DIG: How might Mary have felt when her relative Elizabeth greeted her like this? What was Miryam surprised about? How is Mary blessed and encouraged?
REFLECT: Who do you call first when you have special news to share? How does Mary’s faith serve as a model for you? Has God ever provided you someone to share your joy in the impossible or to understand the peculiar place you find yourself in? How did that impact you? Can ADONAI use you to be that person for someone else?
Within a few days, Mary probably asked permission to visit her relative Elizabeth. Her mother most likely thought it was a touching sign of devotion, and sent her off with others traveling south to Judea. The young virgin said nothing about her secret. At that time Mary left Galilee, got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39). She was obedient to Gabriel’s message (Lk 1:36). Judea was about a 100 miles to the south of Nazareth, and would be a four or five day journey according to their mode of travel.62 When she arrived, she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elisheva (Luke 1:40).
Elizabeth was a remarkable person. She had faith while her husband Zachariah did not. He was struck dumb because of his unbelief, while Elizabeth spoke freely and encouraged Mary. Elisheva was gray and wrinkled, much older than Mary, and she had spent many years in the synagogue asking God for a child. Elisheva’s husband was a priest who was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the Temple of the LORD and burn incense (Luke 1:9). He loved his wife and understood her anguish of barrenness. In addition to feeling the loss of not being able to bear a child and all the joy that that would bring, barrenness was also seen by the community as ADONAI’s punishment for sin. He had also prayed again and again for a child.
As Miryam came up the path, Elisheva was probably standing at the door. It was as though she had expected the visit. Elizabeth’s immediate response to the sound of Mary’s voice gave the old woman immediate confirmation of all that the angel had told her. When Elisheva heard Miryam’s greeting, suddenly the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). This is another good verse against abortion. That which is in the mother’s womb is treated as being a person in Scripture. While John will be a prophet of the Most High (Luke 1:76), Jesus is the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32). While John’s birth to a barren woman was indeed miraculous, Yeshua’s birth to a virgin was, and is, unprecedented.63
What was promised to Zechariah (Luke 1:15) was then fulfilled. John and Elizabeth were filled with the Ruach HaKodesh even before his birth. They were the first people to realize that Mary’s child was the Meshiach.64 Already the fetus in Elizabeth was performing the function to which he was born, being the herald of the King.
Then there was a special blessing upon Miryam because she believed the message of the angel, whereas Elizabeth’s husband, Zacharias, did not believe, and it resulted in him being stricken mute. In a loud voice Elisheva cried out: Blessed are you among women (Luke 1:42a). Notice that Mary was blessed among all women, not above all women. And blessed is the child you will bear, literally, the fruit of your womb (Luke 1:42b, also see Genesis 30:2; Lamentations 2:20)! In other words, the Messiah’s birth was assured. Mary must have stopped in her tracts. She could hardly believe it. She couldn’t speak. Elizabeth knew! Elizabeth knew the secret!
Elisheva probably wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to smile. But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to visit me. As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that ADONAI would fulfill His promises to her (Luke 1:43-45)! Elizabeth was a remarkable person. She was a righteous woman, and like her husband, part of the Jewish believing remnant of their day. She then encouraged Miryam because she had walked with God for many years. Elisheva assured Mary that the message revealed to her by the angel Gabriel would come true.
When Elizabeth said that, it erased all the doubt from her mind. Mary had not doubted. She believed Gabriel’s words, but she could not convince herself that she was the one, of all the women on earth, selected to bear the Baby of the Most High. But now she was convinced. She no longer tried to separate herself from the prophecy. She had told no one about the secret, and Elisheva not only knew about it, but her pregnancy was exactly as the angel had said it would be.65