31 May 2016

Luke 1:39-49

“[Elizabeth] exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb’” (v. 42)

Psalm: Psalm 113


Luke's Gospel often brings us alternative voices. From the shepherds (Luke 2), the centurion (Luke 7) and here two women, he brings to us the voices of all those who receive the good news.  In today's passage we have a unique situation within Scripture of a conversation taking place between two women.  Only the book of Ruth seems to have any prolonged and significant conversation of this sort, and much of the New Testament is crowded with male voices.  

Mary and Elizabeth were relatives (verse 36), though we cannot say for certain what relation they were to each other. They were both with child, though until Mary arrived Elizabeth did not know this. It was as Mary greeted her that Elizabeth felt her child move in the womb and she was filled with God's Spirit. It is in this moment that Elizabeth triggers a cascade of blessings that will echo throughout the birth narrative (Luke 1:45-56, 68-79; 2:29-32).  

The blessings that Elizabeth spoke first (verse 42) was one that would echo through all time - Mary will be blessed now and in the future. The second blessing that comes in verse 45 contrasts Mary's faith with Elizabeth's own husbands lack of it. Mary is blessed because she believed that the Lord would fulfil his promise: Zechariah on the other hand questioned the promise given him and was struck mute till the promise was fulfilled (Luke 1:18-20). 

In a song known as the Magnificat, Mary responded to the words of her relative by in-turn blessing God for all God is doing. She worships God and rejoices in God's actions towards her that will make her blessed for all generations. At this time it is a song of joy that Mary expresses, not unlike the joy expressed by many new parents. In this moment of joy Mary is unaware of the journey ahead that will see her heart pierced but even with this knowledge her words of praise would not differ.

To Ponder

  • Who are the significant voices that you listen to today? Parents, politicians, church leaders or friends?
  • Elizabeth's response to Mary's arrival is to bless her and her child. When was the last time you greeted someone with a word of blessing or encouragement?
  • Mary's response to the blessing was to in turn bless God. Do you find that you give thanks to God when you receive compliments or encouragement? What about in more difficult circumstances?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Wynd

David Wynd is a Methodist presbyter in the North Shields and Whitley Bay Circuit. He leads Cullercoats Methodist Church and is involved in a circuit project called Network.