“My soul magnifies the Lord…” Luke 1:46
Spontaneous joy that just has to burst out—don’t you just love it?! Have you ever felt those kind of moments? But this isn’t like some little kid that is so happy and thankful because they just got the best gift ever from their parents, and are hopping around, smiling, bubbling over and leaping into their arms. I’ve seen that before, like one day when one of my sisters thought she was getting the exact same Christmas present as the one she just saw her sister open. And then when she found out it wasn’t, well, let’s just say that kind of joy was short-lived.
Mary’s response is different. It comes from somewhere deeper. It carries her for her whole life through good times, unsure times, confusing times, shadowy times, despairing times, unforeseen times, and overwhelmingly joyful times. I think I should look at Mary’s response here and where it issues from. Maybe then, I might have that kind of response flow out of a life living upon the right issues.
Let’s catch up. Mary has been told by an angel of God that she will bear the Son of God. How? Not by means of a man, the normal way, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the same way that the Holy Spirit hovered over the chaos of the waters to create the world, so He would create this only begotten Son of God in her for the salvation of the people He had created. Mary was a chosen vessel for the gift of God that would reconcile us to Himself.
And who does God choose to bear the weight of carrying the Son of God in a world where most people will not understand? A girl somewhere between the ages of 12-15. He chose a girl. But not just any girl. He chose Mary.
Six months earlier, he chose a woman beyond child bearing age who had been barren all this time. This woman’s name was Elizabeth, the wife of Zecharias the priest. He chose her, and her husband to bear a child as men bear children, in God’s time, for His purposes; to prepare the way of the Lord, the one who would come from Mary’s womb. He chose a relative of Mary’s who lived far away, yet they were relatives. One was old; one was young. One was barren; one had never been with a man sexually. One was admired; one would be cast out and shamed. It was a much easier road for Elizabeth than it would be for Mary.
I’ve heard that one of the hardest things to bear, is going through the death of a child. I have a feeling that Elizabeth never had to witness the death of John, that he was the one to walk through the sorrow of watching his parents die. But Mary, she was pierced through the heart, wasn’t she? And yet, we know that her heart lept for joy three days later when Jesus was risen from the dead, not as her son, but as King of kings, and Lord of lords.
But Mary isn’t there yet. Right now, she’s a girl, expecting with the Son of God, with only the words of God to trust, in a world that, most of the time, was not lined up with God. I’m assuming this is soon into Mary’s pregnancy that she travels to stay with Elizabeth. Who would have had a problem with that request? After all, Zecharias was a priest. What better influence on her life? And when she arrives, the Holy Spirit in the infant John within his mother’s womb leaps and kicks his mother’s abdomen in joy. Why? Well, the Holy Spirit must have let Elizabeth in on things too, because she rejoices that Mary is carrying the promised child within her womb! Hey, there was no mail or other way she knew. She knew what was happening within Mary, she knew that Mary had trusted the words of God, and she rejoiced because she was trusting the words of God.
Why Mary? Why did your soul magnify the Lord? What caused your soul to declare God’s greatness? What caused your spirit to rejoice in God as your Saviour?
First, you realized that God noticed you and acknowledged you even though you were but a humble servant. Maybe we don’t get that because we come from a part of the world where people don’t have servants anymore. So, I guess I don’t totally get that either. I mean, I could research slavery and reiterate what others say, but that’s not the same as living in that culture, is it? So help me to grasp what Mary is saying here, Lord.
Mary is a teenager. She’s a woman. She’s a Hebrew. She’s a human. And now she’s a pregnant teenager before her husband has “lain” with her. How humble can you get? On being a “child” have you ever heard the expression, “Children should be seen but not heard”? So, children can be seen as a non-important entity. And what of women? They had very little rights back then. And being a Jew? In a Roman world? Must I say more? And being a young woman pregnant before the finish of your betrothal and not by your betrothed?! Oh, and I forgot to add that she’s just a human, you know, compared to Almighty God. Mary realizes her humble state and that she is God’s servant first and foremost. What about me?
When I realize that I’m “a nobody” to most people and in terms of comparison to You, how do I handle that? Do I try to make myself heard as a somebody? Do I try to say, “Hey, notice me! Notice me!” Or do I respond like Mary, and say, “Wow! God, You noticed me! You, who don’t have to notice me, because Your greatness is so great, notice me! And because You noticed me, others will see that You have noticed me!” It’s all about God, not about Mary. She’s just overwhelmed that God chose her, that He is using her.
Mary sees herself as lowly. How low? The word in Greek is tapeinosis. Think of abject condition. What does that mean? Abject, according to Noah Webster means “to throw away; to cast out.” As an adjective it means “Sunk to a low condition…Worthless, mean, despicable, low in estimation, without hope or regard.” And as a noun it means “A person in the lowest condition and despicable. Psalm 35.” This is where Mary sees herself and yet…
God, who is mighty, has done great things for her. She has read that His name is holy, but she is experiencing His holiness as well. The mercy that she has read about for those who fear him in what ever generation they live, is being experienced in her life. The strength that she has read about, where He has scattered the proud, brought down the mighty, and exalted the lowly; she is experiencing that for herself. Where she has only read about the hungry being filled with good things, and the rich being sent away empty; now she is experiencing first hand. Where she has read of Him helping his servant Israel and speaking to them; yes, she is experiencing even that for herself.
Do you realize that where Mary has come, to this day and moment of rejoicing and being overwhelmed in the Lord, that it is His word that has brought her here? All through this magnificent rejoicing in the magnificence of God, she is sharing what she has learned from scripture. Oh, it’s not quoting it, with book, chapter and verse. It’s deeper. She has been reading scripture, or maybe so listening to scripture and meditating on it in her mind over and over again so that it has become her life and prayer. This word of God is what she has been trusting in and hoping in and praying for, the fulfilment of all His words. And He sees her and acknowledges her faith in Him.
Why will they call her blessed? Because she bore Jesus? No! No! No! She is blessed because, just as Elizabeth said, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45) She’s not blessed because Jesus nursed at her breasts. Don’t elevate Mary, because then she’s no longer a blessing. They tried to do that in Jesus’ day. Hear the woman in the crowd cry, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But what did Jesus say, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” That’s why Mary was blessed. Mary’s favor with God was in her humility and trust in Him.
She wasn’t better than anyone else. Scripture says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Even Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) All includes Mary. And she knew that. That’s why it was wonderful to her that God would use her, this girl who didn’t deserve it. Let me reiterate the point that Mary is making in her “magnificat” and the point that Jesus reiterates as well. Listen again, “While he [Jesus] was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” (Matthew 12:45-50)
Read Mary’s words for yourself. She knew. The only reason that she was chosen to bear Jesus, is the same reason that any one can be blessed in Jesus and know God. Elizabeth wasn’t fooled. She knew, a person is blessed by God to know Him and know His mercy by believing that He will fulfil His words and living in them. Jesus tried to redirect us to get it. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it! Blessed doesn’t mean elevated in specialness. Blessed means one with God, involved in His plans with Him, used and loved by Him, united with Him. Mary wasn’t blessed because she had Jesus, she was blessed because she knew and trusted God even before she had Jesus. And when she had Jesus, she was still as humbled trying to figure it all out just like the rest of us. She was still in that humble process of trusting in God’s word as she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19, 51)
Here’s something I heard in a seminar yesterday, from someone who used to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. God set him free. For a year or two, after crying out to God to be free, he was, and he pursued God and went to church, and was discipled, and searched God’s word. When some friends told him he needed to get saved he said, “What are you talking about? God’s already working in me. Don’t you see what He’s already done. I must be saved already. How could God be working in me if I wasn’t saved?”
Think about it. Have you ever thought about that? I’ve thought about it before, and I’m like Mary, saying, “Oh, God, I am so grateful that You have been working in me since I was a child so that I can come to know You. You’re mercy is so great to me and I don’t deserve it. Even at times when I was kicking against You, You were still working. Oh, the greatness of Your love for me even though I don’t deserve it!”
Now, keep thinking about that. Because that’s where Mary was. That’s where the disciples were. That’s where Nicodemus was and Paul were even though we haven’t had them enter the picture yet. We’re all addicted to ourselves and our own way like Isaiah said. Only God, has already been at work. Jesus told us He was. “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’” (John 5:17)
Here’s the truth. God will work in us, but God’s working in us does not mean that we are His. God is always working. He is preparing us. For what? For His Son. Listen carefully, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) Here’s the test, are you like Mary? Do you believe the words of God? Do believe that in order for the work of God to be finished in You, in order to become a child of God, that You need to believe that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life that brings us into union with the God who is always at work? Mary came to believe that. I think Nicodemus came to believe that. The disciples came to believe that. Paul came to believe that. The addict came to believe that. And it’s why I’m writing this today, because when I was 15 years old, I trusted in these words of God and I trusted in His Son, Jesus, the Christ, and nothing else.
And to think that a nobody like me, a human who has so many times defied the ways of God, could be so loved and so blessed by His Son to be in union with my Creator and that my Creator would value me so that He would invest His Holy Spirit in me to shape me more and more like Him every day. How could we not sing out daily the magnificence of God through Christ! May You allow God to work in Your life, but even more so, may You surrender Your life to His greatest work, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of your soul and the only One who can unite You to the Father as His very own child.