Overview and Context
“As he [Jesus] said these things, 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!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28, ESVUK)
While Jesus was teaching the crowds about the threat of unclean spirits going back into a person due to the lack of repentance, a woman cried out that his mother was blessed. Before we examine the passage further, let’s take a closer look at the word “blessed”.
The Meaning of “Blessedness”
According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary, blessedness is the “Condition or state of being in God’s grace or favor”.¹ The Greek word used in this passage is “makarios”, and it denotes a state of happiness.² Dr. George Wood provides the following definition for the word “blessed”:
“To be blessed is to receive God’s approval on your life, an approval that comes not because you deserve it or because you are perfect, but because He loves you. This approval of God, in turn, creates a deep and abiding satisfaction and joy in your own life. This joy is fantastically independent of outward circumstances. It is a joy that is always with us—in sorrow, pain, loss, grief; in youth, middle, or old age. Nothing can drive this joy away. Everything is powerless to touch it.” ³
In other words, to be blessed means to be in a state of everlasting and unconquerable satisfaction and joy because of God’s undeserved grace and approval on our lives.
The woman of this passage was most likely a believer, and she undoubtedly called Jesus’ mother blessed because out of all the women in the world who could have given birth to the Messiah, Mary was specifically chosen by God, and she got to have a special, close relationship with him. But Jesus responded to her by saying that anyone who hears the Word of God and keeps it is someone who is truly blessed. What an amazing contrast! Here, we have the woman who had the honour of being chosen to be the Son of God’s mother, and yet the ones who are truly blessed are the ordinary, common people who abide by God’s teachings in his Word, the Bible!
In this passage Jesus tells us that anyone can be blessed, even if our circumstances, position, or social standing aren’t as good or high as other people’s, because we all have the chance to listen to God’s Word, and obey it. God doesn’t show favouritism towards anyone (Romans 2:9-11). Thus, according to Jesus, the fact that Mary is his mother does not mean that she should be considered more blessed, special, or privileged than anyone else who loves and obeys God, because keeping God’s Word is what truly matters. In fact, all those who hear God’s Word and put it into practice already have the greatest blessing of all: the free gift of eternal life, that was bought by Jesus’ blood on the cross 2,000 years ago, who rose again from the dead on the third day (Colossians 1:19-20; Acts 10:39-41). We listen to God’s Word, and follow Jesus, because God has graciously given us the Holy Spirit, by no merit of our own, so that we may believe and love the truth (Titus 3:4-5).
Jesus Points Us Back to God’s Word
Notice how Jesus places a special emphasis on the Word of God in this passage. The woman in the crowd may have said this to offer Jesus’ mother respect, but her statement might have caused others to doubt their own blessedness, because they did not hold a special position like Mary. To prevent such a misunderstanding, Jesus pointed the people back to the Word of God. This is what we have to do constantly in this day and age that’s full of idols and distractions.
It can be easy to get disheartened by looking at others around us who seem to be better off than we are in life, asking ourselves “Why has God blessed them more than me?” or “Why do I never experience God’s blessings?” But whenever this happens, we need to remind ourselves, by going back to God’s Word, that true blessedness is hearing his Word and keeping it, and that by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, God has already forgiven us all our sins (Ephesians 2:8-10), prepared an eternal home for us in heaven (John 14:1-3), and is at work in us, helping us to keep his Word so that we may always be blessed (Philippians 2:12-13). Thanks be to God for his love and care towards us!
1. Scaer, P D, Blessedness, Bible Study Tools, accessed on 2 September 2018, <https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/blessedness.html>
2. What is a blessing according to the Bible?, Got Questions Ministries, accessed on 2 September 2018, <https://www.gotquestions.org/blessing-Bible.html>
3. Dr. Wood, G O, Happy or Blessed?, georgeowood.com, accessed on 2 September 2018, <http://georgeowood.com/happy-or-blessed/>