The Person of Christ - 11 - The Incarnation of Christ

Chapter 11 - The Incarnation of Christ

From Mary’s Standpoint

Albert McShane

 

The subject of the Incarnation is so sacred that it must be handled with due reverence. Anyone who attempts to gratify his natural curiosity by exploring into all the wonders of this, the greatest of earth’s mysteries, is treading on dangerous ground. On the other hand, we would be depriving ourselves of much precious truth, if we refuse to learn as much as possible concerning it, from the revelation that God has given us. The Gospels make plain that the one human person especially involved in this great event was the virgin called Mary. We would find it extremely difficult to consider the subject without looking at the part she played in it, and at the way she became enlightened as to what was happening through her.

 

From the time the Lord promised that Satan should be defeated by the Seed of the woman, many of the spiritually minded women of past ages desired that they should be the instrument through whom He would come. Even Eve, herself, probably thought that Cain, her firstborn, was that Deliverer, but like many others she was passed by, and not until the fulness of the time had come was the news heard of the advent of the long expected One. Mary, a young woman, living in the despised village of Nazareth, was favoured to become His mother.

 

During the centuries that elapsed, between the giving of the promise and its fulfillment, the line through which He would come narrowed considerably. At the beginning, it was simply “her Seed”; then, because of the flood, it was through Noah; later Abraham was singled out, then his offspring Isaac, Jacob and Judah; and lastly it was revealed to David that out of his loins He would come. There were times when Satan sought to break the line of descent, for example, in the days of Athaliah, when all but one of the seed royal were slain. He failed, however, and the Child was born in spite of all the Enemy’s efforts and in spite of human failure.

 

The high-ranking angel, Gabriel, was commissioned to tell to Mary the news of the miracle she would experience. From what he said to her, and from the record that follows, it appears that she, as well as her future husband, was a descendant of David. In the providence of God, two branches of David’s family, namely, the house of Solomon and the house of Nathan, which had drifted apart for years, met together in the betrothal of Mary and Joseph. While the stress is on Joseph both in the genealogy given by Matthew and the one given by Luke, yet most feel that the latter is really the pedigree of Mary.

 

We need not doubt that surprise filled the heart of Mary when first she heard that she was to become the mother of the promised One. While her spirit remained calm, yet as we might expect, she sought from the angel more light on the wonder of motherhood apart from the normal relationship with man. In Gabriel’s words to her we have a striking example of brevity combined with fullness. In a few sentences he greets her, tells her she is favoured, that the Lord is with her, that she is blessed, that she is favoured of God and that she shall bear a son. Likewise his statements concerning the Child that would be born are concise; His name, “Jesus,” His fame, “great,” His Divinity, “Son of the Highest,” His kingship, “the throne of David,” and His kingdom, “To reign over the house of Jacob forever.”

 

From what was said to Mary at this time we see that she was to bear a Son, and that He would be conceived by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit, but born in the normal way. The miracle was not in His birth but in His conception. While the Holy Spirit was the power that enabled Mary to conceive, yet He is never said to be the Father of Christ, nor must we ever believe that Christ was part God and part Man. No! He was wholly Man and wholly God. The incarnation was not the impartation of the Divine Essence to Mary for the Divine Essence is intransmissible. Rather was it that the Son of God partook of blood and flesh, thus uniting two natures in one person, yet these two are never confused but always remain distinct. Although Mary was a fallen creature like all others of the human race and as such was never said to be sinless, yet the power of the Spirit that enabled her to conceive also preserved the One conceived from all contamination, so that He was as Holy when born as when conceived. Note the words, “That holy thing that shall be born of thee.”

 

It was far from easy for Mary to apprehend the message conveyed to her by the angel, but whatever her limitations in knowledge may have been, she humbly submitted herself and accepted the offer without reservation. As a means of strengthening her confidence at this critical time she was directed to her cousin Elisabeth, who likewise had experienced the power of God in conception, albeit in a much lesser degree. The meeting of these two women, and their respective outbursts of song as recorded by Luke, depicts one of the most sublime scenes in his Gospel. By putting together the different passages relating to the birth of Christ we can grasp some idea of how the thoughts of Mary concerning Him were developed at this time. First, the angelic communication to which we have already referred; secondly, the words of Elisabeth; thirdly, the dream of Joseph; fourthly, the shepherds; fifthly Simeon and Anna, and sixthly, perhaps a little later, the Magi who not only added to her knowledge, but also to her stores of material things. In a period of little more than two years she was initiated into the deepest secrets of Christology. Little wonder that we read of her pondering these things in her heart.

 

The Incarnation was not only a stoop for the Son of God, but it brought with it many trials for His mother. Whether we think of her journey to Bethlehem at an inopportune time, or of the crowded inn, or of the darkness of night in the cattle-shed where the birth took place, or of the absence of nursery facilities, we are compelled to believe that her lot had no earthly glamour attached to it. Well do we sing, “His death of shame and sorrow, was like unto His birth; Which would no glory borrow, no majesty from earth.”

 

The question might arise, “Was the Incarnation really necessary?” The answer in the Scriptures is clear. First, apart from it God could not have fully revealed Himself to His creatures; secondly, it was essential for the removal of sins, for “Without shedding of blood there is no remission;” thirdly, the sovereignty of the world was settled in man, so a Man must be the eternal King; and fourthly, only a Man could be the Priest for God’s people. There is nothing temporary about the Manhood of Christ, for just as His Kingship and Priesthood are everlasting, so too He will remain a Man forever.

 

We conclude this paper with the words of Paul, “Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into Glory,, (1 Tim. 3:16).