Monday, 21 December 2009

a tale of two births

Luke's gospel begins with the story of two miracle births, or to be more precise two miracle 'conceptions'; the birth itself in both cases was perfectly normal. There are similarities in the visit of Gabriel and the two children are the subject of a thrilling prophecy from an old priest, but Luke takes great care to distinguish the different nature of these two 'miracle conception'. We can express the essence of the difference in a single phrase or two; Elisabeth was barren; Mary was virgin.

The miracle that Elisabeth received was a miracle of healing in which her sexual reproductive faculties were healed enabling the conceiving of John Baptist. That birth was the product of two 'bloods', the union of Elisabeth and Zacharias. The child produced by this normal physical union had a wonderful destiny to be sure. He would be, as Christ once described him, the 'greatest born of woman'. Matt 11:11 He would be Israel's greatest prophet and the man God would use to 'restore all things'. Matt 17:11. He was to be 'filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb. Luke 1:15. But, and it is an big BUT, he would be a child of two human parents and would be no different in constitution to any other child, you and me included.

See how carefully Luke distinguishes the miracle of healing in Elisabeth from the miracle of creation in Mary. Mary's child would constitute a brand new beginning for the human race. Mary's child would be God's son. The old KJV expressed the consequence of this miracle by declaring "therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35. The phrase jars a little on modern ears. The NKJV has 'that Holy One', both are accurate translations but perhaps the older version may make us think a little deeper.

John Baptist was not a 'holy thing' at his birth. He was a joy to his parents, chosen by God for a great destiny and filled with the Holy Spirit and yet he was 'once born' and was 'a sin-infested thing' like the rest of his race. He would exercise a powerful ministry and see thousands come to his baptism of repentance but a man may be mightily blessed by God and still be 'born of woman' and consequently still be outside the Kingdom.

Jesus the Son of God and of Mary was different. This was a fresh start. He would be 'holy' and 'human'; a unique being. As a result of the 'overshadowing' of the Holy Spirit he would be guarded, in the womb, from all the deadly inheritance of Adam. The baby born nine months later was mankind's new beginning and all who would pass out of Adam and into Christ must be able to trace a similar history. Their spiritual new birth, the result of the coming of the Holy Spirit, must make them a child of God, born not 'of bloods', nor of natural desires, nor of human powers of choice, but 'of God'. John 1:12

No comments: