Holy Scripture recounts several declarations of who Jesus is, by various people. Jesus poses this question to his Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” The answer to this question is the very core of all Christian belief.
In all Scripture, there is no report that Jesus ever asked His mother, Mary, to tell Him who she thought He was. Until some new found Dead Sea scrolls indicate otherwise, this discussion proceeds on the assumption that, indeed, Jesus never asked her this question.
Why should Jesus not ask her the same important, penetrating, profound question as He asked His apostles who were going to be here once He ascends to heaven, men who will be here for us all in His very person, in persona Christi? He knows she will be revered through all ages. He knows the angel’s salutation to her, Full of Grace, at the Annunciation of His coming into the world incarnate as a man was true. He knows that as human spiritual perfection goes, she is – in terms of sinlessness – the most perfect human being ever to be created. Her response could be so enlightening.
As a matter of fact, in asking His apostles, He already knew the answer; but God felt it important enough to be included in His divinely-inspired words that the question be asked and that the response of Peter, and agreement in it by the other apostles, be recorded and repeated for all generations to come. Evidently, God saw that it was not important or necessary that Mary be asked this question.
What could be learned from God’s deciding that Mary was not to be asked? It is generally fruitless, inadequate, futile, presumptuous, or sometimes just plain stupid to try to figure out God’s thoughts and His ways. With that introductory warning, this discussion, nevertheless, will proceed, in the mode of bull-in-the-theological-china-shop. This is done in the hopes of presenting some guesses to spur thought and discussion – not with any sense of declaring truth or proclaiming wondrous new development of doctrine.
The first point that jumps up is that there was no reason to ask Mary because she already knew the answer to Christ’s identity. She knew all that Holy Scripture tells us, and much more. Her “answer” is all that Holy Scripture tells us about her.
When a mother smiles at a newborn child, that loving gaze communicates more than a mere ”hello.” It says I have known you already all these months. I have protected you and nourished you. I have spoken to you every day, you have heard me, again and again, say “I love You,” and you have known my voice before you ever saw me. You have been absolutely safe within me and I promise you will be safe here with me now. Mary’s Bethlehem smile for the Baby Jesus said all this and “I know You and You are mine.” She not only believed, she knew Her Son was the Son of God.
Mary Knows Jesus
Mary knew and knows so much more about Jesus than any of us may ever know. In a sense, she had Him to herself for about thirty years. One wonders so many things about those years. Did she tell Him to do His chores? How did she reply to other mothers who told her “You’re Son is always so good, I wish my Son could be like that”? Did she marvel at the fact that He never disobeyed her or Joseph?
The setting and situation for two of Jesus’s miracles provide some insight into why Mary is never asked, “Do you know who I am?” Before Jesus performs the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, some of the apostles ask, incredulously, how they are going to feed all these people. Their knowledge and their fledgling faith do not inspire them to realize this is no big deal for the Son of God. Not only is the actual provision of all the food no problem but had they truly believed in this man as the true shepherd who loves His sheep, they would never have questioned if He cared for them enough to feed them all.
At Cana, Mary Has no Doubts
The miracle at Cana exhibited a huge difference. At the wedding feast, Mary, believing in, understanding, and knowing her Son, shows no doubts. She does not question Jesus. She knows who He is and what He can do. She simply tells Him “They have no wine.” Knowing who He was, she knew that, somehow, He would remedy the situation. Whatever the case, she knew her Son, the Son of God, would not allow the bride and groom to be shamed. Interestingly, Jesus knew she would tell Him this before she did it. More interestingly, God inspired John to recount this story, which is as much a story about Mary’s faith as it is about the generosity, power, divinity, and love of Jesus.
No wonder it is church tradition down through the centuries that Jesus first appeared to His mother after His Resurrection. Mary not only believed Her Son would rise from the dead on the following Sunday, she knew it in her heart. Of course, she was not with the unbelieving women who came to the tomb on Easter morning with oils to anoint a dead body. She knew He was not there because He had already come to her, alive and glorious.
Many believe – and there is no church dogma or doctrine that says it cannot be so – that Jesus came first to her after His resurrection. Of course, He did! He might have said, “Mom, look I’m ok!” She might have said “I know, my Son,” again smiling her Bethlehem smile.
There were those who wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff when He told them who He was. There were those who wanted to, and did, crucify Him when He told them who He was. And then there was the centurion on Calvary who witnessed first hand the passion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus, and his answer was, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
Who do you say He is?