September 4 - Luke 1:39-56

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Luke 1:39-56 – Mary and Elizabeth

Luke really is an amazing story teller. The way he weaves this story in and out, we don’t even realize how he impacts our understanding of the tale.

Mary comes to Elizabeth. Luke directs our attention to the incredible gift that was given to this older woman. That’s the first thing that happens, but within moments of their meeting, John leaps within his mother’s womb. Before he is even born, he is shown to be a prophet. He recognizes within Mary the Messiah and turns the story toward the young woman who will bear God’s son.

Elizabeth cries out, echoing the leap her son takes in her womb. The Holy Spirit uses her words and the body language of her son to point out the importance of the child within Mary to Luke’s readers.

As a scholar, Luke knows the Hebrew scriptures. Mary’s song of praise is reminiscent of the song Hannah lifted up when her son was born (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and is filled with phrases from the Old Testament. Verses are taken from Psalm 34:1-3: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”  Hab 3:18 says “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Mary’s humility mirrors Hannah’s in 1 Samuel 1:11 “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant.”

In verse 49 we read that “he has done great things,” words which come from Deuteronomy 10:21, “He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.” In verse 51, we are reminded of the Psalmists words in 89:10 “You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.”

The words from verses 52-53 are taken from a book not in many Bibles: Sirach 10:14 “The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers, and enthrones the lowly in their place” and in Psalm 98, we find the thoughts from verses 54-55, “He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”

Mary’s words, as told by Luke are a prayer filled with Old Testament references that draw people back into their Scriptures as they are about to be fulfilled.

The last thing Luke does in this passage is tell us that Mary stays with Elizabeth for about three months. He is letting his readers know that there is no question this young woman is a virgin. She has been away from Joseph long enough that nothing else could be true. When she leaves, she doesn't return to Joseph’s home, but to her own house. The story is not yet finished.