THRU THE EYES OF JOSEPH OF NAZARETH
Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The doctrine of incarnation’ (1). Her main text was taken from the Book of Isaiah 7:10-15; and Isaiah 9:2-7, Matt 1:1, 13-25; 19:23, and John 1:14.
THE DOCTRINE OF INCARNATION – DEFINED
The doctrine of incarnation is central to Christianity. We believe that the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the eternal Son of God took human nature and became man. He did this to become our Savior. “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God” (C. S. Lewis). The virgin Mary became pregnant with the Son of God. In other words, God became Man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Latin root of the word ‘incarnation’ is ‘carne’ which means ‘flesh’. Therefore, Incarnation means to become flesh. The eternal Word of God came to earth and got wrapped in a body of flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. Jesus Christ is One Person with two natures: divine and human. There is mystery concerning this union of divine and human. We believe the revelation of the Bible. If Jesus is not divine, then He cannot be God. If Jesus is not Man, then He cannot be our savior. Incarnation is described in John 1:14: ‘And the Word became flesh’. The Son of God is the Eternal Word of God. The Word was from the beginning. The Word was always with God and the Word was God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:1-5, 14, 15). To believe these words you must be born again!
We do not have any picture or statue of Jesus. We do not know how tall He as Man was. All we know about Jesus is in the Word! Faith in this doctrine is essential for our salvation. We may not understand everything about the conception of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary, but we must believe this truth to be saved. The doctrine of Incarnation is unique to Christianity. No other religion, including the monotheistic religions like Judaism and Islam, believes in the incarnation. For example, Muslims accept the virgin birth of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, though the Qur’an says his mother Mary/Mariam is the sister of Moses and Aaron. However, Islam rejects any notion of the incarnation. They say that Jesus was not God. They say that He was a great man, a prophet, but only a man. This idea is of course anti-Biblical.
The eternal Son of God has always existed as God, even before the manger. But He became Man thru the Incarnation. His conception in Mary’s womb was an act in time. He was born as a baby in a moment of time. The eternal entered time and separated it into BC and AD. The invisible became visible. The limitless became limited. The Creator became the creature. The Almighty became the weak Baby Jesus. God became Man. This is the mystery of incarnation, the mystery of godliness. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Tim 3:16).
SOME POINTS CONCERNING THE DOCTRINE OF INCARNATION
*The Incarnation is part of God’s eternal plan and will for the salvation of man. God the Father planned it. God the Son executed it. God the Holy Spirit reveals it to men so that they can believe to be saved. Part of this work includes the Incarnation.
*The incarnation is connected with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in an eternal loving relationship. The Father sent His Son to become a Man, to die for men, to save them from the curse of sin. The incarnation proves the intimate relationship between Father and Son. You need to believe that Jesus, was begotten by God the Father and was conceived in Mary’s womb by God the Holy Spirit. The doctrines of the Holy Trinity and Incarnation are essential to your salvation. If you do not believe in the Trinity, you cannot believe in the Incarnation. Therefore, you are not a child of God! You are not saved! It is not enough ‘to believe in Christmas’. For you to have eternal life and go to heaven, you must believe in the Holy Trinity and Incarnation. Selah!
*In the Incarnation, it is only the second Person of the Trinity, God, the Son, who became flesh. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit participated in the process of Incarnation but were never incarnated.
*When the Son of God became incarnated, He still remained the eternal Son of God. His divine personality, authority and rule over the universe continued uninterrupted. Baby Jesus in the manger, as God the Son, continued “upholding and maintaining and propelling all things [the entire physical and spiritual universe] by His powerful word [carrying the universe along to its predetermined goal]” (Heb 1:3; AMP). Selah!
*At the Incarnation, the Son of God took a complete human nature. He is 100% God and 100% Man. He did not just add a human body the way you dress with a jacket. He became a complete Man, body, soul, and spirit. Jesus did not bring a special human nature ‘made in heaven’ with Him. He took His human nature from the resources available on earth. He did not import His humanity from heaven. In particular, He took His human nature from Mary, His mother. That is the only way Jesus could be from the seed of His human ancestors Abraham and David, according to the prophesy about the Messiah (Matt 1:1). He could only be our Savior if He was truly a Man who lives and dies like us. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14, 15). As a Man, Jesus ‘shared in the same’ flesh and blood like us. That was necessary to become our Savior!
* In the Incarnation we have the revelation that God is interested in human beings. He takes the initiative to become a Man so that He can dwell among men. Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person and will be so forever. Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man. Jesus never stopped being God. He took human flesh upon Himself and became Man. These two natures, the divine and the human, are separate and united at the same time. This is a mystery. Jesus is divine. In the core of His being, in the center of His personality, Jesus is always God. As a Man, Jesus was always aware of His divine identity and His intimate unique relationship with God the Father. It is this doctrine that Jesus is God and Man that explains Him being our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus kept these two natures, divine and human, even after His death and resurrection. He is in heaven now and intercedes for us as God and Man. He will come back again to judge and reward all men as God and Man. Jesus took our humanity never to relinquish it again! Halleluiah!
*The Incarnation is a miracle. To believe in the Incarnation, you must be born again, and Spirit filled. You must believe in the supernatural, in miracles. The Incarnation cannot be scientifically explained. We believe because it is the revelation of God’s Word. The same Holy Spirit that made possible for Mary to be pregnant with Jesus, is the same Spirit that will lead you into all the truth. Halleluiah!
HOW WAS JESUS CONCEIVED IN MARY’S WOMB?
Even today, there are many people, even among the Christians, who reject the doctrine of the virgin birth of our Savior. The scientists argue that a virgin woman cannot get pregnant without the sperm of a man. In particular, a woman cannot be pregnant with a boy, a son. Why? When a baby is conceived, he takes his DNA from the father and the mother. The sex of the child is determined by special chromosomes. Genetically speaking, all women have XX chromosomes, and all men have XY chromosomes. A woman cannot have a son without the Y chromosome given to her by the man. Scientifically, it was impossible for Mary to conceive a son. It was humanly impossible for Mary to conceive a boy by herself. She had no Y chromosome to give to him. Yet, the angel Gabriel told her that she would conceive a son.
How was Jesus ‘conceived’? The first thing to know is that He was not conceived in the natural way, thru sexual contact between a man and a woman. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. This statement is taken from the Apostles’ Creed in the 5th century: “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary”. Conception requires a male seed and a female seed united to make ‘an egg’. Strictly speaking, Jesus was not ‘conceived’. The exact Biblical word is ‘begotten’. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. To begat it means to become the father of someone, to bring life into existence by a father, to procreate as a father. Jesus is the eternal Son of God. When Jesus was incarnated, God the Father declared that Jesus is His ‘only begotten Son’. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn 3:16, 17). Technically, it was not Jesus who was conceived. Mary conceived Jesus. The angel told Mary: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name Jesus” (Lk 1:31).
The word ‘conceive’ means to receive or to form a baby in the womb of a woman. It means that a woman becomes pregnant. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary ‘she conceived Jesus’ in her womb. In other words, she became pregnant with Jesus. A new life was formed and received in her womb. As God, Jesus is eternal. But as the Son of Man, Jesus has a beginning. Both the conception and Mary’s delivery in Bethlehem are real events and moments in time. A mother conceives and a father begets. Within Mary’s womb, baby Jesus was not merely conceived but He was begotten by the Father, thru the power of the Holy Spirit. Some people are confused about the Incarnation. Please note that Jesus is not just a word, a philosophy, a teaching, or an idea. Jesus is a Man! A real Man! The Word became flesh! Jesus is God and Man at the same time! “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn 1:18). Here you see the same word ‘the only begotten Son’. Nobody has seen God the Father. He was never incarnated. God the Son became Man to openly declare who God the Father is. So, Jesus was not created by God, He was God, He is God, and He always will be God. Jesus is the one and only begotten Son of God. Please note that as children of God we are not begotten. We are adopted by God the Father thru Christ (Eph 1:5). These things may be hard to understand. God uses names as Father and Son to help us understand something of the relationship in the Trinity.
THE SINLESS SON OF MAN
As a Man, Jesus was sinless. The God Man Jesus is our High Priest and eternal Intercessor in heaven. “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:25, 26). The word “holy” refers to a person committed to obedience to God. The word translated “harmless” signifies one who has done no evil. The word “undefiled” describes a person who is not defiled by rebellion. Just as the Levitical high priest was required to separate himself from all ritual defilement for seven days before the Day of Atonement, so Jesus was permanently (perfect tense) “separate from sinners” throughout His life before He made the perfect atonement for sin through His sacrificial death. When Jesus came, He took not just the flesh as it was in the innocent Adam, but as our flesh, corrupted by sin. “3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3). The flesh of Jesus was ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’. It means that His flesh had weakness and pains that were not found in Adam before the fall. That is why Jesus knows and understands our weaknesses. And yet, without sin! He lived among sinners, ate with sinners, was known as ‘the friend of sinners’, yet He was separate from sinners in the sense that He Himself never sinned. As a Man, Jesus went to the Temple frequently, but there is no record of His ever bringing a sin offering for Himself!!!
In the incarnation, the Son did not lose any of His divine identity. Incarnation is an addition and not a subtraction. As a Man Jesus did not lose His deity. He added the human body and soul to His divine nature. He now has two natures, being fully God and fully Man. Jesus’ human nature was sinless. He did not share in man’s sins. As He lived among men, He knew the power of sin but He was not stained by it. As our High Priest, He is merciful with those who fall into sin. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14-16).
The incarnation is the supernatural work of the Trinity. God the Father sent God the Son into the womb of the virgin Mary. It is hard to explain. Let me try… God the Holy Spirit added ‘the male seed’ that could have been given by Joseph. That holy ‘seed’ impregnated Mary’s seed. There was a secondary miracle here because Mary’s seed was cleansed from the effects of sin. In this way, Jesus was truly Divine and truly human. Genetically, Jesus was Mary’s son but not the son of Joseph. That is the only explanation why Jesus was sinless. This is a mystery and a miracle.
Job asked: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one! … How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman?” (Job 14:4; 25:4). Mary got pregnant with the Holy seed in the cloud of the Holy Spirit. “The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). At the point of conception, the Holy Spirit fused two materials: the divine and the human. This is how ‘the Holy One’ called Jesus was formed in Mary’s womb. “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth” (Ps 139:13-15). God ‘forms’ the child in the mother’s womb. In Hebrew, the word ‘formed’ is the same as ‘created’. God ‘covered’ the baby in the womb ‘as with a screen’ to protect him. The picture of God’s protecting lovingkindness applies to all babies in their mothers’ wombs, but in particular it applies to baby Jesus showing how the Holy Spirit covered and protected Him from the sin found in Mary’s genes. Selah!
THE INCARNATION PROPHECY IN ISAIAH 7:9-16
King Ahaz of Judah was an ungodly king. His father and grandfather were godly kings. He became king when he was 20 years old. He did evil in the sight of God and carried Judah into great spiritual darkness. His story is told in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28. These are some of the sins he committed: he introduced the worship of the Canaanite god Molech, and he sacrificed his own sons for it. He closed down the Temple in Jerusalem so that the people cannot worship Jehovah God. He removed the gold and silver from the Temple and gave it as a gift (bribe) to the King of Assyria so that he will not attack Judah. He copied a pagan altar he saw in Damascus and placed it in the courtyard of the temple of Solomon. He removed the burnt offerings bronze altar that Solomon made and relocated it at the back. He used the bronze altar for personal ‘inquires’. This word describes the pagan practice of reading the future, fortune telling, by analyzing the organs of the sacrificed animals. Therefore, King Ahaz introduced witchcraft into the temple in Jerusalem. He corrupted the priests by forcing them to serve at the pagan altar. He appointed himself as a priest by offering sacrifices himself. Because King Ahaz provoked God to anger by doing so many evils, God handed him to his enemies, who were his neighbors, Aram, and Ephraim (the Northern Israel). These two countries attacked Judah and took part of the territories. King Ahaz was afraid that even Jerusalem will fall to the neighbors. He planned to make a political pact with the great empire of Assyria, to become its vasal. He took the silver and the gold from Solomon’s temple and sent it to the King of Assyria to bribe him to attack his neighbors. Assyria complied. They attacked and conquered Damascus, the capital of Aram. Ahaz went there to celebrate the victory with the king of Assyria. Not long after that, Assyria attacked and conquered the Northern Israel and some of the cities in Judah.
In the midst of this spiritual darkness, God sent the prophet Isaiah to speak to King Ahaz. He tells Ahaz that he should not trust his political ideas, and not make political alliances with Assyria for the sake of peace. He should only trust God who will destroy Assyria. Isaiah warns Ahaz not to mix politics with religion. If he has faith in God, he will be ‘established’ as king. If he rejects God’s Word, he will perish. Ahaz rejected the Word of God and ‘perished’. He died when he was only 36 and because of his many sins, they did not bury him in the royal tombs. Isaiah told him that he should repent and put all his trust in Jehovah God. That he should not be afraid. He should stand firm in the faith. God can destroy his enemies in a second. The prophet also told him that if he rejects this word, if he has no faith in God’s plan, he will not be established as a king. To help him make up his mind, Isaiah told him that he should ask for a supernatural sign from God. Because in his heart, Ahaz has rejected God’s Word, he said that he does not need any sign. Then Isaiah told him that God insists to give him a sign. Christmas is that sign! Selah!
Asking for a sign is not always a proof of unbelief but a desire to be strengthened to move on in faith. For example, when Gideon asked the angel for a sign of victory, it is because he wanted to believe and obey God (Jdg 6:36). But Ahaz rejected the sign. He rejected Christmas! It means he did not want to obey the prophet’s word. This was a willful sin of unbelief. There is no forgiveness for this sin.
After Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah was attacked by the same Assyrians who forgot the bribe given to them by his father, Ahaz. The Assyrians wanted to conquer Jerusalem. The same prophet Isaiah went to see King Hezekiah to encourage him to have faith in God. Hezekiah believed the prophet and his word. God fought the battle, and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were killed by an angel (Is 37:36). What his father refused to do, Hezekiah did! When Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign to help his unbelief, God gives him a prophetic word, which is a sign of His punishment. The prophesy of a virgin girl pregnant with a son called Immanuel is God’s sign of His anger against sin. Immanuel means ‘God is with us’. This boy is born to ‘the house of David’. He is an extraordinary boy. He will eat curds (or yogurt) and honey. This is not the same as the promised land of milk and honey. It is the food of poverty in a desolate land. It means that the boy will be born into a poor family. Ahaz rejected the blessing of the Messiah who was to come thru his family line. Here you see the grace of God. Because Ahaz was a descendant of King David, God extended much grace to him. Ahaz is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:9). Lesson: men and their unbelief cannot stop God’s plan and purpose.
THE INCARNATION STORY THRU THE EYES OF JOSEPH OF NAZARETH (Matt 1:18-25; 2:13-15; 19:23)
Here we see the story of Incarnation mostly thru the eyes of Joseph. He was from the lineage of King David. He could have been King Joseph but after the exile in Babylon, his royalty status was lost. He was a humble man. It is not easy to work as a carpenter knowing you could have been the King of Judah in the place of King Herod the Great. Like his namesake in the Old Testament, Joseph was a dreamer of dreams.
Joseph was a just man. It means that he had a godly character. He feared God and obeyed His commandments. When Joseph discovered that his fiancée was pregnant, I am sure that he was disappointed, angry, and sad. But Joseph was a man of faith. Immediately the angel revealed the truth to him, he did not complain. Like Mary, he immediately obeyed the words of the angel. He was a spiritual man. He took responsibility for his future wife and baby in her womb. He was a hardworking man. Joseph worked as a carpenter to provide for his family. These are all good qualities that any man or husband should imitate. We are not told where Joseph was from the time Jesus started His public ministry. It is possible that he died. On the Cross, Jesus handed His mother Mary over to John. This is another proof that Joseph was dead by then.
Mary got pregnant with Jesus. Like any other woman, just imagine that she had morning sickness, stretch marks, kicking a baby in her belly, heaviness on her legs. She was heavily pregnant when together with Joseph, they went to Jerusalem to register according to the Roman law. She had labor pains like any other woman. Joseph was by her side, encouraging her all the way.
Joseph does not utter any word in the Bible. But he plays an important role in the Nativity drama. By law, he had the right to divorce his betroth who was pregnant but not by him. The law said that a girl who still lives in her father’s house and is engaged to a man, if she is found pregnant, she should be stoned to death. For a girl to be found not a virgin on her wedding day, that was called ‘a disgraceful, evil thing’. The punishment was death. “But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So, you shall put away the evil from among you” (Deut 22:20, 21). In the first century, the Jews did not always obey this law to kill the girl. But her life was in danger and her reputation completely ruined. Mary needed a husband to protect her and her baby. Joseph’s role as a husband to Mary and father to Jesus was extremely important. Joseph knew his responsibility and acted on it. Without the marriage to Joseph, her parents may not want to share in her shame. The only way for Mary was to become a prostitute to feed herself and her baby. Please think of Joseph, of his feelings… As a man, to accept that his fiancée is pregnant by the Holy Spirit was not an easy thing to do. It was a form of rejection. God rejected his contribution to his future wife’s first pregnancy. Joseph was a man who obeyed God. He was led by the Holy Spirit. His actions spoke louder than words. He is the silent hero of the incarnation story. Joseph laid down his life for Jesus!
In the incarnation, God needed a woman’s seed but not a man’s seed. Judging by our human wisdom, this is strange. God’s ways seem confusing to us. In the Garden of Eden, Eve was the leader in rebellion. God judged her and placed her to submit under her husband. Even in the Christian marriage, the wife submits to her husband. But in incarnation, God only needed the consent of the woman, the weaker vessel. This is a proof that God does not need man’s power to create anything. Jesus was not born by the will of man, or by the desire of the flesh. He was born of God! All glory to God for the incarnation!
This is the Gospel according to the prophecy given by God in the Garden of Eden. God told the serpent, the devil: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen 3:15). Christ is the Seed of the woman who will crush the head of the devil’s seed. Therefore, Christ must be born of a woman (Galatians 4:4). At the incarnation, Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb without any help from man (Joseph). This is a strange thing, but God is sovereign and His ways, though mysterious, are perfect. Joseph’s genes were not imparted to baby Jesus. Jesus did not have a human father, but Joseph humbly adopted Him as His own. As an adult, Jesus was known as Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42). This is a great reward for this humble man called Joseph.
What is the true purpose for Christmas? It is to prepare the way for the Cross. The Word became flesh so that it will be crucified and die on behalf of sinners like you and me! This baby was born to die! Behind the Christmas lights and decorations, there is the shadow of death. Only death could have killed death. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Thirty-three years later, few miles from where He was born, He was crucified on Calvary tree. Three days later He rose from the dead to give us life! What a life! What a story! We see that everything about Jesus is mysterious, not only His conception, His whole life and death. He is God and He is Man. He is the most extraordinary Person, from beginning to the end. He was born to die for others. “Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” Worship the Lord!