39In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
As a child of the 60s and 70s, I can certainly lay claim to a few feminist tendency which have been matured and mellowed considerably over the years. Those tendencies have been tempered by Bible study and a deeper understanding of God’s place for me as a female in His scheme. I remember even as teenager realizing that Jesus was the great equalizer. He never treated women as second class, but equal with the men in the culture. It seemed to me that for Jesus, woman were valued the same as men and that meant that He was the first true feminist. Such was my thinking as a young person. Today, I think that He held women in even higher esteem than that, today’s passage being somewhat indicative of that notion.
For these two Judean women, history is being fulfilled in their very presence. As practicing and faithful Jewish women they were certainly aware of all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Suddenly, those prophecies have taken on flesh in the person of Mary’s unborn child who at this point is in the very early stages of embryonic development. Just look at the miracle of that moment when these two pregnant women meet. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, both the pre-born John and his mother recognize that they are in the presence of God Incarnate. Just as John would spend his life and his ministry proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God, he begins that work with his own mother before his birth by declaring the presence of God already here! And this moment is shared quietly and privately by two women, one very old and one very young; such an honor bestowed by God upon these women. Elizabeth could be said to be the first person on the planet to worship Jesus, even before the shepherds, angels, or wise men.
We know that Mary represents the church based on numerous other passage in the New Testament, most of which appear in The Revelation. But here we have physical proof of that idea as well. Christ lives in His Church through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. In this passage, we find that Christ literally dwells within the representation of the Church in the womb of Mary. Without Jesus, there is no Church and without the pre-born Christ, Mary is just another Jewish woman in Galilee. “For the duration of her pregnancy, she becomes the new tabernacle where the presence of God dwells in human flesh.” Just, A. A., Jr. (1996). Luke 1:1–9:50 (p. 76). St. Louis, MO: CPH. I am always stunned by the elevation of women in the Scriptures. Not only does Jesus come first to Mary and Elizabeth, after the resurrection the women are the very first to see the empty tomb and even speak with Him.
On a side note, I want to include a passage from Art Just’s Concordia Commentary on this passage. It is interesting and really a tangent. So, I share it here just to give you something to mull over today.
“An interesting series of parallels between Mary’s journey to the hill country of Judah and the movement of the ark of the covenant to the same locale on its way to Jerusalem has been pointed out by J. McHugh, The Mother of Jesus, 62:
The two stories open with the statement that David and Mary “arose and made a journey” (2 Sam 6:2; Lk 1:39) up into the hill country, into the land of Judah. On arrival, both the Ark and Mary are greeted with “shouts” of joy (2 Sam 6:12, 15; Lk 1:42, 44). The verb used for Elizabeth’s greeting in Lk 1:42, (ἀνεφώνησεν) is, in the Septuagint, used only in connection with liturgical ceremonies centered round the Ark; it is best translated as “intoned”. The Ark, on its way to Jerusalem, was taken into the house of Obededom, and became a source of blessing for his house (2 Sam 6:10–12); Mary’s entry into the house of Elizabeth is also seen as a source of blessing for the house (Lk 1:41, 43–4). David, in terror at the untouchable holiness of the Ark, cried out: “How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9); Elizabeth, in awe before the mother of her Lord, says, “Why should this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43). Finally, we read that “the Ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom three months” (2 Sam 6:11), and that Mary stayed with Elizabeth “about three months”
(Luke 1:56). As a temporary and portable vessel housing the immanent presence of the true God, Mary appears to fulfill the purpose of the ark of the covenant.”
Just, A. A., Jr. (1996). Luke 1:1–9:50 (p. 72). St. Louis, MO: CPH.