Mary Humbly Trusts Her God

As Christians we often celebrate the Gospel. We celebrate that wonder that God would save undeserving sinners not according to deeds that they have done, not according to human effort, but by his sovereign mercy. It’s a truth we glory in daily.

And at Christmas, we reflect on this truth. The wonder of God’s plan in bringing salvation to sinners.

Today, we will look at a few verses in the Gospel of Luke together. Turn with me please to Luke 1. 

This passage reveals the human side of God fulfilling a divine plan. What did the human characters think and feel and do when God was at work in their lives as recorded here for us in Scripture. It’s a historical record of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

In our passage today, we will see two women, Mary and Elizabeth, marvel that God has sent his Messiah, and that Mary is his mom and reflect on the joy of God making good on his promise. God can be trusted to fulfill his promises—you can always bank on them, and he promises to save all who call upon his name.

These themes come together as expressed in our outline today:

3 Fruits as Mary Humbly Trusts Her Faithful God (Lk. 1:39-56)

  1. She embraces God’s providence (39-40)

  2. She experiences God’s provision (41-45)

  3. She extols God’s personhood (46-56)

39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 

41)When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 “And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” 

46 And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. 50 “AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. 51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. 53 “HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed. 54 “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, 55 as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” 

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

3 Fruits as Mary Humbly Trusts Her Faithful God (Lk. 1:39-56)

  1. She embraces God’s providence (39-40)

(39) Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 

There is a timestamp here and a transition from v. 38. End of v. 38—and the angel departed from her. And, (v. 39) now at this very time Mary arose.

The story begins when an angel named Gabriel comes to visit Mary in v. 26 to let her know the new that she’s going to be a mother soon to a very special baby. 

It’s a shocking message because Mary is a virgin. But Mary believes Gabriel’s message, and then he lets her know that her relative Elizabeth, who was barren, also had a miraculous conception.

She was in old age past child-bearing years and God miraculously gave her a son. And she’s already six months along in the pregnancy.

So Mary, lives in Nazareth, up in Galilee (same hometown as Joseph). She catches her breath from the news. She stands up (the text says she arose) and she went in a hurry. She wasted no time. Her destination in an unspecified city in Judah.

She’s going to visit her relatives Elizabeth and Zacharias.

The hill country of Judah puts her trip somewhere between 80-100 miles. So that’s about Albany to Vancouver, Washington or Sisters. Roughly a 3-4 day journey on foot. Not a common or safe trip for a teenage girl to make on her own.

But there’s no indication that she had anyone accompany her.

It would have been an intense moment. In one conversation her entire life has been flipped upside down. Mary is vulnerable and no doubt overwhelmed.

It’s a big deal to find out you are pregnant. Then you add the fact that you aren’t married. Then you add the fact that this child has a divine origin. That’s pretty overwhelming. It’s not an easy circumstantial pill to swallow, but she trusts God.

Luke 1:38—And Mary said, “Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

She embraces God’s plan. And God is so kind to Mary.

Just consider—God miraculously opened the womb of Mary’s older female relative just six months prior. Another believer, another persona who knows what she’s going through and will believe her.

Mary has the promise of God, but her story isn’t exactly very believable.

An unmarried teenage girl ends up pregnant and her story is that the Holy Spirit overshadowed her? But Elizabeth will believe her. God providentially orchestrated Zacharias and Elizabeth could be a source of consolation right now.

Boy I’ll tell you what. When you are in a tough spot and God provides a mature saint, whose walked that path before you it is such an encouragement. 

God does this all the time. 

Of course, Elizabeth had no idea God was going to use her in this way when she was rejoicing over her own pregnancy. It’s just like our Lord to do these things in caring for his people.

So, Mary arrives after her multi-day journey…

(40) and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 

Mary arrives and when we read that she greeted Elizabeth. There is much more here than a hug and a kiss. 

Greetings in the ancient near east describe a time of conversation. Today we might say of seeing someone we hadn’t for a while—"we just spent the first hour catching up.” 

It’s the back and forth getting brought up to speed on life.

Mary would have asked about Elizabeth’s surprising and miraculous pregnancy. And then she would have shared about hers. Such unusual circumstances to find common ground on. And in the process of this conversation, God is graciously caring for Mary…

3 Fruits as Mary Humbly Trusts Her Faithful God (Lk. 1:39-56)

  1. She embraces God’s providence (39-40)

  2. She experiences God’s provision (41-45)

(41) When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Now six months into pregnancy Elizabeth has already felt little Johnny kicking in her womb. First pregnancies typically you feel the kicking later as you learn it. This is Elizabeth’s first child.

But what she experienced here was significant and it was a sign that the Spirit of God had come upon her.

We’re still in the old covenant right now. The Spirit of God has not been sent by Jesus Christ to permanently indwell his people. Whatever this was it was a remarkable experience, and it causes her to get vocal…

(42) And she cried out with a loud voice 

Crying out with a loud voice means yelling. And although there is excitement and urgency here, there is more than just excitement going on here.

Crying out with a loud voice is a technical reference to something that prophets do. A prophet is a mouthpiece for God. A prophet receives revelation directly from god and communicates it to others.

Paul says that Isaiah cries out in Romans 9:27; Jesus cries out to sinners in John 7:37; John the Baptist cries out in John 1:15 as he prepares the way for the Lord.

In this moment, Elizabeth just became a prophetess. Prophets are the boy version, prophetesses are the girl versions. The Spirit of God is giving her revelation. A special message to encourage Mary.

This particular prophecy by Elizabeth is actually a song. 

God saving his people makes us sing.

We will sing about Jesus tomorrow night as we celebrate his birth. And that’s appropriate. Five times in the opening of Luke we find singing about the news that Jesus is coming. This is the first of those five. 

This hymn pronounces blessing on Mary, on her child, on Elizabeth and all those who believe in God’s truth.

and said, “Blessed are you among women, 

Now this is not an easy thing to say if you aren’t humble.

Elizabeth is using a Hebrew figure of speech meaning you are the woman of all women. No woman has greater privilege on earth. No greater honor.

What is it that causes Mary to be blessed? She gets to be the mom of the Messiah, which brings both positional and practical benefits.

Positionally. In Jewish culture a mother’s identity is connected to her children for better or for worse. Proverbs 29 says that an undisciplined child disgraces his mother. On the positive side, Mary will get called out thirty years from now and publicly blessed as a woman marvels at the teaching of Jesus.

Mary has a high position to be associated so closely with Jesus, for all time. And not only was this positionally a high honor, but it was a practical honor as well.

I mean, just consider for a moment, in the intimacy of a mother-son relationship, this teenage girl gets to nurse God, to sing lullabies to him, to comfort him and train him and love him. Mary had the most intimate human relationship with her maker than any other person on earth.

She had a front row seat to his perfect obedience day in and day out. Surely there is no greater honor than to spend your days and nights with Jesus as he grew up. 

At the same time, we need to be clear here on what Mary was not. 

The Roman Catholic Church has taught error regarding Mary. Mary is not called the mother of God in Scripture. She is the mother of Jesus who was God. In other words, Mary was a sinner. She wasn’t without original sin.

And now she isn’t the mother of the church by her union with Christ. She didn’t play a special role in bringing the church about through her prayers. She is in no way our Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. She’s not our model of faith and charity, she is not a perpetual virgin and she is not Queen over all things.

Mary was a sinner saved by God’s grace through her son Jesus Christ by faith. And in that salvation she needed it just as much as the vilest sinner and after salvation she stands in the same grace of every believer.

Her role was temporary and earthly and there is no spiritual significance that goes beyond that. Understood rightly, as we will see, she is surely an example to us, but only insofar as all true believers are an example to us when they are dependent upon God.

Mary is blessed, but we must understand that blessing properly. 

Elizabeth here isn’t jealous she is rejoicing saying, “Mary, you are the most privileged and honored woman in the history of the world, and I’m content with how God does things, I rejoice in that.”`

and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 

And blessed is your son, the Messiah.

Elizabeth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit right now is affirming what Mary has been told already by Gabriel. That your son will be your deliverer (31); he will be great (32); he will be God, the Son of the Most High (32); the heir to the throne of David the promised King (35); a holy child (35).

He’s the one we’ve been waiting for.

(43) “And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 

And you know what? I’m blessed just by knowing you and having you visit me. The mother of my lord, my master. She views this child that is in the first days of gestation as being her God, her master.

Up until now, Luke has been narrating. But now he switches to Elizabeth and she recounts to Mary in her words, what Luke just told us back up in v. 41. 

So the women are sitting there, they are conversing, and Elizabeth says to Mary.

(44) “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 

I picture this as a proud mother moment. 

I mean every mother thinks her baby is so special. Elizabeth is thinking, my baby has so much discernment that he leaped for joy when he heard your voice. Obviously, this was a special work enabled by the Spirit of God.

But it was confirmation for Mary to hear this, that God was at work. He had done this. He could be trusted. In reality, of course, Mary believed God without this confirmation, and Elizabeth says as much right here:

(45) “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” 

When the angel came to Mary, she believed God.

Now Mary did ask a “how” question in v. 34, when she received the news that she would bear a son. But it was a fair question. God who sees the heart saw it not as disbelieving the angel, but rather an honest request for logistical clarity on how she a virgin would find herself with child.

Once explained, she tells Gabriel in v. 38—I understand, and I’m good with it. 

Here then it is fair to hold up Mary as an example for believers. Not as the quasi-deified mother of God, but as a humble servant who takes God at his word.

Sarah in the Old Testament, Abraham and Sarah, in Genesis 18, she failed this test. And more recently, in this very chapter, Zacharias does too.

Oh man. Knowing my own prideful heart, this was probably a little rough for Zacharias (not that he could tell anyone if it was). He expressed unbelief just six months earlier in the year, and God put him on nine months no-talking as a consequence.

Zacharias was a priest, he was seasoned in life, he was educated in the Scriptures, and he was in a position of spiritual leadership. And now your wife is commending a young, uneducated girl who is probably 50 years your junior for her character that is putting you to shame.

Look God doesn’t care about how long you’ve been a Christian. He doesn’t care about what credentials you have, or how much Scripture you have studied or learned. God looks favorably upon humble hearts which trust in Him.

Mary exemplifies this.

Lord, whatever you ask, I’ll submit to it in humble faith. I’ll take you at your word.

This trust in God’s promise has borne fruit in Mary’s life.

  1. She embraces God’s providence (39-40)

  2. She experiences God’s provision (41-45)

And now it brings us to our third fruit:

  1. She extols God’s personhood (46-56)

These verses are commonly referred to as the Magnificat. That’s the first word of this song in Latin. It would seem that this song came bursting out spontaneously from her heart. 

It’s a marvel.

What we will see is that this country girl from Nazareth was also a theologian. She was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the hope of the deliverance of her nation, and herself.

Mary has been highly regarded by God.

She is called the favored one (28), she is told that the Lord is with her (28); and she has found favor with God (30). And Mary understands this and from that understanding she begins with her first stanza of the song…

  1. She embraces God’s providence (39-40)

  2. She experiences God’s provision (41-45)

  3. She extols God’s personhood (46-56)

(46) And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 

My soul μεγαλύνω lit. praises the greatness of God. This word exalts or magnifies means to highly honor as you regard something as important. It carries the idea of making something larger, magnifying and expanding it.

And she continues, my spirit has rejoiced. χαίρω is the Greek word you would be most familiar with, appearing 74 times in the New Testament—rejoicing. For rejoicing, being glad or happy or joyful. But this word here for rejoicing is used only 11 times and it means. ἀγαλλιάω to be exceedingly joyful, exult, be glad, overjoyed.

The preposition indicating the object of the rejoicing is the person of God, identified not just the universal Savior (though that is true, and Mary will highlight his universal benefits in the verses to come). 

But at this point Mary’s song is about her own personal Savior. Mary, God is your maker. God is your judge. God is your sustainer. But here in this moment, what has captured Mary’s heart is the reality that her God has come to save her.

This is why God came. His name Jesus means “the Lord saves.” 

Whatever you may be able to do on your own, you cannot save yourself from the judgment of God upon your sins. You are helpless the Scriptures teach. And like someone who falls overboard from a ship in the middle of an ocean, unable to swim, you will surely perish if you are not rescued by another.

Mary’s song here is a song that every child of God sings. It is an expression of gratitude that cannot be rivaled because your God saw fit to nail the debt of your sin to the cross so that you might know freedom.

Mary is a sinner. If she was sinless, why would she need a savior.

Mary had been disrespectful and disobedient to her parents. She had lied to cover her sin. She coveted and complained and lived selfishly. And yet she also loved her God, and when God chose her to be the mother of Jesus it was to reflect his mercy.

God’s salvation immediately places us in a place of gratitude and joy and dependence because we see our inability that he did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

But Mary’s also thanking God for her favored position in God’s redemptive plan. Most importantly she’s a saint, but as saints go, she gets to mother the Messiah. And so, she says:

(48) “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;

This is a reason clause that provides the basis or grounds for the previous statement. I rejoice exceedingly in God my savior because he has paid attention, he has looked upon me in my state of lowliness. 

for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 

Yes Mary. Today as we reflect on the birth of Jesus, we say that Mary was given a favorable position by God. And it didn’t go to her head.

Can you see the humility here?

She is attributing this to the grace of God coming to her in her humble state. I figure that my proud heart could have never handled being the parent of Jesus because I would have assumed that was someone in indication that I was the most deserving, or a top candidate, God’s best option. 

Mary says, this is unmerited favor. 

And so, in this way we can relate to Mary. As the apostle Paul would say, we now stand in grace Romans 5:2. God did this. She says…

(49) “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. 

Most commonly in the old testament when God is called the Mighty One it is in reference to his strength as a victorious warrior fighting in behalf of his people.

The mightiness of God can turn the hearts of great rulers, overthrow entire armies, disrupt nature, and put a child in the womb without human involvement.

Holy is his name she says. He is set apart and unrivaled. No one like our God.

Well now Mary transitions in her song from focusing on the personal kindness of God to her, and expands her view to praise God…

On top of what God has done for me, he has shown mercy to the world. Mary now quotes a verse from Psalm 103 here—

(50) “AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.

God’s mercy is everlasting David said. And that mercy is bestowed on those who fear him. They don’t earn God’s good favor, but they receive it by trusting him and looking to him to provide forgiveness of their sins.

Those who fear him are those who love and trust him. They are his people. And over the next three verses (vv. 51-53), Mary highlights the mercy of God in action.

Look at the actions of God in these verses… v. 51 He has done; He has scattered; v. 52 He has brought down and has exalted; v. 53 He has filled and sent away; v. 54 He has given help. 

What are these actions that Mary is referring to?

I believe it is looking at the historic promise made to Abraham, now being brought to fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ. 

God’s delivered and saved, Israel many times throughout history. He delivered them from Egypt. Later from enemies in Canaan. He brought them back from Assyria and Babylon. But those were all temporary, physical deliverance.

With the coming of the Messiah, this salvation of God is reaching its intended point, which is Jesus. Of course, Mary doesn’t understand the mystery of the church yet. She is viewing this primarily through the lens of salvation for Israel, but as we will see in a minute that is an offer of salvation that extends beyond Israel.

(51) “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. 53 “HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed. 

You could summarize these verses with this—God doesn’t save those who can save themselves, but he saves those who can’t.

God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t save people because they are pretty or popular or wealthy or gifted or intelligent. He doesn’t look at your moral statistics about how good or bad you are.

Rather, God gets glory by exalting the lowly and healing the spiritually sick. God in this way reverses what the world holds up as meaningful and significant and important and says, “not so with me.”

This is at the heart of the beatitudes, the statements that begin with: “blessed are the…” in Matthew and Luke. It isn’t blessed are strong people, blessed are the satisfied and the rich, blessed are those who are thought well of right now and popular.

But blessed are the meek, and hungry and the poor in spirit, and those who are hated by the world. God doesn’t esteem or regard you in the same way that humans esteem and regard one another.

Mary’s hope is in God and his promises. And in fact, she sees this situation with Jesus as God making good on a promise.

(54) “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, 55 as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” 

He has come to the aid of his servant Israel. He’s remembering his promise to come help his people.

God made a promise to a man early in the book of Genesis named Abraham. And the wonder of this promise is that it was made irrespective of Abraham’s faithfulness. When God ratified the covenant, the promise, in Genesis 15, there were animals that were cut in two.

The point was that when two people would make a covenant, they would pass between the animal carcasses and it was a way of saying—if either of us break this promise, may we end up like these animals.

And yet in Genesis 15, God and Abraham don’t both pass between the animals. Why? Because God is swearing by his own name to accomplish this plan, and it is not dependent upon Abraham’s performance. It’s called a unilateral covenant.

And the New Testament affirms over and over, that according to this promise we have hope. God sent Jesus because he had a promise to keep that he would make an everlasting Covenant and he would make Abraham a blessing to all the nations of the earth through his descendants, which found its vs ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.

My friends, God always keeps his promises. God’s words are always true. God cannot lie. God is always faithful. 

Because he is all-powerful nothing can ever prevent or stop him from accomplishing what he intends to do. That’s why his promise is so sure. There is nothing greater than himself to answer to. 

Well, this was a fruitful season for Mary. What an incredible time in her life. She stuck around with Zacharias and Elizabeth for some time after that.

(56) And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

That’s a trimester—one of three equal periods of a nine-month pregnancy. Just to refresh our timelines. Mary arrived days into her pregnancy at Elizabeth’s house, who was six months along. 

Three months means Elizabeth either just had John or is about to and Mary now has a baby bump.

Three months of fellowship, now Mary is going back to a challenging social environment in Nazareth. The Scripture is silent on that time period, so we don’t know any specifics. But being pregnant as an unmarried woman was certainly going to present stigma and challenges for her reputation.

It was a time for Mary to continue to walk by faith in the truths she had been convinced of and been growing in. She’s going to be tested over the next six months. Then tested over and over as she is a sinful mother, parenting her savior, and eventually looking to him on a cross where he would bear her guilt.

Mary’s response to God here is a model for us as believers as she humbly submits to God’s providence and plan for her life. She experiences God’s care for her and then she rejoices in his personhood. In this way, Mary isn’t anything than a normal believer.

Friends, this is a reminder of what we celebrate this Christmas—that our God is promise-keeping God who grants mercy to sinners.

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