How Was Jesus Conceived?

Title: How Was Jesus Conceived?

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Time: December 18th, 2011


One of the great advantages of living in the modern 21st century is our ability to think about age-old questions in light of new scientific discoveries. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how we think about things, or how we put together the new knowledge and the old historical, biblical accounts. A Christian will be careful to give God’s Word, the Bible, full credibility – while at the same time try to integrate what new knowledge that science can shed light on with the biblical truths. That’s what I intend to do today in tackling an important Christmas question, “How was Jesus conceived?” Now the account in the Book of Matthew simply states that Mary was “found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” and “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit,” but it doesn’t go into details as to how this came about. Let’s read the whole passage on the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25 in order to get the context (read). Now we know that Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, but how did this actually come about? I raise the question because in light of new science and technology there are a number of different possibilities as to how God the Holy Spirit could have brought about a virgin birth. I’d like to look at a few of the more plausible options as to how God could have brought about a virgin conception. Of course, we don’t actually know for sure 100% how it came about because God hasn’t revealed that to us in his Word. It wasn’t his intention to reveal everything about everything in the Bible. Can you imagine how big the Bible would be if God went into detail about everything he revealed in his Word? The Bible is already a big book, although through the providence of God, it is a manageable book – we can actually pick up and carry around the complete and full revelation of God for mankind in one volume! But imagine how big the Bible would be if God stopped to explain how every miracle took place in detail. It would be unmanageable. So there aren’t many details that explain things in the Bible, and we actually don’t need these details to benefit from God’s written revelation. But as curious humans – made that way, by the way, in the image of God — we ask for more information. We think about things and come up with possible explanations. That’s what I’m doing in respect to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. What better time of the year to ask such questions as Christmas? The world is celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem two thousands years ago, so let’s ask a few questions and consider a few possibilities about the virgin birth.


First, there’s the possibility of divine artificial insemination. Matthew 1:18, “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.” Artificial insemination is when male sperm is put into the female’s reproductive track in order to bring about conception. So one possibility is that the Holy Spirit somehow artificially inseminated Mary’s reproductive track and brought about pregnancy that way. Under this scenario the way it works is God supplies the male sperm and Mary supplies the female egg, when the two mix there’s a divine/human conception. Now the obvious problem with this possibility is that according to the Bible, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23, including Mary. So then, if God supplied the perfect, sinless seed from heaven, and Mary supplied the imperfect, human egg, then the product would be a mixture of sinless divinity and sinful humanity. But we know that Jesus was perfectly sinless from Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.” Jesus didn’t inherit original sin, making him unique in this condition from all humanity. But if only Jesus were sinless, as the Bible states, then Mary couldn’t have provided any part of the ingredients of conception for the birth of Jesus, since she too was a sinner, part of the fallen human race tainted by original sin. Now our Roman Catholic friends have a solution to this problem – they claim that Mary was kept supernaturally free from original and actual sin all her life. Thus, she could provide the female half of the conception equation while God provided the divine half. Mary’s sinless life is a tradition in both the Roman Catholic church and Eastern Orthodox church. Catholics believe Mary was born without original sin and also she didn’t ever sin during her lifetime, while Orthodox Christians usually believe only in her sinless life. But a close reading of the Bible fails to turn up any teaching on Mary’s sinless life or her “Immaculate Conception” – as it’s called. These are external traditions that are not part of the original biblical revelation. They would also seem to contradict the fact that Mary needed a Savor from sin like everyone else. So the problem with thinking that the virgin birth came about through divine artificial insemination is that Mary would have to be sinless in order for it to work – something the Bible doesn’t teach, and something the Bible implies isn’t the case. But there’s another possibility.


Second, there’s the possibility of an already divinely fertilized egg implanted in Mary’s womb. Matthew 1:18, “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.” Under this scenario, the Holy Spirit of God brings about a divinely fertilized egg and implants it in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Even though Mary was part of sinful humanity, even though she inherited original sin like everyone, even though she was a sinner and unable to live a life of sinless perfection, she was still able to carry the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, for nine months of pregnancy because a fertilized egg was planted within her supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. Now this avoids any taint of original or active sin mixing with the perfect divine conception and it allows for Mary to be the actual biological mother of Jesus, as the Gospel accounts describe. Now the only possible problem with this understanding of the virgin birth of Jesus is – does it qualify Jesus as being fully human, as well as fully divine? In other words, there’s no question that a divinely fertilized egg dropped into the womb of the Virgin Mary qualifies the divine nature of Christ, but does it qualify the human nature of Christ as well. Can Jesus be fully human if there is no direct DNA connection with any human parent? We already know that there wasn’t any of Joseph’s DNA as part of the conception of Christ, but was Mary’s DNA absent as well? And if Mary’s DNA was absent from Jesus, was he really a part of the human race, connected with authentic humanity? As you can see, science and technology now allow us to ask new and different questions about the virgin birth of Jesus. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the answers, because we just don’t know. If Jesus had the generic DNA of humans, — that would probably qualify as a member of true humanity, even though he didn’t share the DNA of his parents Mary and Joseph. Of course, through a supernatural miracle, God could give Jesus both Mary and Joseph’s DNA minus any defects or sin – if sin is even part of DNA. On the other hand, maybe original sin isn’t passed through DNA anyway, so it wouldn’t matter if Mary’s DNA were mixed with God’s divine DNA to conceive Jesus. Again, we have more questions than answers. We can only speculate. But what we do know is that Jesus was born free of original sin and kept free from actual sin his whole life. Only a perfect, sinless sacrifice could atone for our sins on the cross. So however the conception came about, it was free from sin.


Third, there’s the wonder of God in Jesus Christ going through the conception, development and birth stages of life. Matthew 1:18, “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.” We often forget in our celebration of Christmas each year that we’re talking about God Almighty entering humanity through conception and birth. What an amazing thing! Now why would God choose to go through this route in relating to us in our humanity on earth? Let’s consider the different ways God could appear on earth to reveal himself to us humans. Well, he could appear in all his glory and totally blow our minds and probably give everyone a heart attack in the process. Remember the prophet Isaiah who was given a vision of God Almighty? What did he say? “Woe to me! I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty,” Isaiah 6:5. God could have come to us and totally intimidated us into submission and obedience, but he didn’t. No. He took the totally opposite route and decided to visit us in the most possible non-intimidating way. In other words, he decided to “sneak up on us” in the form of a baby born in an obscure part of the world to ordinary parents. He did so because he wanted us to approach him with our guards and defenses down. Imagine an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present Being trying to relate to his creatures on earth. Almost everything he would do would intimidate us. But God doesn’t want us to love him through intimidation; he wants us to love him freely. So his plan is to enter humanity as a baby, identify with us as a man, and then offer salvation freely through the cross.  We can never accuse God of being some detached Father in heaven who doesn’t relate to us or feel our pain. God was willing to identify with us humans from conception to death. Imagine God Almighty living nine months in the womb of a woman. Imagine God Almighty being pushed out into the world at birth and being slapped on the rear end and crying and breathing his first breath of air. Imagine God Almighty being a helpless little baby, unable to feed, cloth or change himself. God was willing to do all of this for us because he cares about us so much and loves us so. Christmas is special time of the year when we can reflect on the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ. It’s when God became man in the form of a little baby. As you can see, there is so much more to think and talk about in the Christmas account, but I’ll stop here for today. Do you know God this Christmas? Have you opened your heart up to the Christ child? God became human at Christmas to relate to us and for us to relate to God. Have you taken advantage of God’s plan for reaching out to you in this way? Why not draw close to God this Christmas? Why not renew your Christmas faith this year? Let’s pray.


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One Response to “How Was Jesus Conceived?”

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