Jesus of Nazareth was the pivotal person of history. Time, in the Western world, is calculated
from His existence. He influenced history more than any other individual who has ever lived.
Buddha, Confucius, Muhammed, and others influenced portions of the world; but, Jesus
influenced the entire world. The story of His life has inspired books, plays, movies, poems,
songs, symphonies, operas, and most importantly, the lives of countless millions. Although
His teachings have been corrupted and twisted to do harm, the advancement of civilization –
the progress of charity – the promotion of freedom and liberty – the uplifting of the standard
of living – the propagation of peace, these are the true heritage of His life for the world.
However, for the believer – the disciple – the Christian, there is a greater heritage: one of
mercy, one of grace, one of hope, one of faith, one of forgiveness. For to the believer, Jesus
was more than a great historical figure; He was the only-begotten Son of God – the Christ –
the Messiah – the Savior of the world. He was the One who fulfilled Moses and the Prophets.
It is He that became the sacrifice for sin. His death was more than that of a martyr for a
cause; it was the gift of God that brought the reality of the forgiveness of sins for those who
would truly believe.
Unlike other world religions, the reality and authenticity of Jesus, the historical facts of His
life, are the foundation of what is believed. If His life were different, He could not and would
not be Who He claimed. Therefore, nothing is more important than examining His life. It tells
the story. It is the gospel, the good news of salvation come to this world.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in
this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;
and that believing ye might have life through his name. [JOHN 20:30-31 KJV]
NOW THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST WAS ON THIS WISE: [MATTHEW 1:18, KJV]
The birth of Jesus is discussed very briefly in the Gospel of Matthew, and in more detail in the
Gospel of Luke. [LUKE 1:26-51 KJV]
Luke begins his Gospel with the birth of John, the cousin of Jesus, who would announce Him
and prepare His way. The angel Gabriel had come to Elizabeth and Zacharias telling them of
John’s birth. Now He appears to Mary, to speak to her about the birth of Jesus.
Mary was living in Nazareth in Galilee at this time. Mary at this time was a virgin. She was
engaged, a more formal commitment than even now, to a man named Joseph, who was
descended from King David of Israel.
How old she was, we do not know. Some suggest that she may have been a teenager, since it
was not uncommon to marry early at that time.
When the angel came to Mary, he used a greeting that confused her and caused her to
wonder what he was talking about. She did not understand why he would address her as he
did, and it troubled her.
The angel said, “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee.”
God would bless her; but, she had no idea how or when. Why would this man say this?
Then the angel explains himself. Calling her by name, he tells her not to be afraid. He had
news of how God would bless her, but not only her – He would bless through her the nation of
Israel, and the entire world. She would conceive and give birth to a son, whom she was to call
Jesus – in Hebrew the name meant Savior or salvation of Jehovah, and has been variously
translated as Joshua, Jeshua or Hoshea [Numbers 13:8; Zechariah 3:14].
This son would not be a commoner in Israel. He would be someone great. He would be “the
Son of the Most High.” He would not be the son of a carpenter, but the Son of God. He would
be given “the throne of his father David,” power and authority over the nation of Israel,
“forever.” The kingdom over which He would rule would have “no end.” Unlike the kingdom of
Israel (the rule of her kings) which had come to an inglorious end, His kingdom would not be
run over by foreigners (like the Romans who occupied the land at that time, or the Assyrians
or the Babylonians who had overrun Israel and Judah in the past).
Imagine the surprise which overtook Mary as the angel revealed the future of a child she had
not yet conceived, and the nation which she so dearly loved. Zacharias had asked for a sign
in unbelief when the angel declared the birth of his son, John. Mary, whose announcement by
the angel was every bit as seemingly impossible, did not respond in kind. Mary was
confused, and did not understand how this could happen. She knew how babies came to be,
that was not the question. The question was, how this could happen “seeing I know not a
man?” How can a woman become pregnant, and give birth to a child without having sexual
relations with a man? She was a virgin. She had never been with a man. How could she
conceive and give birth to a son? Let alone one who would be so great.
The angel answered her inquiry. The power of God would accomplish the feat. The Holy Spirit
would “overshadow” her so that she would conceive. This is not the union of flesh and blood,
but the miraculous intervention of the God of heaven.
[Nothing is more corrupt than the idea that God would have sexual relations with a woman,
the teaching of Mormonism notwithstanding.]
It is spirit that would give birth to this baby, not flesh. That is why “the holy thing which is
begotten shall be called the Son of God.” He would not be a son of God; He would not be the
adopted Son of God; He would be the Son of God, “the only begotten of the Father, full of
grace and truth.” (John 1:14 KJV) As J.W. McGarvey notes, “because of the eternal,
immutable and unparalled relationship which he sustains to the Father – John i.1, 14.” [THE
FOURFOLD GOSPEL, p. 16]
The angel tells Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth is six months pregnant, although they thought
she would be barren. This was in essence a sign to Mary that what the angel said was true,
though it seemed impossible. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” [See Genesis 18:
14; Isaiah 55:11; Jeremiah 32:17; Zechariah 8:6; Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27;
Mary’s answer is one of humility and obedience, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto
me according to thy word.” She believes and accepts what the angel has told her. It is the
resignation of faith, accepting the blessing of God.
Mary went to the house of Zecharias soon after the appearance of the angel to her
announcing the child she would bear. When Elizabeth hears the greeting of Mary, the baby
that was within her womb leaped for joy, and she “was filled with the Holy Ghost.” She then
praises Mary as the one blessed among women, because of the “fruit” of her womb.
Elizabeth recognizes, by the Holy Spirit, that Mary is “the mother of my Lord.” Without the
declaration of Mary detailing the message of the angel, Elizabeth knows who Mary is to give
birth to and why. Even the child in her womb recognized the joy of the news that salvation in
Jesus is to come to the world.
It is Mary’s faith that brings her a blessing. She has believed the declaration of the angel. It is
reiterated to her that everything she has been told will come to pass.
Mary’s response to Elizabeth was one of faith and humility. An insight into the character of
this young woman who was to play a pivotal role in the salvation of mankind is seen. It is not
the proud. It is not the rich. It is not the self-righteous. It is through the humble that Jesus is to
come into the world. Mary praises God, and finds joy in the news she has been selected to
give birth to the Savior. She realizes that out of all the women in the world that God could
have selected, He selected her. She realizes that she is but a “handmaiden,” one of lowly
birth who has been greatly exalted by the promise of God. All nations from that time on would
called Mary blessed. She realizes the position this places her in history, and thanks God.
“Holy is His name” comes from her lips. God’s mercy has not only been upon her, but upon
people “from generation to generation,” throughout history. Everything she says gives all the
credit, and all the glory to God. It is His mighty arm, His power that will bring this to be. It was
not unto the proud, but to the humble He has granted this great mercy; thus, putting the proud
in their place.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to
Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph
her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to
put her away privily.
[MATTHEW 1:18-25 KJV]
When it was determined and discovered that Mary was pregnant, Joseph was meditating
upon what to do. Being a merciful man, he did not wish to make a public example of Mary and
have her stoned to death. He was thinking about putting her away privately, which would
spare her, and spare her family the public humiliation that having a daughter executed would
Espousal was as binding as marriage. If a husband found that his wife was not a virgin, he
could treat her as having committed adultery. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)
But while he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The
angel told him not to worry about taking Mary to be his wife, because that which is conceived
in her is of the Holy Ghost. Joseph is told what Mary had been told earlier. There is no record
of Joseph balking at the words of the angel. He was a just man. He was a righteous man. He
was a man of faith.
This child that Mary was carrying was to be a boy. His name, as the angel had told Mary
earlier, was to be Jesus (meaning Jehovah is savior) because he would save his people from
their sins. This boy child would be special for more than one reason. He was to be born of a
virgin, having no earthly father; but, more importantly He had a mission that He was to
accomplish for His heavenly Father. He was to save His people from their sins. He was to be
the Savior, the Christ, the Messiah.
Now all this was prophesied hundreds of years earlier by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:10-16).
Ahaz was told that Assyrian would not overrun Judah by Isaiah. When Isaiah then offered him
a sign (a miracle which would prove that the word that he spoke was from the Lord), Ahaz
refused. Ahaz was not a good king. It was not for his sake that Judah was not taken into
captivity. His refusal of a sign was thus aggravating. The Lord then would give a sign (a
miracle) that would come about after the Promised Land would be “forsaken of both her
kings” – the virgin birth of a son, who would be known as Immanuel, or God with us.
The Hebrew word, almah, which the King James Version translates “virgin,” is mistranslated
by the original Revised Standard Version, and has been questioned by some (unbelievers in
particular) as to whether it means “virgin” or just a “young woman.” Without getting into a
complicated linguistic discussion, if the verses in the Old Testament which use the same
word are looked at, it means “virgin.” But, for the believer the question is answered by the
quotation here in Matthew, because under inspiration of the Holy Spirit the evangelist uses a
Greek word which beyond a shadow of a doubt means virgin.
To simplify the discussion for those who do not know Hebrew or Greek (and don’t care about
either), the context shows that it must mean “virgin.” The birth is to be a sign, a wonder, a
miracle. What is there about a “young woman” conceiving, or giving birth that is miraculous?
Is it not the normal course of things for young women to do that very thing? To be a sign, or
miraculous, it would have to be something which is out of the ordinary. Nothing would fit that
description better, or more fully, than a “virgin” conceiving and giving birth.
This was the first of many prophesies that Jesus would fulfill.
Therefore, Joseph, when he awoke, did as the angel said, and married Mary.
Notice, Mary was a virgin until after the birth of Jesus. Joseph and Mary had sexual relations
after Jesus was born.
The Birth (I)