Last year, I did a series called 101 Important Words of the Bible and thought I’d share something similar this year called “101 Important Words About Jesus”, which I hope you’ll enjoy. But, before we start this, i suggest that we try to imagine a world without words. I know that sounds crazy and tough to do because how could you do that since you would have no way to describe this hypothetical world without words.
The reason why this is basically impossible to do is that words are simply indispensable and they are central to all of human existence. Words are exactly how we label our thoughts, how we derive and ascribe meaning. And, it’s only by the use of words that we are able to name our feelings, pass on vital information, or expressing our desires.
When we string together various kinds of words-nouns and pronouns, verbs and adverbs, adjectives and conjunctions, prepositions and interjections-we are able to form an endless number of sentences, we can have an infinite number of conversations.
Words are the actual lifeblood of all human action and interaction. Teachers use them to help us think better; storytellers and poets, to help make us feel deeply; prophets and leaders, to point us in a better direction and call us to better actions.
We all know, especially in today’s world; words can be magical. They can be dangerous and powerful, soul-killing and life-giving. Like nitroglycerin, words can blow everything up all at once, or a little at a time, or they can come and save the day. Words are incredible, aren’t they? The exact same words that may have cracked open a heard heart one day can be rearranged the next day to heal that same broken heart.
A world without words? Inconceivable. Words are at the core of reality. The Bible says this quite plainly. It tells us that the world we inhabit began with the Almighty…speaking words. Like a novelist creating a fictitious new world in which to set his characters and tell his tale, the opening sentences of genesis show God bringing our real world into existence with nothing more, nothing less than words.
In time God selected some writers to help tell-using words of course-the unfolding, unforgettable story of His world. How the characters He created in love engaged in a shocking mutiny, how a great curse fell over them and all creation, and how He immediately set in motion an epic plan to rescue and restore all things.
What an incredible story! From an unlikely couple God brought forth a nation. From that nation came kings and prophets who used-what else?-words to speak of an even greater King and Prophet who would one day come and make everything right. The apostle John, one of the writers chosen to help tell this great story of God, even introduced this Savior as “the Word” (John 1:1).
The Word. Of course, It only makes sense. Words are essentially explanatory. And that, John insisted, is precisely why this divine Word came to live in our midst. This Word-Jesus-was heaven’s explanation.
It’s by “reading” Him that we learn what God is like. Through the words of and the words about “the Word”, we discover what God has done and is doing still to rescue us and make the world new (John 1:14, 18).
And now, let’s move on to our first “Word”:
Word #1 – Virgin
One who has never engaged in sexual intercourse
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)
Most Biblical scholars say that Mary was probably quite young-maybe only about 14 years or a little older-when she became engaged to Joseph. Just a girl, but not so naive that she didn’t know about the birds and the bees.
So, we really can’t blame her for nearly falling out of her chair when the angel Gabriel stopped by unexpectedly one day to drop a bombshell on her that she had been chosen by God to give birth to the most important baby in the history of the world, even though she’d never been sexually intimate with her fiance, Joseph or with any other man.
Probably as her mind reeled with thoughts like “Virgins can’t be pregnant…Virgins don’t have babies!” Gabriel could probly only stifle a smile and reply, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NLT).
There’s a couple of Hebrew words are translated virgin in our English Bibles. The first refers technically to a young woman who has never had sexual intercourse (Genesis 24:16). The second word describes a young woman (who is sexually mature and who may or may not be sexually active-the question of her actual virginity can only be determined by the context).
In the often quoted Isaiah 7:14 prophecy about a virgin who would have a child named Immanuel, it’s that second word that gets used. This was so that Isaiah’s prophecy might have (a)an immediate fulfillment in the days of King Ahaz of Judah (a young woman of marriageable age becoming pregnant as a sign to him) and (b) ultimate fulfillment in the life of Mary, who “did not know a man.” (This was a Jewish euphemism for sexual purity-and the literal translation of the phrase “since I am a virgin” in Luke 1:34)
Interesting word meanings and ancient prophecies aside, the question remains: How, in the days before in vitro fertilization, could a virgin conceive a child? Gabriel explained the supernatural mechanics of Mary’s pregnancy this way, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35).
And so it was that the child in Mary’s womb had two distinct natures. He was the son of Mary and the Son of God, making Him fully human and fully divine.
Many moderns scoff at the Christian teaching of the virgin birth of Christ. But how else could an infinite Creator come into the world and fully identify with the plight of His finite creatures? How else could Jesus be fully God and fully human? Turns out that what seems biologically impossible was theologically necessary.
Besides, what better way to begin the world’s most miraculous, mysterious story than with the wildest miracle and biggest mystery of all?
Why do you think Matthew and Luke made a point of asserting that Jesus was not conceived via normal, natural, biological means?