Luke 1:39-45: Mary Visits Elizabeth

Mary and Elizabeth, the Visitation

 

The life-changing announcement from the angel Gabriel stuns Mary, as she staggers in shock.

Rejoice, favored one!  The Lord is with you.  Don’t be afraid, Mary, for God honors you.  Listen, you will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  For he will be mighty and will be called the Son of the Highest.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever.  For his kingdom will never end. [Luke 1:28, 31-33]

Wow, Mary finds herself swooning.  “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).  The answer enters her ears—you don’t need a man.  For, the divine Breath, God’s Spirit will form this baby inside you.

So, Mary tip toes to her fiancé.  What can she say?  “Uh, Joseph, the Holy Spirit came over me, and now I’m pregnant.”  Right, and you also own land to sell me in Jerusalem!  So, his response is not unusual.  “Leave!  Well, I don’t want to embarrass you, because this would also humiliate me.  So I’ll end this the best way I can.”

Yes, Mary thinks the wedding is called off.  A young pregnant woman with no husband and no means of income.  Oh, my!  Now, she can’t slink home.  Not if she doesn’t want shame to overshadow her every step!  No, her parents will also think she slept around.

Wait, what did the angel say?  Yes, my older cousin is in her second trimester, all by a miracle of God.  Among all the people of Israel, she will understand.  So, this young woman hurries to Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah.  The sin-filled reaction of Joseph forces Mary to flee, disgraced and devalued, to stay with her cousin.

This road trip to visit Elizabeth is a long one for a single woman, more so pregnant and alone.  With a sinful worldview, Joseph believes Mary, young and attractive, pleasured herself in the company of a younger man.  So, she is forced to walk, without company, alone, ashamed, and humiliated.

In the doorway of Zechariah’s modest, little house, she arrives.  Around the entrance, four people gather.  The unsullied but expectant Mary—and in her, too small to detect—is her developing Son, Jesus.  In front of her is Elizabeth, who is also with child.  In her is John, the one prophesied to prepare the way for the Messiah.

So, the youthful Mary arrives to greet Elizabeth, her seasoned cousin.  The reply she receives astounds her.  Perhaps, she hoped for sympathy, expecting nothing more.  Inspired by God’s Spirit, Elizabeth cries out to Mary.  “Blessed are you above all women, for blessed is the infant in your womb!  Why should this happen to me?  For the mother of my Lord now comes to me!” (Luke 1:42-43).

Well, if Elizabeth’s answer is astonishing, don’t miss what her son does, filled with faith.  For he leaps with joy, and Elizabeth realizes this kick is no mere coincidence.  “For when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby jumped for joy within me” (Luke 1:44).  All three only talk about one Person.  The world’s Savior is present as a pre-born infant inside Mary.

Here, John unmasks the mystery of the incarnation.  The infinite becomes present in the finite.  The Creator embraces the creature.  The eternal Son is growing in His human mother.  Yes, she is exalted because of Him, all sure of God’s promises.  The Spirit is at work, with the youngest of the three exhibiting an exuberant belief with a vigorous, jubilant, prenatal kick.

In 30 some years, Jesus will affirm what the child inside Elizabeth did.  “From children and infants, God will create praise” (Matthew 21:16).  Still, who thought this might include the unborn?  Prepare the way of the coming Christ!

Through her mouth, Elizabeth streams the words of God.  The heavenly messenger is correct—Mary will bring the long-promised Sin-Crusher into this fallen creation.  The Messiah will come, as Mary experienced, into this sin-darkened world, in lowness of humility.  For her experience exposes the people Jesus is coming to save.  Despite this, the Father will bless us through His Son, soon to breathe, live, walk, and die.

Stirred by the Spirit and the Word within her, Mary sings “The Magnificat.”  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my soul delights in God, my Savior.”  Ah, Mary turns into a magnifying lens, enlarging what she focuses on, the Redeemer she carries.  The mother enables us to understand the Son as she praises Him as her God and Lord.

“From now on, all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).  What Mary speaks is true.  Unique among all women, she alone receives this favor.  In her, stirring deep is the blessed Lord of all.  For she is now Eve’s counterpart, in whom the promised Seed will nurture and sprout.  The first woman listened to the Lie and became deceived.  Not so with Mary, who received the Word from above and conceived.

In ages past, the Creator reprimanded the beguiling serpent.  The day will come when “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring” (Genesis 3:15).  A young mother now shrouds the prophesied Messiah.

In her, is the One who will crush the serpent’s head to free Adam’s children.  Yes, mother Eve rejoices in mother Mary in the presence of mother Elizabeth.  So God can work through all, including our failures, for our eternal well-being (Romans 8:28).  No one but the Almighty can do such deeds!

The virgin mother is faithful.  For she believes the pledge, which God spoke to her fathers, to Abraham and his Seed.  Through the Descendant of Abraham, all nations, all peoples, will be blessed.  The saving Lord is now growing inside her, she who with her heart, mouth, deed, and life, exalts her Savior.

All this time, Joseph remains the fool.  So, implied within Luke’s words is more of the story.  The Gospel of Matthew discloses what Joseph will learn.  The angel also reveals to him what God is doing!  No, your bride is not an adulteress though to all your neighbors, she may be so!

Perhaps, Joseph stews over this for the three months Mary stays with Elizabeth.  The truth, however, wins.  Go to your fiancée!  The schooling he receives strikes home and changes him for the rest of his days.  Yes, he now understands Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, bringing God’s presence to His people on earth.

Deal with these events, Joseph!  For God will achieve something earth shattering.  Through the Son you will raise, I will destroy the sins of this sin-infected world.

The engagement is not over.  So, Joseph picks up Mary from Elizabeth’s house and brings her home.  Still, the judgmental neighbors will wag their tongues about an old man who lives with a young, pregnant woman, without being married!  For Scripture tells us they are a betrothed couple, yet never speaks of the wedding ceremony and celebration.  Oh, how shameful, they sneer!  So, Joseph also experiences the sting of others’ sin, since he too must walk the road, meek and humbled.

Soon, Joseph will journey to his family home, to register with the Roman authorities for new taxes.  With him, Mary travels, who is still his betrothed, but not his wife in a consummated marriage, a few days from giving birth.  “In Bethlehem, the time came for her to give birth and she delivered her firstborn Son” (Luke 2:6-7).  Ah, Jesus’ entrance into this world is all because of our sin and His mighty servitude to save.

The firstborn Son.  In the Greek, Luke writes, “She delivered her Son, the Firstborn” (Luke 2:7).  So, our Lord is more than the Child who opens her womb, which is what “firstborn” meant in those days, and nothing else.  The Spirit unfolds a truth the Apostle Paul will later reveal.  Those whom God chose He also set apart to be like His Son.  Why?  For Jesus to be the Firstborn among many (Romans 8:29).  The point is this Firstborn will do more than open up the womb, He will open the gate of heaven!

The Son of God from the Blessed Virgin is your Savior.  Into the gutter of our sin, joining with us in the humblest of circumstances, He comes to liberate.  How fitting.  To open heaven, He must first become sin for you, which means He needs to humble Himself—all the way to the cross!

Why?  All because He loves this world and every fallen creature.  For He and the Father are one.  “For this is the how God loved the world—he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him will not perish but receive eternal life” (John 3:16).

Yes, God loves you, despite your faults and failings—and He dirtied Himself in your filth to restore and enliven you.  The Savior shows us salvation demands a real Savior to pull us from our decaying stench.  A forlorn God in some faraway place does not save you.  The flesh-enclothed Son forgives, not by far-off proclamation, but by intimate involvement in everything sinful.  Why?  So He can free you from the cesspool of your squalor because you are too trapped to rescue yourself.

To conquer your sin, Jesus subjects Himself to become what you are, giving you His righteousness and faithfulness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  What does this mean?  Like Mary, you become a bringer of the Word.  Not in your womb—God only called Mary for such a task.  Still, in your hearts, by faith and on your lips, you also “declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Born of a human mother, God’s incarnate Son rescues you from eternal damnation and brings you into a kingdom beyond all borders, unending.  Proclaim and rejoice in this God, who is your Life everlasting.  With heart, mouth, deed, and life, confess the Christ who saves.  For He is God and Savior of all, including you.  Amen.

 

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