“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23).
These words force us to confront what we believe about Jesus Christ. Who is he? Where did he come from? At issue is the supernatural character of our Lord. Is he truly the Son of God from heaven? If you answer yes, you’ll have no problem with the virgin birth. If you answer no, you’ll have no reason to believe it. Is he just a prophet, or is he “more than a prophet?” Is he a great teacher and nothing more? Was he a martyr who died for his cause? Was he a revolutionary who never intended to start a religion? Is he a divine leader who came to teach us about God? Or is he God incarnate, the Lord of Glory, the Son of God, and our Lord and our Savior?
The virgin birth forces us off the fence about Jesus. It tells us that we can’t be neutral and we can’t say that the story of his birth doesn’t matter. The fact that this is a miracle and a mystery doesn’t let us off the hook. Those with an anti-supernatural bias will have no use for the virgin birth, and they will explain it away. But those who believe in a supernatural Christ will find the virgin birth a mysterious miracle that, instead of destroying their faith, actually makes it stronger.
Three conditions must be met in order for Jesus to be our Savior. He must be a man, he must be God, and he must be sinless. The virgin birth guarantees that all those conditions have been met. Thus there is a direct connection between the manger and the cross. Without his miraculous birth, his sufferings on the cross have no meaning. It is his birth that makes his death meaningful.
If he is not who he said he was, then his death was the most tragic mistake in history. His birth establishes his true identity as the Son of God, the promised Messiah, and our Savior. Note that when the angel told Joseph that the baby Mary was carrying had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, in the very next sentence he told Joseph to name him Jesus “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The angel connects his birth with his saving work on the cross. Thus the virgin birth matters greatly because it tells us plainly who Jesus is and lays the foundation for the great work he will accomplish on the cross.
He had to be born this way in order to die the way he died.
We are not saved by the virgin birth, but without it we are not saved at all.
Almighty God, may we not stumble in unbelief but believe in your Son, our Savior, born of a virgin, who died for our salvation, was raised triumphant, ascended into heaven, and is our coming king. Amen.