How can a virgin have a baby?
If anyone knew about the difficulties surrounding a virgin birth, it was Luke. Luke, the writer of this Gospel, was a physician by trade and a Greek by culture. His mind was committed to details, data, and order. His writings reflect organization and careful research. No hint of fairy tale, myth, or fable surrounds his words. Luke was a scholar and an intellect. If anyone should know that a virgin cannot give birth, it would be a doctor. Yet it was precisely a doctor who wrote of the virgin birth as fluidly as taking down notes on a patient’s chart.
When I go to the doctor I usually have a written list of questions I want to ask. You also might make a list; after all, it’s not every day we can get in to see the doctor. On top of that, a doctor’s time is usually rushed. I’ve found that if I don’t have my questions prepared and written, I’ll go through my appointment, get out to my car, and then remember that one important thing I had intended to ask.
Having dealt with his own patients throughout his years of practice, Luke probably grew to anticipate questions as well. Considering the uniqueness of Mary’s situation, he might have known that most people would ask: how could a virgin have a baby? Maybe that’s why he chose to make the point so clear from the start.
Twice in this passage, Luke used the word virgin. Twice he drew attention to the single detail that’s critical to everything else. Twice he piqued our interest with such a seemingly obvious contradiction. After all, everyone knows that a virgin can’t have a baby!
Luke’s emphasis highlighted God’s role in this event. This was no ordinary conception. Don’t miss that. Without it, Mary’s child would have been like everyone else’s.
Yet in this one unique conception and birth, the immaterial and the material merged. Nobility entered poverty. Divine holiness combined with humanity. God became a human.
Matthew wasn’t a doctor, but in his Gospel, he gave another testimony to highlight the virgin birth. In our Lord’s genealogy, he wrote, “Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matt. 1:16).
The word who is important in Matthew 1:16. It is a feminine singular relative pronoun in the Greek. Now, don’t get tripped up by all of those terms. Basically what the language tells us is that Jesus was conceived through Mary, but not by Joseph. In other words, Joseph was Mary’s husband, but he wasn’t Jesus’ father. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit so that His human nature might be sinless. His humanity had both a heavenly origin through the power of God’s Spirit and an earthly origin through the virgin named Mary. The virgin birth thus circumvented the transfer of a sinful nature.
The angel Gabriel had been sent by God to communicate the unique circumstances of Jesus’ conception and birth to Mary. It was certainly unique to have an angelic visit, and his words were even more unique. But, Gabriel said, none of this should cause fear in Mary because, “The Lord is with you.”
Unique? Yes, but it was all under God’s direction and favor … which is exactly how a virgin can give birth.