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Luke 1:39-56 – Mary Visits Elizabeth

When Gabriel announced the good news to Mary, Mary simply believed without asking for a sign. Zechariah did ask for a sign – how shall I know this. Asking in unbelief, Zechariah received no sign apart from the sign of his unbelief – deafness/muteness. Mary, believing but not asking for a sign, was given one to confirm her faith. Mary was told to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was now five months pregnant and so Mary obediently goes to visit Elizabeth.

We are told in 1:24 that Elizabeth had kept herself in seclusion for five months. This seems strange as generally a pregnancy like this would be joyful news to share widely. It seems that Elizabeth’s seclusion was intended to wait for Mary’s coming. When Mary greets Elizabeth the baby leaped in her womb leaped recognizing the mother of his Lord and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. The seclusion allowed for John’s “first public appearance” to serve as the forerunner of the Messiah – which will be true in Luke 3 as well.

Mary then speaks a word of prophecy that we call Mary’s Song or The Magnificat. The first Christmas Carol is a war hymn. Mary of Nazareth sings of God’s defeat of his enemies, about how in Christ he had demonstrated his power and “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Lk. 1:52). When God makes war, he does so because he sees the suffering and humble state of his people. It is God’s mercy that motivates him making war.

A second thing to notice about Mary’s Song is that it is very much like Hannah’s Song in 1 Samuel that anticipated the rise of King David. A theme of both songs is that God acts to bring about a series of great reversals

  • the mighty brought down from thrones – the humble raised up
  • the hungry fed with good things (joyfully living) while the rich go empty (death)

Mary’s song, like Hannah’s, praises God for his faithfulness in bringing about this great reversal – judging the wicked and saving the righteous. Luke is setting up his gospel for the mighty salvation that God will accomplish in Christ where unclean spirits and sin will be defeated, and Jesus will work a great reversal of grace.