And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…”
Once while visiting the Holy Land I saw a young woman perform a victory song as it might have been sung in ancient Israel (Exodus 15:20-21; Judges 11:34; I Samuel 18:6). With tambourine and bells in hand, she did a round dance as she sang of the Lord’s triumph over His enemies. Much like the psalmist exhorts, she sang praise to God with “tambourine and dance” (Psalm 150:4).
I think of that woman singing joyfully, twirling and leaping, as I ponder Mary rejoicing in God her Savior. Mary is singing, and likely dancing a song of her Savior’s victory.
The Bible commentator William Barclay called Mary’s Song, “a bombshell”, as it takes “the standards of the world and turns them upside down” (The Gospel According to Luke). Or to be more precise, her song turns the world right side up! Veteran missionary and theologian E. Stanley Jones described Mary’s Song as “the most revolutionary document in the world” (Barclay, The Gospel According to Luke). A king once decreed that Mary’s Song be read only in Latin lest the common people realize how revolutionary it was.
Just look at how Mary’s Song begins! Right there, under the nose of a Roman occupying army, she declares the Lord God to be Savior. Not Caesar Augustus! Throughout the Roman Empire Augustus was acclaimed as “the savior of the world”, and “son of god”. A calendar from Mary’s time said of Caesar Augustus: “who being sent to us and to our descendants as a savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order”. Yet, Mary sings about the true Savior of the world who will set all things in order.
Theologian N. T. Wright expresses the challenge that such a message about Jesus would present to the establishment:
The main challenge was to the lordship of Caesar, which, though certainly “political” was also profoundly “religious”. Caesar demanded worship as well as “secular” obedience; not just taxes, but sacrifices. He was well on the way to becoming the supreme divinity in the Greco-Roman world, maintaining his vast empire not simply by force, though there was of course plenty of that, but by the development of a flourishing religion that seemed to be trumping most others either by absorption or by greater attraction. Caesar, by being a servant of the state, had provided justice and peace to the whole world. He was therefore to be hailed as Lord, and trusted as Savior (Wright essay, “Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire”).
Yet here is young Mary, a helpless poor girl from Galilee, defiantly singing of the Lord as her “Savior”. The angel on Christmas night will assure frightened shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
Try and hear with Roman ears, or King Herod’s ears, these revolutionary words: “It is Messiah Jesus who is the Savior and Lord of all the earth, the one who will bring justice and peace. I will serve only Him!”
Early Christians delighted in speaking of Jesus as Savior. They would greet one another with the “sign of the fish” or “Jesus fish”. It is the symbol we see on bumper stickers, necklaces, and business logos. It comes from the Greek word for “fish”, (ichthus), an acronym for the Christian faith: “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior”.
Mary and other early Christians declared Jesus to be the One who spoke through the Hebrew prophet Isaiah: “There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is no one besides me. Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:21-22).
In the contemporary church we tend to think of Jesus as only the Savior from our sins, but He is so much more! To declare Jesus as Savior is to declare Him as victor, deliverer, and Lord of heaven and earth! No Caesar or other power can command our trust and obedience.
To the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 25).
- Do you agree or disagree with Mary’s Song being interpreted as a “revolutionary document”? Explain why.
- What is the significance of Mary calling God “my Saviour”? Did Mary need a Savior?
- What would it mean for you to say, “Jesus is my Savior”?