A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.”
Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He took notice of His lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped His servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For He made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”Luke 1:39-55
I have told you already that Luke is weaving these two stories, the birth of John and the birth of Jesus together.
- Have you done some thinking about it and worked out why?
- Why are these two women linked so inextricably together.
- Why do the stories come together in the Bible? Now in the passage we have before us today, Luke has brought the stories together in time.
- Why are they linked?
Well one link is made clear in verse 36. Mary and Elizabeth are relatives.
Elizabeth was one of the daughters of Aaron, or of the tribe of Levi by her father’s side. Yet it seems she may well have been of the tribe of Judah by her mother’s side, and so a relative of Mary. The Persic version calls her “aunt by the mother’s side”. Inter-marriage between the two tribes of Levi and Judah were frequent. Though she might be called her cousin in a more general sense; it being usual with the Jews to call all of their own nation their kinsmen and kinswomen, according to the flesh. So in a time like this you seek out your family for support. But why not stay with the immediate family and gain strength and support from them? Because they don’t know what is happening. They haven’t been made privy to plans of God behind the scenes. Gabriel has told her the link and let her know that Elizabeth “is in the same boat”. Elizabeth is going through the same things. Angel visitations, an unexpected pregnancy (although much sought after) and being told that she is part of a greater plan.
Mary is directed to her own relative, for a sign by which her faith might be confirmed. In terms of what the angel had said unto her, if she found the one to be true (Elizabeth), then she might conclude the things said to her were true as well. Further more, Elizabeth’s situation is a miraculous. She was barren, now she is going to have a baby even though it shouldn’t be at this time. She is past child bearing age it seems. As Luke 1:37 reminds her and us: nothing is impossible with God. One of the reasons these two stories are linked is to place in juxtaposition the impossibility of it all. That an older woman should have a baby and then suddenly a young virgin is found to be “with child”. How can this be? It must be God. God is behind what is going on here. The one confirms the other. The one experience should be interpreted in the light of the other happening.
Even the babies seem to know what is going on. When Mary says “Gidday” to Elizabeth (ok so you’re not from “down under” greetings) the baby reacts. Notice the one baby reacts, John. Not Jesus. He doesn’t react at the at the news. He knows it already. Elizabeth knows what is going on, because she affirms she is blessed by a visit of the mother of her LORD. Gabriel has prepared both women for the events to follow. But Mary’s is a tougher assignment. She is an unwed mother and soon to face the brunt of criticism from the community in which she lives. All of this is for her strengthening. Everything around her and within her is strengthening her for the task in hand. With all this happening around them, the two relatives break forth in a praise session. Elizabeth breaks out the guitar and they compose songs to express the joy that is within them. In the case of Mary’s song it has come down to us today, still to be sung as the “Magnificat” in classical circles and expressed in all sorts of other creative ways as well.
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He took notice of His lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped His servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For He made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Mary is so blessed because she has taken God at His Word and trusted Him despite all appearances to the contrary. Something wonderful is happening on a grand scale. The third reason why these two stories are placed together is hidden in the last line of Mary’s song. Work it out for yourself.
Notice that Mary’s response and Zech’s response are placed in juxtaposition as well!
There’s more to come. Think about it.
These things have much to do with us as well. This story is for all mankind. Oh yes on the grand universal level but also in terms of the lesson there for all of us to be careful as to how we react to God’s input to our lives. Our reaction may well make or break us.
This passage of Mary’s song is precious to me because the Lord used it to expose my heart while seeking his guidance. (Luke 1:46) See the Nugget – Getting it Wrong (Hearing God’s Voice 5) to see the story behind what God did to expose my heart.
If you can’t accept what God says, the problem may be you are trying to fit God into your theological box.Ian Vail
If God says it, that settles it. (Yes I used it two days ago; but good things are worth repeating). It fits here too.Ian Vail
Be careful: your reaction to God’s Word (general or specific and personal) will set your course for the future.Ian Vail
Learn to praise God and accept His word to your heart when everything and everyone tells you to reject it.Ian Vail