The Center of Significance

We could call this series of posts lessons from a teenage girl.

We are looking at the opening chapter of Luke and specifically at what he says about Mary to learn a little about where significance comes from.

And the first clear lesson we learn is that what really matters when it comes to significance is Jesus.

If you don’t hear anything else, you want to hear that.

It’s Mary unique role in God’s salvation plan that is the cause of her significance. And, I want you to see this, because this is where a lot of people go wrong when it comes to Mary and her importance. If you are looking to Mary first and thinking it must be that there’s something unique and special about her that caused God to choose to use her like this, I think you are looking completely in the wrong direction.

That’s not, if you look through all of salvation history, the record of how God goes about saving people, that’s not how God chose to save or use anyone. God makes it really clear time and time again that his choice of individuals was not based on their merits.

Why did he choose Jacob? Was it because he was so much better than Esau? No. Of course not. Why did he choose Moses, was it because Moses was sinless, no way, he murdered a man. Why did he choose Samson? Samson was about as bad as you could be. God’s choice of individuals is not based on their merit, it’s not Him looking down and seeing who is really good and decided to pick them to use, it’s instead entirely based on His mercy and grace and that’s true with Mary.

Mary is significant not because she was perfect, not because she didn’t have original sin, not because of an immaculate conception, not because any of those things, but instead because God in His kindness chose to use her   as a unique part of his great salvation plan.

To get more specific, look at what Elizabeth says about her and this is what this story is at least partially intended to highlight, she got to be the mother of the Savior of the world, and that’s in itself a tremendous blessing. Verse 41, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Now it’s the second blessed really that explains the first one, that’s a typical pattern you will find in the Old Testament, blessed, why, second blessed, Mary is blessed above other women, because she was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus.

As someone has said, “This high evaluation of Mary depends entirely upon her Son.”

We are intended when hear all this blessed talk about Mary, not to stop with staring at Mary, but to scratch our heads as we look at Mary and say, how can Elizabeth say something this big about this ordinary teenage girl, it’s because of Jesus.

It shows us how important Jesus is!

I was thinking ordinarily, if you put Elizabeth in the room with a thousand other pregnant women, and you knew what all their children were destined to do, Elizabeth would stand out time and time again, because her son was going to be the last Old Testament prophet, but you   put her in the room with Mary, and she is overwhelmed with the significance of the child Mary is bearing. So overwhelmed, that she basically starts shouting, verse 42, “and she exclaimed with a loud cry…”

It’s like she can’t contain herself.

You can imagine an old lady yelling with happiness when she sees this pregnant teen, and the reason why ultimately is not Mary but Jesus, and I just love how Elizabeth puts it in verse 43, and this really shows her faith as well, because she says, “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Elizabeth had every reason from a human perspective to feel like she was more important than Mary, but here she’s humbled and really in awe that Mary’s come to visit her and the reason isn’t because of the importance of Mary herself, but instead because Elizabeth recognizes the baby inside her womb is no ordinary individual. He is her Lord.

This is really such a testimony to Jesus.

I don’t know how small Jesus was in Mary’s womb right then, maybe less than seven centimeters tall, but even at seven centimeters tall he towered over Elizabeth, because she recognized he was her Lord.

I wonder if you understand, that word Lord is really a big thing to say about Jesus. At the very least, it is a term great respect for distinguished people, it’s a way of describing someone as your superior. It’s possible that the Holy Spirit is enabling Elizabeth to even make a statement about the unique nature of this baby Mary is bearing.

I just started looking through Luke 1 and 2 to notice the other ways times Lord is used, and look at this.

Luke 1:6, talking about Elizabeth and Zechariah,

“…they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the        Lord…”

Luke 1:9, “he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord.”

Luke 1:11, “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord.”

Luke 1:16, “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God…”

Luke 1:32, “And the Lord God will give to him…”

Luke 1:46, “My soul magnifies the Lord…”

I think you are getting the point, this is not a small thing to say about Jesus, something like twenty five other times in chapters 1 and 2, when Lord is used, it is being used clearly to describe God and I am not sure that’s a coincidence.

Now, I probably should say this, people sometimes will on the basis of what Elizabeth says her, describe Mary as the mother of God,and for some who hear that, that way of speaking can be unhelpful, because obviously God doesn’t have a mother, God has no beginning and no end, He is not a created being.

God the Son however did become man.

He existed before He became man, and He had no mother at that point obviously, but He chose to become man, uniting Himself to human nature, and so He is this unique person, He is the God-man, and Mary is the mother of this unique person, she had no part in creating God the Son who  existed in heaven before the world began and has always existed, but did have a role in the incarnation of Jesus and that’s what Elizabeth is celebrating.

And John too.

That’s one of the parts of this story that I like so much. Because it’s like this baby, John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb is going crazy, trying to shout out the significance of Jesus

Verse 41, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” You notice of course, how they call this six month old fetus a baby, because it is a person, this description is another reminder why abortion is ultimately murder, from God’s perspective, John is a person and this person has desires even at this point, and his great desire is to exalt Jesus, so when he is near Jesus, he leaps.

Which, is obviously a miracle, because this is a leaping for joy and it’s a fulfillment of what the angel said about John in verse 15 of chapter 1, that he would be filled with theHoly Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

Someone has said John was the world’s smallest prophet at this point, only a few inches high, and one of the strangest looking prophets too, because as a baby at this point in his mother’s womb he had that transparent skin, and he is using all of his inches and all of his might, to point his mother to Jesus.

That’s actually what alerted her to the significance of this baby in Mary’s womb. She explains in verse 44, “For   behold,” in other words, look this is how I knew you were the mother of my Lord, “when the sound of your greeting     came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

It’s interesting, back in chapter 1 verse 14, the angel told Zechariah many would rejoice at John’s birth, but even before John is born, you know what he is rejoicing in? The coming of Jesus. He is leaping for joy. And you say, how did she know that is why the baby was leaping, Luke tells us, she was filled with the Holy Spirit as well, she received divine revelation as well, and that’s why she see Mary as so blessed.

It’s not so much about Mary, it is so much about Jesus.

And I really think the first lesson we find here in this passage, is that as Christians, you know who is significant ultimately, it is Jesus, He is significant and if you put any other human in the room with Him, they all have to bow down and worship, even John the Baptist.

Jesus is the sum, He is the center, He is the main point of everything God the Father is doing in this world, and so if you or I are spending all this time, thinking about our significance, pursuing our own importance, building our own kingdom, we are totally missing the point.

Maybe to get practical.

You can just imagine if Elizabeth’s ideas about significance started with her at the center, how this story would have been different. If Elizabeth was about Elizabeth she would have been upset with Mary or envied Mary, but instead her ideas of significance started with God’s great saving plan, that’s what mattered to her and so she was rejoicing in the part Mary was granted to play in it.

She was just happy to be near Jesus.

And you know, we sometimes miss out on so much joy in what God’s doing because we are so focused on ourselves having to be at the center of it, and if you can just get yourself out of the center of everything, and see that’s God’s work through Jesus is at the center, that’s when joy is going to start, and this is where our ideas of significance have to start, not with what us and what we   do, but with God and what He’s doing through Jesus.

The point is it would just be so terribly wrong to look at what Elizabeth says about Mary and end with Mary, because what she says about Mary is really intended to get us thinking about the mercy of God and the supremacy of Jesus and we’ll see later, when Mary starts talking, that’s what it got her thinking about as well, she’s just amazed by a God who would stoop down to work in the lives of people like her.

And you know, it’s when you have this right view of God and right view of Jesus, that you can actually have a right view of your life as well.

It’s amazing that God uses people like us at all.

We can’t be like God I got this and God I can do this, no, man.

No one of us is needed by God and none of us are used by God because we have something He is lacking.

I mean, if looking at Mary doesn’t teach us that, I don’t what will, because here’s this teenage girl, and she’s playing one of the most important roles in the history of the world, because she is going to give birth to the future King of the Universe, and here’s the thing, did she really have anything to do with causing that, in terms of her abilities, her decisions, no, of course not, why would we try to make it about Mary, this is about God, this is about God picking her up and using her in spite of her and we can rejoice in that, and you know what, in the ways He sovereignly chooses to use us to advance the cause of Christ as well.

That’s amazing.

While none of us are going to play the same role in God’s great saving plan Mary did, we serve a God who uses people like us as well and because what really matters is Jesus and God’s great saving plan, and if God stoops down and chooses to allow us or anyone else to have any part in what He’s doing to glorify His Son Jesus and rescue His people, then we can just glory in that, because that’s what is at the center when as Christians think about significance.

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