Saturday, December 10, 2005

Observe & investigate - Lk. 1:46-56

Observations

1. Mary's song is presented as if it were her response to Elizabeth's Holy Spirit-filled greeting/pronouncement (1:41-46a). How did Luke know exactly what Mary said? Perhaps he interviewed (cf. 1:3) Mary or Elizabeth. They were certainly "eyewitnesses" and "servants of the word." (cf. 1:2) Perhaps Mary treasured in her heart this song that arose from her as Luke tells us later she "treasured" certain events (cf. 2:19,51).

2. The first third of Mary's song (vs.46-49) deals with what God's work means to Mary personally while the last two-thirds of her song (vs.50-55) deals with how his promised blessing extends to and affects others.

3. There are strong links between the way Mary's song begins and ends. Mary perceives that God has been "mindful" (vs.48) and "done great things" (vs.49) to make Mary's name "blessed," in the same way that he "helped" and remembered to be merciful (vs.54) to "Abraham and his descendants" (vs.55). Mary is a humble servant (vs.48a) and Israel is God's servant (vs.54a).

4. Mary's song is full of contrast. God has extended his mercy to "those who fear him" (vs.50a) but has "scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts." (vs.51b) He has "brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble." (vs.52) "He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." (vs.53)

5. Mary stresses the endurance of the blessing that has her rejoicing. This is not just a blessing for a few or for a time. "From now on all generations" will recall these things (vs.48b). "His mercy extends . . . from generation to generation." (vs.50) This blessing touches "Abraham and his descendants forever." (vs.55a)

6. Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy when the angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary (1:36). Mary quickly left to be with Elizabeth (1:39) and stayed with her "for about three months" (1:56). Was Mary still with her when John was born to Elizabeth (1:57)?

Investigation

1. “Mary responded in what has come to be known as the 'Magnificat,' which is the first word of her song in the Latin Bible.” (Miller 29)

2. “Mary's song is called the Magnificat, and like the 'Benedictus' and the 'Nunc Dimittis' which follow gets its name from the first word of the Vulgate version. All three are a mosaic of Old Testament texts, and the Magnificat is based largely on the Song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. . . . If the Magnificat had been preserved as a separate psalm outside of its present context, we might have taken it to be the manifesto of a political and economic revolution.” (Caird 55)

3. “This beautiful lyric is neither a reply to Elizabeth nor an address to God. It is rather a meditation; an expression of personal emotions and experiences. It is more calm and majestic than the utterance of Elizabeth. The exultation is great, but it is more under control.” (Plummer 30)

4. “Much of Mary's song is echoed by her son's preaching, as he warns the rich not to trust in their wealth, and promises God's kingdom to the poor.” [a]

5. “The God who chose Mary . . . is a God who has consistently been on the side of the lowly and the oppressed. . . . God has 'sent the rich empty away.' God subverts established values in the interest of truth and for the sake of the outcast. It is no accident that the cast of characters includes simple people. Their mere presence anticipates important aspects of Jesus' career. . . . Such themes may cause us to look ahead: how and when will the young king seize power and establish his kingdom? will he discredit governors and priests?, and will rulers be torn from their thrones?” (Juel 22)
a. Wright, N.T., Luke for Everyone (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 16. Cited hereafter as Wright.