In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)
When Mary learned she would give birth to the Messiah, her faith was immediately evident. She didn’t concern herself with the consequences of a pregnancy outside of marriage. She didn’t ask, “How will Joseph feel? What about my reputation in the community?” She didn’t let herself become overwhelmed at the prospect of raising God’s Son. Instead, she humbly submitted to God’s decree, saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said” (Lk 1:38). She trusted God and his plan.
Even the best of us, however, may find a life of unyielding faith to be challenging. If so, we’re not alone. Moses could hardly believe he was the right man to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt. Gideon questioned God when God promised to deliver Israel from the grasp of Midian (Jdg 6:14). Hezekiah stumbled at the Lord’s guarantee to heal him. Even the greatest prophet, John the Baptist, second-guessed Christ.
Remarkably, though, God did not respond to these men with rebukes about their doubts and lack of faith. He gave each of them a sign, even multiple signs, as a way to boost their confidence and help them trust him.
Mary never asked for a sign. She replied to Gabriel’s announcement with humble, obedient faith, yet God provided her with further confirmation nonetheless. Running to her cousin, Elizabeth, perhaps the best person to relate to her current circumstance, Mary witnesses two subtle miracles.
First, John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. Evidently, this movement was not the typical motion of an unborn child. “For you see,” Elizabeth shouts at Mary’s arrival, “when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me” (Lk 1:44). As silent as it was, John was already affirming Christ’s identity. He leaped for joy because he was in presence of Jesus.
By the way, John isn’t the first child to prophesy within the womb by his unusual movements. Rebekah’s children, Jacob and Esau, struggled with each other inside her to indicate two nations were in her womb; two peoples would come from her and be separated (Ge 25:22, 23). From Jacob would come Israel, and from Esau would come the Arab nations, who remain in perpetual conflict with one another to this day.
Frankly, baby John was merely setting the tone for his entire ministry. As he would later say, “He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete” (Jn 3:29).
The second miracle in this passage comes in the form of Elizabeth’s prophecy. Filled with the Holy Spirit, she pronounces blessings on Mary, Mary’s child, and every believer to come (Lk 1:41). With a loud cry, she says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed!” (Lk 1:42). Though Scripture never indicates Mary needed this affirmation, God was faithful to inspire Elizabeth to give it.
For significant theological reasons, we should note that Elizabeth does not refer to Mary as the mother of God. The Bible is always careful to distinguish between Mary’s sometimes-alleged role as the mother of God and her true calling as the mother of the Lord (Lk 1:43). God the Father has no mother. Mary conceived and gave birth to God’s human Son, Jesus, and the importance of this distinction cannot be understated.
While Mary isn’t the mother of God, she most certainly is an example to all of us. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her! (Lk 1:45). And that, fellow believers, is the definition of faith. To have faith is to trust God’s word even when it seems impossibly fantastic.