Our passage today is a very popular one, as it is one of the proof text of Roman Catholics in their veneration of Mary. Now it is true that Luke shows some admiration for Mary, but not because of some kind of exalted position but because of her lowliness and her response to Elizabeth’s praise by pointing to and magnifying God. The main point of this passage is the exaltation of God, and not Mary.
It is quite clear from this passage and else where that Mary was in fact uniquely blessed by God since there’s only one person chosen by God to bear the Son of God. This fact was recognized by Elizabeth and John the Baptist. We can see this in how both of them responded in the arrival of Mary. First in verse 41, John as a baby, still in his mother’s womb, leaped when she heard the greeting of Mary. Second in verses 42-45, Elizabeth exclaimed celebration and praise for Mary. This joy and praises expressed by Elizabeth and John was caused by none other than the third person of the Godhead, namely the Holy Spirit in verse 41. John’s leaping and Elizabeth’s exclamation were results of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
The Content of Elizabeth’s Exclamation
Now we can see here four things that Elizabeth says about Mary:
But I want you to take note of two other things, namely the reasons why Elizabeth considered Mary as blessed and that her coming was in itself a blessing:
Both of these reasons point us to God and his Son Jesus Christ, and not to Mary. The Lord is now fulfilling his promises both John and Mary has indispensable roles in this plan of God. John is the prophet who will prepare the way for the Lord, and Mary is the virgin who will bear the promised messiah. This is why what follows is a fitting response of Mary to the good words she received from Elizabeth.
So how did Mary respond? She immediately points to God’s glory. She sings praises to the Lord in verse 46-55. This is the main point of this entire passage.
Now we can divide this hymn in at least two parts; (1) Mary’s magnifying God in verses 46-47, (2) and the ground for exalting God in verses 48-55.
Magnifying God by Rejoicing in Him(vv. 46-47)
The first part of Mary’s hymn is an expression of praise to God. She said, “My soul magnifies the Lord”. Now there are two ways we can magnify a thing according to John Piper. First is through a microscope, by which we show tiny things bigger than they really are. Second is through a telescope and show distant seemingly tiny things how big they really are. Applied to God, the former is blasphemous, the latter is God honoring. In the reasons given by Mary you will see that God is in fact big and great in just a moment.
Before we go there I just want to ask you first how does a “soul” magnifies the Lord? Our mouths magnify Him by singing praises to Him or by declaring his manifold glories right? The reason I asked is because in verse 47 Mary mentioned that her spirit rejoices in God her savior. These are not two responses but one. Notice that the words “spirit” parallels “soul”, “rejoices” to “magnifies” and “God my Savior” is to the “Lord”. verse 47 is the manner by which a soul magnifies the Lord. Mary magnifies God by rejoicing in Him as her savior. In fact no one can lovingly and willingly magnify God without rejoicing in Him. Void of delight in God, it’s just hypocrisy, because the soul magnifies what it rejoices in.
Also it is worth noting that she didn’t just rejoice in God, Mary also recognize that she’s in need of a savior and she’s exulting over that reality that God is her savior.
Greatness of God(vv. 48-55)
We can now to turn to the motivation behind Mary’s exalting God. She states it in verse 48 saying “for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” Then she goes on to restate it in verses 48b-55. She said in verse 48b, “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed”. She then gave two reasons for saying that:
She saw God’s greatness generally in verses 50-55, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” This stands as the basis also in some ways of her personal experience of God’s greatness.
The point of these two reasons is to show that God chose to display his greatness to the lowly, to those who fear him by exalting them, and not to the proud and rich. God chose to do this freely. What this implies then is that we too can be called blessed and exalted, not because we deserve it but because God is gracious and he’s able to demostrate in through us his great power.
In conclusion, Mary is not to be worshipped, neither any saint, God alone deserves our worship. Mary instead is a model of humilty and heart felt worhip of God. Just like Mary, Elizabeth and John, we are to rejoice ultimately in Christ who is our God and savior. As we look forward in celebration of the birth of Lord Jesus Christ, may we magnify Him by rejoicing in him more than his gifts.