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Why You Should Care about Mary’s Virginity

December 16, 2016

Surely you have heard this by now. A virgin gave birth to a son, or so the story goes. Is this just a piece of fancy narrative, or is it a necessary part of the Christmas story (key word “necessary”).

In situations like these we look to…scripture.

 

Matthew’s re-telling of the life of Jesus unfolds the birth of Christ by zeroing in on how Joseph got on board with the whole virgin birth thing. It seems that Matthew is accomplishing at least two things in the opening chapters of his gospel. First, he is establishing the royal lineage of Jesus. He traces the lineage through Joseph, who is husband of Mary, all the way back through David, and then to Abraham. So Jesus is of the right lineage to fulfill the promise of an eternal king and kingdom.

The second thing Matthew is accomplishing, in a little more subtle fashion, is to hold up Jesus as a new representative, a replacement representative, for mankind. We are all, by birth, sons of Adam. He was our representative in the garden. No matter how hard we try, we cannot repeal what he did on our behalf. We cannot improve ourselves into a better standing with God. We cannot apologize ourselves into a better standing with God.

We need a new representative.

 

When Matthew begins telling us about the birth of Jesus, the genesis of Jesus, he tells us that Mary was with child from the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us in his gospel that the Holy Spirit overshadowed her. The idea is similar to when the Holy Spirit hovered over the face of the waters in Genesis 1. Just like the Holy Spirit created something beautiful out of chaos in the beginning, so too does He create something extraordinary out of something sinful in the Christmas story. Later, in Genesis 3, this new creature is tempted in the garden and gives in to temptation. In Matthew 4, we find Jesus in a desert (a garden wasteland) being tempted by the same tempter that beguiled Adam and Eve. But rather than giving in to the temptation, Jesus resisted. I believe that Matthew is showing us that Jesus is a better representative, a new representative. The rest of Jesus’ life bears out the truth that Jesus is a perfectly righteous representative. Where Adam gave in to temptation, Jesus resisted. Where Adam exalted Himself, Jesus exalted God. Where Adam rebelled, Jesus obeyed. Where Adam needed a sacrifice to cover his sin, Jesus becomes our sacrifice to cover our sin. Faith in Adam, or in ourselves, earns us death. But faith in the new representative, Jesus, earns us eternal life.

So let’s go back to the virgin birth. Is it necessary? Matthew seems to think so because it is part of the new creation process. Without a new creation, a new representative, we can’t be new creations. It’s not just a romantic, intriguing part of the Christmas story. The virgin birth is part of the divinely planned re-creation.

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