Luke 1:39–56: The Magnificat of Mary

by Dec 17, 20180 comments

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When Gabriel announced that Mary was about to conceive and bear a son, Gabriel insisted that this child will eventually become a king: “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32b–33). Within the overall remarkable nature of this announcement that a virgin will conceive and bear a child, we may miss the equally remarkable reversal of power in this promise. In that story, God’s messenger promised a powerless, teenage girl from insignificant Nazareth that her son would eventually become the heir to the throne of David, king over the whole house of Jacob, and eternal ruler over an endless kingdom.

Only with this point in mind can we understand the reactions of Elizabeth and Mary in Luke 1:39–56. Elizabeth rejoices that her Lord has come to visit her in utero, and Mary rejoices that God has overturned, and will continue to overturn, worldly power structures in human kingdoms. The advent of Jesus into the world signals more than a head start on a family for Mary and Joseph. The birth of this baby will mark the dawn of a new age that will be characterized by a new empire. In this passage, we see that God sent Jesus into this world to overturn the kingdoms of this world.

Discussion Questions

1) The Father sends Gabriel to announce the coming of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit fills John, Elizabeth, and Mary to declare the glory of the Son in Mary’s womb. How do all three persons of the Trinity operate inseparably in bringing Jesus into this world? How does their inseparable operations reveal God’s great blessing, joy, faithfulness, and power in the person of Jesus?

2) Even after the conception of Jesus, Mary continues in her “humble estate” (Luke 1:48). Furthermore, her situation becomes more difficult as even Joseph resolves to divorce her because of her pregnancy (Matt. 1:19). On what basis does Mary magnify the Lord and rejoice in God (Luke 1:46–49)? How is she blessed? What great things has the Mighty One done for her?

3) Mary claims that God has shown his mercy to those who fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1:50). What evidence do we have to verify her claim? Why has our Enemy sought to deceive us about God’s goodness toward us, even from the first temptation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1)? How do you fight to keep God’s mercy clear in your mind and heart?

4) Mary’s statements about reversing human power in Luke 1:51–53 describe events that have not yet taken place. How does God remember his mercy (Luke 1:54)? What does it mean for us to remember promises of God’s mercy that have not yet been fulfilled? What strategies do you have for remembering God’s forthcoming mercy toward his people? Why must we not forget?