Luke’s gospel begins by telling how Mary, the mother of Jesus, has quite the week. The angel Gabriel knocks on Mary’s door in Nazareth, and tells Mary that she will conceive and have a Son.
Mary, a virgin, will have a child. The child in her womb is the holy offspring of the Holy Spirit. Her son, Jesus, will be the Messiah who sits forever on the throne of David.
After Gabriel leaves, Mary hurriedly travels around 100 miles from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah, to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who is six-months pregnant with John the Baptist. She is excited about God showing her favor, and she will find an equally enthusiastic audience with her relative Elizabeth, who God also shows favor. From Mary’s to Elizabeth’s is about a three to five day journey.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of sermons written on this inspiring passage. These verses are a treasure-trove of theology. As we look at this passage, let’s take a slightly unconventional approach. Let’s examine the joy and excitement these two women express.
Let’s imagine we are the proverbial fly on the wall and we observe these women as they lovingly greet one another. We get the sense that their worship of God bubbles out, and that they are very, very happy.
We need to want what Elizabeth and Mary have.
Mary enters the home of Zacharias, and Elizabeth bursts forth with praise for God. She is overwhelmed by the visit of the mother of the Messiah of Israel. She cries out with a loud voice, in her praise.
Mary also is filled with joy. She joins in with praise to God. She says her spirit rejoices in God, her Savior. Her praise is prose. In our western culture, it is not customary to break out with poetry. But, to the eastern mindset, poetry is a native language. The poetic nature of her praise makes it more precious, meaningful, and enjoyable to read.
Let’s not forget the presence of another person in the room. John the Baptist, an infant of six-months in the womb, leaps for joy. Somehow, Elizabeth knows that John’s kicking is not an ordinary movement. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, she says the child in her womb is leaping for joy. We learn earlier in the chapter the reason John leaps for joy. It is because he is filled with the Holy Spirit of God. He is joyous to know the mother of the Lord is in his presence.
We also get the sense in reading this passage that these women find joy in their humble position before God. We don’t get the impression that these ladies feel burdened as God’s servants. It’s just the opposite. They joyously submit to God. They refer to God as Lord with gladness. They are excited that God considers them worthy to call them as His servants.
Mary and Elizabeth consider themselves blessed. They believe being servants of God is the best thing that could ever happen to them. To be blessed is to be twice happy. They are very, very happy.
I am sure Mary and Elizabeth have their share of trials and times when they don’t feel great or their circumstances are difficult. We get the sense that their feeling of being blessed has nothing to do with the events of life. They are delighted to know God. Their blessing is an inner blessing.
Mary and Elizabeth are two people who find great joy and satisfaction in knowing God. They do not find their joy in being popular or wealthy. They don’t look for joy in their social status. In other words, their joy and satisfaction is from within. Their joy and satisfaction are not in this world but are out of this world.
Do you want to have joy and satisfaction that is “out of this world” great?
If this is something that interests you? If so, let’s uncover clues in this passage that will help us find the great joy and satisfaction in knowing God that Elizabeth, Mary, and John experience.
The first clue to joy in this passage is that they believe God. They hear God’s word, and they believe what He says is true.
Mary heard from Gabriel that her relative is pregnant. She didn’t sit and wonder if it was true. She believes. Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country (Luke 1:39) to meet up with her relative, Elizabeth.
When Mary arrives, Elizabeth declares that Mary is blessed because Mary heard from God and she believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord (Luke 1:45).
Elizabeth tells Mary that those who believe God are blessed. They are not blessed in worldly ways, but because they believe God.
Mary declares that she believes the word of God. She believes in God’s mighty deeds (Luke 1:51). She has in mind, not her pregnancy, but God working throughout the history of the world.
Mary believes the Bible to be God’s spoken word. She says that God spoke to the founding fathers of Israel (Luke 1:55). She knows God communicates to us and that His word is true.
Mary and Elizabeth believe God. Their faith in His word is essential for their joy and satisfaction.
If we want to find joy and satisfaction in believing God, here are a few simple steps we may take.
Pray and ask God to help you believe. When something is difficult to believe, ask God to help. Say to Him, “I believe, but help me in my unbelief.” Jesus says seek and you shall find. God will help us with our unbelief.
Believing comes from hearing the word of God. We will not find joy and satisfaction if we ignore God’s word. God speaks. To believe what He says, we need to read (or listen) to what He has said.
We can encourage one another in the faith. Ask others to help. If you have an area of unbelief, ask someone how they have come to believe. Maybe you have trouble believing God created the universe by speaking. Perhaps you don’t believe in your heart, Jesus rises from the dead. Whatever your area of unbelief, ask someone about the hope they have.
We can grow in our belief of God by observing His creation. The heavens declare the glory of God. The revelation of God’s power and majesty is revealed in admiring His handiwork (doing this alone is not enough; we also need to read the Bible to gain a specific revelation of God).
Begin the journey of getting joy and satisfaction in life by believing God.
For Mary, doctrine is not a four-letter word. She doesn’t just believe God, she studies God. She demonstrates a deep understanding of God from knowing the Bible.
The depth of Mary’s understanding of God’s Word is striking. Mary is likely to be 16 years old or younger. She lives as a peasant in Nazareth from the religious center of Israel.
Some people wrongly think that only the rich and educated of the first century have exposure to God’s word. Mary dispels that myth. She is counted among the poor of Israel and lives far from the temple. Yet, as a young girl, she speaks forth praise theologians find impressive.
It is likely much of her prose is from the Song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. But, Mary’s inspiration is not limited to one passage. Theologians list many Old Testament references which may serve as an inspiration. She is not just listing off her memory verses. Her references fit the context of the occasion.
It is unlikely Mary has copies of scripture in her home. Despite not having copies, it is evident Mary spends time to study and understand God’s word. We may learn much from her example.
Mary knows and understands the truth of God’s word.
Mary didn’t become saturated by the truth just by living as a Jew. She is a student of the word of God. If we want to find joy and satisfaction in life, we also need to study God’s word.
Studying God’s word is hard work, but it is rewarding. We learn about God. We learn how to live with peace, even though the world around us is in chaos.
We should not just read the easy-going passages. We need to be willing to look into passages that are difficult and challenging. All of Scripture is given to us for our good. We need to dig deep to find the gems. Each one of us who have spent time studying can attest that it is rewarding and fruitful.
Unlike Mary, who most likely doesn’t have a Bible at home, we have access to more Bibles than any previous generation. God will hold us accountable for having 2-3 copies of the Bible in English.
We also need to meditate on God’s word. It is excellent for us to commit passages to memory so we can think about them as we go about our day. Hide God’s word in our hearts, so we don’t sin against God.
Mary finds joy and satisfaction in the truth of God’s word, and we can do the same.
Mary’s profound understanding of God’s work. The emphasis of her praise is the theme of reversal. God reverses situations. Mary describes God’s primary work as raising the humble and bringing down those who are proud.
The proud are scattered, and the humble God gathers. The proud go hungry, and the humble are fed. The proud become spiritually impoverished, and the humble spiritually rich. From beginning to end, the theme of Mary’s praise is God’s care for the humble. God’s work is the reason for Mary’s joy.
Mary sees the world in absolutes; good and evil. Humility is good, and pride is evil.
There is a striking omission in Mary’s praise of God. She makes no mention of her baby. She doesn’t praise God because her baby is a King who will sit on David’s throne. She does not glorify God because her baby is going to bring her fame.
Mary praises God because she knows that whatever God is doing with her baby; one thing is sure; God will use her child to lift the humble and bring down the proud.
Even though an angel of God tells her that she is favored, and her elder relative calls her blessed, and every generation will see her as blessed, Mary sees herself as God’s bondslave. She doesn’t see herself as the queen of heaven nor does she see herself as someone who should have statues made to worship her. In her eyes, she is no more than a slave.
Here is Mary’s answer to life’s questions: Is God going to help people? Yes, God will help the humble. Does God favor one king over another? Yes, God favors the humble king. Is everyone going to heaven? No, those who are proud will not. What will your Son Jesus do with His life? Jesus will exalt the humble and lay low the proud.
Mary recognizes the work of God.
We need to have the same understanding of how God works as Mary. Our joy and satisfaction are not from being a king or queen on this earth, but in being a bondslave of God.
We need to crucify our pride and submit to God’s will. We need to understand that if we want to be exalted, God must do the exalting. Our exaltation comes from us being humble.
We need to have as our life goal to live a humbly before God. We need to stop striving to make much of ourselves. We need to stop trying to impress people or find success in the eyes of men. We need to trust that God will meet our needs when we strive to be humble.
God’s word is clear. God exalts the humble. The key to Christian living is humility.
When Mary responds to Gabriel, she says, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Again, in the presence of Elizabeth, Mary calls herself the Lord’s bondslave (Luke 1:48). Mary sees life as it ought to be seen; she is to be in obedient submission to the Lord’s will.
A bondslave is in debt. The master is not in debt to the bondslave. The master owes the bondslave nothing. The bondslave is the one who owes the master.
God is Mary’s Savior. Mary is a sinner. She gets no free pass for being the mother of Jesus. Mary begs God for mercy. Nowhere in the Bible do we get the idea that Mary sees herself as equal to God.
If Mary were alive today, she would grieve at all the statues of her and the prayers said in her name.
Mary’s attitude is that she is God’s bondslave. She is full of fear and humility. Mary quotes scripture that says God helps those who fear Him. To fear God is to see Him as awesome. We are to have reverence for God. God helps those who stand in God’s presence with humility and fear.
The theme of the New Testament is that we are slaves of God. All the New Testament writers tell Christians that we are in debt to God. God is not in debt to us.
None of us is so great that God should take notice and serve us. God doesn’t even owe us a compliment. Which of us is so amazing that God owes us tribute? Should God build an altar so He may worship us?
We need salvation, and God does not owe us salvation.
We need mercy and forgiveness, and God owes us neither.
We daily have hunger and thirst. God is under no obligation to provide us food or drink.
We are debtors. We are in debt to God for life, breath, and all that we have.
Our position before the throne of God is that of a beggar and a slave. We go to God in prayer with empty hands.
We will get along best when we approach God, His church, and one another, without an attitude of entitlement, but with a thankful heart in getting what we don’t deserve.
Thankfully, we serve a good God who loves us and saves us.
We will never find happiness in thinking God owes us. Our joy is found in having a thankful heart. Be thankful that God gives us anything at all. We were formerly God’s enemies, and He makes us His adopted children! Be thankful.
The greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Mary loves God. We can tell how much Mary loves God by what she says about Him. She mentions God at least twice in every sentence.
Mary looks at God as holy, Lord, Savior, and Mighty One. The God Mary worships does great things. He shows mercy and feeds the hungry. In Mary’s eyes, God is very good.
Mary’s soul exalts God. This means she lifts God up in her life. She magnifies Him so He looms large in her life. God is no after-thought to Mary. He is not a once a week church service. God is big in her life when she wakes up, cleans her home, goes to the market, and when she lays down at night to sleep.
God is big in her life, not out of duty, but because God is her joy. Her spirit rejoices in God. Mary is not an unhappy slave complaining about her Master. Mary doesn’t think her Lord asks expects too much of her. Her Master is the high-point of her life. Her spirit rejoices in Her Lord.
The way to grow in love with God is to get to know God. Ask anyone you know who takes the time to get to know God if they love Him. They all will say that they do.
Learn of His magnificence. He is magnificently all-powerful and all-knowing. He directs history; setting kings up and taking them down. Every army that marches does so at His command. The wind and waves obey Him.
Learn of His goodness. All that God does is for good. There is not one speck of evil in Him. He is pure, lovely, and holy. His words are good. His actions are good. His character is good. Everything about God is good.
Learn of His love. Learn that, even though we are sinners, God demonstrates His own love to save us from our sins. For God so loved the world.
We are broken people. The reason we are broken is that we are thirsty, and we go to a well that is dry. We are hungry, and we eat food without nutrients. We keep thinking the world has the answers, but it does not. The world is broken. The governments, educational systems, sports, entertainment, and everything else we can think of is broken. Broken people cannot be fixed by a broken world.
God wants us to have joy. He doesn’t want us to look for joy in this broken world, but to find joy at the foot of the cross. God wants us to have joy no matter our circumstances in life. God promises eternal, inner joy and satisfaction that nobody may take away.
The emptiness of life can only be filled with God. The joy and satisfaction of life that we seek is found in knowing God.
Know how God works.
Be a humble bondslave.
Fall deeper in love with God.
For your joy, and His glory.