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1. Remember that this is the earliest part of the NT story of Christ’s coming.
a. Matthew jumps into the story about 9 months later than Luke.
b. Mark begins around 31 years later than Luke.
c. John begins in eternity past, but the earthly part of the story begins 31 years later – like Mark.
2. This is our third week: Zechariah & Elizabeth, Gabriel & Mary. Today: Mary & Elizabeth
B. Luke 1:39-45 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
II. First, let’s reflect on this story a bit.
A. The trip (v.39-40) – Mary went with haste to the house of Zacharias and Elizabeth.
1. A journey of 80–100 miles, 3-4 days of walking, apparently alone, Rachel G to Richmond
a. So, this was a major journey. But there is no focus on the journey!
2. Why did Mary go to Elizabeth’s house with haste?
a. Obedience? The angel didn’t even tell her to go.
b. No, it was eagerness! In fact, in other places, the word here for haste is translated urgency, zeal, earnestness, eagerness, effort.
3. Did she tell Joseph before she left? Well, she may have told him she was going to visit Elizabeth, but I don’t think she told him about her encounter with the angel. Here’s why:
a. Matthew 1:18-19 “When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”
b. It says “she was found to be with child,” as opposed to being told she was with child. You don’t find someone to be pregnant who is one or two days pregnant.
c. But when Mary returned, she was over three months pregnant, when it begins to be very possible to “find” someone pregnant, so it seems to me that it was probably after she returned that Joseph found out that she was pregnant.
B. The greeting (v.41) – “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb.”
1. The power of a sound! When you’re little, it may be the sound of the ice cream truck, or of dad coming home from work. Then, it becomes bigger things: Will you marry me, or a newborn baby’s first cry, or the sound of a loved one coming home after a long time away.
2. But this is a sound which was powerful on a whole different level!
a. Here is a woman who spent her life waiting: waiting and praying, praying and waiting. She was still living in the shock of being pregnant, “when she heard Mary’s greeting...”
b. Mary’s greeting made the whole world different.
c. It meant He was here. He was finally here. After many centuries of promises, after many centuries of “O come, O come, Emmanuel!,” Emmanuel, the promised One, was finally here. At long last, the day was dawning; the darkness had begun to turn to light.
d. And if you’ve never lived in the bleak, cold darkness of Christlessness, it may be hard to appreciate this.
e. As Jesus said, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” – Matthew 13:16–17
f. One day we (or people like us) will hear a sound, which likewise will mean that everything is being changed, the sound of a trumpet (1Th.4:16, Mt.24:31, 1Co.15:51-52), meaning that Jesus has returned. And “those who have loved His appearing” (2Tim.4:8) will rejoice like Elizabeth when she heard Mary’s greeting.
C. The leap (v.44) “When the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”
1. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb, of course, was the unborn John the Baptist.
2. When Mary, just pregnant with Jesus, walked into the presence of Elizabeth, John leapt for joy.
a. How can an unborn baby have joy?
(1) If this doesn't fit into our thinking, maybe we need to adjust our thinking.
(2) We may assume that an unborn baby cannot have emotions, but how do we know that? Doesn’t God, who inspired these words, know more than we do?
b. But how did John even know that Jesus was near? You see, John was a prophet.
(1) Prophecy involves God giving special knowledge to people so they can proclaim it to others.
(2) But John wasn’t even born yet. How could his prophetic ministry have begun already?
(3) The answer to that is in the words of the angel to Zechariah: "he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb." (Luke 1:15)
c. How did John proclaim his prophecy? By means of his leap of joy.
(1) This is actually a common way prophets communicate. It’s called a prophetic sign. And then God moved Elizabeth by His Spirit to explain the meaning of the prophetic sign:
(2) Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
d. Did John really leap for joy? Or did the baby just leap like babies sometimes do, and they interpreted it as a leap of joy?
(1) If God can speak the universe into existence, then can He not incite a joyful leap in an unborn infant to draw attention to the Savior in Mary’s womb?
(2) That’s what we have to believe if we believe that the Scriptures were inspired by God.
(3) "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” & she said, “the baby leaped in my womb for joy.”
D. (Two in the womb)
1. I said last week that hearing the story of barren Elizabeth becoming pregnant in her old age would have reminded any faithful Jew of the story of Sarah. Well, it seems to me that hearing THIS story of John’s reaction to Jesus in their mothers’ wombs would make any faithful Jew immediately think of Jacob and Esau in Rebekah’s womb in Genesis 25:22-26:
a. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD, who said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” And when her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob.
(1) Two babies in the womb at the same time.
(2) Interacting with one another.
(3) And “the older shall serve the younger.”
(4) In fact, the word for leaping here is the same word used in the LXX for the striving of Jacob and Esau in Rebekah's womb.
2. Of course, the two situations are also quite different. There were two different wombs. Here the older is willingly elevating the younger, instead of it being stolen from him against his will.
3. But it’s as if the great events of the OT are happening again – though now the focus has changed. Everything is pointing in one direction. Everything is pointing toward the newborn messiah.
E. The prophecy (v.42-45)
1. Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, crying out with a loud voice, “Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
2. Let’s think about this from Elizabeth’s perspective.
a. The yearning of her life has now been given to her. And yet, that’s not what is foremost on her mind. She’s all excited about her young relative’s visit. She’s all excited about her young relative’s baby. So much so that she can’t believe that she has been given the privilege of receiving them! Why?
b. More than in her own pregnancy, Elizabeth rejoices in God’s promised Savior.
c. The birth of Christ overshadows everything else in the story.
d. Even her own baby is leaping for joy about Him!
3. Now let’s think about this from Mary’s perspective.
a. How must Mary have felt upon being greeted like this? She sure got more than she bargained for!
b. It’s like God had a surprise party planned for Mary at Elizabeth’s house!
c. She was already thrilled to the hilt. It is hard to imagine anyone being more pumped up, more awed, more amazed, more stirred up, than she was after hearing what Gabriel had said to her.
d. And yet now it is not merely the word of the angel, but it is confirmed by many other things too: prophecies, miracles, other angel visitations.
F. (The stay) v.45 “And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.”
1. What sweet fellowship they must have enjoyed!
2. After a lifetime of being excluded, after a lifetime of being different, after a lifetime of being reproached, Elizabeth now enjoyed a closeness and a comradery her peers had never known.
3. Her profound aloneness was suddenly shattered and replaced with an intimacy and a fellowship from heaven.
III. (The communion of saints)
A. When we recite the Apostles Creed, one of the things we say we believe in is “the communion of the saints.” What does that mean?
1. It means that out of the mass of humanity God has called a people, bringing them together as a new humanity, as a humanity made new by the regenerating power of His Spirit.
2. And this people, as a new humanity, are graced with the privilege of sharing in the unfathomable love shared by the persons of the Trinity in eternity past.
3. “That which we have seen & heard (and touched - v.1) we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father & with his Son Jesus Christ.” – 1Jn.1:3
4. The word communion comes from the word common. And what does this people have in common which unites them together? It is their common connection to the Christ, the Messiah.
5. They are a body, a family, a people bonded by their common connection to Him not only in the here and now, but for all eternity.
6. They are of all generations and all languages and all people groups. There are rich and poor, educated and uneducated, male and female.
a. In this communion of saints are people who have never even heard of winter before.
b. And there are people for whom the aurora regularly decorates their sky.
7. But they are still all one. They are made one in Christ, through Christ, and by Christ.
B. We are so different from each other. Our personalities are different. Our talents are different. Our circumstances are different. Our perspectives are different.
1. We would never be friends if it wasn’t for our bond to Christ.
2. But in Him we have been knit together as a new people — forever!
3. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1Peter 2:9–10
C. I remember when this happened to me 50 years ago. I lived with my family, I went to a school, I lived in this country. But I didn’t even realize how alone I was, or how unconnected I was.
1. But all of a sudden, I was a part of a body.
2. People I’d just met – I didn’t even know their names! – were my friends, my family, my community.
3. Suddenly, I belonged to something which was so much bigger than me – something bigger than my country, or my generation, or my school, or my family, or my social position.
4. And we all had the same goal and the same focus. The thing which united us was much more powerful than all the things which distinguished us from one another.
5. And it all started right here — with Elizabeth and John and Mary.
D. Maybe you were wondering what this “communion of the saints” stuff has to do with this story of Elizabeth and Mary.
1. It seems to me that what we have here in this story is the birth of the NT communion of saints.
2. You have three believers gathered together around Christ, fellowshipping with one another in His presence, worshiping Him, hearing His word (the prophecy of John, the prophecy of Elizabeth, the prophecy of Mary).
3. I once saw a fellow juggle a ping pong ball, a bowling ball and a brick. That’s sort of like this odd assortment: an old woman, a teenaged girl and an unborn baby boy — an unlikely combination of participants in the first Christian worship service.
4. There was so much which kept them apart before all this: distance, age, bornness (whether they had been born yet or not).
5. But they were suddenly brought together by a force superior to what had been keeping them apart.
E. Do you know what brings the church together? We’re such different people, with such different viewpoints and backgrounds and experiences. What brings us together?
1. It’s not doctrine. Mary, Elizabeth and John had virtually the same doctrine as the rest of the Jewish people of the time, but they were united to each other in a way they weren’t united to most of the rest.
2. Do you know what it is that brings us together? It’s a common joy. Just as Elizabeth, Mary and John were united by a common joy, so we in Christ’s church are united by a common joy.
3. There’s Someone we all love, Someone who makes all our hearts leap within us.
4. We live in a world which doesn’t understand us because of this. They may try to analyze us and psychologize us and sociologize us. but they don’t get us because they don’t get our joy. They are blind to the spiritual reality that is the center of what sets us apart.
5. But we get each other! We may confuse and befuddle each other in lots of ways. But I get that you love Jesus. and you get that I love Jesus.
6. We have the most important thing in common. Our hearts all sing, “Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly!”
7. And even though we are different from each other in a thousand ways, and even though we are similar to our neighbors in a thousand ways, this one thing brings us together and drowns out all our human distinctions.
F. Beloved, God has called us to walk a road that is hard and narrow (Matt.7:14), but He has not called us to walk it alone. He’s has made us part of a parade of people who are walking this road together. We’re not supposed to be walking alone.
1. American Christians, of course, can easily imbibe the individualism of our society, and think we can handle everything on our own.
2. But in His love, God has given us the treasure of company, the communion of the saints. And we are fools to ignore it. We are fools to live like paupers when God has put great riches into our accounts.
G. Many –like Elizabeth, Mary and John – have already arrived at the beautiful destination. But they still help us walk. And hopefully, God will use us to help the next generation walk this road – and the one after that, and the one after that.