Religion Magazine

What It Means for Mary to Be Blessed and What It Means for Us to Be Blessed. Luke 1.39-58

By Malcolmdrogers
Luke 1.39-58
What it means for Mary to be blessed and what it means for us to be blessed. Luke 1.39-58
Today in our reading we hear how Elizabeth blesses Mary.
Or, more accurately, how Elizabeth tells Mary that she is blessed.

In Luke 1, an angel had appeared to Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth and he would have a miracle baby (they were both very old), and then, a few weeks later, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she would have a miracle baby.
The first thing that Mary does, after the visit of the angel, is to go to see Elizabeth –to talk, because Elizabeth would have been the only person who she could have talked with, and also – I suspect - to confirm that what the angel had said was true. If Elizabeth really was pregnant, then God could work the impossible.
So Mary comes to Elizabeth, and as they speak together, Elizabeth uses the word ‘blessed’, three times.
Blessed are you among women
Blessed is the fruit of your womb (v42)
Blessed is she who believed that what God said would be fulfilled (v45)
And I would like to explore for a short while, what it means for Mary to be blessed, and what it means for us to be blessed.
1. Elizabeth  speaks of Mary as blessed
‘Blessed are you among women’:
To be blessed does not mean that you are happy now.
In Luke 6.17-26, Jesus talks to his followers. He reassures them that even though they are now poor, hungry, weep and hated by all people, they are blessed.
They are blessed because they are in a relationship with him now, they are in the right place, and one day they will be filled, and they will laugh with deep joy.
To be blessed is something that is objective.
Imagine a baby born to a loving and extremely wealthy and privileged and secure family. The baby may be crying because they are teething, but you can look at that child and say, ‘You do not realize it now, but you are so blessed’.
Mary is blessed even though life is going to get very hard for her.
In the next few months her fiancé will doubt her and almost abandon her, she will give birth in a cowshed, and she will flee for her life and live as an asylum seeker. When her boy becomes an adult she will not understand him. Many years later she will see him hated and despised by all people and publicly tortured to death.
She will weep.
And yet, Elizabeth says to her that she is blessed!
Mary is not blessed because she is going to become some sort of goddess, some queen of heaven, who needs sacrifices and prayers and who, if we please her, can put in a good word for us to her son. That is a very long way from what the Bible teaches, or – for that matter - from Anglican theology.
Yes, as Mary herself says, ‘Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed’.
She is the nobody who has done nothing who is chosen by God to be the representative of humanity through whom God will bring salvation.

The early Church thinkers speak of her as the second Eve.
The first Eve sinned by disobeying the word of God, and through her physical and spiritual death came into the world.
The second Eve, Mary, trusted the word of God, and through her eternal life was born into the world.
And Mary becomes the focus of the historic Israel. In Revelation 12 we are told of a symbolic woman who gives birth to ‘a son, a male child, who is to rule’. That woman clearly represents Israel, but it also represents Mary. It is as if the whole history of Israel, the law and the promises, the relationship of God and his people is focused on her and on the child in her womb.
But Elizabeth sees that Mary is blessed not because of what she is or what she will become, but because of her relationship with God, because she has been chosen to be the mother of ‘my Lord’, and because – even though she will see her boy crucified, she will also see him raised from the dead, vindicated and exalted.
2. Elizabeth speaks of the fruit of Mary’s womb as being blessed.
‘Blessed is the fruit of your womb.’
Mary is blessed because the fruit of her womb is blessed
Elizabeth is echoing the words of Moses. Just before he died about 2000 years earlier, he spoke a blessing on faithful Israel, ‘Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb’ (Deuteronomy 28.4)
Moses is saying that if Israel, if the families of Israel remain faithful to God and to the word of God, then their land, their flocks and herds will be blessed – they will see growth and abundance. They will have many and healthy children.
But Moses was looking forward to one particular person, one particular ‘fruit of the womb’ who would be blessed.
Jesus is the ultimate ‘blessed’ one.
He is not blessed because he came to live a happy, successful, comfortable life.
That is the sort of life that the devil offers Jesus, when he tempts him. ‘If you worship me I will give you all the kingdoms of the world and all their wealth’.
And the ‘blessed’ life that Jesus leads takes him to shame and rejection and pain and death. It takes him to the cross.
But Jesus is blessed because He is the one who is in the ultimate ‘right place’ with God. He is the one who is the eternal Son of God. He is in the Father’s heart, and his heavenly Father is in his heart.
And after he has been stripped of everything, and wept and suffered, Jesus is blessed because he will be brought back from the dead. And he will be vindicated and exalted. And he is blessed because his destiny is eternal joy, a blessing which he delights to share with us.
3. Elizabeth speaks of how those who believe that the word of God will be fulfilled are blessed.
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’”
This is the key thing that Luke is trying to tell us.
I mentioned how in Luke 1 an angel visits Zechariah and Mary. There are close similarities.

But there is also a big difference. 
Zechariah does not believe the words of the angel.
And so the angel tells him that he will not speak until the baby is born, “because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time” (Luke 1:20)
But Mary does believe and notice again what Elizabeth says to her: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’”
And while Zechariah is unable to speak for 9 months, Mary does speak and – having visited Elizabeth - now sings the song that we know as the Magnificat.
Magnificat means magnify, make bigger, praise! – and in the Magnificat Mary magnifies, declares the glory and faithfulness and works of God;
She praises God because he will fulfill his word, and she speaks of how God has kept his word, the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants forever.
She is the lowly one – the lowly in the Bible are not only the poor, but – and this is more important – those who realize that they have nothing else that they can put their trust in apart from God and his word. She is the lowly one who has been lifted up by God
And Mary looks forward to the coming Kingdom of God, when the Son of God, her son will reign, and when God will make good on his promises.
It will be the time when ‘the lowly’, the people who have put their trust in the promises of God, will be lifted up, vindicated and exalted.
In the Psalms, ‘the lowly’ is used as a word to describe Israel, the people of God.
One of the remarkable things about the Magnificat is that Mary speaks as if God has already done what he promises to do:
‘He has scattered the proud’
‘He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly’
‘He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty’.
Actually, he hasn’t!
All he has done is visited Mary and told her that she will give birth to the Son of God.
But for Mary, who has put her whole trust in his word, it is AS IF God has already done everything. She is so certain of God, she has such a conviction that God will fulfill his word, that she can praise Him as if it is already fully done.
Luke really wants us to get this message that what makes Mary so significant is not her being the human mother of the Son of God, but her faith in the word of God.
He tells how later, a woman calls out to Jesus as he is teaching, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you’.
And Jesus replies, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it’. (Luke 11:27-28)
Elizabeth declares the blessing of God on Mary, on Mary’s womb, and on Mary as the representative of all who believe that the word of God will be fulfilled.
At the end of the service, I am going to pray the blessing.
‘And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you now and always. Amen’
Many people think that it is a prayer that God will make life go well for you, that you will have success and that all your problems will be solved
Vicars and priests get asked to bless pets, cars, homes, weapons, businesses. I heard of one priest who told how someone asked him to come out and bless ‘his business’. It was only when he turned up that he discovered that ‘the business’ was a brothel!
And, if there is to be any power in the blessing, and it is not mere words, then we can only declare God’s blessing on what God would bless; and withhold blessing – keep quiet – when God would not bless.
And, in fact, the blessing at the end of the service is not really a prayer asking that God will bless you.
It is more of a declaration of the fact that the blessing of God is with you (cf. Ephesians 1.3-4)
You see here, in Luke 1, we see that God blesses ‘the lowly’, those who are prepared to trust him completely, and who – like Mary – believe that his word will be fulfilled.
That is why a blessing at the end of the service is so appropriate. We have come out of the everyday world to focus on the world that really matters, we have sung the praises of God, like Mary we have heard and received his word, like Mary we have said our ‘yes’ to him in the creed, the ‘symbol of faith’ and in the prayers, and like her we have declared our praises. And like her we have come before him as ‘the lowly’, to receive the bread and wine, to receive Christ into our hearts and minds.
And in the light of that, I can declare God’s blessing on you, that you are blessed by him.

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