by Anthony L. Jordan
“The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” These were the words spoken by Isaiah 700 years before the angel appeared to Joseph and quoted these same words. Can you imagine the response of the people to whom Isaiah spoke these prophetic words regarding the coming Messiah? Let me use modern vernacular to give you their response, “NO WAY!”
I suspect that Joseph felt the same way when the angel announced that the problem pregnancy of Mary was not a problem, but the plan of God. Mary, a virgin, had conceived by the Holy Spirit and the child was Immanuel of Isaiah’s long ago prophecy.
To think on this biblical truth is to seek to mine the depths of the infinite. The more I ponder the truth, the more I am driven by faith to accept it. In fact, one could say there is no earthly way this can happen. To say so would be to speak truth—there is no earthly way. This is the act of the Almighty who is not restrained by human or earthly boundaries. A virgin-born son is impossible except to a God of the impossible.
But what difference does it make? Do you need a virgin birth in order to have a divine Savior? A simple answer is “Yes,” because it was the plan of the eternal God to secure the salvation of sinful man. But perhaps we should go a bit deeper.
The virgin birth of Jesus is essential to the salvation event. Jesus is not just a human who became good enough to become a Savior. His birth defied all human expectation. God incarnate? No one, religious or profane, would expect Holy God to come down on the level of sinful man and become human flesh like man. Even though the Jews had the Holy Writings filled with prophecy like the one of Isaiah, there was little expectation for this God-man.
It is important to note that Jesus was not like man or like God. He was fully man and fully God. By virgin birth, He was fully man, and by Holy Spirit conception, He was fully God. As the New Testament unfolds, this mystery becomes abundantly clear. He was a man who demonstrated a sinless life. Tempted and tried in the same manner as each of us, yet without sin. He was the spotless and unblemished Lamb of God. He who knew no sin became sin for us. The Prince of Peace becomes the instrument by which peace is purchased.
Our purpose in this Insight has been to lift us from the sentimentality of Christmas to the eternal and deep truths through the humble manger of Bethlehem. I fear we are often lazy and settle for warm feelings rather than wrestle with the deep theological truths revealed in the events surrounding the virgin birth of Jesus. We pass by these truths like a child holding a diamond in his hand only to throw it down when he sees a candy cane.
Luke tells us that after the visit of the shepherds, Mary was “treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” This young virgin had given birth to Immanuel, and had much to ponder. It would do us well to follow her lead and meditate on these truths. Rather than allowing this season to pass with a tip of the hat to the deep truths of the incarnation, I challenge you to drink deeply at the well of the articles herein and meditate on the Scripture passages that tell this awesome story of God’s great love.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.