Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. This week’s Sunday School Lesson features Mary the mother of Jesus and her cousin Elizabeth. We see an humble Mary who realizes the significance and importance of what is about to happen to her. She has come from little but knows now that she will hold a place in history. Mary has a song in her heart and she sings the praise of a gracious and merciful God. In this encounter Luke records Mary’s praise and helps us understand how the Lord is with us. These two women experience a miraculous intervention by God for the children they would birth. An old married woman beyond childbearing age and a very young unmarried, and at best teenage, Mary would both conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. These two women are about to have a Spirit filled encounter. Mary’s song describes God as “a warrior and as a God who is merciful, who remembers the lowly, and cares for the needy.” I imagine both Mary and Elizabeth agree that God does indeed care for the needy. Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:
This week’s lesson comes from the Gospel according to Luke. Luke was a Gentile physician so he does not have Jewish heritage. His perspective is unique. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes “The Gospel of Luke is most noteworthy for its length and the narrative of the birth of Jesus”.
- Luke is the longest book in the New Testament. It has fewer chapters than Matthew and Acts but contains more verses and words.
- It’s narrative of the birth of Jesus is the most detailed of the four Gospels.
- The NISB also notes “its unrelenting interest in the marginalized and the dispossessed”.
- The NISB notes that “Although the other Gospels report many of the same events, more than half of Luke contains information that is found nowhere else. Without Luke, certain periods of Christ’s life and ministry would be unknown to us”.
So Luke is especially important because of its detail of certain events not covered elsewhere and its length.
It’s important to know how Luke tells his story. The NISB notes “The real beginning of the story of Jesus lies not with Jesus’ birth but in the ancient past, God’s ancient plan to bless the nations. Luke as a Gentile picks up the scriptural story from Abraham and brings the scripture forward to his present day. The birth of John and Jesus is just the latest development in God’s plan” (NISB). So in other words, Luke is making it real and present day for his listeners. He wants both the Jewish and Gentile community he is addressing to know that the life of Jesus is applicable and relevant to them. And he ties it all to the crux of the Abrahamic covenant.
The author of the Gospel according to Luke is not named in the book. Luke is likely written about 70AD. Additionally, Luke is a Gentile and not necessarily concerned with Jewish traditions. Instead Luke is concerned with Gentiles. Notice that the angel Gabriel finds Mary in Nazareth of Galilee. “This was Gentile territory and neatly coincides with Luke’s birth scene, where Jesus is born among the common people” (Boyd’s Commentary). Furthermore, Luke ties the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to the Hebrew Scripture so that all may understand Jesus as the Savior of the world (not just Israel). The NISB notes that Luke is the most socially minded of the gospels. Jesus cares for the poor, the hungry, and those who weep. For Luke, the story of Jesus is absolutely connected to God’s ultimate and ancient plan to save the world through Jesus. Luke is telling us, this was God’s plan all along.
Some important words to consider from this text include:
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week’s lesson considered the roles King David, the Prophet Natan, and the Angel of the LORD played in building God’s house. I noted how God had been good to David across the years and how David wanted to honor God by building a house for the Ark of the Covenant. But David soon found out that God had other plans. Instead of David building God a house, God would build an eternal house for the dynasty of David. David meant well, and he was well capable of building a house for the Ark. But just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. This week’s lesson takes us to the New Testament for the Gospel According to Luke’s account of Mary’s praise. We see an humble Mary who realizes the significance and importance of what is about to happen to her. She has come from little but knows now that she will hold a place in history. Mary has a song in her heart and she sings the praise of a gracious and merciful God. In this way, Mary honors God and she honors God with her belief. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “The Lord is With You”. Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Mary’s Praise”. The scripture text comes from Luke 1:39-56.
What Takes Place in This Passage:
The Lesson opens at Chapter 1 with verse thirty-nine. In verses one through thirty-eight Luke addresses how the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus was foretold. Here, at verse thirty-nine he describes Mary leaving with haste to visit a Judean town where she would find Elizabeth. Verse twenty-six notes that Mary is in Galilee. So she travelled from Galilee to a Judean town in the hill country to visit Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. (just out of curiosity, I wonder if anyone knows how many miles that is)
In verse forty-one and when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, John the Baptist leaped in Eliazbeth’s womb. Verse six told us that Elizabeth was already a righteous woman. Now, at the sound of Mary’s voice John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. You can only imagine that these two women, who both share special miracles are about to have a grand and glorious time in the LORD. It took divine intervention for Elizabeth to conceive in her old age and it took divine intervention for Mary to conceive by the Holy Spirit. In verse fifteen the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that Elizabeth’s baby would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. So not only was Elizabeth and Mary filled with the Holy Spirit, that holy child, John the Baptist was also.
In verse forty-two Elizabeth exclaimed how greatly Mary has been blessed. Elizabeth especially knows how great this blessing is since she had been barren for many years. In Elizabeth’s patriarchal society, giving birth was one of the most important roles of women. After all these years, Elizabeth now knows the blessing of being with child and she can share this joy with her young relative Mary. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible One Volume Commentary notes “it is especially remarkable the part played by two women and their conversation at the start of the narrative and anticipation of the end of the story, when women will be the first to proclaim Jesus’s resurrection (24:1-11).” But in reality, women play an important role in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In verses forty-three and forty-four Elizabeth asks Mary “why has the mother of my Lord come to me, for as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting the child in my womb leaped for joy.” So, we don’t know how she knows, but Elizabeth already knows that Mary carries the Savior in her womb.
In verse forty-five Elizabeth continues with how blessed Mary is. Elizabeth is describing Mary’s faith. She calls Mary blessed because unlike Elizabeth’s husband, when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary she believed immediately.
Verses forty-six through fifty-three record Mary’s song. This song is “known as the Magnificat and grounds her praise and God’s present activity in God’s faithfulness and ancient promise.” In other words, this song of praise knows that Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant. As we discussed in last week’s lesson, a descendant of David would sit on the throne for eternity. Jesus Christ is that descendant.
In verses forty-seven, forty-eight, and forty-nine, Mary declares that her soul magnifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God. Mary is only a young woman. The NISB notes that “In Roman law the minimum age of marriage for girls was ten, and Jewish practices were similar. Marriage generally took place before a girl reached twelve and a half.” So while Mary might be a very young girl, she knows enough for her soul to magnify the Lord and her spirit to rejoice in God her Savior. Not only that, but Mary is humble. Mary notes how God has looked with favor upon the lowliness of God’s servant. Luke helps us to know that God loves and cares for the humble and lowly people also. This unmarried, at best teenage, young girl would become the mother of the Savior of the world.
In verses fifty and fifty-one Mary’s song describes the mercy of God. She knows that God has been merciful from generation to generation. As Elizabeth is now with child I can imagine that she could testify to the goodness and mercy of God. Elizabeth would especially agree with how God has “scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” after many years of being looked down upon by others for being barren.
In verses fifty-two and fifty-three Mary’s song describes how God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry, and sent the rich away empty. The NISB notes that Mary’s song describes God as “a warrior who engages in battle on behalf of God’s people and brings to them deliverance and as a God who is merciful, who remembers the lowly, and cares for the needy.” I imagine both Mary and Elizabeth would agree that God is indeed a God who remembers the lowly and cares for the needy.
In verses fifty-four and fifty-five her song describes how God helped Israel according to the promise made to their ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever. Mary is referring to the Arbrahamic covenant. God promised Abraham to make a great nation of him, and from him all the nations of the world would be blessed. Mary knows that the fulfillment of that covenant would be through her. This unwed teenage girl has good reason to rejoice and for her soul to magnify God.
Verse fifty-six closes the lesson noting that Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months before returning home. Verse twenty-six noted the Angel Gabriel came to Mary in Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy. So soon after Mary departs, Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist.
Westmeinster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms define Emmanuel as a child in Isaiah’s writings, so named, as a sign of God’s presence and protection (Isa. 7:14, 8:8). It is seen in the Gospel of Matthew as a prophecy of the miraculous conception of Jesus Christ, who will be called “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). The conception and birth of Jesus Christ is a story of how God came to be with us. Some call him Emmanuel. Others call him the Light of the World, the Good Shepherd, the King of Glory, or the Prince of Peace. I like to call him Jehovah Jireh. I’ve known him to be a provider. Whether he is your provider, or healer, or way maker he is with us and we ought to do like Mary and give him praise.
Key Characters in the text:
The Angel Gabriel – One of only two named angels in the protestant Bible. The other is Michael. In the Gospel of Luke Gabriel twice announces the birth of a son; first for the arrival of John the Baptist and secondly to the virgin Mary.
Mary – She is the young girl who conceives Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is considered an ideal believer because she did not doubt the Holy Spirit’s announcement of the conception of Jesus; she is obedient, believing, and faithful. She is betrothed to Joseph.
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