and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?… And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (1:41b–43, 45)
Like her unborn son, Elizabeth too was filled with the Holy Spirit. As mentioned earlier, such filling was often connected to speaking a message from God. In 2 Samuel 23:2, David declared, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue.” After John’s birth “Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied” (1:67; cf. vv. 68–79). Simeon
came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (2:27–32)
Acts 2:4 records that on the day of Pentecost the believers “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues [recognized foreign languages; vv. 8–11], as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Later in Acts,
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8–12)
After Peter and John were threatened and released by the Sanhedrin, the believers “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). The writers of Scripture were “men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21).
After being filled with the Spirit Elizabeth cried out with a loud (a term associated with the speaking of divine truth in such passages as John 1:15; 7:28; 37; Rom. 9:27) voice. She literally shouted out the message God gave her, both from excitement over its content, and to emphasize its authority. What followed was a hymn of praise, the first of five associated with Christ’s birth that Luke records (cf. 1:46–55, 67–79; 2:14, 25–32). This hymn of praise pronounced blessing on Mary, her child, Elizabeth herself, and ultimately everyone who believes God’s word.
The phrase blessed are you among women is a Hebrew superlative expression that describes Mary as the most blessed of all women (cf. Judg. 5:24). In Hebrew culture, a woman’s status was based to a great extent on her children; her significance was directly tied to their significance. Thus, when a woman wanted to honor Mary, she called out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (Luke 11:27). Elizabeth’s point was that Mary was the most blessed woman of all because she would bear the greatest child. Although Gabriel had informed Zacharias that their own son would be great, Elizabeth humbly acknowledged that Mary’s would be greater. Elizabeth’s child would be Messiah’s forerunner, but Mary’s was the Messiah. Thus, Elizabeth acknowledged that Mary had received the greater privilege and the greater honor. Being a righteous woman (1:6), she was thrilled not only at the privilege of bearing Messiah’s forerunner, but even more so that Messiah was coming.
Elizabeth then blessed Mary’s Son, crying out, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!” That familiar Old Testament phrase (cf. Gen. 30:2; Deut. 7:13; Ps. 127:3; Isa. 13:18), used only here in the New Testament, refers to the holy Child that Mary would bear. He is the Messiah (John 4:25–26); the Savior of the world (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14); the recipient of all of heaven’s praise (Heb. 1:6); the one who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26); the one whom “God highly exalted … and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9); the one who will inherit all that the Father possesses (John 16:15; 17:10); the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8).
Elizabeth’s exclamation of wonder and awe, “And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” is in effect a pronouncement of blessing on herself. In her true humility, she felt unworthy to be in the presence of such an honored person (cf. Luke 5:8). That Elizabeth, still speaking under the control of the Holy Spirit, referred to Mary’s Son as my Lord attests to His deity. Lord is a divine title, used more than two dozen times in the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel to refer to God. Therefore, to call Jesus Lord is first to call Him God (cf. John 20:28). Later the emphasis will include the consequent total submission to His sovereign lordship (6:46).
Despite the teaching and liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, the New Testament nowhere gives Mary the title “mother of God.” God, being eternal (Gen. 21:33; Deut. 33:27; Ps. 90:2; Isa. 40:28; Hab. 1:12; Rom. 16:26), was never conceived or born, but has always existed. Mary was the mother of the human Jesus, not His eternal divine nature.
Elizabeth’s closing statement, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord,” supplements her earlier blessing of Mary. Mary was blessed not only because of her privilege in being the mother of the Messiah, but also because of her faith in believing that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord. But Elizabeth’s use of the third person pronoun she broadens the blessing beyond Mary to encompass all who believe that God fulfills His promises.
Mary is not the mother of God, or the queen of heaven. She plays no role in the redemption of sinners, and does not intercede for them or hear their prayers. But she is a model of faith, humility, and submission to God’s will. She is an example to all believers of how to respond obediently, joyfully, and worshipfully to the Word of God. Therein lies her true greatness.
45. And blessed is she that believed. It was by a hidden movement of the Spirit, as is evident from a former statement of Luke, that Elisabeth spoke. The same Spirit declares that Mary is blessed because she believed, and by commending Mary’s faith, informs us generally in what the true happiness of men consists. Mary was blessed, because, embracing in her heart the promise of God, she conceived and brought forth a Saviour to herself and to the whole world. This was peculiar to her: but as we have not a drop of righteousness, life, or any other benefit, except so far as the Lord presents them to us in his Word, it is faith alone that rescues us from the lowest poverty and misery, and makes us partakers of true happiness.
There is great weight in this clause, for there shall be a fulfilment to those things which have been told her. The meaning is, faith gives way to the divine promises, that they may obtain their accomplishment in us. The truth of God certainly does not depend on the will of men, but God remains always true, (Rom. 3:4,) though the whole world—unbelievers and liars—should attempt to ruin his veracity. Yet, as unbelievers are unworthy to obtain the fruit of the promises, so Scripture teaches us, that by faith alone they are powerful for our salvation. God offers his benefits indiscriminately to all, and faith opens its bosom to receive them; while unbelief allows them to pass away, so as not to reach us. If there had been any unbelief in Mary, that could not prevent God from accomplishing his work in any other way which he might choose. But she is called blessed, because she received by faith the blessing offered to her, and opened up the way to God for its accomplishment; while faith, on the other hand, shuts the gate, and restrains his hand from working, that they who refuse the praise due to its power may not feel its saving effect. We must observe also the relation between the word and faith, from which we learn that, in the act of believing, we give our assent to God who speaks to us, and hold for certain what he has promised to us that he will do. The phrase, by the Lord, is of the same import with an expression in common use, on the part of God; for the promise had been brought by the angel, but proceeded from God alone. Hence we infer that, whether God employs the ministrations of angels or of men, he wishes equal honour to be paid to his Word as if he were visibly descending from heaven.
45 “Blessed” describes the happy situation of those God favors. Elizabeth gave the blessing Zechariah’s muteness prevented him from giving. See vv. 68–79 for the blessing he later pronounced on the infant Jesus. Luke uses the blessing Elizabeth gave Mary to call attention to Mary’s faith.
The way in which v. 45 supplements v. 42 is noteworthy. In v. 42, Mary is called the “blessed” one because of her maternal relationship with her son Jesus. In v. 45, however, Mary is recognized to be truly “blessed” because of her faith in and obedience to God. The same contrast is developed later in the Lukan material. In 8:19–21, for example, Jesus redefines family relationship in terms of one’s faith in and obedience to God: “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (v. 21).
45 Elizabeth’s second pronouncement of blessing employs the term known to us especially from the Beatitudes: “blessed”—spoken over those who are judged to possess what is necessary for a joyful life and especially over those who are the recipients of God’s gift of redemption. While the basis of the former “blessing” was Mary’s motherhood and, thus, signal role in the realization of God’s purpose, here she is declared fortunate because of her faith. The contrast with Zechariah could scarcely be more stark: he did not believe but she did; and in any case, it is affirmed, what had been spoken would come to pass. Elizabeth speaks to Mary of what had been spoken “by the Lord,” thus emphasizing the fact that Gabriel had delivered God’s own message. The result of this wording is to underscore first Mary’s response of faith and, second, the certainty surrounding the fulfillment of the divine purpose.
It is notable that Elizabeth’s first blessing is in the second person (“Blessed are you …”), while the second blessing is in the third (“Blessed is she …”). Thus are others invited to respond, like Mary, with faith.
45. And blessed is she who believed,
Because there will be a fulfilment of the words
Spoken to her by the Lord.
Although the rendering “And blessed is she who believed that there will be,” etc., is also possible, the first translation has the following in its favor:
- The positive assurance that God is going to fulfil his promises to Mary is a more solid ground, a more valid reason, for calling her “blessed” than her own subjective faith in the fulfilment of these promises.
- “Blessed is she who believed” is a richer expression than “Blessed is she who believed that,” etc. The first rendering more definitely than the second describes Mary as a woman of faith.
- “Blessed is she who believed” is in line with “Blessed are those who, though not seeing, are yet believing” (John 20:29). See also Gen. 15:6 (cf. Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6, 9; James 2:23).
- As to conciseness of phraseology, the beatitude “Blessed is she who believed” is also more in line with the familiar beatitudes of Luke 6:20 f., cf. Matt. 5:1 f.
- Finally, the construction, “Blessed is she who believed,” describes more adequately than does its alternative what had been Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s message.
That reaction, it will be recalled, had been: first, alarm and astonishment (verse 29); then, an earnest request for an explanation (verse 34); and finally, the complete surrender that characterizes the person who lives by the rule, “Trust and obey” (verse 38). For the rest, see the note on verse 45 on p. 99.
As to … “there will be a fulfilment,” etc., note the following: the words of the Lord (via Gabriel) recorded in 1:31a, 35a (unique conception) had already been fulfilled, and the promises contained in 31b, 32, 33, 35b (still largely unfulfilled) were going to be realized, as the rest of the Gospels, etc., abundantly prove.
What deserves special attention is this outstanding fact, namely, that in Elizabeth’s entire exuberant exclamation (verses 41b–45) envy never raises its head. Elizabeth was, after all, much older than Mary (cf. 1:7, 18, 36 with 2:5). Yet this aged woman is deeply conscious of her own unworthiness and genuinely rejoices in the joy of her much younger relative!
How can this complete absence of the begrudging attitude be explained? The answer is found in 1 Cor. 13:4: “Love does not envy.” Is not this a good reason for calling this poem “Elizabeth’s Song of Love”?
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 50–51). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.