“The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth — the very thing the whole story has been about.” — C.S. Lewis
We’ve introduced God’s big story in previous challenges using a six act play analogy. In Act 1, God created the world, his masterpiece, like a director’s great script. In Act 2, humans threw away the script, and the play went terribly wrong. In Act 3, it becomes clear humans can’t get back on script ourselves. In Act 4, God steps onto the stage of this world and begins to bring the world back on script. In Act 5 he invites us to improvise with him in a way that makes sense of all that happened before, and arrives at the ending God wrote – the kingdom of God.
Act 4 is the turning point of the whole thing. The moment a director steps onto a stage, the audience is shocked – no one would have expected the director to become part of the play.
But in God’s big story, there were clues – God had been writing the script this way all along.
The prophet Isaiah spoke these words for God 500 years before Jesus’ birth:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good (Isaiah 7:14-15 ESV)
Immanuel means God with us. See the hints here? He’d be born of a virgin. Both things would normally be impossible.
But now in Matthew 1:18-25 you’ll hear echoes of that Isaiah prophecy in a story you’ve probably heard before.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25 ESV)
Matthew saw it so clearly, and named it.
We see it so clearly in retrospect. We may even like to think that if we met this person, we’d have recognized him as God. This is God, walking on earth! He fits the predictions so clearly…in retrospect.
But so many didn’t see it at the time. Yes, he was visited by shepherds and later by Magi, and caught the attention of at least one despotic ruler, but he was mostly ignored until he was 30 years old.
That happened even though he fit around 400 prophecies written and propagated long before he was born. He made sense of them like he made sense of this one we’re focused on today – God with us, born of a virgin.
This doesn’t seem to have been a particularly important passage to observant Jews before Jesus was born, even though it’s of great interest to Christians afterwards. Yes, it referred to a new king being born in the royal family descending from David – that was important. The word virgin in this passage is hard to translate from the original Hebrew – it could be as general as a young woman, or as specific as one waiting to be married any day – even though both implied sexual virginity as the cultural norm when young and unmarried.
Even then, those who’d studied these prophecies best, the scribes and Pharisees of his day, considered him a traitor and false teacher, not their God with them.
I saw an interesting TED Talk (below) that explained how often experts are wrong. Alan Greenspan predicted uneneding economic growth right before a major recession, for example.
But looking back, we see how wrong those experts were, and the same here.
So what happened here? Why did the experts get it wrong?
Question: Why do you think the religious experts missed that Jesus fit the prophecies and predictions?
Reminder: We have a great Christmas event coming December 14th, 2013: The Original Christmas Party. Hope you’re coming!Read the Bible in Sync Today