The Birth of the Redeemer

By Leland M. Haines


"When the fulness of the time was come," God prepared to send His Son into the world to redeem fallen man (Galatians 4:4). The first step occurred "in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea" (Luke 1:5), and involved a priest named Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth. "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (v. 6). They had no children and little hope of ever having any, since they were old.

It was customary to cast lots to determine which priest would "burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord" (Luke 1:9). While Zacharias was ministering in the temple, he was chosen by lot to carry out this duty. A priest was granted this privilege but once. During this service the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and told him that even though he and his wife were old, they would have a son. Furthermore, Zacharias was to call this son John. "He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. . . . And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah], to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (vv. 15-17). John's ministry was foretold in Isaiah: "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Mark 1:2, 3, from Isaiah 40:3; cf. Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:27).

Six months after Elisabeth's conception, the same angel Gabriel appeared

 to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:27-35


The angel appeared to Joseph also and explained what was to happen: "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20, 21).

These events were foretold "by the prophet, saying, 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 1:22, 23; from Isaiah 7:14). Jesus was the Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and not the man. Jesus' supernatural birth was the way God chose to bring His Son, the Holy One who would save His people from sin, into the world. The conception of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit combined in One Person the divine nature of God and sinless human nature (John 1:1, 14). God sent "his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3), becoming "of no reputation . . . made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7). "As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same" (Hebrews 2:14). When Jesus took on Himself a human body and human nature, He did not partake of sin. He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 2:22; II Corinthians 5:21). Notice, too, that Mary and Joseph were of the lineage of David (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23, 31), from which the prophets foretold the Messiah would come.

"Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King" (Matthew 2:1). Micah foretold that Jesus' birth would be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that every one should return to his own city to be enrolled (or registered) for taxation. Mary and Joseph, Jesus' parents, lived in Nazareth and went to "the city of David, which is called Bethlehem" (Luke 2:1-7), since they were of the house and lineage of David.

Although He was the Son of God and had dwelt in the courts of heaven, Jesus had a humble birth. Not one room was available at the inns of Bethlehem for His mother when the time came for His birth. Only a stable was available, and His bed was a manger (Luke 2:7). Nevertheless, His birth was notable. Angels announced His birth to "shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (v. 8). They brought "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (vv. 10, 11).

In the humble birth of Jesus, the Creator of the universe laid aside the use of some of His divine attributes to become a true man. This Child, born in Bethlehem, was the Word who had made all things. He came to this world, yet "the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own [the Jews] received him not. . . . The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth" (John 1:10, 14; see 8:58; 17:5; and Philippians 2:6-8 for evidence of His preexistence).

The term incarnation is used to describe the Son of God becoming flesh, that is, man. It is one of the most incomprehensible facts of history. How the divine and human attributes existed together in the incarnate Son of God is difficult to understand. The Bible teaches that the Son had a divine nature (Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 33:14-16; Malachi 3:1, 2; John 1:1-3, 14; 5:17, 18; Romans 8:3, 4; Colossians 1:19; Hebrews 1:2, 3). The Bible teaches too that He had a human nature (Matthew 26:26, 28, 36; Luke 23:46; 24:39; John 1:14; 8:40; 11:33; Acts 2:22; Romans 5:15; I Corinthians 15:21; I Timothy 2:5; 3:16; I John 4:2).

How and why the Son of God surrendered His divine rights can be understood only by seeing the holiness and love of God in response to the sinfulness of man. Only then can we begin to appreciate Jesus' redemptive suffering for man.

The incarnation was essential to God's plan to redeem man from sin. The law was never meant to save men. Its purpose was to show them that they were sinners. Only an incarnated God-Man by His self-sacrifice could redeem man. "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:3, 4). God's Son came "to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).

Eight days after His birth, Jesus, the Redeemer, was circumcised in accordance with the Mosaic law and as a consequence of His humanity. The Son of God took on human flesh when He was born of woman. Since He lived under the law and came to fulfill all righteousness, His circumcision was the first step in His lifelong obedience to the law. This also served to identify Him with the promise made to Abraham that "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:18).

The law required every firstborn to be consecrated to the Lord. If the firstborn was a male child, he was to be presented to the Lord. "As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law." Therefore, Jesus' parents took Him to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord (Luke 2:23, 24; cf. Exodus 13:2, 13; Numbers 18:15, 16).

Simeon, a righteous and devout man, had been waiting day and night for the consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Christ. When the Christ Child was brought to the temple, Simeon quickly recognized Him: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32).

Anna, a prophetess and an elderly widow who stayed at the temple day and night fasting and praying, also recognized Jesus as being the Christ. "She coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:36-38).

Joseph, being warned by the angel of the Lord of Herod's hostility toward the Child, fled to Egypt with his family. This fulfilled what "was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son" (Matthew 2:13-15; from Hosea 11:1). When Joseph, Mary, and the Child returned to Israel after the death of Herod, they found that Herod's son Archelaus reigned. Being afraid of Archelaus and being warned by God, the young family withdrew to Galilee, where they took up residence in Nazareth. As the prophets had said, "He shall be called a Nazarene" (v. 23).

Little is known of Jesus' early life. Luke tells us that Jesus "grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40). Being from a poor family, Jesus probably received no formal education, only training from His parents as required by the law and instruction at the synagogue. He studied the Scriptures Himself, and His training and development were extensive. By the age of twelve, when He was taken to Jerusalem and was unintentionally left there by His parents (they thought He was with relatives), Jesus already possessed great wisdom. When His parents found Him, He was "in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2:46, 47). When asked about His remaining behind, He said, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (v. 49). At this early age, He was already conscious of His divine mission.


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The above is from Redemption Realized through Christ by Leland M. Haines (pp. 38-42), © copyright 1996 by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Find about this book here

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June 22, 2000