The angel who came to Mary – was he three metres tall? Was he dazzling white? Was he dressed like a warrior? Clearly it was a traumatic experience for Mary. V.29 says that she was greatly troubled and in v.30 the angel told her not to be afraid. But, interestingly, it appears that she was not troubled by his appearance. V.29 says that she was greatly troubled by his words.
The angel said some absolutely extraordinary things. Even his greeting troubled her. All he said was “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” I would have thought that she would have been even more astounded by the things that were still to come.
“You have found favour with God.” OK. That is not too troubling. In fact, it is wonderfully affirming.
“You will conceive and give birth to a son and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.”
Oh my goodness! What incredible statements. Mary would conceive! Her son would be called the Son of the Most High i.e. the Son of God. He would be a king. He would sit on David’s throne and rule over Israel. His kingdom would never end.
We have to remember that Mary was a peasant girl in a little village that people mocked as being of no value. How could her child be a king? And how can anyone reign forever? No king had ever reigned forever. And, most staggering of all, what on earth did it mean that He would be called the Son of God?
Possibly, Mary understood this. Possibly she saw that this all referred to the Messiah. It wasn’t those statements about the child that troubled her. It was how this could possibly happen when she knew that she was a virgin. The angel answered that the power of God would come upon her. This would be a miraculous conception and, as a result, the child would be called the Son of God.
And Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to your word.”
We have been – off and on – developing a word picture of Jesus. Today, I want us to focus on two things that seem to be opposites. He would be a human being. He would come into this world just like every other baby. He was the child of a human mother. But He had no biological human father. His Father was God. So, He was human and He was God.
Can you be both at once? Are they not opposites? Humans are mortal; they die. God is immortal. Humans are sinful. God is sinless. Humans have physical bodies. God is spirit.
Whether people believe it or not, there is no doubt that the Bible teaches that Jesus was the Son of God.
John 3:16 God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son…
At both Jesus’ baptism and His Transfiguration, God spoke audibly from heaven saying, “This is my Son”. There are many other passages. Peter’s famous proclamation at Caesarea Philippi was “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). The miracles, the teaching, the ability for give sins, the responses of demons all indicate the presence of God in Jesus.
But, what about the humanness of Jesus? Was He really a human being like you and me? Or was He different? Was he super-human?
Recently, people have mentioned three classic descriptions of God: omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. All-powerful. All-knowing. Present everywhere. But Jesus was none of those – at least, not during His earthly life. He was limited in His power. He chose to do only what He saw God doing. There were times when He could do no miracles. He could be in only one place at any one time. He wasn’t all-knowing. He didn’t, for example, know when He would return. Only the Father knew that. God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent and Jesus wasn’t.
He got hungry and tired and stressed – just like us. He was tempted, just like us.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.
He had emotions just like us. He felt disappointed and angry and anxious and abandoned, just like us. He needed love and companionship. Going through tough times, He needed faithful friends by His side.
Jesus had to grow and learn. He didn’t come already pre-loaded with wisdom, knowledge and skills. He had to learn those things. He had to learn how to relate to people and how to relate to God.
Listen to all of the very human stuff in this passage.
Hebrews 5:7-10 7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Fervent cries, tears, submission. But Jesus even had to learn obedience.
Notice that the writer of Hebrews refers to the tension: “Son though he was, He learned obedience from what he suffered.” He was the Son of God but, even so, He had to learn obedience. And He learnt it through suffering. And He was made perfect. Wasn’t Jesus always perfect? Apparently not. That doesn’t mean that He sinned and was disobedient and only learned those things later. Hebrews 4 said that he didn’t not sin. But “perfect” can mean complete, whole, mature, fully rounded. Jesus didn’t start life mature and complete. He grew.
When He was 12, people were amazed at His understand and the way He answered the scholars in the Temple but even after that…
Luke 2:51-52 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
All of this says that Jesus was genuinely human – just like us. But what about His supernatural knowledge of people, and the miracles and the authority of His teaching?
Here’s a question: Did Jesus do anything that we couldn’t also do, empowered by the Holy Spirit?
Putting that another way: Was Jesus different from us, or the same as us?
Philippians 2:6-8 who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Jesus was God. He was in every way, God. But He made Himself nothing. Literally, He emptied Himself. Notice the downwards path that He voluntarily took: God, then made Himself nothing, then became a servant. He could have been an angel. They are servants but, no, He went further and became a human being. Then, even as a human being, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient even to death on a Cross. How much higher can you start and how much lower can you go?
Jesus was God but He chose to become a human with all of the limitations of being a human being. He emptied Himself of his Godness and became one of us. He left behind His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence and became one of us. Jesus’ favourite title for Himself was Son of Man.” He rejoiced in being a human.
What does all this mean for us? Three points.
Firstly, the real God came into our world. One of the reasons Jews so not believe that Jesus is the Messiah is that they say God cannot become a human being. That is impossible. That doesn’t fit with their understanding of God. In a way, they are right. It doesn’t fit with what we know of God. And yet he did it. God showed such love and humility that eh followed that path that Philippians describes, from being God to dying on a Cross. For God so loved the world…
What does it mean to you that the real God became a human being?
Secondly, the real God became a real human being. He wasn’t some superhuman. He was just like us which means that He knows what our lives are like. You might have noticed that Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus is able to feel sympathy for our weaknesses. He wasn’t sheltered from the realities of our life. He faced them all. He knows what it is like to be tempted. He knows what it was like to be weak. He knows what it is like to grieve and to feel lonely. He knows what it is like to be angry. He knows what it is like to be hungry and tired and in danger. He was tempted in every way, like we are, but did not sin.
If we ever think that no one understands what we have to go through, Jesus understands. He has lived in this sin-ravaged world and knows exactly what it is like. When you talk to Him about it, He can identify.
Thirdly, if He was just like us, we can be just like Him. If he had been superhuman, we could never be like Him. Give up; it is impossible. If Jesus had been God just disguised as a human being, then we could never be that. But He left His Godness behind and became one of us. The only difference is that he is the example of perfect humanity. He models for us what Kingdom of God people, filled with the Holy Spirit can be. Christ-likeness is possible or, at least, is what we can grow towards. It is not impossible; it is our goal. We are called to be Christ-like and the Holy Spirit transforms us, making us more like Jesus. Jesus said, “Everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Lk 6:40). Every person who follows Jesus, wants to be like Jesus. Jesus shows us what humans can be.
Are you overwhelmed with gratitude that God should leave heaven to become one of us?
Are you comforted by the knowledge that Jesus understands what it is like to live in this painful, broken world? When you are weak and you fail, Jesus knows what it is like to be weak. He didn’t fail but He knows what it is like to be weak and to be tempted. He is not condemning you. He understands and is willing to forgive.
Are you hungry to be like Him? Do you sometimes watch a movie and feel utterly inspired by one of the characters, thinking “I want to be like that”? When you read the Bible, are you utterly inspired by Jesus and find yourself saying, “I want to be like that. Dear God, make me like Jesus. Dear God, change me to make me like Jesus”? Christmas is all about God, in His mercy, becoming one of us, ultimately dying on the Cross for our sins, and calling us to respond by following Him.