While it may be possible to be saved without believing in it, to reject the virgin birth is to reject God’s Word. Furthermore, disbelief in the virgin birth may lead to compromise in other areas of doctrine with which it is vitally connected.
Larry King was once asked who he would most want to interview if he could choose anyone from all history. He said, “Jesus Christ.” The questioner said, “And what would you like to ask Him?” Larry King replied, “I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.”
While Catholics are criticized for making too much of Mary, Protestants often make too little of Mary. But clearly, God chose her; she was ready to obey; she became the greatest mother that ever lived in history. From the womb to the tomb, she never forsook her Son.
The birth of Christ through a virgin gives us a glimpse of the nature of grace. The birth of Christ, in which the initiative and power are all of God, is an apt picture of God’s saving grace in general of which it is a part. It teaches us that salvation is by God’s act, not our human effort. The birth of Jesus is like our new birth, which is also by the Holy Spirit; it is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
As we consider Mary, we glean insight about ourselves. In Jesus, the One and Only Beth Moore provides this introspective reflection:
Imagine that you are Mary–still 13 or 14 years old, but in a very different culture. You are oblivious to the selection of this day on God’s calendar. You are an ordinary girl in a humble home. You dress in a typical fashion, a simple tunic draped with a cloak. A sash wrapped around the waist allows you to walk without tripping over the long fabric. Still, the hem of your dress sweeps the dusty floor as you begin your morning duties. You are the virgin daughter of a Jewish father, so you have draped your veil over your head and crossed it over your shoulders for the duration of the day.
Without warning, a messenger from God appears and announces that you have been chosen among women to bear the Son of God. You can hardly believe, yet you dare not doubt. As suddenly as the angel appeared, he vanishes. You are flooded with emotions. But the greatest of all is the looming question: “Why did God choose me?”
Don’t underestimate the weight of the news Mary received. Thus far she had absolutely no physical evidence to bring faith to sight. Twenty years ago, while on a mission trip in Europe, I had the privilege of stopping in Florence, Italy. I am usually not a big fan of museums but one particular fresco intrigued me called Annunciation, which was completed over 5 centuries ago but is still dynamic and intriguing. The artist, Fra Angelico, has placed on the left side of the painting the figure of an angel, elaborate in dress with a resplendent, colorful wingspan. On the right side is a simple, slender young girl seated on a wood stool, staring incredulously as the angel addresses her with the word Ave, which means “greeting” or (as we would say) “hello.”
Obviously, this painting captures that pivotal moment in time when the angel of the Lord announced to Mary that she was to become the one who would bring the Messiah into the world in human form…a moment that changed the course of history.
There’s more to the painting, however. Within the split second of receiving this angelic news, the girl’s face shows that delicate moment of searching for clarity so she can obey God’s command even in its incredulity. I think Fra Angelico is saying to the viewer, “Obedience is not easy…it takes trusting in the fact that God knows what He is doing even though I don’t.” Understandably, Mary was concerned how such a birth could happen since it was humanly impossible. She had questions, but as we know from Luke 1:38, she obeyed the voice of God, saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left.
Well, what does all this have to do with you and me? In a strange sort of way, every person in the world can identify with Mary. Deep within us there is a teeter-tottering between needing to know more and simply taking God at His Word.
- How can we reconcile that which we don’t understand?
- We often wonder why we have been chosen to do something we feel utterly incapable of.
- We have fragile moments where we feel no support, and can only stare into space, trying to discern the scope of the news that has just been given to us.
As we study Mary, we learn more about ourselves! But most importantly, we learn more about God’s personal, sovereign plans for each of us. Believing in the virgin birth is as critical to my faith development as believing that God is equally involved in the intricate details of my life. What remains to be seen is my willingness to humbly and promptly obey.
Thankful for His birth!