Topic: Luke's Perspective of Jesus: Ch. 1 Message Outlines
Luke 1:39-56 (5)
by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5 March 28, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(063)Thesis:We need to enlarge our understanding of the Lord as the Executor of Grace so that we can effectively deal with the daily circumstances of our lives.
Introduction:This morning we have come to Mary's response to Elizabeth's loud outburst as Luke records it in Luke 1:39-56. There are many things in this text that have the capacity to adjust our way of thinking about God, but Mary's opening statement may actually be the most significant. Therefore, we are going to spend our time together this morning considering the opening words of her response to Elizabeth.
I. The Issues to Which Mary's Opening Words Point.
A. Her claim that it is her "soul" that "exalts" the Lord points us to the biblical revelation regarding the nature and concerns of that which the Bible calls our "souls".
1. Biblical revelation regarding the "soul" is so complex that, for the most part, people just use the word without even attempting to define it and, of those who do make the attempt, most simply pass on something that they have heard whether it is true or not.
a. This means, on the one hand, that Mary's words are dumbed down to worthlessness by those who refuse to attempt a definition.
b. And it means, on the other hand, that Mary's words are used to promote false doctrine by those who simply pass on what they have heard without regard for its truthfulness.
2. Biblical complexity regarding the soul was not designed to muddy the water so that people would throw up their hands and refuse to pursue the issue; rather, it was designed to clarify some extremely crucial issues of life.
a. Life is extremely complicated on every level of existence.
b. Revelation regarding life will, therefore, have to be pretty detailed if we are to have any real hope of ever getting to the place where we can enjoy it.
c. The real issue for human beings in the face of this complexity is this: do you see God as attempting to hide the truth from you by making the task of discovering it too hard?; or do you see God as attempting to reveal the truth to you by giving you a lot of information about it so that you can live?
1) Remember that Luke told Theophilus that he was writing all of his words to him so that he could have a relative degree of certainly about what was true so that he could make significant progress in his relationship of friendship with God.
2) Also remember that the larger issue of four gospels was deliberately designed to make the picture of Jesus more comprehensible rather than more confusing.
a) It needs to be said, here, that, more times than not, the complaint about complexity is simply the expression of the spoiled and pampered child who wants someone else to do all the work and just give it the results so that life can be enjoyed without any active participation in the process.
b) Fortunately for us, God understands our whining and walks a careful line between giving in to it and killing what little motivation we may have to live.
B. Her claim that her soul "exalts" the Lord points us to the biblical revelation that has to do with the issue of how important it is for us to have a fundamental focus of attention in the details of living our lives.
1. The word translated "exalts" or "magnifies" has a fundamental meaning that has to do with making something a central focus of attention.
a. The biblical use of this term emphasizes the reality of how there are many things that are a part of our life experiences that are simply too small to ever really catch our attention.
b. When, however, something is "exalted" or "magnified" it is taken out of the mainstream of little things that are going by us without ever getting our attention and brought up to our consideration by whatever method it takes to get our attention.
2. For the most part, we tend to recoil from the claim that the "Lord" has been relegated to the stream of things that just go by us without our giving Him any real attention, but the truth of the matter is that, for the most part, that is exactly what is going on with us.
a. For the vast majority of humanity, the "Lord" is relegated to false notions of why and how life works.
b. Even for those of us who seek to "magnify" the "Lord", a great deal of the time this translates into a rather brief time of deliberate focus that is, then, dismissed once the time of deliberate focus is over.
C. Her claim that her soul "is exalting" the Lord is a claim that she has come to a place in her life experiences where her focus of attention has been attracted to the Lord and has "latched onto" that focus so that everything about her life is now flowing through her focus on the Lord.
II. The Meaning of Mary's Claim.
A. How shall we define "soul"?
1. First, we will define it in its immediate context.
a. Mary says her "soul" is maintaining a deliberate focus upon the "Lord".
1) This means that "soul" has to do with 'looking at' the issues that fall under the scope of "lordship"...i.e. the instigated and permitted events that make up the flow of experience as it flows past the "soul".
2) This means that "soul" also has to do with evaluating those events in terms of how they relate to the 'involved persons' -- the Lord and His creature.
3) The claim, as a positive statement of life experience rather than a negative statement of death experience, means that somehow the focus upon the Lord renders the events of experience as acceptable to 'the bondservant of the Lord'.
b. Mary's claim is made against the backdrop of Elizabeth's loud proclamation of Mary's unique blessedness.
1) This means that Mary's "soul" is riding the crest of the realization of just how great God's grace is...which means that "soul" has to do with responding to how one is being treated by God.
2) This means also that "soul" has to do with expressing its response.
2. Then, we shall define it in its larger context.
a. There are two major theses in Luke's record.
1) First, there is the thesis of the latent "fear" that exists in the hearts of believers.
a) Zacharias is presented as a very loyal believer who is dominated by fear.
b) Mary is presented in precisely the same way.
2) Second, there is the thesis of the grace of God that takes aim at that problem of latent fears.
a) When God is viewed with a focus upon His holiness and justice, fear is automatic and deadly.
b) When God is viewed with a focus upon His deliberate renunciation of the demands of holiness and justice in favor of grace, hope is automatic and beneficial.
b. Mary's "soul", then, must be defined in terms of "fears" and "hopes".
3. Then, we shall pull it all together under the physiology of the body.
a. The "soul", physiologically, is that part of the body in greatest danger of suffocation: Job 7:11-21.
b. Thus, in metaphor, the "soul" is that rather passive part of the body that cannot control what it (the body) will do, but must experience whatever it is that it does and whatever consequences come from its actions.
B. This is the reason that the "soul" must "magnify" the Lord.
1. The "Lord" is "gracious".
2. The "Lord" is the controller that the "soul" is not.
3. The "Lord", by grace and sovereign control, has announced good, even from evil, for those who put their focus upon Him as the gracious Lord.
a. Those who refuse this particular focus torment their souls unto death and find that God is just as terrible in holiness and justice as they feared He was.
b. Those who embrace this particular focus release their souls from fear and find that God is just as great in grace as His dealings with us claim He is.
III. The Significance of Mary's Claim.
A. In the final analysis, everything is once again brought back to the twin issues of faith and focus.
1. How do you see God?
2. What is faith supposed to do with your "vision" of Him?
a. It is to reject the view of inalterable horror.
b. It is to embrace the view of unspeakable grace.
B. Mary is put before us as an example of how believers are supposed to deal with the experiences of life: put the Lord in the bullseye of consistent focus: Psalm 16:8.