Why a virgin birth? Was there not any other way that the promised Saviour could come to this earth to pay the ultimate price and make redemption for sinners possible? What makes the virgin birth so important to the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ? Could He have had an earthly father like the liberal theologians would want us to believe? These are all very real and pressing questions. Definitely not a full list of questions, but they demand our attention in order to answer questions regarding the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ.
In this article I would like to focus on a very interesting aspect of the virgin birth, one that we can easily overlook if we do not pay attention to the genealogy of Jesus (which we often times do because we see them as boring lists containing names of all the dead guys).
A Jewish bloodline
Matthew focuses his genealogy of Christ on the Jewish bloodline of Christ. This was very important, as God’s promise of the Messiah involved a very specific bloodline. If this could not be traced, the promises of the Old Testament would all be a bunch of useless ideologies. Therefore, from a fulfillment perspective, it was of the utmost importance that the bloodline of Jesus could be traced. The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to do just this. He therefore starts the Gospel of Matthew with the genealogy of the Messiah.
In Matthew 1:11 we read the following:
“And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon.”
The curse on Jechonias
Jechonias is a very interesting character in this bloodline of Christ. God promised David he would have an eternal descendant on his throne. Furthermore, this descendant would be the Messiah. Matthew is now tracing this lineage and arrives at Jechonias. During his time the people of God were taken into exile. We read about him in the prophet Jeremiah, and we pick up a very important section in chapter 22. In the 30th verse we read:
“Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.”
This is a judgement on the bloodline of Jechonias. His line would not produce any more kings for the throne of David. This creates a huge dilemma. It would mean God just cut off His own bloodline for the Messiah. In fact, if we trace the lineage further in Matthew, we notice Joseph was a descendant of this Jechonias.
How did God handle this dilemma that He Himself created by passing this judgement on the bloodline of Jechonias? Well, as we would expect of a sovereign God He did not go into a frenzy and recreated everything that He promised and was busy fulfilling in history up to this point. He stuck to His original intent and promises to David that there would be an eternal king on his throne. The genealogy in Matthew testifies to this. After mentioning Jechonias in verse 11, we do not read something like “then God changed His mind and withdrew His promises made to David…” On the contrary, Matthew continues mentioning who came after whom up to the point where we meet Joseph in verse 16:
“And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
Note the use of the term / word “begat”. It is a very important phrase in this text. The word is used of one man producing a son who in time then produces his son. In other words, Matthew points out physical reproduction.
Joseph never “begat” Jesus like the other fathers in the lineage “begat” there sons. Jesus, was born of Mary and not begat of Joseph. Later the angel explained to Mary this was not the work of a man, but the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Messiah would be called the Son of the Most High God.
God kept His promises and sustained the bloodline for the purpose of being faithful to Himself and His word. He was not thwarted by the judgement He passed. After all, it was He that proclaimed it out of His holy and righteous nature. He kept to His promise. When the time came to fulfill His promise, He used the legal and social systems of His people and the virgin birth so as not to have the blood of Jechonias in the Messiah. If Jesus was the real son of Joseph, He could not have been the king on the throne of David (Jeremiah 22:30). He would have been under the curse of God for being the direct blood descendant of a cursed man! God bypassed the blood of a cursed man and placed a descendant for David on the throne and through the Virgin Birth.
How could the Virgin Birth secure a lineage for David if there was no real DNA and genes involved? The answer lies in the Judaic legal system. He was legally regarded as the son of Joseph because of this legal adoption.. We read in several places that the Jews regarded Him as the “son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23, Luke 4:22). Through Joseph Jesus was legally part of the royal lineage. Through Mary He had the bloodline that secured His claims as the Messiah, the One promised to come as the King on the throne of David.
The purpose of the Virgin Birth
The Virgin Birth was not some doctrine concocted by the disciples of Jesus to boost their claims that He is the Son of God. It was an integral part of God to fulfill His promises made in Genesis 3:15. It was also the way to protect Christ against the curse of Jechonias and his descendants.
God is a master in keeping everything in tact and on track and in using the systems of the day to bring to fulfillment the details of His promises. Although this is not the only reason for the Virgin Birth, it does shed light on a very important reason why Joseph could not “beget” the Messiah.