A very short distance away from The Church of John the Baptist in Ein Karem (about 1/2 a mile) up a long hill with stairs all the way to the gate of the courtyard is The Church of the Visitation. Which Visitation are we talking about? We are talking about Mary’s visit to her older relative Elizabeth. Elizabeth was already 6 months pregnant with John (Jesus’s Cousin).
Elizabeth was miraculously pregnant in her old age. Mary ofcourse was incredibly pregnant with Jesus as a virgin teenager. The angel told Mary she was pregnant and to go to see her relative Elizabeth. Mary then walked from Nazareth all the way to modern Ein Karem, not far from Old Jerusalem.
This was about 90 miles. The angel asked her by faith to believe she was pregnant, verify it with her relative and walk 90 miles through the desert heat to do this. Keep in mind, it seems that she went by herself. We don’t have any record of anyone else being with her. The roads would have been filled with thieves and criminals wanting to hurt her, or rob from her. But, I guess when an angel shows up and speaks to you that you are about to take part in the most miraculous story ever told, you might not fear the world as much any more.
This church is the perfect way to commemorate this event. It is up a high hill. It is the area in which John grew up and his family lived. Their is an upper church with services being conducted and a lower church with relics and paintings.
When Mary gets there, Elizabeth and her unborn son are praising her role in the Kingdom even though Elizabeth’s pregnancy was also miraculous and John would play one of the most important roles in showing people the Messiah in the history of the world.
In the courtyard the song of Mary from Luke 1 is written in many different languages. Not just Elizabeth and John, but all generations are going to call Mary blessed. This passage is being fulfilled through our generation today like all the ones before us and this passage written in many languages for different people groups to read, is a symbol of this fact.
Let’s look at the scripture.
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:26-38 NIV).
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her (Luke 1:39-45)!”
So in the earlier section. Mary is told by an angel to walk 90 miles to see Elizabeth. Elizabeth is pregnant but her people 90 miles away probably do not know this. They didn’t have computers or cell phones to keep track of each other. But, as soon as Mary enters she sees that the journey she took by faith was true because Elizabeth is pregnant and showing at this point. Elizabeth however calls her the “Mother of her Lord.” She had no way of knowing that either.
John the Baptist by faith is leaping in her womb. What a miraculous story this is. Protestant believers miss out on Mary acting by faith because we feel the need to talk down her role to Catholics, but truly one of the greatest heroes of scripture. Catholic believers often times miss out on the amount of faith it took for Mary to act like this, because she gets elevated or almost deified at times. We forget, she must have wrestled with her own feelings of insecurity and helplessness.
The Mary of the Bible needs to be looked at closely because she is one of the greatest people in all of scripture. We can learn so much from this teenage girl who so much was expected from.
It is also important to note that Mary needed to get away from Nazareth because she was probably terrified to be pregnant out of wedlock in a town that was only about 600 ft. long. Mary literally moved out of her little home with her parents and moved probably only 300 ft into Joseph’s family home. We will examine Nazareth in a different post.
But, the Son of God was about to grow up as kind of an outcast. Everyone will know He was conceived out of wedlock. Everyone will know something is different, and naturally they will not believe the true story. Mary needed this experience and she probably needed this 90 mile journey to get away from where her world would feel like it was all crashing in.
She probably had many questions. What will life be like for Jesus? What will happen with Joseph and her?
Finally, Mary’s song. Here she would have stood and praised her Savior with these words as she responded to Elizabeth.
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home (Luke 1:46-56).
Mary understood the Messianic story and her own need for a Savior from her sinful nature. What an amazing person of faith. What an amazing story. A Savior was coming and things were about to change.