“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.
“HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed.
(Luke 1:52,53 NASB)
I really have never opted to spend much time in Mary’s song for a few reasons. First off, as I was growing up, this song actually sounded out of place to me, like something Mary wouldn’t have actually said/sung. I admit that was partly because of its similarity to a musical, and my prejudice against such entertainment. But also because this song didn’t seem to relate to what was happening to Mary. I couldn’t make the connection between the lofty viewpoint of the song, and a pregnant teenager with serious social trouble.
But perhaps a more important reason, underlying the other two more obvious ones, is that it was difficult for me to see why she would sing. I guess it was hard for me to really give Mary credit for really understanding what was happening to her, and what she was wrapped up in. In other places she tries to stop Jesus, so how could it be she understood this so well, yet failed to grasp it at other times? It just didn’t seem quite right. But, upon closer examination, something else emerged.
What Mary Thought Was Happening
The perspective of this song is that what is about to happen relates to promises to Israel, which includes a reversal of circumstances. In other words, it seems Mary believes that her Child will reverse the predicament of Israel under the ‘Roman boot.’ It also seems that Mary believes that her Child will reverse the circumstances for all the oppressed: poor versus rich, hungry versus well supplied, powerful versus oppressed, righteous versus arrogant. The idea clearly conveyed is that of a social/political overthrow in favor of Israel. Well, then, no wonder she tried to intervene in his ministry later on.
This would have been a very popular view of people in that day regarding the ‘Promised Messiah’. And all Mary really knew from what Gabriel told her was that her Child would be from God, not from a man; so deity from the get go. The popular view was really only modified by the angel in that He would be deity, not his actual role. In fact from what Gabriel said, it sounded as if Gabriel thought Jesus would be that sort of messiah as well. All he spoke of was Jesus reigning, not dying, not saving the world from sin, not the whole disappearing act to wait to remake the world. None of that was mentioned, just reigning. In a sense, Jesus came as a ‘Secret Agent’. His plans were ever hidden from everyone.
What God Was Actually Doing
But there are also points, where from a certain perspective, this song can be seen as the opening ‘prelude’ to Jesus’ life. And that’s ‘prelude’ in the musical sense where the various elements of the music to follow are brought together in a single piece at the beginning of a program. Consider these elements to be expanded upon by Jesus later: He scatters those who are proud in their thinking (think Pharisees), he has brought down rulers from their thrones (think the defeat of death), filled the hungry with good things (think feeding 5,000). The reversals are also found in His ministry: Mighty deeds, exalting the humble, sent away the rich empty. And culmination of everything He did ultimately helps Israel, just as the fathers were promised, a blessing to all peoples.
While some of what Mary said was true on a spiritual level (the defeat of rulers), some of it was true within Jesus’ ministry, and some of it on a more cosmic/eternal scale. So, the terms she used she understood differently than God did, but they were still true about Jesus and His work/purpose. Jesus came to do all those things, but on a more grand scale than just the rescue of one people in that one point in time. He came to bring huge reversals in this world, but on a more fundamental level than simply the politics and religion of the day. Those two concepts completely consumed the people of that day in much the same way they seem to consume us today. But just as then so too now, Jesus didn’t come for those things. He came to affect eternity, and all peoples, everywhere by defeating an enemy we could not face on our own.
A Magnificent Savior, For Then And Now
So the song of Mary was more magnificent than even she knew. It spoke of a Savior more magnificent that she could imagine within her paradigm. She sang it, but the Creator of the universe filled it more full of meaning that anyone then could imagine. And as they needed that encouragement then, that sense of something great happening right there in their midst, I think we need the same message. I believe we need the message of hope, the expectation of something great about to happen, and the sense that we are in amazing times.
I had a teacher once tell me that every generation has thought they were living in the last days, and every generation has been right, it was their last days. Why not live expectantly? Why not live as if the meaning of this song continues into our day? Why not believe that God is about to reverse everything? Why not fight the hopelessness of our culture with the hope of God? Why not believe and believe with faith (active belief) that the poor will be made rich and the rich poor? Why not pursue the values that the oppressed are more right than the ‘blessed’; reversing our cultural standard? What would we truly lose if everything we have that’s of value is already with our Master in heaven? So, I suppose the question is truly, what do we really believe?
What’s your view through the knothole this time?