When we last left Mary, her words in reply to the Angel Gabriel who had told her that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah were recorded in Luke 1 verse 38, when she said 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.” And in these words, we begin to see the heart of this poor Jewish young girl, from a small village that God chose to be the vessel through which He would bring His Son Jesus into the world.
39 Now at this time Mary set out and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah,
Mary hurried to receive this confirmation, and to help her cousin.
40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Mary she greeted Elizabeth with a blessing which would be due her elder, her older cousin. Elizabeth could have no way of knowing that Mary was pregnant. Mary herself could not know she was pregnant for sure, except that Gabriel the angel had told her.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Baby John, within Elizabeth’s womb couldn’t express this joy he felt himself, but the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and she was able to express what baby John could not.
42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Elizabeth cries out, like an announcement, saying in a loud voice that Mary is blessed by God among women, highly favored, a chosen vessel of God.
Elizabeth blesses little Jesus as well. Jesus is the reason for all of this praising God and blessings. You know, to be the recipient of all of these blessings, and to inspire such praise toward God at the age of less than one month of development in the womb is a pretty early start in ministry.
43 And how has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me?
How did Elizabeth already know that Mary is the mother of the Messiah? The Holy Spirit told her. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job, among others, to tell us about Jesus, and reveal Him more and more to us.
44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.
Baby John is trying to express at that moment in the only way he can—by moving his little legs and arms, and leaping. Baby John may not have had words to express how he felt, but he could still praise God. On Palm Sunday, when Jesus was riding triumphantly into Jerusalem, it was the children who were shouting in Mathew 21:15: ”Hosanna to the Son of David,” and Jesus said to the priests in verse 16, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” And in our verses today, we see the Holy Spirit drawing baby John to Jesus, even before John has words to express how he feels. With this little leap, John begins his ministry as the forerunner of the Messiah—calling people to pay attention to Jesus and magnifying Jesus, not himself.
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
Elizabeth’s final word to Mary in this meeting are to bless her for her faith. This verse is really the central verse of the visit. As Mary stands on her faith, her heart overflows with praising God in song.
Mary’s Song: The Magnificat
This is the place that gives us the clearest picture of the heart of this (probably young teenage) first century Jewish girl, and how she felt about being the willing vessel, by which God would bring His Son into the world. It describes her right understanding of her role as an instrument used by God, and what the coming of her son Jesus, the Messiah, meant for Israel, the descendants of Abraham, and indeed for us, as the spiritual descendants of Abraham.
46 And Mary said: “My soul [ac]exalts the Lord,47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
Mary magnifies or exalts the Lord God. She praises God for who He is, and praises God for being her savior, her deliverer.
48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond-servant; For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.
She praises God because he has looked upon, or regarded her despite the fact that she was a poor girl from a small town. And she knows that the blessing given her by Elizabeth will be echoed by all generations from then on, as indeed they have been, blessing Mary for being an exemplary bond-servant.
49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.
Mary acknowledges that God, the Mighty One has acted on her behalf, doing great things for her. What had seemed impossible, since she was a virgin, is possible because of the power of God.
50 And His mercy is to generation after generation Toward those who fear Him.
Next, she praises Him for His mercy, and God’s expression of His Holiness through the mercy that he has shown Israel, for generation after generation, to those who fear Him, recognizing His power and authority, and obeying Him out of respect and awe for Him.
51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God’s power to save, the mightiness of His deeds is what’s in focus here. His dealing with the proud. Those who choose, through pride, to be independent of God, and not respond to His offer of love, find themselves dissipated and scattered in the thoughts of their own hearts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.
Those rulers who seek to dominate others are themselves brought down by God—knocked off their thrones.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And sent the rich away empty-handed.
God has provided the hungry with what they needed, even in hard times.
54 He has given help to His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy,
God has helped Israel, continuing to show them mercy and remembering the mercy that He has shown them and is continuing to show them.
55 Just as He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
God has helped Israel, and has not forgotten His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and so many others, remembering the mercy that He has shown them and continuing to show this mercy throughout the generations, forevery.
56 Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. So, doing the math, Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist when Mary arrived, and she stayed for three months, which means that she very likely was present during the birth of John the Baptist to her cousin Elizabeth.