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The paradox surrounding Jesus’ birth
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1Tim.3:16)
The virgin birth of Jesus by Mary was surrounded by a lot of paradoxical events. The word “paradox” is a word of Greek origin meaning “contrary to expectation”, “strange”, “incredible”, “a tenet or proposition seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet perhaps true in fact.” A statement apparently self-contradictory (for example, “the virgin will bear a child” etc.) is revealed only by careful scrutiny. The paradox arrests attention and provokes fresh reflection.
Where is the paradox to be found? In the things and events that surrounded the birth of Jesus or in the birth of Jesus itself, because the most paradoxical thing in the whole world is THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS! It is, at the same time, a mystery! “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory”. They are paradoxes for us, human beings, because they do not belong to the realm of the natural things but to the realm of the supernatural. Supernatural things are, however, so natural for God’s power and interventions… “Look among the nations and watch––Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you” (Hab.1:5).
THE BIBLE RECORD
Let me read some of the relevant verses:
- From the Gospel of Matthew: “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 her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, «Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. «And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: «Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, «God with us.”” (Mt.1:18-23 NKJV).
- From the Gospel of Luke: “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary… Then the angel said to her, «Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. «And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. «He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. «And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, «How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, «The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Lu.1:26-35 NKJV).
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT
We have here a simple, direct and unmistakable record of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ our Lord. A record in language so simple and style so direct that we must either accept it as the truth or throw the entire Bible away! If this record is not true, then it is necessarily false and the writers Luke and Matthew were either grossly and tragically deceived or deliberately and viciously dishonest. What happened was strange and contrary to all expectations. Incredible but true!
Jesus’ virgin birth and His resurrection are the most unnatural and strange events! They constitute, however, the Fundamental Doctrines as well as the Cornerstones of Redemption (2Tim.2:8). He who does not believe in Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit and His resurrection from the dead has no real faith. Real faith depends on accepting by faith these two supernatural events, these two miracles! This doctrine is so fundamental, indispensable and important that every other truth in the Bible stands or falls with it. Then, if it were not true, the Bible would contain false accounts and the doctrine of the infallible inspiration and prophecy of the Bible would break down completely!!!
If Jesus were not virgin-born, how then could we accept His deity, how could we explain his miracles and teachings, how could we believe in his atoning, substitutionary death, His bodily resurrection and His personal coming again? If the virgin birth is not true, then we reduce Jesus to a mere man, an illegitimate son of an unfortunate, unmarried maiden; making Mary, His mother, a harlot, and a liar because she confessed that she did not know a man; Joseph an adulterer; and Jesus a natural son. It is either all true or it must be, of necessity, all false! In other words: EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS BY THE VIRGIN.
Concerning Jesus, the Bible says: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal.4:4-5). And elsewhere it says: “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me……… Then I said, Behold, I have come––In the volume of the book it is written of Me––To do Your will, O God” (Heb.10:5-7). In these last verses, we can see two important truths: First, incarnation: a body was prepared for Jesus, which means that the “incarnation” was a new form of existence – not a new existence (Php.2:6-8), because as it is written, “In the beginning was the Word (timeless existence), and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (Joh.1:1-3). And second, sacrifice: «Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll–I have come to do your will, O God». God became flesh, “Immanuel” – “God with us”. The Eternal entered the temporal; the Son of God became the Son of Man; truly God and truly man. By a miracle of the Holy Spirit, through the Virgin Mary, a body was prepared in order that a sacrifice may be offered.
A man of God wrote: “John the Baptizer heralded it when he pointed Jesus out in the crowd, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Hear the angelic host: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Shepherds believed and came to see. Magi believed and came to worship. Anna and Simeon believed and rejoiced. To hold the notion, “I will not believe what I cannot explain,” is to miss all this. Let human reason give way to divine revelation. “Whoever comes to God must believe that he is …” (Heb.11:6). The confession is, “Lord, I believe” (Mrk.9:24). The petition may be, “Lord, help my unbelief” (Mrk.9:24).
Dear friend, do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus has not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, to seek and to save that which was lost?
THE FATE OF UNBELIEVERS
Unfortunately, there are many who do not believe these simple truths. They do not believe these simple truths because a great number of them love sin and darkness. Satan hates this truth and does all he can to cause people to doubt it. Unbelief results in blindness concerning the truth. That is why Paul wrote that “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2Cor.4:3-4). Jesus said: “… Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Joh.3:3). Yes, man cannot see unless he believes and cannot be saved unless he believes. God’s order is: first, believe and then understand or see! Those who reject the miraculous reject God’s omnipotence! (Ac.26:8)
God wants to do good to unbelievers, He wants to save them, but He cannot unless they conform to His slightest requirement: Believe that He loves them and He wants to save them and that for their salvation, He has sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to pay the debt of their sin and redeem them from the sin’s slavery and from Hell and give them eternal life! This truth is expressed in the following NT terms: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Rom.6:23 and Eph.2:8) Yes, as many as receive him, to them He gives power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on his name (Joh.1:11-12).
PARADOX UPON PARADOX
Let us enumerate and comment briefly on some of the most important elements of the subject under discussion:
- The virgin birth of Jesus was accomplished according to a prophetic utterance some 750 years before by the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa.7:14), which is translated “God with us”! Among us! Is it not a paradox?
- And what should we say about the prophecy of Micah, who spoke about Bethlehem, where Jesus would be born: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Mic.5:2);
- And what should we say about the prophecy of the time of His birth in “troublous times” foretold by Daniel (9:25), whose description we have in Luke (2:1-2), that is, during the occupation of Palestine by the Romans and the Roman census while Quirinius was governing Syria (Lu.2:2)? Was the date of Jesus’ birth a simple coincidence?
- The Bible says that angels intervened, spreading the news first to the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. The angel said to them, “… ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. ‘For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Lu.2:10-12). What a wonderful link with the following verses: “A Child whose name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…” (Isa.9:6-7)
- Was it not a strange thing that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to flee to Egypt because Herod was seeking the young Child to destroy Him, something that was foretold by Hosea, the prophet (11:1), and described by Matthew (2:14)?
- Was it not a paradox that after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, wise men (Magi) from the East came to Jerusalem, looking for the future King of the Jews? How did they know that the star they had seen in the East was HIS star? Was it not a strange thing that the star that they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was? Was it not a strange thing that those pagan wise men rejoiced with exceedingly great joy, fell down, worshipped Him and offered Him gold, frankincense and myrrh, expressing in that way their “conviction” that they considered Him as the future King, Prophet and Priest of the world? Was it not a strange thing that they were divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod?
- And what should we say about the massacre of infants prophesied by Jeremiah (31:15) and described by Matthew (2:16-18)? Was it not a strange thing that Herod sent forth soldiers and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem, from two years old and under, according to Jeremiah’s prophecy? Incredible but true!
- Was it not a strange thing that an angel of the Lord appeared later in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead”? (Mt.2:20)?
- What should we say about the word of the angel to the old man Zachariah that his old, too old wife Elizabeth, would bear him a son and that he should call him John (Lu.1:13), that he could not speak until the day of John’s birth and according to what the angel had promised him?
- Was it not a strange thing, a paradox, that when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was JESUS, which means the Savior, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb?
- Was it not a paradox that when Jesus’ parents brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to God, there was led by the Holy Spirit that, at that very instant, Simeon, a just and devout man, to whom it had been revealed that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ? Was it a coincidence that he took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation…”? Or was it a coincidence that Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed”? What astonishment for Joseph and Mary! (Lu.2:30-36)
- Was it not a strange thing, a paradox, the fact that Anna, the old prophetess who came the very moment Jesus was presented in the temple gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Jesus to all those who looked for redemption? (Lu.2:36-38).
- And a lot of other paradoxes that cannot even be mentioned in this message… Who could conceive and realize all these paradoxes when Jesus came to earth, but also during His life?
Only men of bad will and erring spirit can deny such divine truths!!! Apart from these events, which relate directly to His birth, Jesus’ whole life was a paradox! What should I mention first and what should I mention last? His ministry or His miracles and His teaching? Who has ever spoken like Him with authority, and not as the Scribes? Who has ever foretold the future of this world and the things that happen today before our eyes? Who has ever taught: “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Lu.6:27-31 and Mt.5:44). All His life, His thoughts, His words and His acts were a pure and simple paradox: a very strange life, compared with human standards!
How can the human mind explain the greatest paradox / mystery of all the ages expressed by Paul in the following way? “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh…” (1Tim.3:16). Also that Christ Jesus, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross…” (Php.2:6-10). God’s only begotten Son accepted to leave His Glory in heaven in order to become a man, to live like a common man, to be tested and tempted, to be afflicted and finally be put to death because only His death could satisfy the divine justice and set us free from all punishment: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another……… And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1Joh.4:9-14 AV).
THE NECESSITY OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS
Through the virgin birth of Jesus from Virgin Mary, Jesus became the Savior of all. By His legal sonship in Joseph, His legal foster father, He could also be the King of Israel. This is also the reason why the Bible has guarded carefully the phraseology that it was not Joseph that begat Jesus, but that Joseph was simply “the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus” (Mt.1:16). Joseph, that pious man, was “introduced” by God into the life of the Lord Jesus for the one purpose of giving Him the right to claim the Throne of David as written in the Gospel of Luke (1:32-33). The last time Joseph is mentioned is when Jesus was twelve years old while his mother Mary is mentioned again and again. As regards His mother, Mary, we see Jesus speaking to her in a way which severs gradually every natural tie to the end of accomplishing His purpose: Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (Joh.2:4). On another occasion, Jesus said: “… Who is My mother and who are My brothers? And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother’” (Mt.12:48-50 and Mr.3:33-35). And elsewhere, when He was hanging on the cross, Jesus said to His mother! “… Woman, behold your son! Then He said to the disciple that He loved, ‘Behold your mother…’” (Joh.19:26-27).
God has worked out that paradox right from the dawn of history. God’s plan was to exclude man’s seed because in it there is the power of sin. In providing this Redeemer, one of the steps was the virgin birth of this Savior. When the time came for the Redeemer to come, God began a series of marvelous divine actions, beginning with the supernatural conception and the virgin birth, climaxing in the resurrection of this Savior, the Son of God, His ascension and His return to His throne near His Father in Glory. The mere fact that the element of sin was not within Jesus, Jesus was not one like us. Because of this the Holy Spirit was given to Him without measure! He could declare e.g.: “… he that believes on Me has everlasting life” or “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47). Mere men, can they save? Chapters 14, 16 and 18 of John’s Gospel constitute another proof of His nature and of His mission!
THE BLOOD OF JESUS
When Adam sinned, the entire human race “fell” in him. Adam’s sin is transmitted to all his descendants, such that every child born since then, with Adam’s blood, is born a ‘sinner’, under condemnation, and in need of a Savior. The Savior, therefore, must share Adam’s flesh and his humanity, but not Adam’s sin. And that made necessary the Savior’s virgin birth. Sinless blood must be provided to overcome the sinful blood of Adam in all our veins. Salvation cannot be accomplished, but by the provision of sinless blood to counteract the sinful blood of Adam. This was made possible by the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit assumed the role of the father. The Bible teaches us that Jesus was this sinless man. His sinlessness was also the reason for His resurrection.
Only as we realize this, can we understand the amazing prominence given to the blood throughout the Scriptures. From the first book in the Bible to the last, blood courses through every book and/or page. The blood of Christ is so frequently mentioned and so many things are said about it; the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was and still is the only way of our salvation.
We are told in the book of Revelation, that ultimately we shall overcome Satan, our accuser, “… by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony and because we did not love our lives to the death” (Re.12:10-11).
What a wonderful plan of redemption! Surely, there can be no excuse for any man for his unbelief and his unwillingness if he refuses to be saved freely by God’s grace! “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” says the Holy Spirit (Eph.2:8). His birth calls for our spiritual regeneration to live a new life in close relation with and in dependence upon Him. That was the meaning of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus: “… I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Joh.3:3). Jesus is the most paradoxical gift of Heaven to Earth! Jesus Christ is not the «little Jesus» we celebrate during the Christmas season! God has created everything that exists through His Son Jesus Christ and has also explained to us the reason of His coming:
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Joh.3:16),
- “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (Joh.5:24)
- “… If anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (Joh.12:47)
- “… I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Joh.14:6).
IT IS YOUR TURN NOW
Henceforth, the responsibility becomes ours because Jesus is the only means for our propitiation, as it is written: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Ac.4:12). It is Jesus Christ who saves freely all those who call upon Him in truth and sincerity. This can be seen in the case of one of the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus: “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong” (Lu.23:41). He was saved just because he repented in sincerity and called upon the name of the Lord! In that way, Joel’s prophecy about the way of salvation was accomplished, for “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom.10:13). What a comforting and encouraging word: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Joh.6:37-40). The criminal who called on the name of the Lord was saved!
What is our responsibility towards that paradoxical gift? The answer is simple and His invitation is simple! “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt.11:28-30). Let us respond, therefore, to Him by obeying the greatest command: Love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength and love our neighbor as ourself (Mrk.12:30-31).
What is your response to Him Who is the light of the world? Will you follow Him? (Joh.8:12). What is your response to Him who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all and who is ready, along with Him, to give to all, to you also, graciously all things (Rom.3:32)? What is your response to Him who gave you His unspeakable gift (2Cor.9:15)? Have you ever understood that it was for you that the Savior was born, that He was sent to become your Savior? He was born for you, He died for you and He arose victorious from the tomb for you! What is your personal response to God’s gift to you?
All of us, however, who are saved, are… looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Tit.2:13). We have turned our eyes and our hearts toward Jesus our High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses, because He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. We go boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb.4:15-16). When in need, in whatever need, we take refuge in God who supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Php.4:19). And not only that, but … now, for the time being, we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1Joh.3:2-3). Amen!