FROM REPROACH TO JOY
Lord, grant me the ability to recognize the hand of God.
Read LUKE 1:39–45
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home 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 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
New International Version (NIV)
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“Ye blind, behold your Savior come, / And leap, ye lame, for joy” (Charles Wesley, 1707–1788).
Picture Mary and her situation. We know from Matthew’s Gospel that Joseph’s first reaction to Mary’s mysterious pregnancy is termination of the betrothal. Who could Mary turn to? Gabriel has pointed her to Elizabeth. It’s ironic that Elizabeth’s “disgrace” (25) is childlessness in her old age; Mary’s disgrace is a pregnancy with no wedding ring. This twin irony points to other reversals in this section. Mary travels to Elizabeth “with haste” (39, ESV; Greek spoudē, denoting the idea of earnestness and purposefulness, a nuance that is lost in translation). She understands that this journey is important. We are tempted to wonder about a young woman traveling alone for three days. Did she travel alone? We don’t know because we are not told.
Consider what happens while Mary is with Elizabeth. Even in the womb, Elizabeth’s baby, filled with the Holy Spirit, leaps for joy. Elizabeth, too, is filled with the Holy Spirit and realizes the identity of Mary’s baby: “my Lord” (43). Two days ago we read how the Lord removed Elizabeth’s disgrace, and now she is filled with joy as she understands what is happening on the wider scene. Notice the role reversal. When Mary enters Elizabeth’s house she greets her. This is not a modern-day “Hello” but an ancient Middle-Eastern greeting, in which Mary recognizes the superior status of Elizabeth, who is not only older by a generation but of higher societal standing. Elizabeth, however, immediately recognizes that her younger relative is carrying the Messiah.
The accounts of Jesus and John the Baptist are intertwined from the beginning. This is a short section but packed with theological and devotional riches, typically Lukan, dealing as it does with the themes of women, journey, the Holy Spirit, and joy.
Thank You, Lord, for the humility and obedience of these two women.
Lord, grant to us both the compassion of Mary and the humility of Elizabeth.