Luke 1:46-56 records Mary’s powerful praise song because of God’s work for her. This lowly woman, insignificant and seemingly unknown to God, becomes God’s agent of his most powerful spiritual work. Sometimes Christmas makes us feel small. That smallness may be God’s way of accomplishing big spiritual results.
Mary sees in the promise of Jesus and the confirming words of Elizabeth a profound truth. Elizabeth, the wife of a priestly man, receives a child that will serve the grand purposes of an even greater miracle of the Christ. She, a peasant woman, will enjoy the praise and blessing of all people who believe. Vs. 46-50 describe the Lord’s mercy, glory and magnificence. Mary exalts God because she gets to participate in his grand plan. Nowhere do we get the sense that she regrets her situation or languishes in confusion over the Lord’s work. She exalts God because she gets to participate. In the big moment, worked far beyond her control, she responds in praise and understanding. This is not a work she imagined or asked for but is glad to participate in. In turn, Zechariah and Elizabeth hoped and prayed for an answer from God but refused to believe when God granted their prayers.
Vss. 51-53 emphasize the small way God has accomplished his big work. The proud thought themselves worthy to participate in God’s plan. They met in the Temple and looked with doubtful eye on all matters happening around them. They were quick to condemn and slow to believe. Their pious waiting had turned to cynical skepticism. Their pride blurred their vision of the Christ. They emphasized big events and big signs. They couldn’t understand the Scripture correctly because they saw the external matters of apparent faith as more important than the internal humility of the heart. Mary claims God showed (aorist – completed event) strength in these events. The proud did not see the strength of God’s might, could not praise God for his actions, and were scattered away from God because of their thoughts.
To be “scattered in the thoughts of their hearts” refers to discord of their minds caused by God’s demonstration of power. God squandered their pride by dividing them according to what they will not believe. God’s power demonstrated in the events to come and the selection of Mary as the virgin bearer of the Christ does not accord with what all considered the prophetic mandate. Their religious practice needed the endorsement of God rather than their religious practice endorsing the work of God. When God shows up at their meeting, he is met with doubt because he doesn’t match their expectations. Their deepest thoughts and insights came to conclusions about how God must work. God caused these expectations to be scattered when faced with the smallness of the coming Christ.
God destroyed the might of the rulers by emphasizing a small “nobody” rather than a powerful king. Mary seems acutely aware of the implications of her selection. God honored the righteous rather than the powerful. The work God will do will not build on the power or system of human effort but will be the emergence of God’s own power in the system of men. God’s works are the product of his efforts, energy, and plans. Human efforts can erect physical thrones but cannot corner God’s efforts.
Vs. 53 describes the coming of Messiah as a time when the hungry are full and the wealthy go hungry. Their hunger grows from their spiritual emptiness rather than their physical lack. Jesus became hungry in the wilderness as a part of his tempting and yet declared that God was his sole source of satisfaction. Mary foreshadows that Messianic nature in this verse. She speaks of the coming spiritual harvest for the righteous believers. Those expecting to have their bellies filled will go about with their spirit famished. The rich emphasized the reward they received from God in monetary terms. The Messiah did not come to a wealthy woman but to a peasant who knew hunger.