For by grace you have
been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8 WEB

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Our God in the Heights

His Miraculous Birth

If Jesus truly is our Model and Example in everything pertaining to the spiritual life, then His birth has volumes to speak to us about our own new life in Him. Indeed it does! What it reveals will make you marvel even more at the “risk” He took and the miracle, not only of His birth, but of His unwavering pursuit of His divine assignment.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 ESV

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

Looking Beyond the Familiar

Jesus’ birth by the Virgin Mary is the nearly unbelievable miracle that begins two of the gospels, bringing the Son of God to earth in a way no one had ever arrived here before. It is a fitting Birth of Jesus : His Miraculous Birth : Self-Emptyingentrance for so exceptional a Person. But is it also something far more than that? So astonishing is the miracle itself, so captivating the events that surround it, so endearing the images it evokes, that we could easily stop short of seeing its full significance.

Biblical miracles are called “signs and wonders” for a reason.[1] As wonders they are meant to get us wondering, not just in awe, but also in probing meditation; as signs they point to something greater that lies beyond themselves. What does the sign of this virgin birth want us to ponder? Where is it directing our gaze? To the infant, yes, but from what perspective?

Looking to the Infant from earth’s perspective, we see the miraculous in the way He is born of a virgin. Our eyes naturally shift to Mary through whom that miracle occurs, or our attention focuses upon the Babe in His tender vulnerability. Looking from heaven’s perspective, we see the miraculous in what it took for the eternal Son of God to become an infant. Our eyes naturally shift to heaven and it is there that we “see” something even more astonishing going on!

Jesus Emptied Himself!  

What about the hidden story behind His miraculous birth, invisible to us, yet stunningly apparent to that host of heaven praising Immanuel on those wintry fields beyond Bethlehem? There is something truly astonishing going on behind the scenes that will help us esteem our Lord even more. Not only that, but these insights may give us an entirely new perspective on the surprising ways in which our life of faith is a mirror image of His own. Be ready to pause in wonder, as we seek to unveil just a glimpse of this holy Mystery, the mystery of how it was that the Word became flesh through the "self-emptying" of Jesus Christ.  

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7 ASV

As near as I can make it out, here is the Why? What? and How? of it...[2]

I. The Why: Why a Baby?

We take it for granted that He came into the world as a baby, but that wasn't His only option. From a Christian perspective there are numerous sightings of the Lord Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures most notably in His appearance as both "a man" and "Prince of the Lord's hosts" to Joshua just before the battle at Jericho.[3] If He could make an appearance as a divine “man” to Joshua  and many others, He certainly could have entered the world of Herod’s Israel the same way.

Why didn't Jesus simply step into time and space to begin His mission looking and acting like one of us? Why did He choose to enter our world as a baby instead? Clearly, there were important reasons why He had to become fully human. That could only happen by being born of a woman same as the rest of us.[4] But why? I see two compelling reasons and they both argue for Him not only becoming fully human, but in some "operational" sense, only human:  

a) He had to become one with us in order to die as our representative at the cross and
b) He had to become one with us to regain the dominion authority over the earth that we had ceded to Satan. 

To do this Jesus had to "empty" Himself of all that went with being God. Someone put it this way: "Though He was never less than fully God, He lived as never more than only man."

II. The What: What Was He Emptied of?

No doubt there is much here that needs reverent consideration, but the list is impressive even when filed by title: Jesus chose to empty Himself of His own divine glory, of His rights and privileges, of omnipotence, of omniscience, of omnipresence, and of the fame and adoration He received in heaven. He left behind heaven's beauty, its glory and its matchless fellowship, which included "face to face" intimacy with His Beloved Father.

Think of what a little baby brings into the world by way of knowledge and power and you will see how much like us He truly became. Now, only add to that image an unbroken spiritual connection to the Father (He was born of the Holy Spirit) and only subtract from it a fallen spiritual connection to the enemy (He was born without Adam’s sinful nature). This is admittedly a huge difference from our birth, but it brings His experience of human life amazingly close to our own.

To close the gap even more, God through Jesus provides a way for us to “catch up” with Him. We didn’t begin life with the same spiritual connection to the Father as Jesus, but once we are reborn that loss is fully restored through the gift of the Indwelling Spirit and His union with our own freshly regenerated spirit. At the same time God “crucifies” our “old man.”[5] Through faith-conversion we are severed from the fallen nature and the enemy's mastery over us that our carnal flesh once enjoyed.[6] By these gifts, we truly “catch up” with Jesus’ human experience.

These realities are descriptive of the invisible realm of spirit and take place within our hidden depths. They are admittedly hard to picture. Hold the image of what a baby's body offers by the way of powerlessness and what a baby's mind provides by way of knowledge and you will see well enough how thoroughly the Son of God was emptied!

III. The How: How Was He "Refilled"?

Luke tells us that Jesus grew in favor with God and man.[7] Long before that He had a tremendous amount of catching up to do with the Person He had always been, the Person the baby would grow to become. God help us not to transgress in our thinking about so hallowed and mysterious a subject as what was transpiring within the infant Jesus. Yet, for Jesus to have honestly and fully become an infant, there could be nothing in the baby's consciousness that would not be in ours, save for the inchoate sense of connection to Father God and the absence of strident self will. But where, oh where, were the words?  

The Word became flesh by setting words aside! Did not the Babe of Bethlehem have to learn Hebrew word by word? Indeed we know that it takes time and considerable effort for babies to separate out images, sounds, and feelings and then associate them with ideas, before speech itself can be learned. Did not Jesus have to travel this same path or was His “growth” all just pretense and pretending?

Did He who gave the Word to Israel, not have to learn Truth through the scriptures as a child—same as we who follow Him now? Did He not have to search the scriptures to discover (rediscover) His divine assignment and destiny? Did He not need a faith community to aid His own spiritual formation as we do? Was He not tempted as we are? Did He not have to intentionally stay united to His Father through intimacy and obedience and depend upon the Holy Spirit for guidance and power same as ourselves? He "suffered" the burden of all of these disciplines (so necessary for us as well) and grew mightily.[8]

The Ultimate Temptation

Perhaps the greatest temptation Jesus faced was to draw on His divine side and in so doing forfeit the right to be our representative. Seen in this light every day from His miraculous birth onwards was fraught with hidden perils. How perfect His obedience had to be! His self-emptying choice to become (and remain while on earth) fully human was a direct reversal of the enemy's temptation to Eve to become like God.[9]

We have all aspired to be the god of our own little worlds (especially in infancy), imposing our wills wherever we could get away with it. Yet, Jesus emptied Himself, choosing to become a servant to His Father's will each and every moment of His life. Not only that, but His assignment was to live as if He were only human, so that He could complete His high calling at the cross.  

What a stupendous irony! Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father, was the only child born of Adam who freely chose to be merely human. In this He shows us the way. We may not have received His start, but we who believe have all received the same re-start. Now seek to see how your own self-emptying and graced refilling can mirror His. Go back over the path of His own development and see how He is even now seeking to grow up from a mere babe inside of you into full stature and favor with God and humanity.

It is fitting that Paul, who most clearly reveals the self-emptying of Jesus, would also describe for us the high calling of our own self-emptying: that we may know Him and become like Him.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:7-8 ESV

More to Explore about Jesus

The Bethlehem Star  The Father literally moved heaven and earth to give His Son’s birth a “stellar” announcement. You have heard about the wise men’s star all your life, but you probably haven’t heard this. It is a telling of the tale that combines history, astrology and a very close reading of the Biblical text—more fantastic than the greeting card images.

His Incomparable Life  It is our happy task to be “imitators of Christ.” Jesus said that disciples fully formed (that’s you and me in the making) will be like their teacher.[10] When it comes to showing us how to live, Jesus really is the Master. Trying to copy His ways from the outside in, however, is a guaranteed formula for frustration and failure. We need to see how He did it from the inside out.

Scriptures on His Miraculous Birth

"As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession." Psalms 2:6-8 ESV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. John 1:1-6, 9-11 ESV


Scriptures and Foot Notes

[1]   You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day. Jeremiah 32:20 ESV
[2]   As with all these articles, but especially here, if I am getting anything right it is ONLY because the Holy Spirit has been helping me understand the Word—He gets the credit. If I am missing it in places, the error is all mine—in that case my hope is in the Lord’s mercy and your own. If you see something that could be in error, please send me an email. Thanks!
[3]   When Jesus returns to earth we know from the book of Revelation that He alone will be the Commander of the Lord’s Armies. I believe that anytime God in the Old Testament is referred to as “the Lord of Hosts” or “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,” it is Jesus who is being reverenced: When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" And he said, "No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, "What does my lord say to his servant?" And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, "Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15 ESV
[4]   Two reasons: 1) Jewish descent under the covenant is through the woman: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5 ESV  and 2) The promised seed of Eve who would one day “bruise” Satan’s head would have to be born of a woman: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;  he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15 ESV  His miraculous birth is all the more miraculous because His coming was foretoldl long before we ever knew we would need Him.
[5]   For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:5-14 NKJV
[6]   The revelation of Jesus Christ shatters the fallen nature’s supremacy, because once Jesus is revealed we now have a choice whether we will serve Him or continue to serve Self. Until conversion, living for Self is the only choice we have! Paul puts it this way:  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 ESV
[7]   Luke makes this statement about Jesus’ growth twice, once when Jesus was quite young, and again when Jesus was a teen: And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:39-40 ESV
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51-52 ESV
[8]   Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:8-10 ESV
[9]   But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4-5 ESV
[10]   "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher." Luke 6:40 ESV