Leonard: The pregnant virgin whose fiancé nearly divorced her
Over the years, regardless of where I was working (Vail Christian High School, The Vail Church, or Young Life), I always taught through a few of the different vantage points for the entry of Jesus into humanity. One of my seminary professors, Howard Hendricks, taught us to see, smell, and hear whatever we were reading in the scriptures and to try to think what was going through the person’s mind that you are reading about. “Put yourself in their shoes.”
With the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, this is a really cool exercise to do. We get our information about this historical event from the biographies of Matthew (a first-century Jewish IRS Agent and close friend of Jesus) and Luke (a first-century physician who acted as an investigative journalist regarding Jesus’ life).
Most of what we have in the Bible regarding Jesus’ birth comes from the first two chapters in their books appropriately named Matthew and Luke. When you combine those four chapters they come together in a kind of “surround sound” that is fun to hear. With six different people, a few angels, a group of shepherds and the “wise men” from the east, their different points of view are worth considering.
The first point of view, and the most prominent, is that of Mary. She had six things happen to her that leaves little room to doubt that Jesus was and is the Son of God. It is worth noting that the Jewish prophets about to be mentioned were real people of antiquity who made significant claims regarding future events, each of which we can now look back on as having been fulfilled.
As you’re about to see, Mary had six people or groups of people share their miraculous stories with her. Each story was a different piece of the puzzle that would point to Jesus being a little more special than you and I.
But we must start with her story, and her story starts with not just an angel, but the Angel Gabriel — the same one who appeared to the prophet Daniel when Nebuchadnezzar was ruling Babylon around the year 600 BC. In Luke 1:26-38, Gabriel tells Mary that she will give birth to the Son of God.
The word virgin shows up three times in these verses, most significantly when she claims it for herself. The Jewish prophet Isaiah, who lived in 755 B.C., said “the Lord will give you a sign; a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him ‘Immanuel (Hebrew for ‘God with us’).”
This is exactly who Jesus was, “God with us.” John 1:14 says, “the word became flesh and lived among us.” It is worth noting that the rest of the events ended up being brought to Mary, which is why she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Next is Joseph. Did you know that Joseph planned on divorcing Mary before they were officially married (Matthew 1:19)? At the time, being engaged was legally binding. What would you do if your fiancé got pregnant while you were together and you knew that you had not had sex with her? In the grand scheme of things, this event was huge, so God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to leave Mary and that the baby is God’s son and therefore she had not been unfaithful to him.
To keep anyone from doubting the miracle of Jesus’ birth, we later find out that “he (Joseph) did not consummate their marriage until she (Mary) gave birth to a son (Jesus…obviously).” Not quite the honeymoon he had been dreaming of — if you catch my drift. Some people have a hard time with this verse, supposing Mary remained a virgin for life. The word “until” in that verse becomes significant, but I digress.
Now it’s the shepherds’ turn. In Luke 2, it says that an angel of the Lord appeared to some shepherds and told them that the long-awaited Jewish Messiah had just been born in Bethlehem (according to an approximately 700-year-old Jewish prophecy from Micah 5:2, I might add). Upon hearing this announcement, the shepherds “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby…(Luke 2:16).”
Put yourself in Mary’s shoes: you’re a pregnant virgin whose fiancé almost left her, but since you both saw an angel who said that the baby is God’s son you’re going to go with it and see how it all plays out. As she was staring at her newborn, shepherds show up, tell Joseph and Mary some angels just told them about Jesus and began to worship. Surround sound! If you ever go to Bethlehem you should definitely go to the Chapel of the Shepherd’s Field where, as tradition has it, this happened.
Being observant Jews and adhering to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Stop. They’ve been through a lot thus far: angels, shepherds, fulfilled prophecy (and I had to skip over the utter awesomeness regarding Mary’s relative Elizabeth and the angel Gabriel appearing to her husband/priest Zechariah while he was in the holiest Jewish place).
Now they go to the temple, the one you can see the remnants of to this day, the temple where Jesus will sit among and amaze the rabbis at age 12, the temple where, in 30 years from this point, he will preach, drive out the money changers and perform miracles in. They show up there, in the temple courts, with their newborn when a devout Jew named Simeon who “the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah/Anointed One” comes on the scene.
This Simeon took Jesus into his arms and began to pray, praising the “Sovereign Lord” that he was holding God’s onlyson. The son who came for me and for you. The son who came to “seek and save the lost” and to reconcile us to God. The son who gave his life for you and for me, a ransom for many. And it all started in a small town about 2,000 years ago. Merry Christmas! God loves you!
If you have any questions about faith, I’d love to meet you for coffee.
Scott Leonard is the area director for Search Vail Valley. You can reach him at email@example.com