The Next Nine Months
I. The Sign of Confirmation
39Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:39-45
The aftermath of Gabriel’s message. At this point Mary had just finished receiving the word from the angel Gabriel concerning her virgin pregnancy and at once left to go see for herself the sign she had been given. We do not how long exactly it took for Mary to leave and get to Elizabeth but we do know she did so in a hurry. The “hill country, to a city of Judah” though the Bible is silent to the exact city in which Elizabeth lived we can safely assume that it was close to or even was Jerusalem. This would be so to make it easier for Zacharias to travel to and from Jerusalem when it was time for his priestly duties. It is also possible that they lived in one of the Levitical Cities in the area. The Scriptures are also unclear as to when exactly Mary miraculously conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Ghost but we know it would have to have been before she met Elizabeth in order for their encounter to go the way it did.
When Mary arrives and greets Elizabeth the Holy Spirit begins to move among these two blessed women. The greeting of Mary moved John to jump with joy in Elizabeth’s womb and at this point Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. “Even in the womb, the joy of John the Baptist was to be in the presence of the Bridegroom.” –Stephen Venable
At the filling of the Holy Spirit Elizabeth opens her mouth and begins to prophesy over Mary. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Here Elizabeth greets Mary in a similar manner as the angel Gabriel did by calling her blessed and goes one step further to declare that the One inside of her womb was blessed as well. 43“And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” Here Mary receives her first of many confirmations through the mouth of another, as Elizabeth testifies to her of who her son was. He is the Lord. He is the Messiah. He is YHWH. 44“For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” For at point of entering into the presence of the Bridegroom John was filled with joy that he had heard the voice of the one carrying her and rejoiced in his mother’s womb. 45“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Here Elizabeth is prophesying of Mary’s sincere faith in what the Lord had promised her. That when the angel sold her of the sign of her relatives old aged pregnancy she left in a hurry to see the sign as opposed to taking her time.
II. The Magnificat
46And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. 51He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. 53HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed. 54He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, 55as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” 56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. Luke 1:46-56
After Mary she receives the prophecy concerning her Son from Elizabeth she begins what the church has dubbed the Magnificat or the Song of Mary. She has now experienced the prophecy from the angel, her eyes have beheld the sign promised by the angel and Elizabeth is prophesying some of what the angel already told her and now she begins to be overcome with worship. She knows what these words mean and what the child in her womb is to be and now her heart is undone. In this song Mary through the unction of the Holy Spirit Mary worships and gives thanks to the Lord as her Savior, as the God of justice and the God who is faithful to His promises.
“soul exalts(some translations say magnifies) the Lord, 47and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” At this point Mary’s heart is exploding with emotion as she had just see the sign the Lord had promised here and is not overcome with emotion. Here in this first part Mary begins to worship the Lord her Savior. Her declaration of worship is one of thanksgiving and joy and it will set the over arching theme of the song. 48“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49For the Mighty One has done great things for me…” In this part Mary is giving thanks to the Lord for what He has done to her, is doing and will continue to do. Here Mary is ultimately prophesy over herself when she says “all generations will count me blessed” in reality this song is one of the most remembered and celebrated songs in church history. “And holy is His name. 50AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.” Here Mary is declaring the Lord as the Holy and Merciful God. That He is merciful to those who choose to recognize His holiness with fear and trembling, and this mercy is from generation to generation or rather it never stops.
51“He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. 53HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed.” The Lord in His unending mercy is also full of unending justice. He is both merciful and just and will not let the unjust go unpunished. He will not abandon the oppressed. Here Mary is probably remembering the oppression the people are experiencing through the hands of the Roman soldiers and remembering of His faithfulness that the seed had finally come. She knows what is going on in the land and she knows what the angel told her about the baby being the promised king.
54 “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, 55as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” Here Mary is declaring of the faithfulness of the Lord to all of His promises concerning her people. This is primarily in retrospect to the fact that she remembers what the angel just told her of the promised seed was to come through her womb, that she would birth the promised king. She clearly had to have believed in the words the angel Gabriel gave to her because she had left in a hurry to see the sign for herself and now she is fully aware that the Lord is their Savior (Jesus’ name), He is merciful, Just and faithful to Israel.
III. Mary’s Return to Nazareth
After Mary’s song the scriptures tell us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then returned to Nazareth to continue with her marriage rituals. Luke records immediately following Mary’s departure in the next verse that John is born though we are not sure the distance of time in between or if it even happened after Mary’s departure. We do know that it had to be right around the time of Mary’s departure because the scripture makes it clear when Mary left Elizabeth would had been nine months along at least.
By this time however Mary would be about three months pregnant and beginning to show. That which she had treasured in her heart was beginning to be revealed to those around her as her stomach is growing. As she would enter back into Nazareth after being gone for three months the looks she would have received would had been enough for anyone to feel shame. This girl who left not being pregnant and betrothed to Joseph has now returned three months pregnant. One can only wonder how the looks and the things said to her and about her must have left a wound in her heart. Truly she must have been fighting to remind herself of all that the Lord had said to her through the angel, the sign and Elizabeth. One can only imagine what it was like to see her friends, family and Joseph again after three months.
IV. Joseph’s Visitation
18“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has beenconceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, forHe will save His people from their sins.’ 22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US.’24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25
Here we switch to Matthew to pick up the story, Mary has now returned from visiting Elizabeth and is now about three months pregnant when Joseph sees her for the first time since her sudden departure three months prior. The Bible recognizes Joseph to be a “righteous” or “just” man depending on translations. This is a very important piece we are given about Joseph, though this is all we really know about him and he barely is even mentioned in the Gospels we must not take this description lightly. The Lord saw fit that this “righteous” man would be the male figure who would father him and take care of His Son on this earth. There is much that can be said about these two realities, that he was chosen by God and called a “righteous” man. discovered Mary’s pregnancy thought of Mary’s honor and sought to send her away secretly that others would not know and she would be free from ridicule. However, the Lord saw this desire to protect Mary’s honor and sent an angel to declare to him of what was going on in Mary’s womb, to comfort his heart, guide him and ultimately tell him who the child was.
“Scripture describes him as a just man, and indeed he must have been remarkably upright to bear the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy and obey the command of the Lord.” –Stephen Venable When Joseph the “righteous man”
“Joseph, son of David,” It is here Matthew introduces Joseph as a descendant of David, this is key for the Messiah had to be of the line of David. Though the child would not share in Joseph’s DNA and not be born of Joseph he would still be grafted into that line through Mary being his wife thus in reality being adopted into the line. “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Here Joseph is comforted by the angel and is told what had happened. By now Mary would have already explained or at least tried to explain things to Joseph of how the child was of the Holy Spirit and now the angel is testifying of it. This would be key for Joseph as it brings him to a place where he can fully know what had been going on with Mary. This will help to also not waver in his heart when the storm comes of many trying to tell him how Mary must have been unfaithful to him.
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus,” Here Joseph is told the name of the child which had already been given to Mary. This would be both a sign of confirmation of the child to both Mary and Joseph as both were given the same name by an angel. “forHe will save His people from their sins.” The child will save His people, this ties into His name which literally means “The Lord saves.” This piece of information was not given to Mary which one can wonder why just Joseph got this as well as why this is the only thing told to him. This by no means can be overlooked nor taken lightly.
22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US.’ Here we have a piece of information that Luke did not include in his narrative of the story. One can speculate why Luke in all of his researching never included this part as well and yet Matthew found this prophecy to be important. Whatever the case may have been the virgin did give birth and though His name was not Immanuel He still was God and He was with us. It is speculated that there was virgin who gave birth in the time of Isaiah after he gave this prophecy and that it was in that way meant to point to Christ. Though without documented proof we cannot prove this theory. No matter the case this verse which was inspired by the Holy Spirit was canonized through His perfect leadership. This shows us that it must not be written off just because Luke or anyone else did not ascribe this prophecy to Jesus as well as the fact He was not named Immanuel.
24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Here Joseph awakens from his dream and obeys the Lord and marries Mary and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit chooses to keep her a virgin until after the child is born. From this point on Mary and Joseph’s story will go silent for nearly six months, once again it would be hard to exaggerate the reality of the scrutinizing stares Mary would endure, the gossip and slander going on behind their backs. One can only imagine how many times Mary was called an adulterous and how many times people tried to get Joseph to take up his Lawful right and stone her or at least divorce her and send her away. Truly Mary would have carried the favor of the Lord or one could say His grace in bearing this as well as Joseph would really be a righteous/just man to bear the scandal as well as for them both obey the Lord.