THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE INCARNATION OF JESUS
By: Frank Tunstall, D. Min.
The Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary in a miraculous and sinless conception of Baby Jesus, with God as His Father (Luke 1:35). The angel Gabriel had told Mary that her baby would be the Son of God. An angel told Joseph, who was engaged to marry Mary, not to be afraid to take her as his wife, because her pregnancy was of God.
The birth of Jesus lives to this day as one of the greatest miracles of all time. It ranks with the miraculous power revealed in the creation, as well as Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, His ascension and the advent of the Holy Spirit.
We can only begin to imagine the awesome spiritual power required to conceive a child without a physical union, and get the DNA perfect. As you continue to read and think about the incarnation of Jesus, let yourself consider the sovereign dominion and divine genius of the Holy Spirit that was required to make the incarnation possible.
Mary’s senior adult relative, Elizabeth, lived in the hill country of Judea. The angel Gabriel had visited Zacharias, her husband, in the temple while he was offering incense and told him his wife would conceive Messiah’s forerunner. They “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). Gabriel said John would go to the people of Israel in the spirit and power of Elijah, “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17; Matthew 3:3).
The angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was in her sixth month carrying Messiah’s forerunner. If Mary needed any confirmation of what Gabriel had told her, making the trip to Elizabeth’s home would be a fool-proof way to verify the angelic prophecy.
When Elizabeth was in her sixth month carrying the baby who would be named John, Mary did just that – she made the long trip from Nazareth to visit Elizabeth. Luke does not tell us if anyone accompanied Mary, but we can be sure the Holy Spirit protected her. Elizabeth and Zachariah lived in a town in the Judean hills, about ninety miles to the south.
When Mary walked into Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy. John the Baptist, a six-month baby in Elizabeth’s womb, at the same time leaped in Elizabeth’s womb for joy (Luke 1:36, 41). John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from His mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).
Zechariah, John’s father and a Levitical priest, was filled with the Spirit and began to prophesy when the infant John the Baptist was circumcised and given his name (Luke 1:67-69).
The recognition that John was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb tells us 21st century children can receive the Holy Spirit too.
Mary made the long trip back home. Then, a few months later, when she was “greatly with child,” Mary made a second trip from Nazareth, this time to Bethlehem (perhaps ten miles shorter). Baby Jesus was born on this trip (Matthew 2:5).
When Jesus was eight days old, His parents took Him to the temple for circumcision (Luke 2:21-24; Leviticus 12:8; Exodus 13:1-2, 12). John the Baptist was about three months old when Baby Jesus was dedicated.
A man named Simeon, who was “righteous and devout,” was in the temple. He was “waiting for the consolation of Israel… the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts and was present at the exact time Joseph and Mary brought Baby Jesus to the temple (Luke 2:25-27). Simeon took Jesus out of Mary’s arms, and holding the infant, began to speak a prophecy of praise to God:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
No one is ready to leave this world until he has “seen” the Lord’s Messiah.
Simeon’s prophecy was very specific that God had given him a promise he would see His Messiah before his death, and it was fulfilled in those moments in the temple. It must have been minutes of ecstasy for Simeon to realize by the Holy Spirit that he was holding His Messiah in his arms. This Godly man prophesied that Mary’s Baby would have a ministry to Israel and to the Gentile world. Mary and Joseph could only marvel hearing the prophecy.
Simeon then blessed Joseph and Mary, and began to prophesy again, this time speaking to Mary:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35 NIV).
One can wonder if the prophecy was like a hit in the stomach to this teenage mother. At a minimum, it was surely a prophecy Mary would never forget.
Some thirty years later, on crucifixion morning, an unnamed person brought the news to Mary that her son had been nailed to a cross. In the moment she heard it, she must have yelled the piercing scream of a mother’s mortified heart. It is also possible in her shock she remembered Simeon’s prophecy again. The sword had indeed pierced her soul. No mother should ever have to go see her bloody and mangled son hanging on a cross; the dagger must have hurt Mary beyond words. It was surely a memory Mary never forgot as long as she lived.
Another of the Lord’s saints, an elderly woman named Anna, was also in the temple.
“She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:37-38 NIV).
Can anyone deny the Holy Spirit understood the time had come for Messiah to be revealed to the world? (Galatians 4:4). The Spirit foreknew all of the people in the drama would be in place (and they were), ready to fulfill their roles and act out of their own free will. Since all firstborn males in Israel were to be brought to the temple for dedication and circumcision, it is reasonable other babies were in the temple at the same time. Guided by the Holy Spirit, both Simeon and Anna got it exactly right and picked out Baby Jesus.
Biblical prophecy; 100 percent accurate. Amazing!
Jesus was warmly received as a child of twelve in the temple (Luke 2:42-49). But when He launched His ministry, it must be noted that He never had a pleasant, conflict-free visit to the temple Jesus described as “my house.” Jesus also indicted the temple as “a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13; Isaiah 56:7 Jeremiah 7:11).
At Jesus’ birth Simeon and Anna were living, but they were not temple officials. During Jesus’ ministry years no one in the temple system recognized Him as the Messiah and welcomed Him, and no “Simeon” or “Anna” was living to affirm Him either. Temple worship had moved far afield from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham, Moses and David would have been aghast at what had happened to the nation.
John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Jesus
The Bible does not tell us about John the Baptist’s upbringing, but growing up as a Holy Spirit-filled child in a priestly family with Holy Spirit filled parents must have made for unusual parenting. Jesus was not born into a priestly family; instead, He was from the tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:1-6; Like 3:31-34). Without doubt, each of these parents began pouring the Scriptures into Baby John and Baby Jesus, beginning in infancy, and surely before they were old enough to talk.
John’s baptism in the Jordan River was a baptism in which he called on the people to “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance,” and stop their false reliance on Abraham as their father (Luke 3:8). He insisted on personal repentance before God grounded in personal faith, if they were to make straight paths for the Messiah (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4).
John did prepare the way. He foretold the Lord’s coming, and then announced to the crowd at the Jordan River that Messiah had arrived. John also baptized the Lord in the Jordan “to fulfill all righteousness” and Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit “without limit” (Matthew 3:1-3, 13-15; Mark 1:7; John 1:29; 3:34). Jesus Himself said no other prophet was greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28).
This Spirit-filled man foresaw more than Messiah’s incarnation. John also prophesied the advent of the Holy Spirit which the Heavenly Father would give at Jesus’ request. As Moses had wished for a thousand years earlier, and as Joel had foreseen perhaps 800 years before Jesus’ birth, John the Baptist prophesied the Holy Spirit would be given to the masses of the people, and not to a select few (Numbers 11:29; Joel 2:28). Addressing the throng at the Jordan, John said, “He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11; John 1:15, 27, 30-33 KJV).
The dream was coming true. Messiah was on the scene with a plan only God could have conceived to save the world. It had been framed in eternity and its day had arrived.