Check out the featured post: https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/beyond-wonder.html
Before I was born, both my mom and grandma would read stories to me throughout the day. By the time I was a newborn, it was no surprise that one of my favorite pastimes was listening to them read to me.
At the age of three, I distinctly remember learning how to read and reading all the time. As I matured, I fell in love with mystery, fiction, and romance novels. I was in wonder how someone could craft such elegancies and paint moving picture-shows in my head. I laugh that I am now on my way to becoming one of those “someones”.
But beyond the wonder and astonishment of fairytales and made-up thrillers is the most profound example in history: the Bible.
The Most Wonderful Book of All
In Luke chapter 2, beginning at verse 1, we learn about the mysterious and holy birth of Jesus Christ. The Son of our eternal Author who gave His Word to men that we might be saved.
But when I think about the impact the Gospels have made on my life and the lives of others, it is the response of many that challenges my heart.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:6-12, New International Version).
In the previous chapter, chapter 1, Mary is blessed by the Holy Spirit with Jesus. Though she is a virgin, she is told that she will give birth to the Savior of the world, and she joyfully accepts the command. It is later revealed, that Mary treasured and pondered all these things in her heart.
When the shepherds heard this revelation through the angels’ prophetic message, they believed and immediately went to see Jesus so they could worship Him. All who received this news were astonished.
“That night, in a field, near Bethlehem, shepherds were watching over their flocks. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified! But the angel reassured them, saying, “Don’t be afraid, for I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere! For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah. You will recognize him by this miraculous sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in the feeding trough!” Then all at once in the night sky, a vast number of glorious angels appeared, the very armies of heaven! And they all praised God, singing: “Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! For there is peace and a good hope given to the sons of men.” When the choir of angels disappeared and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go! Let’s hurry and find the Word who is born in Bethlehem and see for ourselves what the Lord has revealed to us.” So they hurried off and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in a feeding trough. Upon seeing this miraculous sign, the shepherds recounted what had just happened. Everyone who heard the shepherds’ story was astonished by what they were told” (Luke 2:8-18, The Passion Translation).
But Mary? Mary was like my fascination with reading as a child, and she was enthralled.
“But Mary treasured all these things in her heart and often pondered what they meant” (Luke 2:19, The Passion Translation).
The Scriptures tell us in verse nineteen that Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. But what does that mean?
Here, I notice two types of responses. One kind from Mary, and one from the Shepherds.
The Shepherds and Mary
The Passion Translation, New Living Translation, New International Version, and King James Version all use the word “astonished” or “wondered” in verse eighteen (“all who heard the Shepherd’s story were astonished”). In the English Standard Version, our concordance notes, “and all who heard it wondered at what the Shepherds told them” (Luke 2:18, English Standard Version). “But Mary (Luke 2:51; Luke 1:66; Genesis 37:11) treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, English Standard Version).
The Greek word for wondered (thaumazō), means to admire, regard with admiration, wonder at, reverence, adore, to wonder, or be filled with wonder, admiration, or astonishment. It is to be amazed, astounded, marvel, and wonder, and is used four times as wondered and forty-two times as marveled in the Scriptures.
But Mary, as Luke notes, treasured and pondered. She went beyond admiration and allowed the circumstance to permanently penetrate her heart.
Treasured (syntēreō), means to keep safe and sound. To observe strictly, or to secure from harm, protect, preserve in memory, and keep carefully in mind. It is the same word used ten times in the Scriptures when God encourages Israel in Exodus 19:5 to obey His commands, for we are His treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; Psalm 83:3) and Job 26:18; 23:12 where he treasures God’s Word more than food.
Pondered (symballō), on the other hand, means to throw together, to meet and join, to meet in war, to encounter and engage with, to encounter in discourse or dispute, to consult together, to contribute, be of service to, to revolve in mind, or ponder upon. It is used two times as pondering when Mary pondered these things in Luke 2:19, and Peter pondered God’s visions in Acts 10:19, but pondering, encounter, conferred, conversed, helped, and met in Luke 2:19; 14:31; Acts 4:15; 17:18; 18:27; 20:14.
The Difference Between Admiration and Life-Long Pondering
Mary teaches us that while we should be astonished and in wonder at God’s mysterious workings in our lives, we must go beyond admiration.
We can admire someone but know nothing about them.
We can admire someone, and never speak to them a day in our life.
We can wonder and be amazed at someone, but never go beyond that place.
And we certainly don’t want to simply stay in wonderment with Jesus, never moving beyond that place of stagnation.
How the Shepherds responded was good. They heard the call, responded, found Jesus, and marveled in His presence. But we must desire to go beyond the Shepherds’ obedience to glorify and praise God and remember these things as often as Mary chose to do.
As Mary did, Jesus wants us to keep (treasure) these things in our hearts and think about them often. He wants us to move past admiration, to a place where we prioritize and protect (keep safe) our relationship with Him above the noise of the world.
He desires for us to think about, remember, and encounter Him often (ponder). Not just meet with Him now and then and forget about His existence in our lives entirely.