“The Word Became Flesh” – A Study of the Birth of Jesus

Intro: When I was a child my brothers and I had several creatures that we called “pets”. Snakes, Guinea pigs, insects, a dog or two, and even some fish in an aquarium. I remember spending time watching the fish as they swam around the tank, in their own world, and wondering what it would be like to be a fish. Maybe that is why I enjoyed the animated film,” The Sword and the Stone”. In the story, Merlin, the wizard, answers the Wart’s (the young King Richard) questions by allowing him to become something else and live in another world. He is turned into a squirrel, and even a fish, and lives among them as one of them. In the experience he learns about all the problems and challenges of living as something else. That would be a profound experience.

John 1:14- 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

  • These words describe a profound experience as well. These words describe the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Word who was God (1:1), became flesh (became a human being) and lived among us. God came and lived as a man. This is more than we can understand fully. It is the most magnificent happening in human history.
  • Unlike the former make-believe illustration, the One who took on a new form was not the student, but the teacher. It is you and I who behold Him, and learn of His glory, and grace, and truth.
  • And besides that, this “becoming” is not fantasy. It actually happened in real time. God lived among us in the human body of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • In some lessons previous we considered the deity of Christ as expressed in John 1:1 and many other Bible passages. Our future lessons on the names of Jesus will also touch upon this fact. But Jesus was also a man. As much as He was fully divine, He was fully human at the same time. During this month I want to focus on the humanity of Jesus. What does the Bible teach about Jesus’ humanness? What is the importance of Jesus’ humanity to the gospel message?
  • First, I want us to take a closer look at Jesus’ birth. Read several passages – get your Bibles out.

I. The Birth of Jesus: Jesus is introduced in the first words of the NT as the Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. After tracing this unique lineage, Matthew describes one of the grandest events in all of the bible – the birth of Jesus. Let’s read Matt 1:18-25

A. But let’s back up a bit. From the time of Malachi to the time of these things was 400 years. But they were silent years – no prophets (as far as scripture is concerned). But then God speaks to an older priest named Zacharias as he entered the temple to offer incense. Read Luke 1:13-17 – Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth was past the age for childbirth and Zacharias was incredulous to Gabriel’s announcement. As result God caused him to be mute until the day these things would come to pass. John, the Baptist was on the way via a miraculous birth.

1. Six months later the angel Gabriel appears again, this time to a young woman who had never been married. Read Luke 1:27-38 These words point directly back to OT prophecies of the coming King who would sit on David’s throne in an everlasting kingdom – The Messiah (anointed One). How exciting this must have been for Mary!

B. “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Mary is perplexed by God’s words. How can she have a child? Is this to be Joseph’s son? Gabriel clearly tells her that this birth will distinct from any birth before it. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore that Holy One who is thus conceived will be called the Son of God”(1:35). Mary will have a child through the Holy Spirit and give birth to Jesus apart from the participation of a human father. Jesus was born of a virgin.

1. The prophet Isaiah foresaw this marvelous miracle in Isa. 7:14“Behold, the virgin will be with child, and will give birth to a son, and they will call His name Immanuel which means ‘God with us’“. In the earliest prophecy concerning Christ, He is called the “seed of woman” (Gen. 3:15). The record of scripture is consistent on this point. The fact that Joseph was “minded to put away” Mary (Matthew 1:19) clearly shows he knew he was not the father of the child.

Note: Joseph made a tough choice here: If he divorces her for publicly (for cause) he keeps the dowry and does not have to pay the 50 shekel bride price. He chooses to not accuse her (even though he thought she was guilty) and had to return the dowry and risked his own reputation. He was a righteous man.

C. Pre-natal Praise: Read Luke 1:39-42 – Mary goes to Judea to see Elizabeth (Luke 1:39ff). When Elizabeth hears the voice of Mary, her baby leaps within her! (v. 41) John is so excited to see Jesus he leaps for joy, even before they are born. Although Elisabeth is the older and though she is further along in her pregnancy, she by the Spirit of God is led to forget her baby in her praise of Mary’s baby. Normally any woman in Elisabeth’s position would have felt that her baby was the greatest blessing ever given to the human family. Elisabeth, however, is led to realize that it is Mary’s baby who will be Lord of all. Mary’s song that follows exhibits her faith in God’s promises and exalts God’s choice to use the poor and lowly things to fulfill His promises and show His strength. (1:46-56)

D. “It came to pass in those days…” Read Luke 2:1-7 – Micah prophesied 700 years earlier that the Messiah would be born in the Judean town of Bethlehem (the city of David, Micah 5:2) Luke records the providential circumstances that made that happen. Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem to be counted in a census ordered by Caesar Augustus. You see both Mary and Joseph are in the family of David and thus go to the city of David to be counted with the rest of their family.

1. Daniel predicted that the kingdom of God would arrive in the days of the kings of the 4th empire from the Babylonians. The Romans erected that kingdom, and Caesar Augustus was their king (Emperor). The time was right. Paul worded that this way… “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” Gal. 4:4

          • Note: This passage was once thought to be full of errors, and clear proof that the Bible was inaccurate. It was argued in the past that 1) there was no such census, 2) that Quirinius was not governor of Syria at that time, and 3) that people did not have to return to their ancestral home. But archaeological discoveries have substantiated all that Luke says here. We now know that the Romans 1) had a regular enrollment of taxpayers, 2) held censuses every 14 years (begun by Augustus Caesar), 3) Quirinius was governor of Syria around 7 B.C.

2. “Because there was no room for them in the inn” – In the typical “Christmas” adaptation of this event there are common mistakes. The text does not mention an innkeeper, or any words he may have said. In fact, the word for “inn” here simply means “loosened”, and is often translated as a guest chamber, where folks would unloosen their belts or shoes. Many times this referred to an upper chamber, as opposed to a lower ground floor where the animals were fed. May not have been a separate barn at all. But this is not the most hospitable place for the King of Israel! Again I am amazed at God’s choices.

E. “I bring you good tidings of great joy…” Read Luke 2:8-20. The story of the birth of Christ is a story of angelic activity. An angel appears to shepherd in the field at night. These shepherds were afraid.

1. But angel comforted them by assuring them that he was bringing them good news (word for “gospel”) We might think that the news of any birth is good news, but this is good news for all people. This was the news that the Christ, the Savior of the world had arrived. This was the high point of redemptive history to this date.

a. Again I am amazed at God’s choices. If you were in charge of delivering the greatest news since the fall of man who would you choose to get the news out? The Sanhedrin, the high priest? God chooses the lowly shepherd. He has no religious or political influence or fame. He is a common man. It reflects the nature of His mission. Luke 4:17-19And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Later Jesus Himself would choose common men, fisherman and tax collectors, tentmakers, to proclaim His message. These chosen shepherds also became proclaimers of the good news, and were effective in making known what they had heard and seen. (2:17-18)

F. “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14) After these shepherds are told where to go and what they will find there – they will find a newborn baby in a manger in the city of Bethlehem – the heaven open up with a MUTLITUDE OF HEAVENLY HOSTS praising God. This birth was the fulfillment of a divine purpose; it was the beginning of a divine plan. It was the manifestation of the wisdom of God. Paul later tells us that God displayed his manifold wisdom to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through his plan to save men and bring them into His church, “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” ( Eph 3:11)

1. The glory of God is mentioned twice here:

          • in vs. 9 it says the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds, and they were afraid.
          • in vs. 14 it says that the shout of praise from the multitude of angels was “glory to God in the highest”.

a. What did the appearance of the glory of God signify? The glory of the Lord was the presence of the Lord made visible through light. No may could look on God, He is a Spirit. But when He chose to present Himself it was in immense light. The glory of God appeared at other times to His people in the Old Testament.

            • When Moses finished the tabernacle according to God’s instructions “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exod. 40:34-35) It was a monumental episode when the Lord blessed the establishment of the true place of worship, with His presence.
            • Centuries later, at the completion of Solomon’s temple the same phenomenon occurred (1 Kings 8:10-11). God came once again to be among His people.
            • But it was not long until the people turned away from God, and he withdrew His glory from the Temple. (Ezekiel 10:18-19) God would not dwell with a sinful people. A Temple without God.
            • Interestingly when the Temple is rebuilt under Zerubbabel, the appearance of the glory of God in not mentioned.
            • But God’s glory returned the night the angels confronted the shepherds near Bethlehem. This signifies the tremendous importance of that extraordinary night—the presence of God returned to earth, not in a tent or a building as before, but in human flesh in the person of the Messiah.
            • This was, as the angel announced, Immanuel, God is with us.

2. What is the goal of this wondrous birth? What is the good news? peace on earth and goodwill toward men” Many have interpreted this as a social reformation wherein we will have global peace, and everyone will get along (“Christmas message”) But the message of this good news is much more substantial and far-reaching. What does this child bring for us that elicits such praise?

a. This is the peace of God provided through the life and death of the Savior just born. It is a peace made possible through the removal of the guilt of sin, accomplished through the atonement of Jesus’ blood. Eph 2:14-18For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

b. This “goodwill” is God’s not ours. Although living according to the gospel creates goodwill among us (we get along with each other) this goodwill is the purpose of God in redemption. It is His mercy in the face of our sins, and His forgiveness when we fail. It is goodwill toward men (ASV)

For God so loved… that He gave His Son. 

Conclusion: “we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

  • Have you responded to His grace (He was born to die for you; Eph 2:8 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
  • and obeyed His truth (“Mark 16:15-16 – And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.