December 9, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
It was not immediately after Gabriel had appeared to Mary and told her she would be the mother of the Christ child, but probably within a couple of weeks, that Mary made the journey to the hill country of Judea. After all, it was a trip of about 90 miles, and that took some planning! Mary probably didn’t travel alone, for that was a dangerous trip for a man, let alone a woman! Perhaps she went with a family who was traveling to Jerusalem for one of the annual festivals. In any case, she left Nazareth in the mountains of Galilee and headed south to the hill country of Judea. This is what it says in Luke 1:39 through 45:
Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a
city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And
it happened, when Elisabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped
in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke
out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is
the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my
Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting
sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who
believed: for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her
from the Lord.”
It doesn’t say in the Bible where in Judea Zacharias and Elizabeth lived. Adrien Reland, a Dutch Christian Hebrew scholar, is said to have toured the Holy Lands in 1695 to report on 2,500 towns and villages mentioned in the Torah and Mishne. He assumed “Judah”– mentioned in verse 39 above – was a misspelling, and should have read “Juttah,” a Levitical town about 25 miles south of Jerusalem, and listed in Joshua 21:16. But Theodosius (b. 423 AD, d. 529 AD.) wrote that the elderly parents of John the Baptist lived in the small town of Ein Karim – five miles southwest of Jerusalem.
Why did Mary hasten to go to her cousin? The angel Gabriel had told her in Luke 1:36, “Now indeed, Elisabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.” This also was a miraculous pregnancy because Elizabeth had never had children and now was well past the age of child-bearing. So – in Mary’s mind – if anyone would understand the miracle of the Holy Spirit fathering a child in the womb of a young teenager, it would be Elizabeth! And Mary desperately needed someone to understand and give her love and support. She hadn’t yet told Joseph – or anyone else!
God gave the young woman a wonderful confirmation as she arrived at her cousin’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Baby John vigorously moved within his elderly mother, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Read again the second half of the scripture above. Mary must have been deeply moved by Elizabeth’s opening exclamation, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” This greeting was quite akin to the angel’s words in Luke 1:28, 31 through 33:
Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among
women…behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and
shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of
the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom
there will be no end.
God’s special favor upon Mary – God’s special favor upon the fruit of her womb – Jesus!
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for “…about three months…” according to Luke 1:56 – probably until just after John the Baptist was born. With the long flowing robes women wore in those days, no one could see the ‘baby bump’ beginning to show in Mary’s abdomen. So Mary could help her cousin at home as Elizabeth’s pregnancy advanced, and as it got harder for the old woman to move around. She also could be out and around the village on errands such as daily fetching water at the well in the center of the community, and going to the market.
It was comforting to be with her cousin, loved and accepted – and believed! – and she felt of great use to Elizabeth and Zacharias as this miracle unfolded. Remember, the old man was struck dumb because he disbelieved the angel (Luke 1:20).