Jesus, the Son of God

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Matthew 1:18-25

When Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, it was more than the start of an important life. It was the moment when God himself became a man.

Matthew begins his gospel, his account of the life and work of Jesus Christ, with a carefully detailed genealogy, the purpose of which is to demonstrate that Jesus was the Son of David and therefore Israel’s hoped-for Messiah. But David was not Jesus’ only father; there is, so to speak, another side to his family tree. The apostle Paul speaks of Jesus as one

who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. . . .

Romans 1:3-4, niv

So Jesus is “the Son” in a double sense. On a human level, he is the Son of the Jewish King David which made him Israel’s Messiah, the Christ. But Jesus was more than just a man, even a great man, more even than the Messiah. He is also the Son of God, which means he himself is God in a unique and absolute way. This truth was publicly and powerfully declared at the end of his earthly life when Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion. But it was also proclaimed by the way he entered the world, in the miraculous nature of his birth.

Here is the account of that birth from the gospel according to Matthew:

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, ‘God with us.’”

(Matthew 1:18-23)

CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY

Matthew starts in a very matter-of-fact fashion to tell about an event that is utterly astonishing. “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about,” he says, and then, without any further introduction or explanation, he says that Jesus had no human father. Mary was his mother, but she conceived and gave birth by the power of the Holy Spirit, entirely apart from any contact with a man.

This event, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, is presented in the Bible as a simple fact. This, to quote Matthew once more, is simply “how the birth of Jesus came about.” Though Mary and Joseph were pledged to be married, Mary was discovered to be pregnant “before they came together.” Later the point is repeated for emphasis: Joseph “had no union with” Mary until after she had given birth. And notice also Joseph’s very normal and understandable reaction to the news of his fianc?‘s condition. He knew he couldn’t be the father, so he drew the only possible conclusion a man could under the circumstances, and since he loved Mary and wasn’t vindictive, he resolved to divorce her quietly rather than to press for the full penalty of the Law against adultery. It took an angel’s statement to him in a dream to convince Joseph of the truth.

Skeptics sometimes say that the story of Jesus’ virgin birth was included in scripture because people back then had a primitive and scientifically ignorant world-view. They could believe in something like a virgin birth because they didn’t know how the world works, but we who live in a modern, scientific age are too intelligent and sophisticated to accept such myths. That’s how the logic goes. But it’s clear from the story that Joseph and Mary understood where babies come from. The virgin birth was just as great an impossibility, humanly speaking, to people in the first century as it is to people in the twentieth century. This is no myth made up by one or two of the apostles in order to lend a supernatural aura to Jesus, who then persuaded a gullible early church to accept their fantastic tale. No, this is how it actually happened. This is the historical record. It happened at a definite time and place. It happened to particular people, people with names and families – a carpenter named Joseph, a girl called Mary. It happened in a specific way. The girl became a mother; her baby was born with the same joy and the same pain of all the other billions of births that have happened since the world began. Yet the mother remained a virgin. That’s how it was.

GOD INCARNATE

But the virgin birth is more than a mere fact of history. We need to go beyond the fact that it happened to discern what this event means. The truth which this miracle directs us to is the truth of the Incarnation, literally the “enfleshment” of God. That’s the word Christians use to describe what happened. The virgin birth, we believe, is a sign, pointing to Christ’s unique nature. He is the God-Man, God incarnate, God made flesh, perfect humanity and perfect deity united in one single Person. The incarnation does not mean that in Christ God was pretending to be a man, or that he had merely the appearance of being human – that he was human on the outside but God on the inside. No, it means that in Christ God really and truly assumed our human nature, our flesh and blood, our body and soul.

As to the mechanics of the Incarnation, the “how” of it all, we are not told much. Matthew says simply that Mary “was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” This is holy ground, and it’s best that we tread lightly here. The mystery of the union of the divine and human natures in the one Person of Jesus Christ is something far beyond our full understanding. So biblical Christians will prefer to keep a reverent silence about the details. That it is a marvelous sign we unhesitatingly affirm. That it signifies the mystery that Jesus is God in the flesh we joyfully confess.

But what does it really mean to say that Jesus is the Son of God, or God incarnate, God-in the-flesh? What difference does that make to you and me as we go about our lives from day to day? It makes literally all the difference, both in this world and the world to come. One of my favorite Christmas songs is Charles Wesley’s “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” and this verse in particular:

Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see,

Hail th’ incarnate Deity –

Pleased as man with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Immanuel.

“Jesus, our Immanuel” – that says all we really need to know about him.

JESUS

The fact that Jesus is the Son of God means, more than anything else, that we have a Savior. Jesus did not come into our world first of all to teach us some spiritual truths, or to serve as the model of a moral life, or to show us what God is like, though he does all those things, and more. Jesus came first of all to be our Savior, to rescue us from sin, guilt, fear; from evil, hunger, sickness, poverty, weakness, and all the other disasters into which we stumble.

His very name proclaims this truth about him. “You are to give him the name Jesus,” the angel told Joseph, “because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning “The Lord saves.” His name describes the primary task he came to perform. Jesus is the Savior. That is why he came – not just to be an example, not to teach, not to show God’s love in merely a general way, not only to heal the sick or raise the dead, but to save. Of course he does all those other things too, but his central purpose for entering the world is to be Jesus, the Savior.

And what kind of Savior is he? His fellow countrymen were looking for a champion who would bring political deliverance from the domination of Rome. They wanted an earthly Messiah. But Mary’s Son is given the nameJesus because, in the words of the angel, “he will save his people from their sins.” He is a Lord whose kingdom is not of this world. He is not just another political revolutionary who will promise what he can’t or won’t deliver. The salvation he brings is real; it delivers first from sin and then from death, including the eternal death of hell to which our sins would otherwise condemn us. There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12). The ancient world was filled with the fear of death. Most people believed that heaven and earth were populated by a throng of demons and deities, a whole host of powerful spirits that barred the way to heaven. The only way to get past them was to learn their names and compile lists of passwords, and by this esoteric knowledge to gain the power to open the countless gates those spiritual forces guarded. Imagine how it must have come as good news to hear the announcement that there was only one name in all of heaven it was necessary to know. That really was gospel, good news!

But in our day, I think the challenge is different. It seems to me that most people today don’t believe there are many roadblocks on the way to heaven – they tend to think there aren’t any at all. The commonest belief in our society is that everybody will be saved by calling on any name they choose, or even without calling at all. We need to proclaim the truth today as never before that Jesus is the Savior, and the only Savior. We must call upon him if we would be saved, and we must call today, right now, while we can.

IMMANUEL

If Jesus is God in human flesh, that means one more thing. It means God is with us in a way far more profound than any of us can imagine. “All this,” writes Matthew, “took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:22-23). Jesus truly and fully is our Immanuel; he is “God with us.” “And the Word became flesh,” writes John, “and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the first-born of the Father” (John 1:14).

When you know Jesus Christ, what a difference it makes in your life! If you know him, then you know that God is with you in every situation, no matter how difficult, no matter how hopeless it may seem. He understands every problem and hurt you have, however painful. If God is truly with you, what else can matter? I was talking recently with a man who told me that in the Chinese province of Guangzhou the Christians, even though they are very poor and often harassed or even persecuted because they are followers of Jesus, nevertheless are full of joy. They have a special way of bearing a public witness to their faith. On the tiles above the doors of their houses they paint the word “Immanuel.” Why? Because they know that since Jesus came into their lives, God is with them.

Do you know if God is with you? You can be certain of that if you know Jesus, our Immanuel.