An aspect of the incarnation that is not often considered by us common folk is the virgin birth of Jesus. In their gospel accounts, both Matthew and Luke affirm that Mary had no relation with a man prior to the birth of Jesus. Although there has been much theological material written to corroborate the gospel accounts in history and even in modern times, lesser amounts of material have been written on how our hearts should marvel at the miracle that actually took place. An astonishing display of the power of God took place in the womb of a young virgin from Judea over 2000 years ago. That is what I want to look at briefly today in this first post of my series on the incarnation of Jesus.
We’ve become so familiar with the story that we no longer feel the impact of what happened to Mary. The startling news begins in Luke’s gospel, when Mary was visited by an angel:
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you…”
(Luke 1:35 NKJV)
Though we aren’t told when, how, and where this overshadowing by the power of God happened, we can be certain biblically that Mary had no relation with any man prior to Jesus’ birth. This is clear from Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit… Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
(Matthew 1:18, 24-25 NKJV)
Because the moment of the conception of Jesus is veiled in mystery and few words are spoken about it in the entirety of scripture, we must approach that remarkable moment between God’s power and Mary’s womb with the question of “why” rather than “how”. Awestruck worship is the only needed response when we realize that the same One who stretched out the heavens like a tent to dwell within (Isaiah 40:22) was now content to dwell as a cluster of small cells inside of the womb of His creature. Though our modern minds want to first ask the question “how does God fit inside of a human frame?”, the gospel writers were not saturated in Greek philosophical ideas as much of the church is today. For them, the question inevitably weighing heavily on their heart was “what was churning in the heart of the LORD that moved Him to be born through a virgin and take on flesh forever?”
The power of God in the overshadowing of Mary and the miracle of the virgin birth should cause us to ask the same question and marvel with gratitude at the zeal of God to bring such a thing to pass. This was the only time in the history of creation that an event like this has happened. Every other human being that has lived after Adam and Eve was born from the natural process of intimacy between a man and a woman. Because the humanity of Jesus was created by the power of the Spirit, He is completely distinct from all others before Him since the first man, Adam. His flesh was holy! (Luke 1:35)
Yet even in His holiness, the Bread of Life stooped so low to require nourishment from Mary’s womb for 9 months! Have we sufficiently pondered why God would choose to display the fullness of His glory to the inhabitants of the earth by being born? Why was He born in the way that He was?
Because every moment of the life of Jesus is revelatory concerning the character of God, the overshadowing of Mary and the virgin birth of Jesus are witnesses to His power at the dawning of His life as a Man. Donald MacLeod in The Person of Christ says:
“…the virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us may think of hurrying past it. It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further. If our faith staggers at the virgin birth what is it going to make of the feeding of the five thousand, the stilling of the tempest, the raising of Lazarus, the transfiguration, the resurrection and, above all, the astonishing self-consciousness of Jesus?”
As you meditate on the virgin birth, may the potency of His power and the zeal within Him for the restoration of fellowship with His creation cause your heart to stand in awe this Advent and Christmas season.