About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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This Section - Chapter 1:39 to 80

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 ch. 1:39-45   ch.1:46-56     ch. 1:57-66   ch. 1:67-80     

Mary Visits Elizabeth (ch. 1:39 - 45)

Luke tells us that at some point after the angel visited Mary she went to see Elizabeth. When Mary met Elizabeth her baby "leaped" within her and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. The leaping of John within Elizabeth was due to the fact that he had the Holy Spirit living in him, even while he was in his motherís womb. Thus the Holy Spirit in John recognized Mary as she came to visit. This also caused Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This must have been some event. Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit and so was John, both at the same time,

two people filled with the Spirit, yet in one body.

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit filled the baby inside Elizabethís womb, a baby with no intellectual capabilities to understand these things. You might therefore conclude that a person does not have to have intellectual capabilities to experience the Holy Spirit. A child can experience the Holy Spirit, as well as one who may be mentally challenged. This gives hope to all people.

When one is filled with the Spirit, or when the Holy Spirit comes upon someone, usually something happens. It is not a static situation. What happens in this case is a prophetic word from Elizabeth, which includes a word of knowledge.

Prophetically Elizabeth says in a loud voice, "blessed are you among women, (May is very special), and blessed is the child you will bearÖ" How did Elizabeth know about the child Mary should give birth too? Obviously this was a word of knowledge,

Elizabeth asks a question that she doesnít expect an answer to. She asks "why should the mother of my Lord" come to visit her? It is interesting to note the way in which Elizabeth uses the word Lord. A Jew using "Lord" would mean "God". She is actually calling the baby inside of Mary God. Elizabeth is the first person to call Jesus Lord, to recognize Him as God.

Elizabeth continues with this prophecy by saying, "blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished". We should acknowledge that unlike Zechariah, Mary believed the words of the angel. She believed God would do as the angel told her. Because of this faith, Mary was considered blessed.

Maryís Song (ch. 1:46 - 56)

Mary responds to what Elizabeth has just said with words of her own. Some suggest that Maryís words were just as much prophetic and inspired as Elizabethís yet without any foretelling of the future. Others say that Maryís words are merely a product of her own thinking, though it is very much heart felt. I would lean towards the thinking that Maryís words were influenced by the Holy Spirit, and thus were prophetic The Holy Spirit was clearly evident in the room when these two ladies met, so it is not hard to believe that He inspired both ladies at that moment.

In verse 46 Mary says, "my soul does glorify the Lord and my spirit does rejoice in God my Saviour". One thing we notice right away are the words soul and spirit. It seems to appear that in Maryís mind, because she differentiates between soul and spirit, that these are 2 separated parts of a person.

There is a couple different ways of looking at this matter. Some believe that we as humans consist of 3 parts; body, soul, and spirit. These people believe that there is a clear distinction between soul and spirit that is evident in what Mary says, because she uses both in the same sentence, suggesting that they are both different and distinct from each other. The soul would be made up of our will, our intellect, and emotions, and that which makes us living beings. The spirit would be that part of us that is united with God. One who is not a Christian has a spirit that is non functioning. Once the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, our spirit is joined to His spirit and is brought to life. This is what is called being born again of the Holy Spirit.

Others do not see a distinction between soul and spirit. They believe the 2 are the same. They acknowledge the fact that both words are used in the Bible, making them appear to be different. Yet they say there are other words that can be found along with these words and if you include them, we could easily be made up of more than 3 parts. Jesus tells us to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind. (Mat. 22:37) Here we see the word heart, along with soul and mind. Jesus separates the soul from the heart and mind. They are 3 distinct parts of a person, that doesnít include either the body or spirit. With this train of thought, weíd be made up of 5 parts, body, spirit, soul, mind and heart. Those who believe in the triune nature of man believe that the heart and mind are part of the soul, not separate from the soul, as Jesus seems to say. Thus some conclude that we donít really know the make up of man with good clarity.

Whatever the case, Maryís soul and spirit glorifies God. To glorify God means to express exalted words towards Him, speaking of such things as His greatness and His divine nature. Mary is saying that from the core of who she is, she is exalting her God in the best way she can.

You note that she addresses God as "her Saviour". She is thinking in terms of God the Messiah. The God of all there is, is the Great Saviour, yet this Saviour will soon been seen in human form. The amazing thing is that human form is now within Mary as she speaks these words.

Mary continues by saying that "He has been mindful of the humble estate of His servant". Mary uses the words "humble and servant" when describing herself in relation to God. She is correct and well knows that a human being can only be seen in humble servanthood when compared to God. We are very much insignificant when compared to God, yet in Godís eyes, He sees us as really important.

Still in verse 47 Mary says, "from now on all generations will call me blessed". What was Mary saying here? Was she espousing Catholic doctrine? Was she saying that she has been elevated on a much higher level than any other human being, to be called the mother of God? I donít think she had any such thought in mind. She has just said that she was a humble servant. Mary did not see herself as an exalted person. She viewed herself as one very blessed person because God had chosen her for a special task. But a blessed person does not suggest in the least that she has been exalted to a level in heaven that is above any other person. There is no hint in this blessedness that we are to pray to Mary, have Mary pray to God for us, or any other like teaching.

Mary is special, but only because she gave birth to Jesus. She, like us need to find salvation in Jesus. Her blessedness simply lies in the fact of her birth, not in who she is.

Verse 49 confirms what I have just said. Mary says". "for the Mighty One has done great things for me". Mary has been blessed by God. He has done something special for her. He has not elevated her to an exalted position in the universal scheme of things. There is a difference in having something given to you, or done to you, and making you something different than what you are. Mary was still Mary, but a very blessed Mary.

Mary continues in verse 50 by saying that Godís "mercy extends to those who fear Him" no matter what generation you live in. Really, when you think of it, fearing God is the first step towards salvation. When you see who God is, and when you hear the message of Jesus, in order to respond positively, you have a serious respect for Him and His message. Without this respect, you will not respond in a positive way.

Verse 51 continues on with the idea of fearing God. He is to be feared because "He has performed mighty deeds with his arms; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts". Does God have a literal arm? I donít think so. I think we can take these words figuratively. God is a spirit according to Jesus. (John 4:24)

Mary says that God has done mighty deeds. I am sure Mary thinks that what has happened to her is a mighty deed, but in the context of the sentence the mighty deeds are performed against those who are proud in their thoughts. This tells us that pride is a matter of the mind and heart. Pride will demonstrate itself in outward behaviour, but before the outward action can be seen, pride is in the heart. God sees the heart and can extend his mighty hand towards those who are proud and as yet have not acted on this proudness.

Verse 52 says that God Ďhas brought down rulers from their thrones". This tells us that God is involved in the affairs of men and nations. He has not stepped back, as the Deists say, and let us run things as we please. You might not be able to see the hand of God bringing down nations, but He has, and He will, and He could easily be doing so now.

At the same time that God is dethroning leaders, He is also raising up humble people. Humility is a foundation stone for anyone who feels called to the Lordís service. To be effective for Jesus, you must be humble. To the degree that humility is found in your life is the degree of effectiveness you will be for Jesus. One of the main problems in todayís church is pride and arrogance in leadership. This is seen in the self centered way of leading

In verse 53 Mary says, "he has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty". We should note that this is not a futuristic statement that Mary makes here. Her understanding is that God has and now is helping the hungry and ignoring the rich. Does this mean that God is against rich people? Not really. He does not like the arrogance and pride that is so often seen in both rich people and rich nations. If riches are not properly balanced with humility, whether in a person or a nation, you can bet that God will send both away empty. This tells me that both rich people and nations who exalt riches over the Lord will fall. Our western society may be in the process of this fall as I type these words.

Verse 54 sees the conclusion of Maryís words of

exaltation. She says that He remembered Israel and has been merciful to them. Israel of old was constantly coming back to their God and wandering off again. They could not seem to stay on the straight and narrow, but even though they forsook their God, He was merciful to them by bringing the Messiah to them. He had promised this to the fatherís of Israel, and He was to keep His promise as evidence in Maryís pregnancy. Yet the sad things is that Israel rejected Godís mercy because it came to them in a way that they refused to recognize.

The Birth Of John The Baptist (ch.1:57 - 66)

Luke now speaks of the birth of Elizabethís baby. All her friends and relatives heard that she had finally given birth and were celebrating the goodness of God.

Verse 59 tells us that Zechariah and Elizabeth took their son to be circumcised on the eight days as was the Jewish custom. While at the circumcision those in charge wanted to name the baby after his father but Elizabeth knew that this should not be. The angel told Zechariah that his name was to be John and so she made sure that this was going to be the case. Zechariah was still not able to speak so this is why Elizabeth had to step forward and make sure the John was to be the name of her son.

The people around were amazed that Elizabeth wanted his name to be John, so they turned to Zechariah to ask him. Unable to speak, he had to write out the name for them. He wrote, "his name is John". Then in verse 64 we read that "immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God". The reason why he was struck dumb by the angel was because of his unbelief, and the reason why he could now speak was because of his words of faith. The positive confession that agreed with the word of the Lord resulted in his ability to speak once again. The first words he spoke was praise to God.

Everyone was "filled with awe" because of these events and the story of Zechariah being able to speak, and the birth of John spread quickly throughout the hill country of Judea where they lived. I am sure that many people kept their eyes on John as he grew older.

The section ends with the questions that everyone had concerning John. They asked, "What then is this child going to be? They just knew that this was one special child. They also saw that the "Lordís hand was with him". I am sure that these people saw the hand of the Lord in Johnís birth, but also in his life.

Zechariahís Song (ch. 1:67 - 80)

Verse 67 says that Zechariah "was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied". As I always say, if someone is truly filled with the Holy Spirit something dramatic will happen. In this case Zechariah prophesied.

We need to understand how the N. T. uses the term "filled with the Spirit". For the most part when these words are used it is in relation to an individual experience when the Spirit of God comes down and fills a person. It is not used, for the most part, in a continuos sense of constantly, and at all times being filled with the Spirit. Pentecostals today tend to use this phrase in the latter sense. They ask, "are you filled with the Spirit"? We have the Holy Spirit living within us if we are truly born again. Then, from time to time, the Holy Spirit also comes on us and we are "filled". In these times He comes on us for a particular reason, and the reason isnít simply to feel good. The reason in Zechariahís instance was to prophecy.

He begins his prophecy by giving praise to the Lord God of Israel "because He has come and has redeemed His people". Note the present tense. Zechariah does not say that God "will redeem Israel", but has already come and redeemed Israel. The actual act of redemption has not yet taken place, of which Zechariah really probably doesnít understand. Yet since God has spoken the word about the soon to come Messiah, Zechariah knows that redemption is as good as done. He has now learned to trust the God he serves.

"He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David". The word "horn" refers to a "horn" on an animal. Most commentators suggest the use of this word in the singular gives a picture of strength. One strong horn that will fight off the enemy and bring salvation to Godís lost people. This horn is clearly raised in the house of David, a true Jew, the Messiah (Jesus).

Verse 71 speaks of "salvation from our enemies, and all who hate us". Who are these enemies that this prophecy is speaking of? I think that Zechariah might interpret these enemies to be the Roman government that has Israel in bondage. The Jews were looking for a Messiah to deliver them from Rome and bring them into their own land with their own government. Could this be what Zechariah thought as he uttered these words? Some say that is exactly what the prophecy is all about. Yet these people are still looking for its fulfillment. In 70 AD Israel was destroyed, not delivered. These people may suggest that 1948 was the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Yet could the enemies that are spoken of here be satan and his angelic host of helpers? We have 1 of 3 choices to make concerning this. Either we view this prophecy as purely political, or purely spiritual, or a combination of both.

Personally, I at least interpret it as spiritual. If indeed redemption has come, as we stated above, that would suggest a spiritual redemption because that was accomplished in a few short years. Political redemption for Israel has not yet come. It has come to a degree, yet the enemies of Israel still abound.

This prophecy cannot be purely political. It is first spiritual. It may have a secondary political inference that still needs fulfillment.

The result of this redemption and salvation from Israelís enemies would be that they could then worship their God "without fear", in righteousness and holiness. Clearly, if Israel were a self sustaining country without any enemies, then it is possible that they could worship without fear. Yet political freedom alone cannot bring forth true worship. True worship is a matter from within a person, a spiritual matter Israel needed to be free spiritually before they could worship properly. Remember the words of Jesus in John 4 when He says that God is a spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. This is the kind of worship that Israel needed to be involved in and this was the kind of worship that God wanted from them. Thus what the Holy Spirit was saying through Zechariah concerned spiritual redemption.

In verse 76 the prophecy switches focal points, from Israel to John. Zechariah says, "you Ö will be called a prophet of the Most High for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins". We can definitely see the spiritual tone of the prophecy at this point. John will prepare Israel by preaching to them that there is forgiveness for their sins. Thus the prophecy is first of all spiritual in nature.

Verse 78 speaks of the "rising sun" coming from Heaven and shining on those living "in darkness and the shadow of death". Israel was living in darkness. They were at the brink of death, and within 40 years they did die as a nation. But the sun that was to shine on these people was the Son from Heaven". They were also on the brink of death because death is a result of sin.

Political freedom pales in significance when compared to spiritual freedom in the eyes of God. In modern western Christianity we sometimes get faith and politics confused and mixed up. We like to combine the two, and there is a place for that. But first and foremost the Kingdom of God is more important than the kingdoms of men. Jesus preached a spiritual salvation. Paul, Peter, and the rest followed in His footsteps. Paul did not become a politician in order to promote the Kingdom of God. He became a preacher of the gospel. Salvation comes only through Jesus and the preached word. It does not come through any kind of government legislation. I do not have a problem with Christians being involved in politics, as long as they realize that their first allegiance is to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The prophecy ends with the words, "to bring our feet into the path of peace". Once again, we must first interpret these words in a spiritual sense. Forgiveness of sins brings peace with God. We are no longer enemies of God but are children of God. This new relationship brings peace.

Chapter 1 ends with these words. "The child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel". This is all we know about Johnís youth and adulthood until he begins his ministry. His parents could not have lived long enough to see his ministry. You might wonder how Zechariah and Elizabeth felt, and what they thought upon their death bed concerning their son.

John lived in the desert. Was he a hermit? We donít know. How he supported himself is not known either. But the desert to him was most likely the place where he grew "in spirit" and was prepared for his short ministry to prepare Israel for their redeemer. Sad to say, most of them ignored both John and Jesus.

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