The Bible records many surprising births. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were all, among others, born to barren women.
God supernaturally intervened to bring about their births, to flag their special and important place in His salvation plan.
Jesus is the only person, however, to be conceived in the womb of a virgin.
With the other births, wombs were supernaturally healed, and then babies were conceived in the normal way. In the case of Jesus, the Holy Spirit supernaturally intervened to bring one of Mary’s ovum to conception: a miracle of an utterly different and greater order.
If the previous supernatural births interrupted history, the virgin birth of Jesus transformed history.
In what way exactly?
The fact that Jesus bore Mary’s DNA teaches us that he is very much a part of the human race.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”
That is why Luke (ch. 3) traces the family tree of Jesus back to Adam, to show that he was fully a part of the human race and fully everything that a human being is.
But the fact that the other half of Jesus’ genetic material was created ex nihilo by the Holy Spirit shows that there was also a fundamental break between Jesus and humanity.
It shows that Jesus was the only human being born without sin: the sinful nature and bias that every other human being has inherited from our common father Adam.
“Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin”
The virgin birth thus communicated both Jesus’ humanity and Jesus’ sinlessness. And it was essential that Jesus be both human and sinless in order that he could die for our sins.
For indeed we must never forget among the touching nativity scenes that Jesus was born to die.
“For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”
That was the significance of the magi’s gift of myrrh. Myrrh, an extremely pungent and valuable aromatic resin, only had one main use in the ancient world and that was to embalm corpses. The baby Jesus was presented with myrrh because the baby Jesus had come to die.
To die as a ransom for our sins, Jesus had to be fully human, for only a human being could die in the place of other human beings. And to be a ransom for our sins, Jesus had to be sinless, for only a perfect and sinless person could die as a substitutionary sacrifice, to be punished in the place of others for their sins (a sinful person could only ever hope to pay for their own sin).
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”
1 PetER 1:18-19
The virgin birth of Jesus has always been attacked with a cloud of suspicion, innuendo, or blatant scoffing and disbelief.
Even during Jesus’ earthly ministry the circumstances of his birth were questioned. When the Pharisees asked “Where is your father?” (John 8:19) they were openly questioning the legitimacy of Jesus’ birth.
In the early third century A.D. an arch-sceptic named Celsus spread the story that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary and a Roman soldier named Panthera. In more recent times, Vexen Crabtree wrote in The Gospel of Matthew, the Fraud! that “Matthew, writing for a Roman gentile audience in Greek, included popular myths surrounding sons of gods, who in Roman mythology were frequently said to be born of virgins. It is clear that Matthew’s prophecy of a virgin birth was a mistake.”Vexen Crabtree, “The Gospel of Matthew, the Fraud!” 1999 – http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/christianity_birthnarrative.html Likewise Richard Dawkins, Celsus’s modern day counterpart, dabbles in a little amateur Bible scholarship and blithely and naively dismisses Matthew’s account of the virgin birth as a misunderstanding and mistranslation of the Greek Old Testament.
We can rest assured, however, that Matthew and Luke’s account of the Virgin Birth, having come under the blowtorch of intense and hostile scrutiny for 2,000 years, has stood absolutely firm and secure. There is no reasonable explanation for why we have the records of Jesus’ virgin birth other than this: the fact that he was really and truly born of a virgin.
The virgin birth has and always will be attacked. For the virgin birth, as we have shown, testifies to Jesus’ history-changing mission, his full deity, his full humanity, and his perfect qualification to be the one who could die as a sacrifice in our place, to ransom us from our sins. The devil would rather that we didn’t know these things.
Having defended the Virgin Birth, may God’s people believe it, trust in it, rest in it, and enjoy it!
Christ by highest heaven adored; Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King!
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Vexen Crabtree, “The Gospel of Matthew, the Fraud!” 1999 – http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/christianity_birthnarrative.html|