What if Mary was not a virgin? Oh my, that would create a major credibility crisis for so many people including Jesus. Many of his claims would become disputed and disputable. But we seem to be getting ahead of ourselves, let’s back up a little.
Prophet Isaiah was known for dramatic prophecies, including that prophecy about the king of Persia, Cyrus the Great. Cyrus had conquered the Babylonian empire. Judah was a vassal of that empire. As implausible as it sounded Isaiah had prophesied Cyrus would restore the nation of Israel and return the exiles. When Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem in 597 BC he pillaged the city and the Temple, taking King Jeconiah and other prominent citizens captive. He deported all the elite – 10,000 Israelis to Babylon. Only the poorest people were left behind. (2 Kings 24:13-17) He also deported the army corps (7,000) as well as 1,000 artisans and craftsmen. Isaiah prophesied concerning Cyrus: “I have stirred up Cyrus and put him into action… He will build my city and let my exiles go, without any payment or reward,” says the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 45:13 AMP) And that was exactly what happened. Mind you this prophecy was given at least 140 years before the event. Indeed Cyrus donated a considerable sum towards buying building materials for the reconstruction of the Temple. So Isaiah was known for wild prophecies. But the most ridiculous of his prophecies was the prophecy about a virgin giving birth. It would turn out to be his most important prophecy. This is how that prophecy came about.
When Ahaz was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram (Syria) and King Pekah of Israel went into league to attack Judah. The kingdom of Israel had retributively split into two because of the sins of Solomon. The northern kingdom was called “Israel” or sometimes “Ephraim,” while the southern kingdom was called “Judah.” (Think North and South Korea, or North and South Sudan). Essentially therefore the northern kingdom went into alliance with Syria to destroy the frail and much smaller southern kingdom. The northern kingdom was made up of ten tribes whereas the southern kingdom consisted of only two tribes. Understandably King Ahaz went into panic mode. So God sent Isaiah to calm him down: “Go and meet Ahaz… Tell him, Listen, calm down. Don’t be afraid. And don’t panic over these two burnt-out cases, Rezin of Aram and the son of Remaliah. They talk big but there’s nothing to them.” God assured him nothing will come of the attack, including the plan to set up a puppet king in his place. (Isaiah 7:3-6 MSG) But then God told Ahaz he had to exercise faith to get those results. To boost his faith God told him to ask for a sign – “Ask for a sign from your God. Ask anything. Be extravagant. Ask for the moon!” (Isaiah 7:10-11 MSG) But Ahaz didn’t have the liver. So God gave him his own sign: “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). By the time this child is old enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong, he will be eating yogurt and honey. For before the child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted.” (Isaiah 7:14-16 NLT) And that was how the prophecy of the virgin birth came about. Ahaz might have said to himself after hearing about virgin birth, “This Isaiah dude has truly gone cuckoo! He’s always coming up with all this crazy stuff. Whoever heard of a virgin giving birth!” Even today some people consider the story unbelievable. And this despite plausibilities thrown up by advances in medical science. Now, imagine someone hearing about virgin birth in 9th century BC. If Mary was not a virgin Isaiah would definitely have lost his maverick credential.
The main issue about the virgin birth was the fact that Jesus could not possibly be the product of a man’s semen. It would have been difficult to believe he wasn’t if the woman was already married and had already given birth. The conception would have been contentious and subject to doubt. And so the virginity of Mary brought credibility to the whole process. That apart from the fact it allows God to assert himself as the God who specialises in the impossible.
There are two fundamental points associated with the virginity. The first is the claim by Jesus that God is his Father. If he wasn’t born of man that claim is reinforced by the virgin birth. The second fundamental factor is that the virginity lent credence to the fact that Jesus was born without sin. Sin was passed to humanity through Adam. (Romans 5:12) Jesus is not of the genetic descent of Adam. That way he avoided sin contamination. If he had been contaminated by sin, he would not have qualified as the sacrifice for our sins. As sacrificial lamb, he must be without blemish. (1 Peter 1:19) Jesus was our guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10), our Passover lamb (Exodus 12:11-13), the Lamb of God led to the slaughter (John 1:29, Isaiah 53:7). And so we can see the grave implications of the virginity of Mary. It lent credibility to the qualification of Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Having claimed not to have descended biologically from Adam, he could rightly claim to be Son of God. The angel had told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NLT) In other words, the virginity went to the issue of sacredness, holiness and consecration of Jesus. But then in claiming to be Son of God he made himself equal with God! This was the issue the religious leaders of his day had with him. It was blasphemy if not true. John records one of those confrontations with the religious leaders: “But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.” (John 5:16-18 NLT)
Jesus made several claims to deity. In his conversation with Thomas he had asserted as follows: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NLT) To which Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.” (John 14:8-10 NLT) These were radical claims by Jesus. He was asserting total identification and unity with God. This claim to deity is the rock of offence for many peoples and religions of the world. It’s what makes Christianity exclusive.
Yet the scriptures declare, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8 NLT)
It was also important that Mary was a virgin because Jesus must be the first born male to open her womb in order to fulfil the terms of consecration under the Law of Moses: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.” (Exodus 13:1-2 NKJV) This was an adumbration, a foreshadow of his role as the “first born” from the dead: “He is also the head [the life-source and leader] of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will occupy the first place [He will stand supreme and be preeminent] in everything.” (Colossians 1:18 AMP)
And so the virginity of Mary was critical in so many respects. It had vast ramifications. From a jurisprudential perspective, it gave evidentiary mass to the purity of the nature of Jesus. From a legalistic perspective, it lent its weight to the sacredness of Jesus as God’s very own. From an adumbrative perspective, it helped to solidify the supremacy of Jesus over creation – old and new. And from a theological perspective, it helped establish both the unity and total identification of Jesus with God – “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels — everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and — leading the resurrection parade — he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe —people and things, animals and atoms — get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.” (Colossians 1:18-20 MSG) And that’s why the virgin birth is critical.
If you’ll like to give your life to Jesus, please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me Father. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.
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