From: Anna Banks
“Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” yells a woman from the crowd. Jesus’ response? “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Well, now. I’ve never seen those verses from Luke 11 framed on a wall.
I know Jesus is saying something important here (although it sounds harsh to my American, 21st century ears). Jesus is emphasizing that, ultimately, our family is formed not by blood, but through our spiritual re-birth and adoption into the family of God.
I also appreciate the irony of Jesus’ quick response. His mother, Mary, was in fact one who “heard the word of God and kept it.” Her response to becoming miraculously pregnant with a baby who was somehow God Himself? “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38a). No wonder these words became a model for our right response to God’s direction in our lives!
Just a few verses later, however, the plot thickens. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, is filled with the Holy Spirit, and seemingly like the woman in Luke 11, cries out loudly, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” And three verses on: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Mary herself then says, “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed…”
So what gives here? Wasn’t the Luke 11 woman simply echoing the words of blessing that spilled from the mouths of Elizabeth and Mary herself?
I had to look closer to notice that both Elizabeth and Mary connected Mary’s blessedness to the One who blessed her. “Blessed is the fruit of your womb…and blessed is she who believed,” Elizabeth says. Mary immediately follows her statement about all generations calling her blessed with these clarifying words: “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49).
My conclusion: Mary was blessed by God, who yes, used her womb and breasts to bring salvation and redemption to all people, including to Mary herself.
And in case we’re left wondering, we can remember the dying Jesus looking down from where he hung on the cross, gazing upon his mother, whose body had once carried, nurtured, and sustained his own tiny body. Among Jesus’ final words before his death were those of concern that his mother would be cared for by the disciple he trusted most.
Jesus didn’t forget his mother.
I’m a newly-married puppy mom living in East Cambridge. I’m also an adoption social worker who is always up for a good chat about — you guessed it — the joys and challenges of adoption. Talk to me about it sometime!