by Mark Perkins, Pastor, Front Range Bible Church, Denver, Colorado USA
Luke’s narrative now turns to the story of Mary, the mother of our Lord.
Mary is clearly portrayed as the biological mother of Jesus Christ. There was nothing special about her makeup that she was the mother of our Lord nothing that made her unique from all other women. She was a woman who loved God, and she too waited for the Messiah. In fact she waited faithfully, unlike so many of her contemporaries, both women and men.
Mary was born into sin, like every other female child before and after her. She does not have special access to God just because she conceived and gave birth to Christ. She is no different as far as we are concerned than any other mature believer. Christ Himself warns against Mariolatry in Luke 11:27-28.
Luke 1:26-28, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was went from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, ‘Hail, woman who has been graced out. (kecharitomene) The Lord is with you.’”
Again, here is the angel Gabriel, the messenger of God, one of the highest ranking of all the angels. He is sent to announce to Mary the imminent arrival of the Messiah. Of the genealogies of these two, we already know much. Repetition is not necessary.
As the angel “beams in”, he issues a greeting to her. The greeting means literally, “woman who has been graced out”. God is the only subject ever used by CHARITOO.
Notice that Mary is not fazed at all by Gabriel’s angelic appearance. She is unique in this regard. Daniel trembles, Zacharias fears, the shepherds are terribly frightened, and Mary is troubled by the greeting of this angel! She begins to DIALOGEI in her own mind. She is thinking it through, having a dialogue with herself “What did this angel mean by his greeting?” She was troubled by it.
The angel alleviates her troubled mind and tells her the exact meaning of the greeting.
“You have found grace from the side of God.” Let me quote from Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich: “…denotes a person, and indicates that something proceeds from this person.” Mary has found it because she looked for it. She is a wonderful believer from the age of Israel. In her great humility she cannot think that she has found grace, for she has already prospered in knowing God.
“You will conceive in your womb and bear a child.”
This certainly would have come as a surprise, since Mary was a virgin. She certainly understood the consequences of what the angel was saying. She would be subject to disgrace, and maybe the risk of capital punishment. There are great and terrible implications to this.
“And you will name Him Jesus.” His name means salvation.
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and kingdom will have no end.”
There could be no mistaking it now. She was to be the mother of the Messiah. He is the Son of God he will sit on David’s throne his kingdom will last forever his kingdom will know no boundaries. These are all very clear. She is to bear the Messiah.
Mary’s response is simple “How will this come about, since I am a virgin?” Mary’s response is not arrogant, unlike that of Zacharias. She is just curious. She did know the basics of reproduction. In fact, it is my impression that the Hebrew society was much more open about such things than our own. She was more than willing to believe.
Gabriel tells her as best he can the specifics on how she will conceive. “The Holy Spirit will appear over you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you; and therefore the holy one who is born will be called the Son of God.”
This is the essence of the virgin birth. It is really quite clinical in nature. God the Holy Spirit performs the operation by his omnipotence, and adds the unpolluted chromosomes to Mary’s ovum.
Luke 1:39-45, “Now at this time Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the fetus leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice, and said, ‘Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the fetus leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’”
We are not sure why Mary got up and went ‘with haste’ to visit Elizabeth at least the text does not come right out and tell us. However, we do know that Elizabeth is in a funk over the timing of her pregnancy. She does not want to be a circus sideshow act she wanted children while she was still young.
We also know that Mary and Elizabeth were cousins, so it was likely that Mary knew both of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and her mental state. Finally, we know that as soon as she know about her own immaculate conception, she left to be with Elizabeth.
Therefore, it is likely that the combination of the above conditions led Mary to visit Elizabeth. Just as soon as Mary enters the house and speaks her greeting, just as soon as that greeting enters the ears of Elizabeth, the fetus leaps in her womb. This leaping was reflex motility in response to the excitement of Elizabeth on hearing the voice of her cousin.
Immediately Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. This is for the purpose of prophecy what she says next is inspired by God the Holy Spirit. Luke always does us the courtesy of telling us when one is under the filling of the Spirit. Elizabeth literally “sounds off with a great cry” ANEPHO.NE.SEN KRAUGE. MEGALE. and she says, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
This first part of what she says confirms that when she wants to talk about a human being she uses one expression. Mary is blessed because she is chosen to bear and nourish and raise the Son of God. The fruit of her womb (not yet ripe nor picked) will also be blessed, because of His life and death.
The word for blessing here is EULOGEO, which means to speak well of someone. EULOGEO is blessing with reference to reputation.
Furthermore, Elizabeth says, “and why does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth employs a rhetorical question here. She does not expect an answer she knows it. Elizabeth knows that the child she will bear will prepare the way for Christ. She answers her own question in the next verse.
Elizabeth now gives an explanation of her previous words, “for behold, as the sound of your greeting came into may ears, the fetus in my womb leaped for joy.”
Elizabeth explains to Mary her rhetorical question, and her statement about blessing. She is telling Mary that at the moment she heard her greeting (and at the moment she was filled with the Spirit) the child leaped in her womb. It all came together at that moment Elizabeth understood everything Mary the greeting her own pregnancy God’s plan for the ages.
Finally, Elizabeth summarizes the entire experience the lifetime of that moment, “and blessed is she who believed that the things that were spoken will be fulfilled in her by the Lord.”
Elizabeth is telling us that she finally understands it all, and she is complementing Mary on her immediate belief in the word of God. The word for blessing here is different from the one above. This is macharia, or mental attitude contentedness. Elizabeth is saying in a roundabout way that she missed the boat that she did not immediately respond as she should have, and so she missed the blessing.
The important thing is that Elizabeth now understands everything with clarity. This verse also answers the previous question why Mary came to visit Elizabeth. It was so that Elizabeth could recognize her own error, and turn around.
This is the great prayer of worship from Mary. It is a prayer that is based on the utter confidence of one who has known and relied on the capabilities of God.
Let’s look at what Mary knows about God from learning in the ritual plan of God. She knows the architecture of her own soul that she has emotion, mentality, and a human spirit. She knows that God is the source of her salvation. She calls Him her savior. She understands the omnipresence and omniscience of God when she says that “He considered” her humble state.
EPIBLEPO is the verb here, and it means to look down upon something, and to understand it. God looked down upon Mary and He fully understood her humble state. God also knew exactly what to do about it. That is the expression of his omniscience.
Mary understands the omnipotence of God she calls Him the Mighty One, and she knows exactly what God has accomplished.
She understands the perfection, or holiness of God. When she says, “Holy is His name”, she says, perfect is his essence.
She understands the implications of the birth of the Messiah. She praises God for the strategic victory of the angelic conflict, and here is her reasoning. If God can accomplish the virgin conception and birth of the Messiah, He can accomplish anything else. What is the problem to go from one impossibility to the next.
Mary was a patriot, and she understood the implications of the Messiah on her nation. She related the Messiah to the kingdom of God, and indeed she already understood some of the kingdom concepts even before Christ ever explained them.
She understood the difference between being rich and poor. This metaphor has nothing to do with food or hunger in the literal sense. It has everything to do with a desire for a relationship with God. It is all about true humility.
Those who are humble and hungry for a relationship with God will receive the intrinsically good. Those who are rich in their own minds will go away empty handed.
Mary understood the mercy of God, and its implications. She knew the history of her nation and its heroes.