By Frank Tunstall
The Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary in the miraculous and sinless conception of Baby Jesus, with God as His Father (Luke 1:35). The angel Gabriel shared with Mary that her baby would be the Son of God.
When the angel Gabriel made the announcement to Mary, she sought more information, giving him a lesson in Biology 101: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Gabriel responded with his own lesson in Theology 101: “Nothing is impossible with God!” (Luke 1:34-38). Mary was the kind of young girl who saw opportunities, not merely problems. Ah! to lay our impossibilities before the Lord and release them.
An angel told Joseph, who was engaged to marry Mary, not to be afraid to take her as his wife, because her pregnancy was of God.
We can only begin to imagine the awesome spiritual power required to conceive a child without a physical union. But God is the Creator of DNA; He could do it perfectly – and the Holy Spirit did. As you ponder the Magnificat, let yourself consider the sovereign dominion of the Spirit that was required to make it happen.
Mary’s senior adult relative, Elizabeth, lived in the hill country of Judea, about ninety miles to the south. She and Zacharias “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). The angel Gabriel visited Zacharias in the temple while he was offering incense and told him his wife would conceive Messiah’s forerunner. Gabriel said John would go to the people of Israel in the spirit and power of Elijah, “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17; Matthew 3:3).
Gabriel also told Mary that Elizabeth was in her sixth month carrying Messiah’s forerunner. If Mary needed any confirmation of what Gabriel said, making the trip to visit Elizabeth was a fool-proof way to verify the angelic prophecy. Mary could have also wanted to share with Elizabeth what was happening in their wombs. In addition, she might have wanted to get away from the wagging tongues of Nazareth who were so very sure her baby was illegitimate.
Elizabeth was in her sixth month carrying the baby, who would be named John. Mary, perhaps a sixteen-year-old teenager, made the long trip south to visit Elizabeth. Luke did not record if anyone traveled with her; in fact, he gave no detail at all about this teenager’s ninety-mile journey. To make this trip, If she averaged twelve miles a day in a caravan, it was at least a full week on the road (Luke 1:39). We need no convincing that the Holy Spirit protected her. Ein Karem, the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist, was about four miles west of Jerusalem.
When Mary walked into the home of her senior adult relative, Elizabeth immediately was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy. John (the Baptist), a six-month baby in Elizabeth’s womb, in that same moment leaped in Elizabeth’s womb for joy (Luke 1:36, 41). John was filled with the Holy Spirit from His mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).
Mary at sixteen was already full of the Old Testament Scriptures. She must have grown up with God-fearing parents who taught her to memorize the Bible when she first began to talk. Nazareth was on a trade route, and she surely had her chances to run after the young men on the caravans. The arrival of a caravan, in fact, was about the biggest event that took place in sleepy Nazareth. But Mary did not want that life.
Her command of Scripture is revealed in the song she sang in Elizabeth’s home. It is identified by the name, The Magnificat; the term in Latin means to glorify or magnify, taken from the first line of the hymn.
I have long believed the Holy Spirit does not drop verses into our hearts that we have never read or heard. If the Spirit did that, few people would ever read the Bible. The Magnificat demonstrates both Mary’s knowledge and the ability of the Holy Spirit to take that familiarity and inspire a hymn that has lived for 2,000 years. Luke is the writer of the Gospels who recorded it (Luke 1:46-55). The verses are highlighted associated with the song.
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord [Psalm 34:2-3]
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, [Habakkuk 3:18]
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. [Psalm 138:6)
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name [Psalm 71:19; 111:9]
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. [Exodus 20:6; Psalm 103:17]
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. [Isaiah 40.10]
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones [Daniel 4:17]
but has lifted up the humble. (Psalm 147:6)
53 He has filled the hungry with good things [Psalm 107:9]
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful [Psalm 98:3]
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.” (Genesis 17:7)
Six books and twelve citations to give us the ten verses in the Magnificat! Wow. Without question Mary was a highly intelligent young lady with a strong will that was prepared to tackle the impossible with the perseverance to win.
Mary made a second trip south to Bethlehem a few months later, this time with Joseph, when she was “great with child” (Luke 2:5). The trip was about the same in miles; Bethlehem is about five miles south of Jerusalem. Baby Jesus was born on that trip in a Bethlehem cattle stable in a cave.
Mary’s love for Scripture should inspire us all to be avid students of the Bible, and to teach our children and grandchildren to love the Scriptures too.