Scripture: In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:39-45 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Friday’s Daily Focus, God summons the angel Gabriel to announce to Mary that she is highly favored and that the Lord is with her. Confused and frightened, Gabriel reassures Mary of God’s favor and informs her she will conceive a son, which she is to name Jesus. Gabriel adds that Jesus will become known as the “Son of the Most High” and reign over the house of Jacob forever. Mary then asks how this will happen since she is a virgin. So Gabriel gently explains that the Holy Spirit will “overshadow” her, bringing forth the incarnate the Son of God. And he offers her a sign to show nothing is impossible with God: Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, is six months pregnant. Satisfied, Mary proclaims, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v.38). So Gabriel departs.
In today’s reading, Mary hastily leaves her home (Nazareth in Galilee) to visit Elizabeth at her home in Judea (location unknown but likely a three-day journey). Upon entering, she greets Elizabeth, at which point Elizabeth’s son leaps within her womb. Overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth cries joyfully, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (v.42) Elizabeth then inquires why God is blessing her with a visitation from the mother of her Lord and adds that her baby lept for joy when Mary arrived. And filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth announces that Mary is blessed because she believes all that the Lord has spoken to her (via Gabriels’s announcement).
Takeaway: Mary’s response to Gabriel’s announcement (hastening to her cousin’s house) demonstrates her trust in and obedience to the Lord, for she sought union with her cousin and the babies in their wombs and believed she would find Elizabeth pregnant as Gabriel announced. For Luke, though, this is not simply a segue to the glorious Magnificat but a necessary detail demonstrating that John the Baptist is pointing to Jesus as the Messiah even from the womb.
To the original audience, this story would provoke memories of a starkly contrasting pregnancy when Rebekah’s twins (Jacob and Esau) battled for supremacy in the womb (Genesis 25:22-26). But these womb-mate cousins are of one accord for one purpose: to usher in the Kingdom of God at the dawn of the New Covenant age. And Elizabeth’s spirit-led response confirms the united purpose: just as she exhibits humility and seeks to bless the mother of Jesus, soon her son will likewise fulfill the same role and fade into the background to support his cousin’s rise to prominence as the Son of God (John 3:30).
Our takeaway? As theologian Darrell Bock contends, Elizabeth’s spirit-led blessing to Mary for believing the Lord would reveal Luke’s first beatitude: “Rich is the blessing that comes to those who share in and believe in that truth. When God steps into our lives, we should rejoice and trust that he will do as he has promised” (NIV Application Commentary: Luke, p.65). Bock offers a good word for all of us: believe and trust in God’s promises and rejoice in him.
Conversely, an attitude of doubt and distrust bears the sour fruit of fear and anxiety, leading to grumbling. But as Solomon reminds us, when we wholeheartedly trust in the Lord and lean not on our understanding but instead acknowledge him (praise and rejoice in him), he will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). Mary will vacillate between treasuring endearing moments of her son’s childhood and early adult life to the depths of sorrow at his crucifixion to the ecstasy of his resurrection. And while her worldly path may appear to undulate, her spiritual journey will steadily rise to glory. And so will ours when we believe, trust, and rejoice!
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your incarnate Son, who always relied on and delighted in you. And we thank you for the saints of our faith, like Mary, who believed, trusted, and rejoiced in you and your Son. Still, amid our fallen world’s challenges and our sinful inclinations, we are prone to succumb to fear, doubts, and distrust. So would you please help us wholeheartedly lean on you and not on our understanding so that we might join with the great cloud of witnesses in proclaiming your praises? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling