And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed might deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
(Luke 1:46–55 NIV)
After hearing that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant (1:36), Mary traveled to see her in Judea. Upon Mary’s arrival, a series of three events took place. Together, they dominate this passage.
When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby John in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy (1:41, 44). This surprising development in the story demonstrates God’s deep, personal involvement in the lives of these two women and their unborn sons. Then, although the unborn John could not speak for himself, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit (1:41), interpreted John’s response: Mary, her baby, and Elizabeth herself were all blessed by God. But among these three the emphasis lay on Mary. Not only was she blessed among all women (1:42), she was characterized as one “who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (1:45). Elizabeth, speaking prophetically, acknowledged Mary’s great trust in God.
In response to these first two events, Mary broke into one of the greatest bursts of praise in all of the New Testament. Known in Christian tradition as the Magnificat, this song belongs alongside many of the Psalms as one of Scripture’s greatest acclamations of God’s wondrous goodness.
Three themes permeate its content. One, Mary emphasized God’s character. God is holy and the Mighty One who performs awesome deeds; God remains faithful, showing mercy on Abraham’s descendants; and God demonstrates his justice by scattering the proud and lifting up the humble.
Two, on the basis of God’s demonstrated character, Mary unleashed a torrent of thanksgiving, praise, and worship. In a memorable line, she exclaimed, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (1:46–47).
Three, Mary’s account of God’s character and the worship it provokes highlights key themes that will form the backbone of Luke’s account of God’s saving actions in Jesus Christ. We will see these themes repeated again and again in Luke’s gospel: God extends his mercy through mighty deeds, and those deeds will involve a thoroughgoing reversal of the present order; the proud, the rich, and the rulers will be brought down while the humble will be lifted up and the hungry fed.
This great song demonstrates that Mary saw her life from a larger perspective than just what her circumstances would allow. She was caught up in a much bigger drama of God making all things right if only she would just see it. After all, God’s salvation was not a result of Mary’s activity and initiative, however much her actions were involved. Rather she was caught up in and participated in what God was doing. Her song of praise indicates she understood it perfectly.
Questions for Reflection
- How do you express your gratitude and wonder for God’s faithfulness in your life?
- In what ways does your understanding of God’s character influence how you see your current circumstances?
Jesus sums up the entire biblical message as follows: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27 NRSV). But what does that love look like where we live? Where we work? With the people we do life with everyday?
In answer to such questions, Jim Miller draws practical lessons from Luke’s Gospel in order to help us live a life modeled after the example of Jesus Christ. This involves his pattern of prayer, relating to others, establishing holy priorities, and a host of day-to-day issues that together establish what Jesus himself called the abundant life. Get the Bible study from our store here.