After the shepherds visited Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, they were eager to share their story: an encounter with angels, the glory of God illuminating the fields, the angels’ shocking announcement about the birth of a Savior, the baby in a manger. Everyone who heard their tremendous news was amazed. But Scripture says that Jesus’ mother, Mary, “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:18–19).
Why did Mary respond differently? The shepherds’ good news was amazing indeed, but it was not surprising or unexpected for Mary. She had received an angelic visit more than nine months earlier (Luke 1:26–33) and, no doubt, had spent countless hours contemplating the implications of that encounter. Already aware that her child had a world-altering destiny to fulfill, Mary had been waiting in hopeful expectation for this moment.
In the original Greek, the word translated “treasured” in Luke 2:19 means “to preserve knowledge or memories (as for later use).” Mary’s experience with the shepherds confirmed what she already knew about the significance of her Son. Gabriel had promised that Mary would give birth to Israel’s promised Messiah, the Son of the Most High God. Mary had mentally preserved that earlier knowledge and pondered its reality in her heart throughout her entire pregnancy. Now she collected more treasured memories to store and consider for the future.
The words “pondered them in her heart” indicate that Mary did not fully understand everything she was experiencing and learning about her Son. She knew that He had a divine calling, but how could she imagine with absolute clarity what that would entail? “All these things” incorporates not just the immediate encounter with the shepherds but all that had happened from the foretelling of John the Baptist’s birth until the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:5—2:19).
In childhood, as God’s presence filled His life, Jesus “grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him” (Luke 2:40, see also verse 52). One Passover, when Jesus was twelve years old, Jesus’ parents started their trip back home, inadvertently leaving Jesus behind. Upon discovering that Jesus was missing, Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem to find Him in the temple courts fully involved in scriptural dialogue with the religious teachers. Everyone who witnessed the exchange was amazed by Jesus’ wisdom and understanding (Luke 2:41–47). But, once again, Mary’s reaction was different. She “treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).
Mary would not grasp every revelation in the course of her Son’s extraordinary life (Luke 2:48–49). Nevertheless, she stored up a treasure trove of recollections, each confirming Gabriel’s promise that “no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37). Some Bible commentators believe Mary may have kept a written memoir and shared it with New Testament writers like Luke, John, and Paul. “Mary treasured these things in her heart” could be Luke’s indirect acknowledgment of his source.
Luke’s observation also hints at the depth of Mary’s character. She was quiet, peaceful, and spiritually receptive. Mary reflected deeply on the events of her life. Although she likely had the best insight regarding the shepherds’ experience, she kept quiet about her thoughts and feelings. Mary was only a teenager, but she had clothed herself with “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:4, NLT). Her faith ran deep and strong, guarding the secrets of God and gracefully awaiting their fulfillment. The divine mysteries that had intersected Mary’s story were beyond natural comprehension, yet she preserved them as her most valued treasures.