Zacharias and told him that his barren, elderly wife would have a son who would prepare people for the coming messiah. Zacharias did not believe it so he was struck dumb until John’s birth when he miraculously began to speak and praise God. “All these matters [rhemata] were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:65).
- Angels visited shepherds and declared good news of a Savior who is Christ the Lord coming to a town near them! “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing [rhema] that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15). “They made known the statement [rhema] which had been told them about this Child” (Luke 2:17).
- In Luke 2:29 Simeon referred to God’s word [rhema] to him that he would see God’s salvation. Finally, he could depart in peace because the light that he had waited a lifetime for had begun to shine in Jesus.
These “things” form the bulk of Luke’s nativity story. They span about 15 months. Almost everything referred to involved angelic visitations.
- Twelve years later the family went to Jerusalem again and Jesus visited the temple. Mary and Joseph “did not understand the statement [rhema] which He had made to them” (Luke 2:50). What did Jesus mean that He must be about His Father’s affairs or in His house?
Any mother would spend considerable time wondering at the significance of all these statements and events. But what impact did they have on Mary?
I think Mary lived with expectancy throughout Jesus’ life. She was alert to unusual developments as He matured, attuned to His intimate Father-Son relationship with God, ready for the sword of pain,3 ready to believe He was unique.
When God visits us with a word or a divinely orchestrated circumstance we should take note. It is a sign that He is real and that He is engaged in our lives. Let’s live differently because of His visitations. Remember them and ponder what He is preparing to do in and through us.
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