[August 9]--The Spirit at Work: Unique Conception

Matt. 1:18-23

So we’ve looked at how the Holy Spirit has been at work as God’s agent on earth since the creation. He was involved in the unique, intimate creation of mankind, in some mysterious way breathing into that lump of dirt and bringing it to life. He was behind every judge and every prophet. Every inspired (“breathed in”) word which a prophet uttered came from the Spirit. Now we come to the earthly life of Christ, and we’re going to see over the next few days how the Spirit was involved in every single major aspect of our redemption.

I really have to be careful here, because the Incarnation of Christ is a true mystery which the church took almost three hundred years to clarify. A word here needs to be examined further: “mystery.” When we use that term in the theological sphere, we aren’t referring to anything like you read about in detective novels. When we hear the word, we normally think of something that needs to be solved. We don’t know or understand X, so we need to keep probing and asking questions until we get a complete answer.

But that’s not the case here at all. When we talk about a “mystery” in this context, we’re looking at something so deep and so beyond our understanding that any human endeavor to unwrap it only ends up in frustration. Of course we want to understand it as best as our puny minds can allow, but we have to come to a realization sooner or later that we’re Aborigines trying to grasp nuclear physics. Actually that’s not a good analogy, because the Aborigine can eventually—with the right information and training—grasp the concept as well as any Westerner. But we could ponder and investigate a mystery in this sense for a million years and still never really wrap our heads around it. There are three of these mysteries we encounter in Scripture: the nature of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the relationship between human will and divine sovereignty. Anyone who comes up to you and claims to fully grasp these things? Run the other direction.

We aren’t going to completely unwrap this mystery, and we aren’t supposed to. The proper response to something like this isn’t a scientific inquiry, but worship. Glory in the supposed contradictions. Kneel at the feet of the One whom we’ll never figure out. As I heard long ago, if I could completely understand him, I’d be him.

So we get to the Incarnation and the Spirit’s part in that. In some unknown fashion, the Holy Spirit entered the body of Mary and fertilized an egg within her. That egg became a fetus. No male bodily fluids involved. The fetus grew within the body of Mary to become a full-grown baby. How did the Spirit accomplish all this? Beats me. That’s why we call it a. . . well, you know.

So why is this important to us? It’s found within verse 23. In fact, the inscrutability of the Incarnation is found within these few verses, and this in particular captures the tension perfectly. Jesus had Mary’s DNA inside his body. He might've physically resembled her. He was fully human, with all the human frailties and weaknesses which we have, with the exception of sin.

But we have to remember the other part as well. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit—again—was the agent of the Father on earth. He was the instrument by whom the Son came into the world. And because of this, one of the names of Jesus captures this wonder for us: God with us. He’s God, and he’s with us. Not just visiting for a time, like he did on Sinai. No, he was, and is, permanently joined with human flesh. He is God with me. He’s God with you. He’s the forever bridge between humanity and God.

And the Spirit was the One who started the ball rolling.

Lord Jesus, I think this is a wonderful time, once again, to imitate Job for a while. Let me close my hands over my mouth and ponder this for a bit.

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