Mary Magnifies Her Savior, Her Son
December 19, 2004 | Andrew Davis
It is a delight to be able to open this word to you this morning. We are looking at Luke 1:46-55. Like it says in Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.” Amen? That is what we are here to do today. That is what worship is. That we would magnify Christ.
More than ever before, I think we are seeing that we live in a culture that wants to minimize Christ, a culture that would like to make him disappear entirely. Do you sense that? It has been on the news this week: all different ways that they are trying to get rid of Merry Christmas. I was talking to Andy Winn, he said he is disappointed because he always liked to say, “Season’s Greetings,” and now people are thinking he is politically correct. Well, I like to say “Season’s Greetings,” too, “Happy Holidays,” and “Merry Christmas,” but I have been thinking, the real issue here is not whether Macy’s is required or not to print “Merry Christmas” on their bags, or whether the Denver Parade of Lights is required to have the pastor and his float in there that says, “Merry Christmas.” They evicted the float for that very reason. It said, “Merry Christmas” and out you go.
But that is not the issue, is it? The issue is, why do the people that surround us want to minimize Christ? That is the real problem, isn’t it? And how can we maximize or magnify Christ? How can we do that? That is the real calling. Statistics say that 80% of our culture claim to be Christians. Now, of those how many are genuinely born again? I have no idea. But far less than that, I would think. I am really not looking for Washington to mandate that those folks or anybody say, “Merry Christmas” when handing over a Christmas gift that we bought at Macy’s or any other place. That is not the issue.
Let Us Magnify the Lord Together
What I want to know is what is going on in their heart concerning Christ, and not just theirs, but mine. Am I magnifying Christ with my life? That is what we are here to do at worship. That is our purpose today. That is why we have been singing, that is why we gather together. That Christ would become greater. And I cannot think of a better text to do it than this Magnificat. It is from a Latin word, referring to the fact that Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord.
The Essence of Christian Worship
Look at verse 46: “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.’” Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.”
What does it mean to magnify the Lord? We have talked about this before, haven’t we? We are not seeking to make God any bigger in himself–we cannot do it. He is already infinite. He is already great. He fills Heaven and Earth. We cannot magnify such a being, but there is a place in God’s universe where he is too small, and that is in your heart and in mine, and the hearts of the people at Macy’s and surroundings. That is where he is too small.
We have come together to magnify him to make him greater, not in himself, but in our estimation, that we would think greater thoughts of him, and that is exactly what was going on in Mary’s heart as she went there to see Elizabeth. She was magnifying the Lord.
The Essence of a Worshipful Christmas
We are threatened by this increasing secularization, not just of Christmas, but just of our culture. I think it is something to be gravely concerned about, because we know from history that when a culture goes in this direction, eventually it becomes harder and harder to assemble to worship, to speak the name of Christ, to share the Gospel widely.
We see it happening. What these folks want is not to remove Merry Christmas. I can tell you most of the ACLU lawyers are not offended by having somebody say, “Merry Christmas.” These are tough people. It does not bother them much, but they do have an agenda, don’t they? And that is enforced state atheism. That is what they are looking for.
For me, I would like to see Christ magnified everywhere, but I know enough to know that this is the present age we live in, and so we are called on to proclaim and to suffer because anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer. I am not so troubled about what Macy’s prints on their bags next year—that is not what is on my mind—but I want to magnify Christ. And the way we do it is to get into the word, to look at it, to read it, to think about each phrase, to savor each part, to look at everything that Mary said in this case, as a rare jewel, something that is going to show us some aspect of the glorious God that we love and serve. That is what we are going to do together today.
My goal is to go through this Magnificat, this incredible praise of Mary and try to understand what she was so excited about, what was she so delighting in, what she was she wanting to magnify, so that we might worship Christ properly. Let us do that together.
The Context of Mary’s Praise
First, let us look at some context. Now, Galatians 4:4-5 said, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who are under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
At What Point of Redemptive History?
The question I am asking right now is, what does it mean in the fullness of time? What was going on in world history? What was going on in redemptive history when Mary spoke these words when Christ was born? What is the context of Mary’s prayer?
The Jewish nation had been dominated by Gentile overlords for six centuries; one after another had ruled over Palestine. Roman soldiers at that point were tramping through the Judean countryside looking for the best of the harvest or whatever they might need for their army, and the Jews could have the rest, making for difficult and unsettling times.
Puppet kings like Herod the Great, under Roman domination, were ruling unjustly and wickedly. Furthermore, there had been, it seems, no prophetic word from God for four centuries since Malachi finished up the Old Testament four centuries before. It is a long dry spell in which they are not hearing from God and the Gentiles just dominating. I am sure the Jews were wondering what had become of the promises made to Abraham. I am sure Mary might have wondered those same things.
Who was Mary?
Who was Mary? Mary was Jewish, she was a daughter of Abraham. She was also descended from David. Her genealogy, I believe, shows in Luke that she was a daughter of David as well. It seems that she was poor. She was betrothed to Joseph, and the two of them could not afford the lamb for the offering, and so they had to settle for the second pigeon or turtle dove, and so they were poor. The prospects for material prosperity were not good. She was marrying the village carpenter. He was a godly man, but he was not going to make her wealthy, not that she desired it because she was a godly woman. She yearned for the glory of God, and she was filled with the grace of God.
God had been gracious to her, and she loved God with all her heart. We also see and we are going to know more about her as we go on this week and God willing next week, that she was quiet and pensive. She was reflective and pious. She was in every respect a role model.
Elizabeth’s Extraordinary News: The Birth of John the Baptist, (Luke 1:5-24)
An element of context in Luke 1 is what happened to Elizabeth. Elizabeth, her relative, perhaps cousin, had received astonishing news that she was in her old age going to have a baby. That baby was going to be John the Baptist, and he would be the forerunner to Christ. That is amazing, but I do not believe that Mary knew about that yet. But you as a reader of Luke 1 you knew about it as you are reading. Then Mary receives her own extraordinary news. That is the basis of the context of this praise: what has happened to Elizabeth and what has happened to Mary, but especially what has happened to Mary.
Mary’s Extraordinary News: The Birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:26-38)
What has happened to Mary? The angel Gabriel appeared to her. Gabriel, by the way, one of the only two named angels in the Bible, had appeared hundreds and hundreds of years before that to Daniel at the Ulai Canal in Babylon and spoke. Angels are timeless beings, and he appears to Mary, and he greets her in a way that troubles her.
He gives her some astonishing news: “You are going to have a son. Your son will be the Messiah. Your son will also be God’s son. He will be the Son of God. He will be therefore God in the flesh. He is going to have a kingdom that will never end.” Now, imagine, if you were a young Jewish girl hearing this. It is astonishing news, extraordinary. And her response is, predictable. “How can this be since I have never been with a man? So how is it possible for me to have a baby?”
Then Gabriel explained in Luke 1:35: “The angel answered, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.’”
This is the central mystery of Christmas. How can Jesus be fully God and fully man? It is the mystery of the incarnation. It is explained as best as we can understand it in Luke 1:35, that the holy spirit overshadowed Mary and her body, and Jesus was conceived inside her without the benefit of a husband.
Gabriel gives her some proof, similar to Gideon’s fleece. He does not say that, but I think that is why he offers: “Even Elizabeth, your relative is with the child.” I do not think she knew that up to this point, but in a way, he is leading her, I think saying, “Go and confirm. When you find out that Elizabeth is having an amazing and miraculous baby too, then you will be able to believe what I am saying,”–not that she is not believing, because she does believe.
Elizabeth says so: “Blessed is she who believes that what the Lord has said to her will come to pass” (Luke 1:45). She believes it. Gabriel gives an astonishing affirmation and says, and this is something we should always keep in mind: “For nothing is impossible with God.” God can create a baby inside the womb of a woman who has passed her age. God can also create a baby inside a woman who has never been with a man. God can do this. Nothing is impossible with God.
And then Mary is submissive in faith-filled answer: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered, “May it be to me, as you have said,” and then the angel leaves.
Mary’s Expectant Visit
Immediately, what does Mary want to do? But get up and go find Elizabeth so that she can confirm the angel’s words, but also, they can have that kind of woman-to-woman fellowship that just men will never be able to understand. She just wants to go and just share the two of them together.
She goes to confirm and to be with Elizabeth. As soon as she gets there, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and John the Baptist, not yet born, leaps inside her, filled with the Holy Spirit. It is an incredible moment as the two of them experience.
Elizabeth’s Prophetic Praise
This moment as Mary walks in and in a loud voice, Elizabeth exclaims,
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
That, my friends, is the context of Mary’s praise. There she is. She is about to answer, and she speaks extraordinary things, incredible things, the Magnificat, the magnificent praise that she gives at that moment.
The Characteristics of Mary’s Praise
What are some characteristics of that generally? As you look across it, you see depth. There is a depth to what she has to say. It is not light-hearted or frivolous, like, “Oh, praise the Lord.” It goes deeper than that.
She is reflecting on what is happening. She is reflecting on the significance, she is a ponderer, she is in deep waters. Just as will happen in Luke 2 when it actually comes to pass, she just treasures these things in her heart. She ponders them just as she pondered Gabriel’s greeting to her to begin with.
We also see joy. The whole tone of Mary’s praise is joyful celebration with deep awe and reverence. She says, “My soul glorifies the Lord (or magnifies the Lord), and my spirit rejoices in God, my savior.” She is rejoicing in God. There’s great joy.
There’s also God-centered adoration. God is at the center of all that she has to say. She is focused on God. It is God-centered praise. His divine power, His holiness, his mercy to her and to generation after generation, and his faithfulness, God-centered adoration, she zeroes in on that, and she will not leave it like a laser focused on God.
We also see Scripture, scriptural knowledge. She knows the Bible, the Old Testament. It is just saturated with biblical imagery. Some say it is very much like Hannah’s praise when little Samuel is born, and she praises God. But it is only a little bit similar to that. Hannah is seemingly taking delight in a triumph over her personal enemy and the trouble that she has had for that. She is praising God for that.
Mary’s praise just goes so much further than that. Actually, some scholars find at least twenty different scriptural allusions in Mary’s brief praise here. She is saturated, her mind and her heart saturated with the word of God. What a perfect mother for Jesus because never was there a man that walked the Earth as saturated with the Scriptures as Jesus was. He used it for everything, even spoke it on the cross when He was dying. So, what a perfect choice, a mother who knew the Bible and who would be able to proclaim it and speak it even from infancy to Jesus.
We also see her humility. She has a sense of “why is this happening to me?” To me. There is a sense of her humble origins, a sense that I do not deserve this. There is a humility here.
We also see, I think, a note of triumph as well. All these things are characteristics of Mary’s praise.
The Content of Mary’s Praise
Let us look at the content of Mary’s praise. I am going to break it into four stanzas like a poem.
In stanza 1, verses 46-49, it is exalting in God’s blessings to her personally.
In verse 50, stanza 2, she extends God’s blessings from generation to generation. She begins with herself and God’s great works to her, and then she extends it out generation to generation.
Then stanza 3, verses 51-53, she delights in God’s surprising ways, and dealing with the full and the empty. God just does unpredictable things. He does not do it the way we would do it. She just delights in that, what we will call the Great Reversal.
Then the fourth stanza, she celebrates God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham. God’s covenant faithfulness to Abraham. That is the fourth part. Let us look at the first part.
Stanza 1: Exulting in God’s Blessings to Her (vv. 46-49)
First stanza, exulting in God’s blessing to her, Luke 1:46-49:
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies 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.’”
That is her praise for God’s greatness and blessing to her. Interestingly, she is really quiet and reflective in the angel Gabriel’s presence, but she just lets it go with Elizabeth. Again, I think there is just an ability that women have to open up and relate, to have deep friendships, to share at a level that men do not touch. It is amazing, and they just bring this praise out of each other at the human level. I believe the Holy Spirit is all over Mary’s statement every bit as much as it was over Elizabeth, but there is just a beauty of fellowship there between these two godly women.
Now the focus here is God’s goodness to Mary personally. This is where all true religion begins: God and me. Is there room at the cross for me, as one hymn says? Is there going to be a place at the wedding banquet of the Lamb for me? Is there a place for me? Do I have something coming? That is not selfish. We were created individuals and as individuals to have a relationship with God. Probably the best statement of this Psalm 139–it is great–but I love Galatians 2:20, and that personal relationship between Paul and God, Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
That is where it begins. Are you trusting in Christ? Do you have a place at the wedding banquet of the Lamb? Do you have blessings that have flown toward you from God personally? That is where it starts. She starts with God’s blessings to her. Her praise, it just soars because I think it is rooted in humility. I think the more arrogant you are, the more boastful, the less you can praise like this. Because you just kind of expect it: “Well, of course, I mean, it is me after all.”
If, on the other hand, you are generally humble and you sense what you truly deserve from God, then the praise just soars, doesn’t it? “Why should this be happening to someone like me?”
“He has been mindful,” she says, “of the humble state of her servant…” Not, “Well, this is what I deserve.” No, not at all. “The humble state of her servant.” And then she says something striking. She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”
What is in Mary’s mind when she says “the humble state” of his servant? I have to say it is her sin. She knows she is a sinner as all godly people do. She is honest about it and her need for a savior.
“God, my savior.” Savior from what? In Matthew 1:21, the angel appears to Joseph in a dream and says, “You will give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” What does Mary need a savior from, but sin?
I was raised Roman Catholic. What I am saying right now would be Roman Catholic heresy. No joke, they believe she was sinless. They believe that she was immaculately conceived. Ever seen the church of the Immaculate Conception? It is not talking about Jesus. It is talking about Mary and her mother’s womb, that she was in a miraculous way, kind of spared from original sin, and then she went on and lived a sinless life, and then she was bodily assumed into heaven, and she now sits as Queen of Heaven, ruling with Christ. She is in some sense a mediatrix, or female mediator, along with her son between the human race and God.
I do not share those convictions. I think it is not true, and I think this one statement, Mary would not share them either. She would say, “I rejoice in God, my savior. He has been mindful of the humble, estate of his handmaiden of his servant. I am a sinner. I needed a savior.” She believed that. She is a godly woman, she is humble, she knew the Bible, she is submissive to the will of God, but she is not to be worshipped. She is not to be worshipped. She was a sinner in need of a savior. It is just astonishing: her Savior was her own son. That is the amazing thing here. She needed a savior, and she knew it.
She also recognized from that point on that all generations would call her blessed. We would see the place of honor that she had. Can you imagine all the memories, the unique experiences that we do not have? We have no record of them—Jesus’ growing up years—but Mary knew them. She saw them. She experienced them. She saw what sinlessness looked like from birth right through age 30 and beyond. That is extraordinary, and to be able to teach him Scripture, to see him grow in wisdom and knowledge in favor with God, a man, to watch that process go on, what a blessing. God has given her great gifts.
It says, “For the Mighty One has done great things for me.” Can you say that today? Can you say it? If we were not such a… First Baptist Church, you would stand up and say, “The Mighty One has done great things for me,” and you would testify, but we are not going to do that. You notice there are no mics out here for you to do that and you sure will not stand up and do it, although if I wait long enough, I think somebody might.
We are just going to go on, but the Mighty One has done great things for all of us, but he has done some unique great things for her, hasn’t he? The Mighty One has sent an angel and the angel has told her of something miraculous that is growing inside her. That is a great thing.
Ordinarily, of the 46 chromosomes, 23 come from the woman, and 23 come from the man, but the man is not there. God created out of nothing what needed to be there for Jesus to be fully human. Created out of nothing the way he created the universe out of nothing. Created out of nothing the way Jesus created Malthus’s ear out of nothing after Peter chopped it off the night before he was crucified. Whoosh, here is an ear. Whoosh, here are 23 chromosomes. Whatever is needed, God can do. For nothing is impossible with God.
God can do that. It bothers me when people stumble over these little things that God can do. For nothing is impossible with God. The Mighty One has done great things for me. But let me tell you all the great things he has done for Mary, the number one is to forgive her sins and welcome her into heaven, that’s a number one.
She would say so, too. I think she is saying so every day right now, as she worships God her savior. That is the great thing that God has done for her.
Stanza 2: Extending to God’s Blessings from Generation to Generation (vv. 50)
Secondly, what about the extension of God’s blessings from generation to generation? Verse 50, “His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation.”
Mary now widens her focus, she is not going to just say, “God and me, me and God,” but she is thinking about all the people that this is going to affect. She is thinking about generation after generation. She is a deep woman. Her meditations are deep and real. His mercy extends to those who fear him. She is thinking about this based on the words that Gabriel had said, “He will reign on David’s throne forever, his kingdom will never end.” The eternal blessings that are coming through Jesus–amazing!
She talks about the mercy of God. What is God’s mercy but his kindness to those who are in misery, those who are suffering. Sin has brought great suffering into this world, great suffering. God’s mercy alleviates that suffering. It reaches down into the lives of suffering people and frees them from their suffering. That is what mercy is.
I say to you that for all the great places of suffering in this world, and there are many, there is no earthly suffering that compares with the lake of fire. That is God’s central mercy to the human race through Jesus Christ: to be freed from the just condemnation, the eternal condemnation of our sins in hell, that we do not have to spend eternity under the wrath of God. That is mercy.
I tell you that no experience in a slum of Kolkata (Calcutta) or in an AIDS ward in Botswana, or in a refugee camp in Pakistan, or in a forced labor camp in North Korea, none of those compare with the misery of those suffering in the lake of fire. That is the central mercy that extends from generation to generation, but she says, “It extends to those who fear him.” It is not universal, but to those who fear him, like it says in Psalm 103:11 and following, it says, “For as high as the heavens are above the Earth, so great is His love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. It is the God-fearers. And “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” That is how we come to faith in Christ: we fear his wrath, and we flee to the savior who is Christ. And so, Mary extends her praise to think about generation after generation of God’s mercy to those who fear him.
Stanza 3: Delighting in God’s Surprising Ways with the Full and Empty (vv. 51-53)
Thirdly, she delights in God’s surprising ways with the full and with the empty.
Look at verses 51-53: “He has performed mighty 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.”
This is the great reversal. It just goes the whole opposite way of the world. The world reveres wealth, prestige, power, influence, and achievement and all that ostentation–that is what the world reveres. But God reverses it all. Because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And Mary understands that, doesn’t she?
She is reflecting on who she is, and that God would do this mighty great thing for her. Of all the incredible women there are in the world, all the wealthy ones and empresses and well-dressed wealthy noble women and all that, he has not chosen any of those, but he has chosen the lowest of the low. He has chosen Mary, and so this is the great reversal.
Now she speaks of the mighty deeds of God. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm. His arm is mighty and powerful. Any Jew would know what she is talking about. She is thinking back to the time of the Exodus when an evil tyrant king is sitting on his throne and says, “I am not going to let the people go, they’re going to serve me until they die and then their children will serve me too.”
The tyrant Pharaoh–God topples him from his throne. He pours out plagues, He destroys Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea. She knows all this. These are the very things that the psalmist said, “We have heard of these mighty deeds, renew them in our day, in our time, make them known.” I want to see it. She is probably like all the Jews thinking, “Hey, there’s the Romans here,” but she is thinking deeper than that, isn’t she?
Because the ultimate tyranny is not earthly, the ultimate tyranny is spiritual. Now, there were earthly tyrants. For example, there’s Herod the Great. What an interesting man was Herod the Great. Herod the Great, the one who built Herod’s Temple, he lived in a lavish and luxurious palace. Incredible. Josephus describes it: extravagant banquet halls, bed chambers for 100 guests, pool, statues, everything decorated in gold, even more than the Biltmore Estate, if you ever been there and paid $50 to go see… Is it $50? Maybe more, but anyway, just to see it. Well, I think Herod had it even more lavishly appointed palace. He was strange, very jealous of his throne, very protective, so much that he murdered his own wife and sons, and yet he kept kosher. He would not eat pig or other things, and so Caesar Augustus who knew him and they were friends, said, “You know, I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son, because Herod had his son murdered, but he won’t eat the pig…” That is what the way Herod was. He was a tyrant, and the very same one who gave the order to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity, who were two years old and under, in order that he might not miss killing Christ. The viciousness of that tyrant.
Then there is Caesar Augustus himself whose decree was issued throughout the whole Roman world that a census would be taken for the purpose of population control and taxation. He can move huge quantities of people just with a decree like that. That is the power of Cesar Augustus, ruled unchallenged over the Roman world for 45 years, an interesting man. Himself, he did not like luxury. He did not like open displays of luxury, and yet he said, “I found Rome, a city of brick and I left to the city of marble.” That is the way Caesar Augustus was.
Was she thinking about Herod the Great and Caesar Augustus, these mighty potentates, these rulers that would be toppled from their thrones? Perhaps she was. And all the kinds of under lords under them, all the kinds of human rulers, the arrogant ones, the ones that are proud, it says in their inmost thoughts, he has toppled them all. Why can he do that?
Well, it says in Daniel 2:21, “He changes times and seasons, he sets up kings and deposes them.” That is what the Lord can do. Or it says in Daniel also that, “No one can challenge him, the powers of heaven or earth or under the earth, would say to him, ‘What have you done?’” That is our Mighty God.
God has spread a banquet table. In verse 53, “He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.” It says in Isaiah 55:1-2: “Come, all you who are thirsty. Come to the waters, and you who have no money, come buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”
It is an invitation to come without money and without cost. Now, do these verses teach that rich people cannot be saved? No, it just teaches that they get saved by sprawling their wealth is worthless. It is of no eternal consequence. Because Isaiah 55 says, “You want to come to the bank? Well, come without money and without cost. Don’t try to buy it. It’s not for sale, it’s a free gift.” The people who recognize that it has no eternal consequence, these are the ones who are going to come feast.
Jesus fed people literally, physically while He was on earth, but it was not what you would call the richest of fare, at least not what I would call the richest of fare: barley loaves and fish. Now, if I had to eat it, I would eat it. But if that is what you serve when I came over for dinner, I would say, “Thank you. I appreciate it.” What did you have? Barley loaves and fish? Very simple fare, but that is not what He came to do.
He is talking about a spiritual banquet. He is talking about eating forever in the kingdom of God, eating God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness and seeing God face-to-face. That is the banquet, without money and without cost.
Imagine, by the way, if you brought your own lunch to the Galilean hillside, you would not eat Jesus’s food, would you? Or imagine if you brought your own supply of rare vintage wine to a wedding at Cana in Galilee, you would not be drinking Jesus’s wine because you would think yours is better. So, if you are full of earthly things, you do not need Jesus, you do not need him. But if you know that you are empty, if you know that you are lost, if you know that you are poor, wretched, pitiful, and blind spiritually, then Jesus came for you. That is why he came. He came to give you life. He sent the rich, the full away empty, but the ones who know they are empty, that is who he came for, and he spread a banquet for them.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the spiritual beggars for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. And blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Stanza 4: Celebrating God’s Faithfulness to His Covenant with Abraham (vv. 54-55)
The fourth stanza is celebrating God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham. We have been studying in Genesis, you folks know. Week after week, we have been talking about this covenant to Abraham, God had promised. He had promised, He had promised. God keeps his promises, but he had not kept it yet. She is looking back and saying, “What has happened to the promised land? What is happening to God’s people? It seems that we are under God’s wrath. The Gentiles are there all the time. Are you going to remember us?” It says in verses 54 and 55, “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever. Even as he said to our fathers.”
After 400 years of waiting for God to speak, after Malachi spoke the final word of the Old Covenant, waiting and waiting. The people were, I think, wondering, Psalm 77. Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
Mary answers the question here, do you see it? He has not forgotten Israel. He has not forgotten Abraham. He has not forgotten his covenant. He is going to fulfill it. He is fulfilling it now. This is Mary’s praise. She celebrates God’s mercy and grace to Mary personally.
Secondly, she extends it out, generation and generation of those who fear him. Third, she talks about the great reversal of how God opposes the proud but gives grace of the humble, how he topples rich tyrants. Sends the full away, but the meek, the lowly, the weak, the empty, these he ministers to. And how God has kept his promise to Abraham.
The Consummation of Mary’s Praise
Now, what is the consummation of Mary’s praise? What do I mean by consummation? I mean, this is a foretaste. This is good praise, but this is nothing compared to what Mary is doing right now. This is just the beginning. Notice, by the way, that she never mentions her son anywhere in this praise. It is really kind of like Old Testament praise. She never openly mentions Christ. It is the context for why she says it, but she never speaks of it.
She is intensely Christ-focused now. There is nothing wrong with this praise. I am just saying she has a journey to travel. By the end of her life, and after Jesus’s resurrection and his ascension, she knows far more what it means that God is her Savior than she does at this point.
So, what is the consummation of Mary’s praise? I have a simple concept that Mary’s true honor and her greatest blessing is not in being Jesus’s physical mother, but in Jesus’s faith-filled disciple. That is her highest place of honor, because in that she finds her salvation and in that she is focused forever.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he honored her, he respected her, but also, he limited her role. Remember when Jesus’s mother and brothers come to take charge of Jesus, because they think that he is out of his mind. Do you remember that? And Jesus says, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” He pointed to his disciple, he said, “Behold my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Another time in Luke 11, a woman calls out after hearing some incredible teaching of Jesus, “Blessed is the woman who gave you birth and nursed you.” And he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
That is what Jesus said. And so even there, he is saying, the greatest blessing of Mary’s life is not in giving birth to Jesus, but in hearing the gospel that He came to preach and believing that his death was sufficient for her sins, that she might spend eternity praising God, her Savior who is her son. Now, that is the consummation of Mary’s praise.
What application can we take from this? When I first wrote this message, I had ten points of application, and said, “Oh boy, probably would be like about 3 o’clock by the time we get done, and that’d be fine for some of you and not for others.” Here is the thing. Let us zero down on two things in particular. Worship the way Mary did, focus on Jesus at Christmas and throughout the year. Focus on him, by the power of the Spirit. Fill your mind with the person of Christ, with the gift of Christ, with what He came to do.
Saturate your minds with the gospel. When was the last time you read a Gospel through? Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, right straight through? Do it, maybe even do it this afternoon. You could read Mark’s Gospel this afternoon. Read through a Gospel. Fill your mind with Christ and worship God again for the giving of Christ. Secondly, understand what it means that God topples tyrants and rulers down from their thrones.
You know, I have to be honest. I play that role sometimes in my life. I play the arrogant kind of emperor king, sometimes. If somebody says something I do not like, or if I do not get what I want, or if I think about Christmas in terms of “I wonder what I am going to get” rather than “I wonder how I can serve and love,” I am playing that role. And the Bible says that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
If you feel empty right now, if you feel empty spiritually, it could be that you do not realize that you are empty, and the first step for you to say is, “I’m empty. I am not filled with the Spirit. I need God. Other things have crowded God out of my life.” He sends the full away empty, but the empty ones, he fills. And so, you come to him and say, “Lord, show me what I am. Show me that I need you. Not just the first time when I walk the aisle, or pray the prayer, but I mean, I need you now. I need you to fill me now. I am drifting from you. I need to be close to you again.”
Some of you perhaps are here not as believers in Christ, but because it is the Sunday before Christmas. I am so glad you are here. It is a delight to me that you would come, but let me ask you, do you know Christ? Do you feel his saving love in your heart? Have you trusted in him? Do you realize that you need a Savior from sin? That apart from Christ’s finished work on the cross, that you would have no hope on judgment day? Trust in him right now, even while you are sitting there and come and talk to me afterwards. Say, “I need to know more about Christ, I want to follow him, but I am not doing it.” Trust in the Savior.