Section 5: The Holy Spirit
Week 3: The Holy Spirit’s Work in the Life of Jesus
Day 1: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Jesus’ Conception
Matt. 1:18-22; Luke 1:26-37
The Holy Spirit played a major role in Jesus’ life here on earth. In fact, his work in Jesus’ life started even before Jesus was born. Take a look at Matthew 1:18 and Luke 1:35. Both Matthew and Luke connect Jesus’ conception with the work of the Holy Spirit. Matthew says Mary was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Luke says Mary was told the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. Again we aren’t given a detailed description of how the Holy Spirit did what he did. We’re simply told that the Holy Spirit played an instrumental role in Jesus’ conception.
Why did the Holy Spirit get involved in this way? Some have pointed to the need for Jesus to be born sinless. If Jesus had been conceived in the normal way, then the sinful nature that has been passed on from Adam to each one of us would have also been passed on to Jesus. To keep that from happening, the Holy Spirit bypassed the normal process and orchestrated the virgin birth. The Holy Spirit’s work may well have ensured Jesus’ sinlessness. Some have wondered, though, whether God could have accomplished the same result by other means.[i] A virgin birth, therefore, may not have been an absolute necessity in that regard. But, even if it was, there’s something bigger going on in these accounts.
Notice how Matthew goes to the trouble of providing an extensive genealogy before telling us about Jesus’ birth. He does that to put Jesus birth into perspective. Matthew’s genealogy demonstrates that Jesus is a descendant of King David. Why is that important? God promised that the Messiah would come from David’s line. Matthew wants to highlight the fact that in Jesus’ birth that promise has been fulfilled. The Messiah, the one who would bring about the restoration of Israel, had finally arrived.
Luke also provides us with a genealogy. His genealogy goes all the way back to Adam though. Why? Because God’s promises involve more than just the restoration of Israel. God intends to restore all of humanity. Jesus is the second Adam. Through him, God will restore people from every race, tribe and tongue. Through him a new humanity will ultimately be born.
What does this have to do with the Holy Spirit? We’ve noted at different times that the Spirit is the member of the Trinity charged with the task of ensuring Gods plans are brought to completion. God’s plan to restore humanity took a major step forward with Jesus’ birth. It, therefore, only seems fitting that the Holy Spirit would have been involved.
Think back to your last Christmas celebration. Is the Holy Spirit somehow included in that celebration? Should he be? Does it change your understanding of Christmas to think of the Holy Spirit shaping Jesus in Mary’s womb?
Note one way you could remember the role of the Holy Spirit in your future Christmas celebrations.
[i] Ibid., Ch. 7.