Today's Gospel lectionary reading from Luke 11:27-28 is an unusual one....
While he [Jesus] was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"What was Jesus saying that drew this response from this woman? He had just been speaking about the power to cast out Satan that was obviously present in his ministry. Perhaps the woman wanted to experience such power for herself, but she could only imagine doing so "at one remove" so to speak. She could imagine being related to Jesus as his mother. And thus her spoken thought was, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" It's almost as if she was wishing that she could have been Jesus' mother and experienced him in her womb or nursing at her breast. Was she a woman unable to conceive for some reason? Was she longing for a child of her own? We will never know.
However, what we do know is that Jesus promised something better to her. He counters her blessing of his mother by saying, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!" As amazing as it was for Mary, a human being, to carry the Son of God in her womb and nurse the son of God at her breast, Jesus is saying that it is even more wonderful to be in the position of one who hears the word of God and obeys it.
And here is the really good news: any one of us may take up that position. Any one of us may be blessed even more than Mary was. We each have the incredible opportunity to hear the word of God and, by the power of the Spirit, obey it.
Think of it: the word of God is even more available to us today than it was in the first century when Jesus spoke these words. Not only do we have Jesus' words contained in the Gospels, we have all of the rest of the New Testament commentary on those words. And we have all of the Old Testament that pointed forward to Jesus. We have the complete revelation of God in the Bible, everything we need to know to guide us in our walk with God. And we have it in our own language, in a Bible we can have in our own home. This is an incredible privilege that most people, up until the sixteenth century, never had.
Who is the most blessed? Is it Mary or us? Is it the one who feeds the Son of God or the one whom the Son of God feeds? Jesus actually tells us that we may be the most blessed.
We should give thanks to God for the wonderful honor that is ours, of having a Bible in our own language that we can read for ourselves. And we should ask God for the power of the Holy Spirit to help us apply and obey his word in our everyday lives.