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Some Final Thoughts on the Virgin Birth


In an earlier post we saw why Jesus' conception by the Holy Spirit is important. For one thing, it affirms Jesus' divinity. Jesus' birth by the Virgin Mary, by contrast, affirms his humanity.

Because Jesus was and is fully human we have a Saviour who can empathise with our weaknesses. Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin." Because of Jesus we can never say that God does not understand our situation. As C. S. Lewis notes in his book, Miracles, Jesus has come all the way down....
In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too.
This part of The Apostles' Creed witnesses against another ancient heresy called Docetism. This English word comes from the Greek word "dokeo" which means "to appear". The Docetists taught that Jesus merely "appeared" in the form of a human being but he did not actually become human. According to the Docetists, it would not be fitting for God to actually take on human flesh. As J. I. Packer has pointed out, the Early Church Fathers appealed to the Virgin Birth as proof of Jesus' true humanity, as a witness against Docetism. Jesus' divinity was more accepted during a certain period in the Early Church and so the Church Fathers did not feel a need to prove Jesus' divinity as much as his humanity. Today, the shoe is on the other foot.

The story is told of a mother who lost her son; he was killed in action in Germany during the Second World War. One day, while shopping, this woman saw another woman who had also lost a son in the war. When the two women met, they embraced without speaking. However, in their silence each was eloquently communicating comfort to the other. They were each saying in their hearts, "I know how you feel, for I too have gone through the deep waters of sorrow."

Because God took on human flesh in Jesus of Nazareth and was born of a virgin, he knows what we are going through as human beings, and he has compassion and empathy for us in all our joys and our sufferings.

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