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hear the Word. Luke 11,27-28

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With true womanly feeling, she envies the mother of such a wonderful Teacher. Well, and higher and better than she had said as much before her (Lu 1:28, 42); and our Lord is far from condemning it. He only holds up—as “blessed rather”—the hearers and keepers of God’s word; in other words, the humblest real saint of God.[1]

Affirmative—“indeed,” as in Phil 3:8. This would agree with the woman’s blessing and identify Jesus’ mother as an example of one who hears God’s word and obeys it. (3) Corrective—“yes, but rather.” This would show that although the blessing is correct, there is a greater blessing available to those who believe. Usually if Luke wanted to express the adversative meaning (1), he used ouchi and legō hymin (cf. Luke 12:51; 13:3, 5), and if he wanted to express the affirmative meaning (2), he used nai (cf. 7:26; 10:21; 11:51; 12:5). The third meaning is therefore more likely. An expanded translation of this sentence would read: “What you have said is true as far as it goes. But Mary’s blessedness does not consist simply in her relationship with me, but in the fact that she heard the word of God and kept it, which is where true blessedness lies.”74

Luke 11:27

As he said these things (ἐν τῳ λεγειν αὐτον [en tōi legein auton]). Luke’s common idiom, ἐν [en] with articular infinitive. Verses 27 and 28 are peculiar to Luke. His Gospel in a special sense is the Gospel of Woman. This woman “speaks well, but womanly” (Bengel). Her beatitude (μακαρια [makaria]) reminds us of Elisabeth’s words (Luke 1:42, εὐλογημενη [eulogēmenē]). She is fulfilling Mary’s own prophecy in 1:48 (μακαριουσιν με [makariousin me], shall call me happy).

Luke 11:28

But he said (αὐτος δε εἰπεν [autos de eipen]). Jesus in contrast turns attention to others and gives them a beatitude (μακαριοι [makarioi]). “The originality of Christ’s reply guarantees its historical character. Such a comment is beyond the reach of an inventor” (Plummer).

Ver. 27.—And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked! This woman seems to have expressed the popular feeling. The crowds who had seen the great miracle, had listened to the cavilling suspicions, and then heard the Master’s wise and skilful reply, were evidently impressed with the wisdom as with the power of the famous but hated Teacher, for they no doubt echoed the lofty and sublime blessing of the woman here. She, perhaps, had in her own person experience of the two kinds of healing just contrasted by the Master; at all events, she had rightly comprehended his words. “How many women have blessed the holy Virgin, and desired to be such a mother as she was! What hinders them? Christ has made for us a wide way to this happiness, and not only women, but men may tread it—the way of obedience; this it is which makes such a mother, and not the throes of parturition” (St. Chrysostom). It has been ingeniously noticed that this is the first direct fulfilment of the “Magnificat”—“all generations shall call me blessed.”

Ver. 28.—But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it. As was invariably his practice, he declines to enter into any discussion respecting the peculiar blessedness which earthly relationship to him might bring. It was not for public discussion. The Lord, in his reply, tells her, however, that there was something even more blessed than that earthly relationship to which she was alluding, and to that something all, if they pleased, might attain.

11:28 Blessed rather. The meaning of the Greek term “rather” ( menoun ) is unclear. It is used only four times in the NT, but it has three possible meanings: (1) adversative—“on the contrary,” or “no, but rather,” as in Rom 9:20; 10:18. This would repudiate the blessing of Jesus’ mother by the woman in the crowd. (2) Affirmative—“indeed,” as in Phil 3:8. This would agree with the woman’s blessing and identify Jesus’ mother as an example of one who hears God’s word and obeys it. (3) Corrective—“yes, but rather.” This would show that although the blessing is correct, there is a greater blessing available to those who believe. Usually if Luke wanted to express the adversative meaning (1), he used ouchi and legō hymin (cf. Luke 12:51; 13:3, 5), and if he wanted to express the affirmative meaning (2), he used nai (cf. 7:26; 10:21; 11:51; 12:5). The third meaning is therefore more likely. An expanded translation of this sentence would read: “What you have said is true as far as it goes. But Mary’s blessedness does not consist simply in her relationship with me, but in the fact that she heard the word of God and kept it, which is where true blessedness lies.”74

Those who hear the word of God and obey it. Compare 6:47; 8:15, 21. This explains what it means to gather with Jesus (11:23) and stands in contrast to the failure to persevere in faith illustrated in 11:24–26.


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74 M. E. Thrall, Greek Particles in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), 35.

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