Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 1:18-20 ESV
Matthew was rather matter-of-fact in his opening line to his gospel account. He simply said, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” No timidity or hesitancy. No question as to the validity of his statement. Two times in three verses, Matthew mentions that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not a man. This fact, which many still debate today, is the basis for the Christian belief that Jesus was born of a virgin. In his gospel account, Luke records further details regarding this amazing miracle of God. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’” (Luke 1:26-28 ESV). Gabriel went on to tell Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31 ESV). Understandably in shock at this surprising visit from an angel and upon hearing this shocking news, Mary asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 ESV). That’s a fair question, right? She was being told she was going to have a baby, and yet she had not even had sex yet. Mary may have been a young, uneducated country girl, but she knew enough about human biology to know that what the angel was telling her required something more. There was something missing. Mary basically told the angel, “This is impossible, because I have never even been with a man!”
But while Mary may have been confused by this angelic announcement and seen all kinds of flaws and impossibilities linked to it, Gabriel simply told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35 ESV). This was not going to be an ordinary conception and birth. And while every child born is a miracle of God, this particular child was going to come into the world without the normal contribution of an earthly father. He would be the Son of God. There are still those today who, like Mary, struggle with the virgin birth. They go out of their way in an attempt to discount and disprove what the Scriptures clearly teach. Having a hard time believing the possibility that such a thing could happen, they simply reject it.
But if all things are possible for God, why would the virgin birth prove to be a problem for Him? If God could create the universe simply by speaking it into existence, could He not create life in the womb of a young girl? The thing that amazes me about this story is not that Mary had a baby without the assistance of a male, but that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. That reality gives me a serious case of brain freeze. I have no trouble at all believing that God could create life in the womb of a young virgin girl without the normal interaction of the female’s egg and a male’s sperm. After all, He created Adam out of dirt. But what blows me away is that the Holy Spirit, a member of the Trinity, was the source behind the conception of Jesus. According to Luke, the angel told Mary, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35 ESV). This was to be a miraculous, God-ordained, Spirit-empowered conception. How did it happen? We’re not told. Neither Luke or Matthew provide us with specifics, because Gabriel didn’t provide them. It was enough for Mary and Joseph to know that this child was going to be “holy – the Son of God.”
When I think about this incredible event in human history, I am amazed, not that it happened, but that a similar miracle has resulted in my own new birth. The Holy Spirit has made possible my new life in Jesus Christ. It is He who has made me a new creation. Jesus made this fact abundantly clear in His conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV). Like Mary, Nicodemus was confused by what he heard. So Jesus clarified. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6 ESV). Then, knowing Nicodemus was still wrestling with this concept, Jesus said, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8 ESV).
I have been born of the Spirit. I have within me a new sinless nature, just as Jesus did. I can live holy and set apart because I am a new creation, born of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was. John tells me, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9 ESV). It’s interesting to note that John used the Greek word, sperma, which should be self-explanatory. Here he refers to the Holy Spirit, as the generative force that makes possible our conversion from condemned sinners to consecrated saints – conceived by God through the power of the Spirit of God. And made possible through the sacrificial death of the Son of God.