A Study on the Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke Chapter 1, Verses 39-45

Please return to the main page of this study for the introduction and other verses.

By Mary E. Stephens
Oct. 2014

Luke 1:39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

As was mentioned in a previous section, it seems very unlikely that Mary's parents or guardians would allow her to apparently make this trip alone if she had been only 12-14 years old. The implication is that she decided and went without any "by-your-leave" from anyone. This indicates a fairly independent young lady no matter how you slice it.

Luke 1:40-45 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

Notice the effect that Mary's salutation had on Elisabeth and John. The babe leaped in Elisabeth's womb. Under inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Elisabeth tells us why - that it was "for joy". This is a significant passage for establishing the fact that babies are people before they are born. 

There are some who claim that a baby is not a "living soul" until it takes its first breath. They base this upon the creation of Adam in Genesis. They conclude from that, and other passages, that abortion is not murder but a discretionary thing based upon the circumstances surrounding it. Thankfully, God gives clear evidence in this passage that this is not true.

In v. 15 of Luke chapter 1 we read that John would be "filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb". While some might like to interpret "from his mother's womb" to mean from the time he was born, God gives clear evidence that it was from before he was born. He clearly tells us that Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost before she started speaking, meaning she was speaking under inspiration, or by revelation. This is so important because God then tells us, through her, why the baby leaped - it was for joy at the voice of the woman who was carrying the Messiah in her body.

Furthermore, Mary was already the mother of Elisabeth's Lord! She was already a mother, and He was the Lord from before His birth. That also settles some problems surrounding the idea that Jesus was an ordinary Jew that became Christ later in His life and wasn't God in the flesh.

If this is not enough proof, the Lord gave us an example in the Old Testament of what He means by "from his mother's womb". In Judges 13:3-5 we read regarding the birth of Samson,  And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

Samson's mother is specifically warned not to eat certain things because her son is going to "be a Nazarite unto God from the womb". Obviously, if things she would eat or drink during pregnancy were forbidden, he was a Nazarite, not from the time he left her womb but before he left it. In considering the case of John, combined with his reaction to the voice of Mary, it is safe to conclude that John was filled with the Holy Ghost while he was in his mother's womb.

In addition, the Lord shows us that babies do hear and respond to outside stimuli and that they feel human emotions, such as joy. (This long before science "discovered" it.) They are not growths or lumps of tissue. They are living beings and, in John's special case he was filled with the Holy Spirit of God. And why wouldn't the Holy Spirit respond to another member of the Godhead showing up? That is a very interesting thought. The Son of God was present in Mary and the Holy Ghost was present in John (and Elisabeth at that moment). Before the birth of Jesus Christ the Holy Ghost was already bearing witness of Him, and the Father made sure that we knew it. (John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:)

Notice in verse 42 that Elisabeth "spake out with a loud voice".

This poses an interesting aspect to the overall account because we know that eventually Mary was "found with child", Matthew 1:18, and that Joseph initially assumed that she had been unfaithful to the vows of her espousal. I can't help wondering if the first knowledge of her "condition" started at the time of this visit. We don't know the living arrangements, but they were in a city, v. 39, so it's quite likely that some people overheard this loud proclamation. This was of God, caused by the Holy Ghost who filled Elisabeth. Regarding those things surrounding the life of Jesus Christ, Paul said in his defense to King Agrippa in Acts 26:26 that "...this thing was not done in a corner." God the Holy Spirit intended it to be known from the first.

Humanly speaking it didn't make sense. Here was a pregnant, not-yet-married young woman. She would have every reason to hide this and keep it close till she was safely and fully married to Joseph. But, God overruled that. It was not His purpose to keep this as secret, as we will see even more as the story progresses. Yet, we'll also see that Mary was not afraid or timid about what happened here.

This should give us pause to consider.

Jesus told us Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16. And, the church is told in Ephesians 5:8 to "walk as children of light." A few verses later we are told "But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light." (v.13)

Now I'm going to say something that some people may find disturbing. While I know that there are times when Christians have hidden themselves from or left their native lands due to great persecutions (old Rome - catacombs, etc.; the Inquisition; the Reformed church persecutions of other believers in Europe; the old U.S.S.R - Communist Russia; and others), I find it disturbing that there are so many Christians who are worried about hiding and fleeing before anything really awful even happens. We read in Proverbs 28:1, The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion. I don't understand the fleeing and hiding idea when the righteous are supposed to be bold AND there is no one pursuing

The whole "preparedness" thing and conspiracy theories have been appropriated by too many to mean that they need to "flee to the mountains", or wherever, because evil is coming soon to a place near you. And, not content with that, they will seek to convince, threaten, and frighten anyone foolish enough to listen to them. True,  A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.  Proverbs 22:3 Also, there is a time to "go over the wall in a basket." But, that doesn't give us license to isolate ourselves from the very people to whom God has sent us! We see that in the case of Paul it was for the purpose of keeping him alive so that he could continue his ministry. The church may need to go underground at times to survive, but it is for the purpose of continuing the work of the Lord. After all, how will they glorify our Father in heaven if they never see our works, pray tell?

To leave a place to avoid the inevitable hardships of a national collapse, famine, sickness or some such thing might certainly be appropriate at times, but it is not God's intention for Christians to hide their light under a bushel and isolate their families or churches excessively from "the dangerous unclean world." Whether you're trying to live a super "clean" Amish lifestyle or are just hiding out in the woods to escape "the impending doom" or anything in between, it is impossible to obey the command to "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) when you have no contact with the world! What's more, it gives the appearance that you have something to hide. This is not the mind of Christ.

Philippians 1:27-29 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

I know that some Russians left the U.S.S.R. to escape the persecutions and trials that came with the formation of that God-hating regime. However, if all the Russian Christians had left, who would have preached the gospel there? Who would have been a light shining in a dark place? Who would have had the opportunity to show lost and miserable souls the way of life? The answer is, no one. What a tragedy that would have been! But, they did not all leave. It was a terrible time. Many Christians died in the persecutions. But, when it was all over and Communism fell guess who were still there? Yeah. The Christians who were "bold as a lion" and who stood fast in one spirit!

Here's another thing, while we're on the subject: The terror that some people exhibit of technology because of all the spying and listening that goes on bothers me too. If someone doesn't want to participate, OK. But, I've sensed that with some there is an undercurrent, and perhaps even an open declaration, that these things are only evil and that we should be keeping as much as possible about ourselves hidden. Again, how does this exemplify the method of God in the life of Jesus Christ? Did He hide Himself from the people or even from "the wicked government"? Did He avoid being known by the authorities even though He knew they would ultimately be the ones to sign His death warrant, so the speak? Not at all. In fact, in Him we see quite the opposite. He was very open among them most of the time.

I think that a lot of us miss the point when we become Christians that God does not call us to live tidy little quiet lives hidden away from anyone who might possibly do us evil. He does not intend for His children to disappear into the woods leaving no discernable trail behind. Some have found it necessary to do this to some degree in order to continue to preach the gospel, such as Menno Simons, Felix Manz, Martin Luther and many others. But, ultimately, they were not hidden in the unreachable sense, but only in the stay-alive-and-keep-preaching sense! 

I remember once being with a lady who seemed really frightened by my handing out a tract. I know she had filled her mind with the terror stories and conspiracy theories being shoveled out by a man named Texe Marrs. She was so frightened about the horrible things he predicted to be coming for Christians that she had lost her courage for the most part. That was over 15 years ago and we still haven't arrived at the fulfillment of Marrs' predictions. May some of them come true? Possibly. But, in the mean time why hide under a rock for fifteen years? Why not be busy about our Father's business? After all, we're safer doing what He tells us to do than running in terror from the wicked.

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

Do you know the reason the lion roars? He does it to paralyze the prey with fear. This gives the other lions in a pride the opportunity to attack. If you spend your time listening to people who are always threatening you about what the devil will do to you, don't be surprised if you become immobilized with terror when he roars and your courage, testimony, and joy are devoured.

Here was Mary, a young, vulnerable woman who was pregnant "out of wedlock", arriving at her cousin's home with news that might easily get her into a lot of trouble. But, God announced her arrival, pregnancy, and Who it was she was bringing into the world with Elisabeth's loud voice! Should we be surprised that the same God isn't interested in having us hide our light, family, selves or anything else under a "bushel basket"? Sadly, counting the cost of really living unto Jesus Christ is not very well emphasized in many ways today. In the reality of the overall picture, sometimes it is harder to live for Him than to die for Him. It is certainly easier to hide for Him. But the truth is, God doesn't have any "secret service". Either you let your light shine, or you are hiding it.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.

(We will cover some more thoughts on these verses in Luke in the next section.)


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