The Gospels teach that Jesus of Nazareth had no ordinary life. And it started right from the point of his conception.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18, NLT
Now from our vantage point in the 21st Century, virgin births are no big deal. You don’t necessarily need a man…or a woman involved for conception to take place today! But we are talking the ancients here. We are referring to Jewish people who lived two thousand years ago without the benefits of modern medicine.
The Bible claims that God caused Mary to conceive for a purpose and a plan. And we can see the aftermath of that event in the people who dealt with it.
Jesus’ Home Town:
When Jesus began his public life, people that he had grown up with in his hometown were offended by him when he began teaching in the synagogue.
“He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Mark 6:3, NLT
It’s hard to impress the people who have known us all our lives, I guess. Particularly in Jesus case – his teaching was revolutionary and it challenged the religious establishment. But all the hometown people saw when they looked at him, was the kid who they watch grow up with his brothers and his sisters.
They also saw something else. They called him “the Son of Mary.” This seems reasonable, given that Mary was his mother. Yet in a culture where children were named after their fathers, this would have been a real insult. But it points to the general sense of suspicion and doubt around his paternity…who was Jesus’ father?
On another occasion, Jesus was having a debate with the religious leaders around who they were following, what their spiritual heritage really was. And in the midst of this debate, they threw out the very personal and insulting barb at him,
“We aren’t illegitimate children!” John 8:41, NLT
Scandal gets around fast, right? Both of these barbed statements suggest that it was common knowledge that Jesus had been conceived before Mary and Joseph married.
We’ve also got to ask the question – why did Mary suggest such an outlandish explanation for her pregnancy? She stuck to her guns, as it were. She had not had sex with a man yet. All the same – she was pregnant.
“But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:34, NLT.
If we put ourselves in Mary’s sandals, it would have been so much easier to choose a different story. Right? It would have been better to have concocted some sort of story that made her look innocent. Illegitimate children were frowned upon in her society, this situation stigmatized her. She could have eased the pressure she was feeling by claiming that someone had raped her, for example. But instead – she went with the most unlikely of explanations. Why? Because she hadn’t been raped. And Joseph had not pressurized her into sex before marriage. Her story was true.
From Joseph’s perspective, he keenly felt the stigma that this situation would bring them as a family. This would have been one of the reasons why he found himself in this situation.
“Joseph, her fiance, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” Matthew 1:19, NLT
It would be better for them both if the marriage did not go ahead. Their reputations might somehow be salvaged. His future might be rescued! Yet Joseph went on to marry Mary. Why would he do that? Because he believed the report that God had given him. Mary was still a virgin who was bearing in her womb the Son of God conceived by the Holy Spirit.
We see the evidence pointing to the virgin birth in the pages of the New Testament. But it seems to me that – if God was able to create the Universe out of nothing – as Genesis teaches – then creating one miraculous baby is no great shakes, right? But why did he do it?
Whenever he causes something out of the ordinary to occur – he has a reason and a purpose behind it. The virgin birth had an ultimate and life changing purpose behind it for you…and for me.
I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel! Luke 2:31-32, NLT