Mary’s Baby – God in the Flesh
By: Frank G. Tunstall
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:18-23).
How ironic that the rock band in Paris, Eagles of Death, was starting their hit song, “Kiss the Devil,” at the moment when the terrorists shots rang out in Paris Friday evening. And what a contrast the gospel of Jesus Christ is to the message of the world.
Yes, I believe in a personal devil.
The whole point of the incarnation was to bring God’s Son into the world. His mission was to save the world, and in doing so He would destroy the power of the devil (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). To save “whosoever will,” the “Word became flesh” at Jesus’ birth, “and dwelt among us” (Matt. 1:21; John 1:14; 3:16). “Being found in appearance as a man” is the way Paul described the Messiah’s humanity (Phil. 2:8).
The Nicene Creed expresses it this way:
…for us men and for our salvation, [Jesus] came down from heaven, and was made flesh of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and ascended into the heavens, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and cometh again with glory to judge living and dead, of whose kingdom there shall be no end…
“A body you prepared for me,” prophesied King David as he summarized Messiah’s advent to this earth (Ps. 40:6-8 Septuagint; Heb. 10:5; Luke 24:39). In that body, Jesus prayed to his Father (John 17). He was also tempted (Matt. 4:1). In fact, the devil threw everything in his arsenal at Jesus, including crucifixion, trying to destroy Him. Jesus actually experienced death while hanging on the cross. But He triumphed over all His foes, including death itself, with His resurrection that followed on the third day (Rom. 5:8).
Neither an angel nor some other newly created being was born that day in the humble stable at Bethlehem. Mary’s womb opened to give birth to a truly human baby. The infant immediately started crying, and was born hungry, like all babies. Yet, He was also very God of very God. The God who suffered humiliation in Jesus Christ is He who became truly man (Matt 26:38; Luke 4:22–23; 23:46; John 12:27; Acts 8:33).
Jesus had a normal physical maturity with a truly human nature. He developed according to the same natural laws as all other men—from a helpless infant, through His teenage years, and into young adult manhood. Luke wrote that Jesus “grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). He surely received rabbinic training as a growing child, which typically involved demanding and focused instruction. One can only imagine how avidly Jesus studied the Torah, the five books of Moses, as well as the whole of the Old Testament. He who was the living Word of God, in His humanity became so astute in the Scriptures He could turn in the scroll to the passage He wanted and read it (John 1:1; Luke 4:17).
The human nature of Jesus experienced all of the sinless characteristics of the flesh. He needed sleep (Matt. 8:24); he experienced hunger (Matt. 4:2; 21:18); He became tired (John 4:6); He felt the pain of thirst (John 19:28); and there were times when He needed strength (Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43).
Jesus accepted the limitations of His own incarnation in a physical body. He moved in and out among people, going and coming. John recorded the Lord “had to go through Samaria” to reach the Samaritan woman (John 4:4). Regarding Lazarus Jesus said, “I am going there to wake him up,” even though it meant about a fifteen mile walk (John 11:11). After He arrived, Martha went to get her sister, Mary, and said to her, “The Master is come and calleth for thee” (John 11:28, kjv). He who was the Water of Life cried out on His cross, “I am thirsty” because He was thirsty (John 19:28).
Regarding His human nature, the angel Gabriel gave the baby the name Jesus, meaning “savior.” This name is the Greek equivalent of Joshua in Hebrew (Luke 1:31; Acts 7:45).
The very human terms people used to refer to Jesus demonstrate His humanity. He was a Jew (John 4:9). John the Baptist announced that “a man” had come after him, and said He was “preferred before me: for he was before me” (John 1:30, kjv). Jesus even called Himself a man (John 8:40).
An indictment against Him for blasphemy included the charge He claimed to be more than “a mere man” (John 10:33). Clearly, His critics perceived Him as being a man.
Paul said He was “the man from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49; see also Rom. 5:17; 8:3). Peter described Him as “a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22). Paul went so far as to tell Timothy “the man Christ Jesus” is the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5). “Since death came through a man,” Paul taught, “the resurrection of the dead also [came] through a man” (1 Cor. 15:21). The Lord ascended into heaven in His resurrection body and will return the second time as a glorified man to judge the world in righteousness (Acts 1:9; 17:31).
Jesus often claimed the term Son of Man, a reference to His humanity. This was the Messiah’s name that was foretold by the prophet Daniel, who ascribed to Him authority, sovereign power, and worship in a kingdom over all peoples, nations, and languages (Dan. 7:13–14; Matt. 26:24). Jesus used the name Son of Man to describe Himself at His trial, and Caiaphas the high priest tore his clothes when he heard it (Matt. 26:64–65). This reaction indicated how well Caiaphas understood Jesus was claiming to be Israel’s Messiah, although Caiaphas was not willing to ascribe the designation to Jesus. At His trial Jesus told the chief priests, “The Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” The members of the Sanhedrin fully understood the implications of the statement and responded by asking, “Are you then the Son of God?” (Luke 22:69–70). By taking the name Son of man, Jesus as Messiah affirmed His own personal humanity. He also was affirming His being the representative Man for the entire human family, the last Adam—and the chief priests knew it well (1 Cor. 15:45).
The martyr Stephen used the expression when he was dying from a cruel stoning at the hands of evil religious leaders, including Israel’s high priest. “Look,” Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
Athanasius (a.d. 296–373) was the great bishop of the church in Alexandria, Egypt. Church history remembers him as a champion of New Testament Christological orthodoxy. “[Jesus] became what we are” Athanasius wrote, “that He might make us what He is.” Said another way, Jesus took on our mortality so He could clothe us with His immortality. We think of Jesus as the God-man, having two natures in one person, fully human and fully divine.
The Law of Moses was explicit that Israelites were to worship God alone (Ex. 34:14); yet Jesus accepted worship and offered no protest. One such example occurred after He quieted a storm on the Sea of Galilee: “Those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matt. 14:33).
In His incarnation, Jesus was always fully human. However, it is a fact evidenced in the Gospels that when the Lord was on Earth, His humanity veiled His divinity. The people to whom He ministered saw Him as a mere man; it took a special revelation for people to discover His Deity. Nathaniel expressed just such a revelation: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49). Jesus responded to him, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:50–51).
The same kind of revelation came to the apostle Peter. The Lord asked him at Caesarea Philippi, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:16–18).
Isaiah said there was “nothing in [Jesus’ human] appearance that we should desire him,” yet we think of Him as “radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand” (Isa. 53:2; Song of Sol. 5:10). If His physical looks did not captivate, His character certainly did. Even His enemies admitted He was impeccable in the integrity of His moral fiber (Mark 12:14).
The apostle John was explicit about any attempt to deny that God in Christ came to the earth as a human being in flesh and blood.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4:1–3).
What a contrast between the man Christ Jesus and His followers, and our adversary the devil and his subjects. Jesus said Satan is our enemy. The Lord described him as a liar and the father of lies. He is also a thief whose goal is to steal, kill and destroy. Satan can also enter people, as he did Judas during the Lord’s Last Supper (Luke 22:3; John 13:27).
Regarding possessing people, the devil surely showed his colors in Paris Friday night. A handful of terrorists left some 130 civilians dead and another 350 injured (1 Peter 5:8; John 8:44; 10:10). Satan also motivates people to write songs about himself, like “Kiss the Devil,” by the rock group, Eagles of Death. And to make it even more revolting, the song says, “Kiss him on the tongue!”
Mary’s baby and God’s Son, the man Christ Jesus, was certainly not a terrorist. Jesus saves people, and He certainly does not kill the innocent. Instead, “whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:5).
Thanksgiving is almost here and Christmas is right around the corner. It’s a wonderful season for passionately telling with great gratitude the story of the triumph of God’s Son, and Mary’s Baby, the man Christ Jesus.