There are three passages in Luke 1 that are well-read and often shared. The first is Luke 1:38, in which Mary responds to Gabriel’s announcement that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and she, a virgin, would conceive a child. Her response is, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38, NASB)
I prefer The Message translation of Mary’s answer: “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1:38)
Part of the reason I prefer The Message translation of this brief statement is the different perspective that is expressed: In the New American Standard translation (and many others), what comes across most clearly is that something is being “done” to Mary. In The Message, her willingness to serve is revealed more clearly, even dramatically. In The Message translation, you can almost hear an audible, “Ah-Ha!” as Mary receives a flash of divine revelation regarding the moment and time in history she is about to enter….Yes, I see it all now.
I find that…well…profound. And maybe even provocative. Encouraging. If God can reveal so amazing and outrageous a plan, this fulfillment of prophecy, in a brief second of time while Mary is in the midst of her mundane, daily activities…there is certainly hope and encouragement for us, two thousand-plus years later. He is the same God. We have the capacity to be the same servants who, in an instant, can say, Yes, I see it all now….and I gladly embrace my part in Your Plan.
In Luke 1:45, Elizabeth ends her greeting to Mary by saying, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (NASB) In The Message, the wording becomes, “Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!” (Luke 1:45)
In my opinion, there is a substantial chasm between expecting “a fulfillment of what had been spoken” and choosing to live a life that “believed every word would come true.” Moving a step further, it occurs to me that we – those who know Him, love Him, follow Him – often live in a mental mindset and lifestyle of expecting “there would be a fulfillment” (a passive, no-personal-involvement viewpoint) to the point of not really engaging ourselves with Him to “believe what God said, believe every word would come true.”
Does that dichotomy emphasize, or dissipate, the lingering, haunting question that is whispered in the air… why haven’t we seen the “fulfillment” that has been prophesied?We do, in fact, have an advantage over Mary; our anchor points are “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27, NASB); “…you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’…” (Romans8:15, NASB ); “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…” (2 Cor 5:17, NASB); “…servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God…” (I Cor. 4:1, NASB)
Mary’s response to Elizabeth expands her praise of God from His interactions with her personally, and focuses it towards His dealings with the world at large: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46,47,51-55, NASB)
Yep – here it comes…The Message translates, “I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God…His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before Him. He bared His arm and showed His strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced His chosen child, Israel; He remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what He promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.” (Luke 1:46,47,51-55)
There are so many themes in those five verses it’s difficult to examine them one by one. As a composite description of God and His character, they are tightly woven together. I love that phrase, “those who are in awe before Him.” Isn’t that a picture of us when our lives are interacting and engaged with Him when our soul is exalting, and our spirit is rejoicing, we are bursting with God-news and dancing the song of our Savior God? And Mary describes His mercy as flowing “in wave after wave” upon us.
Do we live in an earthly realm full of “bluffing braggarts,” everyday people and prominent leaders “proud in the thoughts of their heart,” “tyrants,” or “rulers” on their thrones? We do. To these, our God is a bringer-downer, a scatterer. Yet, and this is a question to myself as well, is there often a prayer to “bare His arm and show His strength,” through those of us who say, “I’m the Lord’s…ready to serve”?
A quick switch of Scriptures: Song of Solomon 2:4, “He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” No, I don’t think that’s a crazy jump from Luke. I think that a loving, devoted God brought Mary to His banquet hall…and she saw His banner flying over her. Mary had knowledge that is easy to overlook…Mary knew His ways, not just His acts. Even His disciples struggled with this, as Acts 1 bears out: “Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised…so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:4,6 NASB)
That was still their question. After everything. After crucifixion. After Resurrection. Still the question. “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you….” (Acts 1:7-8, NASB)
Knowing what the Father has promised, not those things fixed by His own Authority. We still have our “work cut out for us.”
As Mary proclaimed, “It’s exactly what He promised….”