In the last passage we saw that the angel gave Mary assurance of her miraculous pregnancy by telling her that her relative, Elizabeth, was pregnant in her old age.
This news evidently prompted Mary to visit Elizabeth and share the joy. So she traveled from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah, anywhere from 60 to 80 miles. That is adventurous for a young, pregnant woman.
An unusual thing happened when Mary arrived and greeted Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s baby, John, leaped in her womb. The baby who was predestined to be the forerunner and herald of Jesus leaped upon coming into the presence of the baby Jesus. This could happen because John was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception and the Holy Spirit always points to Jesus.
Elizabeth was then filled with the Holy Spirit and led to cry out at blessing. She blessed Mary and she blessed Jesus. Then she remarked at her own blessing that she should be visited by the mother of her Lord. This is Elizabeth’s confession of faith, brought about by the Holy Spirit.
How did Elizabeth know Mary’s baby was the Lord? Her husband, Zechariah could not speak to tell her what the angel said to him. Again, it must have been the Holy Spirit pointing to Jesus through Elizabeth.
The last point of Elizabeth’s blessing was to bless Mary for believing the Lord’s message to her, through the angel, that she would give birth to the Son of God. Her words reflect God’s promise to Israel in Deuteronomy 28 that he would bless them for obedience. In 28:4, he specifically said the fruit of your womb will be blessed, as Elizabeth does here.
The faith of these two women is on display. They both believe the word of the Lord. They both believe Mary carried the Messiah.
This is a sweet picture of joy in the Lord. Both mothers rejoiced. Mary said “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”. Baby John also rejoiced. The coming of Jesus to bring salvation is the cause of great joy for all who believe in him. This reminds me of the first question of the Westminster Catechism, which says the chief aim of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Mary responded to Elizabeth’s blessing with a praise to the Lord. This is often called the Magnificat. That title comes from the words of verse 46 in the Latin Vulgate: “magnificat animus mea Dominum". In English it is “my soul magnifies the Lord”.
Her words remind us of Psalm 34. It says:
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!.
Mary magnified the Lord by praising his attributes, making large of his character and work.
First, Mary praised the Lord’s gift to her because he looked upon her for the blessing of being Jesus’ mother though she was poor (of humble estate). (48) She repeated the words of the angel, that all generations would call her blessed. He did great things for her, blessing her with the baby Jesus.
But Mary looked beyond the gift to praise the giver. She magnified God, not herself. She rejoiced in the character of God.
She praised God for being holy. Saying his name is holy is a way of saying he is holy. She praised his power for bringing forth the virgin conception.
Yet, though God is holy, he shows mercy to generations of men and women who are not holy. Those who fear him, who believe in the salvation he provides through Jesus, receive mercy instead of justice.
And his mercy is not based on the social status of men and women. In fact, he shows his strength by scattering the proud thinkers, by bringing down mighty rulers like Herod, and exalting instead the humble. He brought down Nebuchadnezzar and exalted Daniel. He defeated the powerful Pharaoh to deliver a bunch of powerless slaves. He humbled the proud to show mercy to Israel.
He will feed the hungry while sending away the rich. God abhors pride because pride is man lifting himself up against God. It means taking credit for what God has done, robbing him of his glory. In contrast, humility is submission to God, keeping man and God in their proper positions, resulting in glory to God.
These are all things Jesus did in his ministry. He opposed the Pharisees who were proud in their self righteousness. But he ate with tax collectors and sinners. He healed Gentiles, cast demons from the poor, and fed the hungry.
Mary concluded her praise with a theological statement. She proclaimed that God was showing mercy and helping Israel by bringing the Messiah in fulfillment of his word to Abraham.
His word to Abraham was blessing not only his offspring, but all nations. He said “in you (Abraham) all the families of the earth shall be blessed”. (Genesis 12:3) God’s plan was never to limit salvation to the Jews. He intended all along to bring salvation to all races of people, starting with the Jews.
This is a praise of God’s faithfulness. He made a covenant with Abraham and he kept it.
Mary’s praise reminds us of Hannah’s praise when Samuel was born. (1 Samuel 2:1 and following) She exulted in the Lord as Mary rejoiced in the Lord. She proclaimed the holiness of the Lord. She proclaimed God’s disdain for the proud and his mercy on the humble. That theme runs all through the Bible. James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you”.
Jesus came to establish his rule and his kingdom. He started the process of overthrowing every proud person, leader and nation. He will end it, as we saw in Revelation, in overthrowing the proud fallen angel, Satan.
Some people missed that because Jesus himself was humble. That was seen as weakness instead of power. He exalted those who were humble. He condemned those who were proud.
We would say he turned the world system on its head. That was necessary because the world system operates in opposition to God and God’s values. In this sense, not in a political sense, Jesus was a revolutionary.
We must come to Christ humbly, repenting of sin and desiring his salvation and lordship. If so, he will give it to us as he feeds the hungry. If not, if we are swelled with pride and self sufficiency, he will send us away empty, as Mary said he did to the rich.