Knowing why Mary decided to visit Elizabeth is vital in putting this story into context. Many believe that Mary's primary purpose for visiting Elizabeth was confirmation.After all, Mary just received news that no one else in the history of the world had received. As a virgin, she would conceive a child. So, she went to see Elizabeth to validate Gabriel's announcement. If God could open Elizabeth's womb in her old age, then God could miraculously impregnate Mary with a child. The problem with this assertion is that Mary would have already heard known her cousin Elizabeth conceived in her old age. Her conception would have been the talk of the town and within the family.
Not only does Mary visiting Elizabeth for confirmation of Gabriel’s announcement not make logical sense, but confirmation also does not fit within the character and flow of this story. Mary’s last statement to Gabriel was "Behold thy handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy Word"(v.38). Mary, unlike Zacharias, did not question the validity of Gabriel's announcement; regardless of the logical absurdity of the promise of being with child as a virgin, Mary did not doubt the veracity of the announcement. She believed everything the angel said to her. She believed God was powerful enough to do anything He wanted, even to cause a virgin to become pregnant with Jesus Christ. Believing God, regardless of the absurdity to our natural-rational; taking God's word as truth! There are moments when I struggle with some of the promises that God has made. The basis of my questioning God's promises is faulty understanding that God has changed, or He does not love me as He did others in the past. Having this kind of view has a negative impact on the way I live my life. Instead of living my life in line with these promises, I am questioning God’s desire to keep His promises or His love for me.
Mary believed God and His promises and that He was able to fulfil His promises regardless of the difficulty. If Mary did not need confirmation from Elizabeth on the miracle in her life then why did she visit Elizabeth? There are two possible reasons. Mary was bursting within, ready to tell someone the most amazing story they would have ever heard. Even though Mary knew that she was unworthy of any favor or grace from God and she viewed herself still as a “handmaid of the Lord” (a handmaid being a lowly servant), she would have always viewed being the mother of Jesus as an enormous blessing. Not much different than us, when God does something amazing in our life, we're bubbling with joy, and want to express or share this with other people who would appreciate what we're experiencing.
If God blesses me, I'm probably not calling my biological father. I want to call my spiritual father, my pastor. Why? He knows the joy I am experiencing because God has blessed him many times. Sharing these blessings is another reason why we should have Christian fellowship and be faithful to God's house. It's so that we can share with like-minded people, the good things God has done for us. God is good, isn't He? He's given us breath and an ability walk. He's given us voices to sing and minds to think. There are times when my body aches and periods of pain, like my back, my knees, elbows, or shoulders. Praise the Lord, even in those painful moments, I can feel. We have so many reasons to bless God and be filled with joy. The joy that comes from God's blessings bubbles up from within and if we aren't able to share this joy with those who can appreciate, this joy loses energy. Therefore, the first reason she wanted to visit Elizabeth was Elizabeth could share in her joy. Elizabeth was living a miracle just like Mary.
Another reason she wanted to visit Elizabeth was to strengthening in her faith. Mary had surrendered to God's plan for her, but surrendering is the easy part. I am not saying surrendering is easy, but relative to living out our surrender, surrendering is easy. The day God saved us was the easy part, right? Living our faith has been difficult. The day that I surrendered to preach was the easy part. Studying, preparing, understanding, having the right qualifications, standing up before people have been much more difficult. Surrendering to something, though difficult and hard, and requires us to empty ourselves and give our complete essence to God, and allow God to do with us whatever He wants is easy relative to the steps that follow surrender.
Here's Mary, a teenage girl, surrendered to the concept of being the mother of Jesus Christ and committed to the promises of God and now the angel is gone. Fear would have crept in not much longer after Gabriel left her. Possibly, fearing how her mom and dad would take the news. Fearing how her husband-to-be, Joseph, would handle the news. Remember Joseph’sfirst response was to divorce her. Fearing what would become of her name, relationships she had, or possible punishment for being pregnant with someone other than Joseph’s baby.
The Lord said to Jeremiah, "I called you to be a prophet. Don't be afraid of their faces when you preach truth to them"(Jeremiah 1:7-8). Many times, fear causes us to do things that otherwise we would not do. Fear caused Abraham to lie regarding his relationship with Sarah. Fear caused David to become crazy before his enemies. Fear is real, and powerful, and can paralyze and prevent us from being everything God wants us to be. We must nip fear in her infancy; otherwise fear will become cancer that destroys confidence in our God-given faith.
Mary did what she thought she needed to do. She needed strength for her Christian journey, and the best person to go to for strength was someone who knew through experience what it was to live with a fear of what people thought and God’s plan for her life. In this regard, Elizabeth was the perfect person for Mary to visit. Elizabeth lived most of her life with a closed womb that prevented her from being pregnant. Now she is pregnant, but assuredly the difficulty in bearing and raising a child in her old age would create new fears. The answer to fear is God's word and God's people. Mary did what we should all do. Instead of going to unknown or unreliable sources for the counsel, let's go to God's word and God's people.
With this, I want us to see three or four things from the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth.
Luke wrote, “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, and to a city of Juda” (v.39). Now we need to keep in mind that Luke was not an eyewitness to anything he wrote. Matthew and John witnessed much of what he wrote. Mark and Luke were not eyewitnesses to what they wrote. In fact, Luke said, “I collated all the testimony that was before me and chronologically put it together in this book.” I do not want us to view this too humanely and forget God was the active person moving Luke throughout the process. Every word that Luke recorded was divine. However, the human source God used to detail the accounts of Luke 1 would have been Mary, the mother of Jesus. More than likely, Luke interviewed Mary regarding the details surrounding the birth of Jesus. This explains why he came up with details that no other gospel writer did regarding the birth and childhood of Jesus. In this description that Mary gave Luke, she highlighted abrupt departure from her hometown to Elizabeth’s house. The word choices that Luke gave would have been Mary’s words. She made haste to get to Elizabeth’s house. Now the word “haste” means that she “made speed to get there.” She was quick at getting there. Her making haste does not mean she was the fastest person in Israel or even running, but it does say that she did not waste any time in making her way to Elizabeth’s house.
Another point to keep in mind as I develop this thought: Mary had weeks, possibly months before anyone would have discovered her pregnancy. She didn't wait until that point to visit Elizabeth. There was a reason the Angel Gabriel mentioned to her in verse 36 that Elizabeth, her much, much, much older cousin was with child and this was by providence and power, and an answered prayer. She did not waste time. She did not procrastinate. I am a procrastinator. Mary did not procrastinate. She seized the moments she had and immediately made haste. She would not allow "Idleness to be the workshop of the devil". She did not give Satan the opportunity to come and establish a foothold in her heart. Removing the seeds Satan plants in our hearts are so hard to expel once he has a hold. She made haste for this Christian fellowship. She made haste to quench any fear that she may have. She made haste to share this great blessing that God had bestowed upon her. She made haste!
I do believe our worship service will be transformed if we view worship as a necessity that moves us to make haste in our faithfulness. If we are prepared, ready, eager to be here worshipping the King, being with God's people, and praising our Savior through giving and music our worship would be dynamic in humbling us and feeding our souls.
, o"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17). Elizabeth and Mary live out this principle in our text. Luke says that Mary “entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth” (v.40). The word “saluted” is a big word. If someone comes to our house, typically we’ll meet them at the door. Shake their hand or hug them as they come in. We will sit down and talk about things happening in our life. Our custom would have been very similar in Israel. They would have embraced. Elizabeth would have invited Mary into her house, and because of Elizabeth's age, she would have gone first, telling Mary all the things that God began to do in her life. How that she in her old age is now six months pregnant.
After Elizabeth spoke, Mary would have followed in giving her testimony of being pregnant with The Lord. These two ladies experienced joy in testifying to one another of the greatness of God. What generated this entire conversation was that God did a blessed work in both of their lives. If God did not do a blessed work in Elizabeth's life, Mary never goes to Elizabeth’s house. If God did not do a blessed work in Mary’s life, she would have no reason going to Elizabeth’s house. What generated this meeting, reunion, and fellowship was God did a blessed work in both of their lives, and all they could do was testify to the goodness of God.
Today, there is a famine in the land. The family is not material but spiritual. Our churches are increasingly ceasing to be Houses of Praise (Psalms 42:4). We are no longer seeing the blessings of God because we have no spiritual appetite. We see life from a material perspective rather than a spiritual. The Lord pricked my heart as I studied this. There was a time in our churches when we would have a testimony Sunday night, where people would raise their hand and testify of God’s blessings. We do not this anymore. There could be several reasons why we do not. Perhaps the biggest reason is we fear no hands would be raised, and instead of the moment being a time of magnifying God's goodness, the moment becomes awkwardly silent. We fear this happening because people are not talking about God's goodness in the ordinary conversation anymore. The Lord has pricked my heart about how I see life and view God's hand on my life. Lord willing, next Sunday evening we are going to have testimony time.
A church I know started on Wednesday nights to raise fingers if God answered their prayers through the week. They raised the number of fingers of the answers to prayers that God gave them. I was talking to a friend that belongs to this church, and he could not wait to get to church on Wednesday night because God answered one of his prayers. God is good, and He has blessed up above what we deserve. He answers prayer but there is not this excitement and enthusiasm in coming to church testifying to others on the goodness of God.
Many of you here know Brother Wesley Pitcher since he was a child. He is engaged to a woman who loves the Lord. I am sure that's an answer to both sets of parents' prayers. I have only known Brother Wesley for a couple of years, and in those few years, I have prayed that God would lead a young Godly woman his way. He is getting married this August, and unfortunately, in the state of Michigan. His marriage to Becca is an answer to prayer. God is in the business of answering prayer.
We need to be in the business of communicating God's blessings with fellow Christians. Frequently we communicate how God blesses us materially. Although this has a place in describing God's blessings in answer to prayer, I would much rather love to know how God is blessing answered prayer in changing you. How He is fixing things in your life and how you're becoming a more powerful witness. There are other times we do not communicate God answering prayer because we do not view God as the answer or the cause particular blessings. Perhaps we give Him partial credit but not the all the credit. If you can work this morning, the reason is God has blessed you. If you have a house this morning, the reason is God has blessed you. If you can walk this morning, praise God. I wonder how often we view these items mentioned above as blessings of God or natural everyday things accomplished in our strength.
We can talk about so many blessing of God. I hope that as a church we will come together and bless God for His goodness. He is God. We have been praying for quite some time for two pastors, Timothy Reins and Andy Dougherty. Both men are in dire need of physical healing. Even though both situations appear hopeless, God is still God. He has not changed and is in direct control over their outcome. In the most challenging times of my life, I have experienced God's love in a personally particular and efficacious way. I'm not sure where I would be this morning if it not for God working in the tragedies of my life, and showing himself strong. Do you know why I believe God does the impossible? God saved my life. If He can save me, He can save anyone and do anything he wants.
We should not gloss over their testifying of the goodness of God. We need to spend more time communicating the blessings of God to others. They took the time to tell one another how good God was in their life. Notice what testifying to the goodness of God led. God’s joy. The Psalmist wrote, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Psalms 22:3). God enjoys when we start praising Him for His goodness and blessings.
Pay careful attention to the effects of praising God (or iron sharpening iron). John the Baptist, three months before birth, while in his mother's womb, leapt for joy. Luke records that he jumped for joy because his mother heard Mary's salutation (v.41). No one knows for sure what all Mary said during her salutation to Elizabeth. However, Mary probably spoke of honoring Elizabeth and God’s great grace; to do otherwise would have been entirely out of character for Mary. She believed herself to be unworthy of being highly favored by God (v.29). She closed the conversation with the Gabriel by saying, "I am a lowly servant. Do whatever you want to do with me" (v.38). Probably she would have focused her salutation of Gabriel’s message and her miraculous conception. No doubt her theme would have been Jesus and God’s plan for Jesus. What we do know for sure is Elizabeth knew who the baby in Mary's womb (v.42).
Discussing the fruit of her womb was all the Holy Spirit wanted to fill Elizabeth's baby and Elizabeth miraculously. Clinically, no one can explain how John the Baptist understood what was happening. John the Baptist filling can only be explained Biblically. Gabriel told Zacharias that his son would be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb (v.15). Elizabeth’s unborn baby leapt in her womb. If an unborn baby can jump for joy, cannot we sing for joy?
Not only did something miraculous happen to Elizabeth's baby, but God did something incredible in Elizabeth's life. Luke records "…that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost" (v.41). God inhabits praise and fills the room with His presence. God's presence is not a mystery. Wherever authentic praising takes place, God is not too far away. Authentic praising flows from a humble heart, which creates an emptying of self. Whenever we empty our self, God is honored and lifted. This moment creates the perfect opportunity for the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power and further extend the praise of God.
Consider the Holy Spirit's influence on Elizabeth's message to Mary. First, Elizabeth said, "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" (v.42). The phrase "Blessed art thou among women," carries various ideas. Mary is not blessed above all women in everything. She is blessed above women in one way; she is the mother of Jesus. In this narrow sense, Mary is more blessed because of her baby; Jesus Christ. Mary is blessed not because she was immaculately conceived or because she was perfect or completely righteous but because of her child. In a similar, we are all blessed because of her child. Also, Mary is blessed because she never forgot who she was. Even though she was the mother of Elizabeth’s Lord (43), Mary came and saluted Elizabeth. She gives Elizabeth respect and honor. Mary never lost sight of her humble beginnings as a handmaid in the economy of God's grace.
Sometimes, we lose sight of who we are when God blesses us. My mom would say to us kids from time to time, "You're getting too big for your breeches." In other words, you forget who you are in relationship to who I am. Mary never did. We bless (speak well of) her for being a woman of humility.
Further, we bless Mary because of the pain she experienced throughout her life. Being the mother of Jesus was not easy. She suffered the tragedy of losing a child in a way that no other mother has in the history of the world. I am not dismissing the tragedy mothers go through when they lose a child, the pain is real, powerful and deep but still, no comparison to what Mary went through watching her Son die on the cross. Mary knew Jesus unrecognizable body because of the beaten He received at the hands of ungodly men, and the ordeal of the cross was as much for her as it was for anyone else. Living through that would have been tough. The reason Elizabeth blessed Mary was because of the fruit of her womb. She did not bless Mary's immaculate because she was sinful. The same principle applies to us. People should speak well of us because of Jesus Christ. If people enjoy our worship service, I want their enjoyment based on experiencing Jesus by faith.
The last few months, I have been to a couple of funerals with awesome eulogies. The eulogy at my funeral is all the wonderful miracles God provided for me in my life. what God did in my life. I want them to have memories of God transforming and working in me through the practical sanctification process.
Elizabeth did not stop there; she continued by saying: "And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me (v.43)?” A person filled with the Spirit of God will manifest an attitude of humbleness and deference. Before addressing this consider what she did not say. Elizabeth did not say the Mother of the Lord has visited her; she said, “the mother of my Lord” (v.43). There is a ginormous difference between the two statements. Mary is not the Mother of the Lord as Catholics proclaim. Elizabeth said the fruit of her womb is her Lord and Mary would add in her testimony that Jesus is her Lord, too. Mary is the mother of Jesus’ humanity, not His deity. Also, we could say the same statement as Elizabeth that Mary’s child is our Lord. Not only this, one day, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10). Elizabeth was not submitted to Mary but her child. We must not lose sight of her understanding of a Lordship relationship with Jesus. Even though Jesus was in the womb of a woman, He is the Lord, and she was the servant.
I am not an easy believism pastor. There are too many people who believe you can raise a hand or repeat after me or say a simple prayer and be saved, even if there is no change in a person’s life. They wrongly understand Jesus comparison of salvation and children in Matthew. He said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (18:3). In using this illustration, Jesus was not appealing to their ignorance in salvation but “their conscious helplessness and their wiliness to trust without any mixture of self-trust. A little child learns to trust his father. The child who jumps into his father's arms is not demonstrating ignorant trust. He knows his inability to prevent his falling, but he jumps with full assurance that his father will catch him."
The determining factor of whether salvation happened is change. Even the converted thief on the cross exhibited a change moments before dying. Instead of railing on Jesus as he did and as the other thief continued, he said to the thief that continued to rail on Jesus: “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:40-42). The change occurs we view Jesus as more than a Savior: He is the Lord, just as Elizabeth regarded him.
Lastly, Mary received the strength and courage she would need to fight off fear and discouragement as the process continued. Elizabeth closed her hymn of praise with: “blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord" (v.45). The word "blessed" here is a different word that Elizabeth used earlier that is translated "blessed." This word "blessed" does not mean to speak well of someone but an inward joy that no man can take away. Elizabeth reminded her that in seasons of discouragement and fear, she has an inner joy and peace that no one can take away because she believed the Lord to be true and faithful. Mary did not need confirmation of the angel's announcement but strength and encouragement to go through the process victoriously.
In effect, Elizabeth says to Mary, "You have inner joy because you believe that God can do the impossible. Do not ever let Satan take this joy from you." In this sense, all Christians are blessed beyond measure. So long as Mary never forgot the power of God and quit trusting in His plan, she was blessed. The same applies to us. We must always remember God and become discouraged to the point we no longer trust in God's plan for our life. Our inner joy is directly linked to our confidence in God.
Over the years, I have read many pastor’s sermons and commentaries asserting that Mary visited Elizabeth for confirmation on the validity of Gabriel’s message.
W. E. Best, Simple Faith (A Misnomer) (Houston: W. E. Best Book Missionary Trust, 1993), 3.