This morning we will continue our series in the Gospel of Luke by looking at Luke 11:27-28. As Jesus was discussing the need for true repentance that comes through a new God-given heart (Luke 11:24-26), we read that “a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’” Jesus, upon hearing this, replies: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
This incident is instructive because it shows us true blessedness in three primary ways: First, true blessedness is not based on family. Second, true blessedness is not based on location. Third, true blessedness is not found in seclusion.
Not Based on Family
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is called blessed by this unnamed woman on the basis that she is the mother of Jesus. Jesus gently corrects this woman’s belief that Mary is blessed primarily because she gave birth to Jesus. Jesus’ reply shows that while He had great love and respect for His earthly mother, Mary’s blessing comes through hearing and keeping the word of God.
As a side note, this passage is important to correct the false notion among Roman Catholics that Mary is “The Queen of Heaven”, “without sin”, “perpetual virgin”, “intercessor between man and Jesus”, “greatest creature of all God’s creation”, “exalted to an elevated status above anyone and everything except God”. Just like Jesus in this passage, Protestants (especially Baptists) do not elevate Mary above anyone else, but rather look to her as a woman of great faith that serves as an example to us (like Hannah) of trust in a difficult situation.
This instructs us as well to not base our standing with God on our parents, grandparents, etc. True blessedness does not come from your father being a pastor or a deacon. True blessedness comes from hearing and keeping the word of God.
Not Based on Location
Jesus’ reply shows that true blessedness does not just come through hearing but through hearing and keeping. Many people may hear the word of God but if they do not keep the word of God it is not effective. Hebrews 4:2 says, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”
An important aspect of discipleship is obedience. While it is a blessing to hear the word of God, it is not enough to simply hear the word of God because unless the hearing turns into action it is meaningless. James 1:22-26 says:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
True blessedness does not come from sitting through church services and Sunday School lessons, but from hearing and keeping the word of God. If what you hear on Sunday morning doesn’t impact the rest of your week, then it is meaningless because blessed “are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Not Found in Seclusion
True blessedness is not found in seclusion. It is found in the community of disciples who love God and love others. The hearing of the word of God can be done individually but it should also be done in the context of community. The keeping of the word of God is done individually but most of the “keeping” is done in community with one another. This is why we are going to be intentional about building community in this church through Small Groups. We know that it is important to hear and keep and we need one another to help in this.
Many think that salvation is exclusively an intimate, private thing between us and God. While we do stress a personal relationship with God, the Bible is clear that this personal relationship is meant to be brought into the community of disciples so that our personal relationship with God can foster a personal relationship with one another. This is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Also, this is why Jesus included “and love your neighbor as yourself” along with the greatest command to “love the Lord your God” (Matt 22:36-40).
Questions for Reflection:
- Why did the woman say Jesus’ mother was blessed?
- What was significant about Jesus’ response?
- Does Jesus’ response indicate that He regarded Mary as someone exalted above every other creature (e.g., Queen of Heaven, Greatest of all Creatures, worthy of reverence and respect exceeding any other created being)?
- What is significant about Jesus’ statement, “and keep it!”?
- Is it possible to hear the word of God and keep it apart from Christian community? If yes, why? If not, why not?