THE VIRGIN BIRTH
When the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law (Galatians 4:4).
Paul uses a rather non-descript phrase in this verse when he speaks of Jesus as being born of a woman. After all, everyone is “born of a woman.” The Old Testament uses this phrase as a way of describing all men.
Man who is born of woman
Is short-lived and full of turmoil. (Job 14:1).
What is man, that he should be pure,
Or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? (Job 15:14).
How then can a man be just with God?
Or how can he be clean who is born of woman? (Job 24:4).
In Old Testament language, to be “born of a woman” was to be a mortal man, doomed to die. It was to be part of all of humanity. And yet, I think that there might be something more than this when we speak of JESUS being “born of a woman.”
You see, when we speak of HIS
being born of a woman, there are echoes that go back even before writing of the
book of Job. A promise
that was given at the very dawn of history. Words spoken in a Garden named
And the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15).
The promise is that One would come. He is known here by the cryptic title: “Seed of the Woman.” What makes that title so cryptic is that women do not have seed. Throughout the rest of the book of Jesus, we read of Noah’s seed and we read of Abraham’s seed and we read of the seed of Isaac and of Jacob, but there is no mention of the seed of the wives of those men. When used of humanity, the idea of seed was largely a masculine concept. The Greek term is sperma and corresponds to our English term carrying the same masculine concept.
Yet this promised one is called the seed of the woman. The rest of the prophecy shows us that this would be no ordinary man. He would do to Satan what a man does to a serpent. He would crush its head beneath His heel. He would overturn the works of the Serpent.
Jesus was that promised Seed. Why is he called by that designation? I think that at least one aspect is that He was born of a woman in a way that no other man has ever been born of a woman.
Matthew’s account of that birth is given to us in the first chapter of His book, following the detailed genealogy.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18).
This passage tells us that Mary and Joseph had been BETROTHED. The Jews referred to this as the TENA'IM - the "Conditions."
On a certain day, Joseph and Mary would have gathered in the presence of family and friends. In the presence of witnesses, Joseph would give a ring to Mary along with a written document in which he promised himself in marriage. Vows would be exchanged, sealing their betrothal.
They were now considered legally married. However, the marriage would not be consummated for a year. Joseph would return to his home and Mary would continue to live in the home of her parents.
And yet, this was more than a mere engagement. The only way that a betrothal could be nullified would be through either death or divorce. The legal penalty for unfaithfulness would be the same as the penalty for adultery - death by stoning. In the event that this penalty was carried out, all of the woman's possessions would go to the husband. This stopped being merely theoretical when Mary was discovered to be with child.
...before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18).
Many years ago, Paula was teaching a Sunday school class of high school girls and they came to the subject of Mary and the birth of Christ. Paula had one of those young girls wear a maternity dress to church that Sunday with a pillow secured underneath to show a bulging tummy. You can imagine the looks and double-takes when she walked into the class.
Similarly, you can imagine the small-town reaction as news of Mary's pregnancy began to be rumored about. It is not long before the news come to Joseph. He knows that he is not the father. This can only mean one thing to him - his beloved has been unfaithful to him!
You see, there is no indication that Joseph realized that Mary's pregnancy was due to the Holy Spirit. WE know that it was from our perspective. We can read it right here in Matthew 1. But Joseph did not know that. Matthew 1 had not yet been written. And so, Joseph was confronted by a decision. What to do?
And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. (Matthew 1:19).
There was one of three things that Joseph could have done in this situation.
a. He could denounce Mary publicly and have her stoned to death in agreement with the Law of Moses. In such a case, any dowry or possessions of her would automatically revert to him.
But Joseph did not want to do this. He had been hurt, but he was not out for revenge and he did not want to disgrace her in this way.
b. He could divorce her privately.
Remember, they were legally bound through the betrothal and that bond could only be broken through death or divorce. Because of what he considered to be unfaithfulness, he could divorce her privately in her parents' house and save her from the humiliation of condemnation and death. Indeed, it seems from the text that this is exactly what he HAD determined to do. What he apparently did not even consider was the third option.
c. He could marry her and adopt her Child as his own.
He made his decision. He resolved to divorce her privately. He would do it in secret. He would write out a bill of divorcement and he would deliver it in private to her home. But the Lord had other ideas.
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, 25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:20-25).
That is the story. A virgin became pregnant. Heaven leaned down and placed its most precious treasure within the womb of a young Jewish girl. God as a fetus. The world will never again be the same.
What I want to do is to explore the implications of the Virgin Birth. What does it mean to us today that Jesus was born of a virgin?
1. The Virgin Birth Means That God Became Specific.
We knew that God was concerned with man in general. After all, God is love and He is the giver of life. It is easy to believe that God loves and even that He loves people. But to say that He loves ME - that is something else.
God could have written about His love in the sky. He could have printed the words, "I love you" in the clouds where all could read. He could have had the stars line up to broadcast that message. That would have communicated His message. But it would not have done so with the personableness that He did in the incarnation.
How specific did God get? One teenage girl and her carpenter fiancé. Two ordinary people - or so it seemed. This brings us to our second point.
2. The Virgin Birth Means That Jesus Has Both the Legal and the Moral Right to the Throne of David.
Notice how Joseph is addressed by the Angel of the Lord. He is called, “Son of David.” If we had read the first 17 verses of this chapter, we would have seen the genealogy of Joseph. It was a very distinguished genealogy. There are some exalted names here.
It was a kingly line. And Joseph was a descendant of King David. He was royalty. Of course, this line was no longer in power. An Idumean by the name of Herod the Great was on the throne. He is a puppet of the Roman government. But this Galilean carpenter is the true royal line of David. And he is going to take Mary's son and he will adopt him as his own. Because of this, Jesus will have the legal right to the title, "KING OF THE JEWS."
That is not all. There is another name in that genealogy which has a special significance. It is seen in verse 11.
to Josiah were born JECONIAH and his brothers at the time of the deportation to
you hear about the fellow who looked up his family tree, only to find that he
was the sap? Jeconiah
was the sap of HIS family tree. He was
one of the last kings of
His was a very short reign, lasting only a few months. Even within those few months, he did so bad that the Lord pronounced a curse upon both him and his descendants.
Is this man Coniah a despised shattered jar?
Or is he and undesirable vessel?
Why have he and his descendents been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known?
O land, land, land,
Hear the word of the Lord!
Thus says the Lord,
"Write this man down childless,
A man who will not prosper in his days;
For no man of his descendants will prosper
Sitting on the throne of David
Or ruling again in
Do you see what God promised? He said that none of the descendants of Jeconiah would ever prosper on the throne of David.
This means that, while Joseph had the legal right to sit upon David's throne, he did NOT have the spiritual right to do so. But his adopted Son DID. Jesus is the only One who has both the legal as well as the spiritual right to sit upon David's throne. If Jesus is not the rightful Messiah of Israel, then there IS NO Messiah.
There is no second choice. There is no understudy waiting in the wings. There is no other name under heaven, given among men whereby you can be saved.
3. The Virgin Birth Means That the Prophets Were Right.
Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, "God with us." (Matthew 1:22-23).
The Bible is NOT a unique book because it contains prophecy. There are other religious books which contain prophecy. But the Bible is distinctly unique in that it contains specific prophecies which were fulfilled independently of the author.
Consider for a moment only those prophecies which relate to the coming of the Messiah.
• He would be a Jew from the tribe of
• He would be the Son of David.
• He would be born in
• And yet He would come out of
• And also be known as a Nazarene.
• Even the date of His coming is alluded to.
• As well as Herod's assassination attempt.
But the most unusual prophecy of all was the one that is quoted here in this chapter. He was to be born of a virgin.
were other Jews from the tribe of
Do you see the implication? It is that our God is a God who keeps His word. He speaks and it comes to pass. That means you can believe Him when He makes a promise to YOU. He has never yet broken a promise. He won't start with you. You can believe Him. Look in the manger - He's there. Look in the tomb - He's gone!
4. The Virgin Birth Means That God Is with Us.
Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, "God with us." (Matthew 1:23).
A little boy was out walking with his father. The father said, "Son, do you know where we are?" The son replied, "No." The father asked, "Do you know how far it is to home." And the boy admitted that he did not. "Son, do you know the direction we ought to turn if we were going home?"
"No," replied the boy. "Son, you appear to be lost," the father commented. The boy responded, "How can I be lost when you're with me?"
When the Father is with us, we may not know where we are, but we can never be lost. This is what Christmas is all about. It isn't about gifts or credit cards or wrapping paper or or jolly old Santas. It is about a time when God came near. It is about a time when heaven touched earth. Because of that, earth can now know heaven.
Not everyone is all that fond of Christmas. There are a lot of people who become gloomy and depressed at that time of the year. The next time you feel that way, remember that the party is not for you. It is for HIM.
5. The Virgin Birth Means That We Have Salvation.
And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21).
Notice that the name "Jesus" is said to have a special significance. It is the English form of the Hebrew name Yashua (Joshua). It means "Yahweh saves." This name presupposes several things.
First, it presupposes that there are sins from which we need to be saved. Not merely mistakes. Or alternative lifestyles. Or psychological aberrations. But SINS. Active and outright rebellion against God.
We all have sinned and we all continue to fall short of that to which we were created. We are real people who commit real sins. That is the bad news.
To make it worse, our sins separate us from God. They cry out for the justice of God to judge them. He IS a just judge who will not permit sin to go unpunished.
The bad news is really bad. But the good news is really good. The good new is that we have a SAVIOR. Not merely a good example. Or a teacher. Or a probation officer. But a SAVIOR.
Several years ago, a
petroleum ship floundered and broke up in heavy seas off the coast of
They were wakened the next morning by a crewman rushing into the room to dig out a life jacket, don it, and rush out again. You don't need to be an expert to know this is not a good sign. They went out on deck and found that the vessel was already listing. A quick SOS was sent out and then they were in the water as their vessel sank into the depths of the sea. They were 60 miles away from land. No lifeboats. Just a few flotation devices in rough, 12-16 foot seas.
An hour passed and then two. They saw a rescue helicopter in the distance, but it passed by and was gone. An hour later they saw another, but it also passed by. The day passed. Those in the water were seasick and exhausted. They were beginning to lose hope. The sun had passed its zenith and was lowering in the west when another helicopter was spotted. It also began to pass by. And then, the pilot happened to spot the bobbing heads out of the corner of his eye. They were rescued. They were saved.
What would you think of the rescuers if they had come over those in the water and called down, "You guys are doing okay. Just keep swimming in that direction and you will be okay." This would not be a Savior. It would merely be a GUIDE. How about if the rescuers tossed down a book on "How To Swim"? This would have been a TEACHER, but not a Savior.
Perhaps one of our rescuers might have jumped into the water, demonstrated the Austrailian Crawl - showed the right form? This would have been an EXAMPLE - but not a Savior.
Let's say that they took the victims up into the helicopter, dried them off, and flew them halfway back to land than then pushed them out, saying, "You can make it the rest of the way on your own!" This would not be a Savior - it would be a PROBATION OFFICER.
Fortunately for them, their rescuer was not a...
They had a SAVIOR. And you have One, too. His name is Jesus. He came as a baby. But He didn't stay that way.
The virgin birth took place so that God could taken on flesh and die in our place. He took on flesh so that He could take on the guilt of our sin. He made the supreme sacrifice. He paid the ultimate price.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Such an act calls for a response on your part.
If you have never come to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance, then I invite your response. If you are a Christian who has been caught up in the hustle and bustle that this world generates, I invite your response. If you are plagued with guilt and weighed down in sin, I invite your response. If you are feeling lost in the crowd and as though your prayers aren't getting past the ceiling, then I invite your response. I invite you to come to Him today.