"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Matthew 1:23
What a remarkable thing, a virgin shall give birth to a son! The promised event had been long anticipated. The prophet Isaiah had declared that day was coming and now Matthew writes it has come.
This 23rd verse of Matthew chapter one begins with the word "Behold." It indicates that something special, something wonderful is to be announced. And indeed it was something wonderful. God was coming to the earth. God was becoming a man. The God-man was coming to redeem fallen sinners. And He would be born to a virgin.
The Virgin Birth Is Vital
The importance of the virgin birth cannot be overemphasized. A growing number of professed Christians deny this vital doctrine, but we are repeatedly reminded in the Scriptures of its importance.
When the Apostle Paul writes of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world he says, "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Galatians 4:4-5 There is no mention of a human father but rather of God sending His Son. He was born of a woman because He was human but not of an earthly father.
The virgin birth was even strongly intimated in the opening chapters of the Bible, when God declares to the serpent, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15 The devil-defeating, head-crushing Messiah is specifically prophesied to be the seed, or offspring, of the woman.
In the midst of the Messianic prophecies of Jeremiah 31, we are told, "The LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man." v22 This birth was to be a new thing, a new creation, something never before seen on earth.
Of course, Isaiah had specifically foretold the virgin birth, as Matthew reminds us. And, interestingly, in the very language of the prophecy is the reminder that this miraculous birth would be "a sign," a billboard advertising God's breaking into the world to be with us in a whole new and special and intimate way: "the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Matthew 7:14
Look for the sign of the virgin birth, Isaiah declares, because it will be heralding the fact that God has come to be with us in a new and special way.
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias recounts:
"Larry King, the CNN talk show host, was once asked who he would most want to interview if he could choose anyone from all of history. He said, 'Jesus Christ.' The questioner said, 'And what would you like to ask Him?' King replied, "I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me'."
Ravi Zacharias comments: "He...was right. You see, both individual life and history must have a transcendent perspective if they are to be rightly interpreted. The birth and the resurrection of Jesus Christ give us just that."
The transcendent nature of Jesus' birth is a primary indicator of the transcendent nature of His character and calling. For a man to be suddenly and inexplicably born to a virgin means God must be involved. And for God to be involved, means something supernatural and purposeful is taking place. Of course, the rest of the New Testament unfolds what that purpose is.
God Is With Us
What questions must have raced through people's minds as this prophecy was considered. When the angel brought the news to Mary, who was the chosen virgin, she at first was troubled. Her husband Joseph was initially puzzled and somewhat dismayed by the event. But it really was happening. The angel told Mary the Holy Ghost would come upon her and the power of the Highest would overshadow her and "that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
Think of it! Not only is this event amazing because a virgin is giving birth to a Son but His name is Emmanuel, which means God with us. Many of us have heard this story from earliest childhood. We rejoice to read the details as spelled out in the biblical account and we embrace without reservation the doctrine of the virgin birth. But when we focus on what it meant for God to become a man we soon realize our inability to fully grasp it.
The God-man, Jesus Christ, came to live on this earth. He was the creator of the world and then He came here and walked on the world He made. He was God but He also was a real man. He worked and He rested. He interacted with family, friends and enemies. He spoke firm words of rebuke and also gracious words of forgiveness. In fact it was said that no man ever spoke like this man. The importance of Jesus' humanity is put into no uncertain terms by the apostle John:
"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." 1 John 4:2-3
He was a man but He was also God. He fed multitudes, He calmed the raging sea. He healed, and He even raised the dead. He died but death could not conqueror Him - He rose from the dead as the mighty victor.
He Is Not Just A Good Man
Many will acknowledge that He was a great teacher and a good example but deny His deity. However, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ points to His divine origin and nature. And, of course, if He had not been God it would have been impossible for Him to put away sin and gain victory over death.
Not long ago I spoke with a Muslim who was very willing to say some good things about Jesus. He said He was a great prophet, and an outstanding man but He was not divine. In fact, although this man was very well-acquainted with the New Testament, he denied that Jesus even claimed to be God. But it is evident that the Jews clearly understood His claim: "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God." John 5:18)
It is difficult to understand how some will say Jesus was a great teacher and then deny what He taught. If Jesus was not God then He was a deceiver and He certainly was not a good example. The very foundation of Christianity crumbles if the virgin birth is not a fact. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the gospel message.
The good news is not a call for self improvement by following the instructions of a great teacher, but a message of hope that the Savior Who was both God and man accomplished something by His substitutionary death that no mortal man could ever have accomplished.
When the truth of His deity and His perfect humanity is embraced, it brings hope and comfort to the one who knows him or her self to be a sinner.
Till God in human flesh I see, My thoughts no comfort find; The holy, just, and sacred Three Are terrors to my mind.
But if Emmanuel's face appears, My hope, my joy begins; His grace removes my slavish fears, His blood removes my sins.Let us rejoice that a virgin did bring forth a Son. His name is Emmanuel because He is "God with us." His name is Christ because He is the anointed one. His name is Jesus because He came to save His people from their sins. He that believes in Him has everlasting life (John 6:47).