One of the biggest debates surrounding Jesus’ ministry was: Whose son is He? One lie the Jewish rulers disseminated about Him, in order to destroy His reputation, was that He was the son of a Roman soldier who passed through the town of Nazareth and had an affair with Mary. In other words, He was illegitimate. You can hear this in-between the lines of John 8:41 where the religious rulers say to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.” John uses the emphatic pronoun “we” to emphasize their feelings of superiority towards Him. Whereas His birth was illegitimate, theirs was pure. They were true sons of Abraham and therefore God.
Even more common was the assumption that Jesus was the son of a carpenter named Joseph. “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?” (Matthew 13:55) This too was said to undermine His credibility, emphasizing His lack of religious training and any legal claim to the Jewish throne. But these slurs run contrary to what the Bible says about Jesus. No less than the Angel Gabriel himself, who stands in the presence of God, made it clear to Joseph and Mary prior to Jesus’ birth, that He would have no biological father, that Mary’s Child would be conceived by the Holy Spirit. “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.” (Luke 1:35)
But you say, “Why does any of this matter?” It matters because this is the second reason it is critical for you to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus. For the Virgin Birth not only fulfills prophecy, proving that Jesus is the One and Only Savior of the world. It also proves that Jesus is the Son of God, co-equal with God the Father in every aspect of His Deity.
To the Western mind, the word “son” doesn’t carry the significance it did for the Jews. To the Jews, a son was not inferior to his father, but his equal and one who shared his very nature. So, on the positive side, when Jesus said He was the Son of God, He was claiming to be God’s equal and to share His eternal essence. The same thing was true on the negative side. When Jesus said to His enemies, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do,” He was attributing to them the characteristics of Satan – “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)
The Jews also used the word “son” in a metaphorical sense at times, to describe the character of the person in question. Jesus, for example, called his disciples, James and John, “Boanerges,” which translated means “sons of thunder,” because of their fiery tempers. Joses, another early disciple was nicknamed “Barnabas,” meaning “son of encouragement,” because that was the outstanding aspect of his personality. (Acts 4:36) He was an encourager.
It’s very telling, then, that whenever Jesus referred to His father, He never mentioned Joseph. He always referred to God as His father. In the Gospel of John alone, He called God His Father more than 40 times (e.g., John 2:16; 5:17; 5:43; 6:65; 8:18; 10:30; 12:26). And the Jews knew exactly what He meant when He did so. One of the most graphic examples is John 10:31-33. It says: “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’ The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’”
This was a fact Jesus never denied. On the contrary, He made it a test of faith and pressed His listeners to accept His Lordship. He did so by forgiving sins, for who can forgive sins but God alone? He also did so by encouraging His followers to put their faith in Him, just as they did in God. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me.” (John 14:1-2)
In fact, in one dramatic confrontation, He challenged priests on their own Temple grounds. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” The religious rulers were always quick to admit that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. But Jesus took them to the Scriptures and pressed them to accept a deeper truth. He continued, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls Him Lord,” saying, ‘The Lord said to My Lord, “Sit at My right hand until I put your enemies under Your feet?” If then David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” (Matthew 22:44-45) In other words, Jesus is saying, the Christ will be more than a man; He will be God in human flesh.
This belief is the difference between eternal life and eternal death. Do you believe that Jesus is Lord and will you, to the best of your ability, submit to His Lordship as long as life shall last? Matthew referred to this fact when describing the birth of Jesus. He said, “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Behold, the Virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’ (Matthew 1:22-23) All His disciples, except Judas the traitor, claimed the same thing. Thomas, for example, who doubted at first, fell at His feet when He saw His risen Savior exclaiming with great joy, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28)
But it was Jesus Himself who was the most pointed about this. In the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly used titles of Himself that should only be used of God (e.g., I am the Good Shepherd; I am the Resurrection and the Life; I am the True Vine; I am the Light of the World; I am the Bread of Heaven; I am the Door of the Sheep; I am the Way, the Truth and the Life). This is significant because “I AM” is the name by which God made Himself known to His people in the Old Testament. (Exodus 3:14) And this is the same name by which Jesus made Himself known to His disciples in the New Testament, warning in John 8:24, “If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”
I urge you, then, to experience the full meaning of Christmas this season. Believe in the Virgin Birth. Not only did it fulfill the prophecies found in the Old Testament, proving that Jesus is the One and Only Savior of the world; it also proves that Jesus was more than the greatest man who ever lived. He was and is God the Son who became a man to save us from our sins, so that we can live with Him forever. Embrace that assurance and enjoy that blessing this Christmas and beyond. Turn to Jesus in humble, childlike faith and experience a new quality of life that begins today and lasts forever.
We wish you the Merriest Christmas ever!
Gary and Cheryl for all your friends at Principles for Life