Mankind’s need for a savior is universal. Each one of us lives in desperate need of someone to rescue us from the wages of our sin, which is eternal death (Romans 6:23). There is no exception. All have sinned and are; therefore, delinquent of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Every person—from Adam and Eve forward—needs mercy, forgiveness, and saving grace. This includes Mary, the mother of Jesus.
A Holy Virgin?
Though some wish to call her the Holy Virgin that is not what Mary called herself. Instead, her testimony was that of a humble maidservant who needed a savior. Yes, she was holy in the root sense of the word, meaning set apart. God surely did set her apart for His purpose. But she was not holy in the same way that God is holy; she was not sinless. No, Mary was not without sin; she was a sinner just like you and I. She simply had a unique, more significant part in God’s plan of redemption.
And yes, she was a virgin before Jesus was born; she had never known a man in intimacy. That’s why she questioned the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). And Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The virgin birth of Jesus Christ remains one of the most important miracles in all of Scripture. Within the womb of Mary, the Son of God took on humanity; God and man were permanently joined together in the person of Jesus Christ.
A Perpetual Virgin?
Mary’s virginity; however, was not perpetual as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. The Bible says that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25), but afterward they had at least six children. The Gospel of Matthew mentions four brothers by name, and also mentions sisters, in plural, though their names are not given (Matthew 13:55-56).
Therefore, even though Mary served God in a unique way as the mother of Jesus, she was a descendant of Adam. Like us, she was born with a sin nature and, therefore, had no less of a need for a savior than we do. Just as we who know the Lord and have experienced His salvation have an inner desire to sing of His amazing grace, so did Mary. Her song begins with these words:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed (Luke 1:46-48).
Luke 1:46-55 is commonly referred to as The Magnificat, which is Latin for the first word in Mary’s song. In 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach composed a musical score for this passage of Scripture, calling it by that name. It is Mary’s hymn of praise for God’s glorious provision of salvation for sinners.
When Mary received the news that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she immediately went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias were far beyond their child-bearing years, but she, too, was pregnant by divine intervention. Due to the miraculous work of God, this elderly couple would be the parents of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.
When Mary realized what was actually transpiring for her and Elizabeth, she burst out in song. Her hymn of praise is pregnant with references to Scripture, revealing Mary’s deep knowledge of the Old Testament. Her song is thoroughly God-centered; it is saturated with biblicaly-rich words that lift up the Lord of Israel. And it comes from the depths of her soul. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices. In other words, Mary’s mind and emotions, together, were activated by her will. Her immediate submission to the will of God for her life resulted in a heart that was motivated by that same will, which poured forth praise, which Scripture preserves for us.
Four Qualities of Mary’s Savior
- Jesus is a glorious Savior – My soul magnifies the Lord. With these words, Mary lifted God up by lifting up her voice in praise. She did as Psalm 99:5 commands, Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Jesus will one day receive worship from people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 5:9).
- He is a divine Savior – my spirit exalts the Lord; God my Savior. Mary recognized that her Savior not only had been provided by God, but He was God. Gabriel said the child would be “the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32), that is, son of the Most High God, i.e. God (see also 1:35). Jesus is the eternal Word made flesh to dwell among us, the glory of the Father (John 1:14).
- He is a personal Savior – my Savior. Though she was a humble servant and a God-fearing woman, Mary was a sinner in need of redemption. Mary was not holy and sinless, as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Instead, according to the Bible, Mary recognized the Lord as her Redeemer because she knew in her heart that she was a sinner. Yes, Gabriel told Mary to rejoice “highly favored one” (1:21), but that draws attention to the grace of God in choosing her, not to any inherent grace. Mary was a sinner in need of God’s saving grace. The Scriptures always speak of salvation as being personal, i.e. for the individual person (see John 3:16-18, 36).
- He is a gracious Savior – He has regard for the humble state of His bondslave. Jesus is the Savior who voluntarily lowered Himself to the level of man in order to redeem him. Mary recognized this about God, and she acknowledged that it was purely of His grace that she was chosen for this purpose. It is not unlike God to choose those whom man would never choose. The apostle Paul—who himself was an unimpressive man in the flesh—was chosen by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Though he was not easy to look at, and lacked public speaking skill, he was used by God to bring to us 13 books of the New Testament. He explains the reason God prefers to choose lowly people is so that “no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Because of the record of Scripture, Mary knew that all future generations would recognize the happy, fortunate state she found herself in. To be chosen to give birth to the promised Messiah was a privilege any Hebrew maiden would cherish. However, Mary does not even hint that she somehow deserves any praise or worship. She knew that God alone is to be praised (Ps 148:13).
One time, when Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd proclaimed, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (Luke 11:27). What was Jesus’ response? “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28). To Jesus, obedience to God’s Word was more important than being the woman who gave birth to the Savior.
Is Jesus Your Savior?
Mary sang her song of praise to God for the great salvation He was providing through the giving of His Son—a gift that was for her, too. As we remember the birth of the One who came as the Savior of the world, I am compelled to ask, is He your Savior? Mary called God “my Savior.” Can you? If you cannot call Jesus Christ “my Savior,” please repent of your sin come to Him in faith today. Jesus promised, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
[Originally posted December 1, 2015]