18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
1901 ASV Translation:
18 And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them.
There is only one variation of the text between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in 2:18-20. It consists of a single letter in the prefix on the word translated "returned" in 2:20. The Textus Receptus has the "e" vowel and the Nestle/Aland 26 has the "u" vowel. The attestation for the reading of the Textus Receptus is so weak that even the "majority text" refuses to accept it. The significance for meaning is very slight.
I. Luke has been recording the angelic visitation to the shepherds.
II. At 2:15 his record shifts from the angel's message to the shepherds' response.
I. The record of 2:18-20 is "all about" responses...
A. Those to whom the shepherds spoke "wondered".
B. Mary "kept" and "pondered".
C. The shepherds "glorified and praised God".
II. The record is "all about" responses to the specific words of divine revelation...
A. Those who "wondered" did so because of the "things spoken to them by the shepherds".
B. Mary "kept" and "pondered" "all of these words (things)".
C. The shepherds "glorified and praised" because of what they had "heard and seen just as it had been spoken to them".
D. Luke's record began in 1:3-4 as a presentation of "exact truth" so that Theophilus might be able to "know the certainty" of what he had been "generally told". This is the activity of a "detail freak" who understands with great clarity just how easily people are led astray by careless "assumptions" that they "know" the truth of a matter when they actually don't know at all. This raises the "spectre" of a great danger to humanity -- deception -- and makes it all the more amazing how great is the grace that delivers some from the multitude of deceptions that abound. God, for His part, is declarative in a highly compact way (often condensing infinity into a word here and a phrase there) and men have their part: Mary's reaction.
1. The marvel is that any man ever gets anything "right". Given the pronounced tendency to self-interest coupled with the enormous willingness to "assume" greater understanding than one has, men are in significant danger at all times.
a. This generates its own danger: fear-driven "obsession" to "get it right". This is nothing more than self-interest falling back upon human capacity. This is a form of the kind of pride that God opposes.
b. This danger is to be cast aside by "grace": Luke's message was to men who were "fearful" and tended to "obsess" out of human "capacity". Grace means that there will be a sufficient provision for any one who wishes to live.
2. But, this is the nature of the grace of God: to provide for some men what they most desperately need so that they are "rewardable" at the Judgment Seat of the Christ.
E. A classic illustration exists in the statement of Jesus to those Sadducees who arrogantly assumed their ability to "argue" with Him in Mark 12:18-27: His entire response is rooted in an unstated, but implied, verb ("am"). He castigated those men for "overlooking" a highly significant implication from an implied verb. He did this because of their arrogance, not because of their ignorance. God typically deals gently with the ignorant and erring (Hebrews 5:2), but His response to the proud is altogether different. There is only one legitimate response to God's "words": careful humility in both maintaining their integrity and considering their implications.
III. Luke's Point Seems to be that Different People Reacted in Different Ways Because of How They Were Related to the Event(s) of the Words.
A. Those who had the least actual experience "wondered on the basis of the speech of the shepherds".
1. This is the least "positive" response and it focuses upon the fact that the details were "spoken to them".
2. This is, at least initially, where all of the readers of Luke's record must begin -- both without the "experience" and the "explanations" that would make the response move beyond "wonder".
B. Mary, in some level of contrast, "kept" and "pondered in her heart".
1. This is a deliberative response that focuses upon the actual "words" which the shepherds reported.
a. The word translated "kept" is a word that is used in contexts where something is in danger of being destroyed and someone "keeps" it from that end. This is always one of the greatest dangers when it comes to divine revelation because God never speaks to be ignored and because there is always the danger of the "birds" (Matthew 13:4).
b. The word translated "pondered" is a purely Lukan word and he uses it in the context of "bringing various items together" for one purpose or another; in this text "to think through the issues involved".
c. The "location" of her thinking is identified as her "heart": this is the locus of the values by which a person lives.
2. This is the most personally involved individual: she was approached by the angel at the beginning and went through all of the details of a full-term pregnancy and delivery of the Baby.
C. The shepherds, who had the "experience", were moved to giving God glory and praise.
1. This is the natural expression of high joy arising out of the actual experience of Fulfillment.
a. The word for "glorifying" is typical.
b. The word for "praising" is atypical: it signifies extremely high excitement and is generally associated with some form of verbal expression -- singing, shouting, or some such thing.
2. This is the reaction of the "intermediate" group -- they are not as distant as those whom they told, nor are they as close as Mary.
IV. The Challenge Addresses Everyone.
A. What needs to happen in order for each person to move deeper into the "Life"?
1. Luke seems to be pointing out the fact that everyone is involved in a different way -- leading to different reactions. It goes without saying that each person's experiences are unique (even the same experience will impact different individuals differently because of where they "are" and how they "see" things). There is no "one size fits all" except in the more general senses; each individual is an individual project of God.
2. Luke's interest, however, is in getting his readers to move "into" the issues. Just as "Theophilus" has a need to "move more deeply into the life", so do all who read Luke's words. The question is whether the readers have any significant motivation to reach for the possibilities.
B. None of the responses were "manufactured"; all were "automatic" to the individual's particular setting in respect to the experiences involved as they addressed the details of that setting.