So Mary’s been told she would become pregnant with Jesus, and her relative Elizabeth is six months pregnant with John the Baptist. Elizabeth lived in a small town in the hills of the province of Judah, while Mary lived near Nazareth. All in all, it would have been about 80 to 100 miles to Elizabeth’s home, about a week’s travel (and not easy travel), and yet Mary made the trip. Little did Mary know she’d make another weeklong journey in about nine months, on her way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Given they lived a good distance apart, along with the fact that Mary was a teenager, there would only have been a limited number of times Elizabeth and Mary would have seen each other. Even though these women are many times referred to as “cousins,” they don’t seem to be first cousins. The word “relatives” is probably a better way to describe them. They were probably distant cousins, or it could have been a several-times-removed aunt/niece situation.
Given they didn’t have a day-in-day-out relationship, why would Mary want to take such a long trip to see Elizabeth? Not to mention she would have had to convince others to go with her—perhaps Joseph or her own family.
Did she want validation that what the angel told her was true—that Elizabeth was indeed miraculously pregnant as well? Did she come all that way to congratulate her? Both of those may be reasons, but the Scriptures point to the main reason—she was convinced that both she and Elizabeth were chosen by God to be part of something incredible, and Elizabeth might have been the only person who didn’t think she was crazy—or even lying. Can you imagine Mary trying to navigate this with one of her teenage friends?
Through an angel, God had told Mary about both Elizabeth’s pregnancy and her own. And that same angel told her that “No word from God will ever fail.”
Mary knew God’s message was about to be made known through her. And she wanted to be connected to someone else who was part of the plan. At the end of the first chapter of Luke’s gospel, this is how he records the exchange between the two women, after Elizabeth heard Mary entering her home:
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:41–45)
Imagine how refreshed and supported Mary must have felt when she returned home. Only Elizabeth could relate to what Mary was experiencing. Elizabeth not only understood Mary’s news but also celebrated with her.
Heavenly Father, you’ve given us a beautiful picture of what love looks like. When Mary was likely feeling confused and overwhelmed at a future that would look so different from what she had imagined, you gave her Elizabeth to be with and to celebrate with. Help us to look around and find the people you’ve put in our lives to walk alongside us in joy and sorrow. And help us to do that for others as well.
Given they didn’t have a day-in-day-out relationship, why would Mary want to take such a long trip to see Elizabeth?