Once again Christmastide comes on the scene, and once again Mary’s great speech will be overlooked by many churches. I see it as Mary being prophetic.
Luke 1:46-55, “The Magnificat of Mary”, starts with her Praising God, her rejoicing in her savior. God took notice in her, a lowly village teenager, a nobody in a nowhere town, a place nothing more than a suburb of the great Capitol of Israel, a place we would call in today’s terms, the hicks, or the skids. God took notice of her and chose her to be the mother of Grace Incarnate. She knew that her son was the Son of the Most High, the Mighty One. She gives one line to her being blessed and being called blessed and that was in response to her cousin, Elizabeth’s greeting to her.
Exactly what is she saying in this brash proclaimed? I’m using the Jerusalem Bible.
vs 46-47: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exalts in God my Savior” If I had been told that my son was the Christ, I would be walking around in a daze. I can’t imagine what my wife would be doing. I know that when she heard that our son and daughter-in-law where expecting their son, she was in gaga-land. Her eyes were glazed over and she just sat there with a silly grin on her face eating candy all night. I wasn’t much better behaved. Yet, here a young girl is telling and elderly relative that her spirit is Loving God and Praising Him for the son that she is carrying. Every Jewish woman prayed that she would be the mother of the redeemer, the new king that would lead them to freedom, but Mary saw it as it was; HER Son was the Son of the Most High GOD.
vs 48a: “because he has looked upon his lowly handmaiden.” Most translations put this as a new sentence, but this translation uses it as the completion of the prior one. To me it makes more sense this way. Mary exalts God, because she is, in her mind, not worthy of this honor. You expect that the king would be born of a royal family, or at least one of the priestly line, or maybe a prominent person of Judea. But God chose her, a quiet girl from Bethlehem. God gives each of us that honor, we are chosen to carry Christ in our hearts. As born into Salvation by His Blood, Christ Lives within us so we can shout as did Mary, “I am blessed because God has looked with favor on His lowly one.” But look more closely at this verse; handmaiden in this verse is in the Greek the same word used for slave. It doesn’t mean virgin, bond servant or housekeeper, it means SLAVE.
vs 48b-49a: “Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.” I read this not as a boastful statement but , instead one of realization that she is not to be afraid of what people might say of her being pregnant. We know that she wasn’t properly wedded at this time, people were going to talk about her in a negative way, but now she realizes that she will be remembered as the mother of God. All will call her blessed even until the end of time. But because some people would elevate her to a place equal to God, other want to almost demonize her. But let us not forget, she WAS favored by God, She WAS chosen to be the mother of Jesus because of her virtue, she IS in Heaven and she is the only human that can call Jesus, “son”. God did do a might work in her, but we would treat her like a surrogate host rather that the most blessed woman in all history.
vs 49b-50: “Holy is his Name,[Psalm 111:9] and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.[Psalm 103:17] Mary has the presence of mind to quote scripture in her excitement. She places all glory right back to God. She was afraid, but she was obedient, she was young, but she acted with the wisdom of ages. She knew that the child she carried was the Mercy of God and she was his mother.
vs 51: “He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the pride of heart.”Now she is telling of what Jesus’ life will mean to the “rich and famous” of her society. The Power of God will be revealed in her son. The meaning of the prophets is being revealed to her and she now starts to prophecy.
vs 52-54: “He has pulled down princes[Job 12:12] from their thrones and exalted the lowly.[Job 5:11] The hungry he has filled with good things,[Psalm 107:9] the rich sent away empty. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy.”[Psalm 98:3] Mary is mindful of dreams of the Jewish people. She knows what God can do. All of a sudden, she sees that the prophecies are about to be fulfilled. She sees that Israel will prosper, not as the way envisioned before but in the perception of God. Those who hunger for righteousness will be satisfied. Those who extort the word of God will be cast out and replaced by those who are mindful of God’s mercy. God will help those who truly love Him to lifted up and then Israel will be the servant of His Grace.
vs 56:“-according to the promise he made to our ancestors- of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.” Mary qualifies her proclamation with the promise guaranteed by God to Abraham. This little girl is telling the wife of a high priest, that God is finally fulfilling His Promise to redeem the people of Israel. The Chosen of God will see their Rescuer an the person of her son, Jesus who is to be called the Son of God, Son of Man.
Zechariah, three months later was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about his son.
Backtracking a little bit, we find in Luke 1:8-22 that Zechariah was visited by a messenger of God, e.i. an angel, and told that his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son and he was to name him John. What I saw with this event was the similarity of God’s pronouncement to Abraham. Both men were righteous before God, both were men of Faith yet both questioned God’s ability to work miracles in their individual lives. The wonderful connection of these two men, was that they gave seed to the Promise. Abraham fathered a nation to fulfill the covenant of God, and Zechariah fathered the Messenger of the Promise Made Flesh!
Zechariah was struck dumb, unable to speak one word because of his doubt. But when his son was born and he wrote down his name, God released the voice with in him. The Holy Spirit spoke to the people gathered for the ceremony of circumcision and naming where filled with wonder that he could speak again, but what he said was even a greater wonder.
Luke 1:58-79 is that speech. Because it is so long, I write write them down but ask that you read them as I tell of their meaning to me. Zachariah begins with the prophecy that God has already redeemed His people, He says, “He has come,” The Horn of salvation has been raised, and now the walls of repression will be brought down. The walls of spiritual repression are destroyed. He knows this because from the house of David has produced the Messiah. The prophets of old have foretold of this. Zachariah knows that in this age, God’s Mercy will be revealed, the covenant will be remembered and the promise -the oath- will be kept. We will be rescued from the hands that hate us (because we love God) and we will be able to SERVE God without fear. We will be able to serve in Holiness and Righteousness ALL our days.
Can you envision the reaction of these friends and relatives when they heard these words. Salvation has come! The Seed of Jesse, Christ the Rescuer, the Healer of the Land is about to come in their midst. But Zachariah says to be free to be Holy and with right living. To Serve God without fear. This is not an excuse to return to neglectful ways but to Praise and Honor our Covenant with God. Put away the ways that have separated us from God’s Grace and open up our lives to serve with love.
More astonishing is the pronouncement that this son of his, John is the prophet of the Most High; The one to pave the way and open the road for Salvation to walk. This little baby John will become the one to tell of the forgiveness and mercy of God that is to come. this son, John, will prepare the way for the Rising Sun that will shine on those living in fear in the darkness of the world and to those hiding from the shadow of death. I see death here as representing evil rather than a physical death.
The one who is to come will guide our hearts, minds and souls into the Path of Eternal Peace. Peace that passes all understanding of men. Peace that quiets the soul and livens the Spirit. John will bring the message to repent and to empty ourselves before God, to wash away the dirth of sin and the death stench of our transgressions.
Zachariah foretold of these things and reiterated the teachings of the prophets. As a high priest, he knew the scriptures, but the Holy Spirit revealed to him that the would be fulfilled by his son. All this took place six months before the birth of Jesus. We don’t know if Elizabeth ever told him that her cousin Mary was to be the mother of the Messiah. We don’t know if Jesus and John ever talked as children or even met until that day by the river Jordan. We only know that John’s ministry started some time before Jesus left home.
What we do know is that Mary know who her son was and that Zachariah knew what his son would do.