How to Become a Christian: Chapter 9 - Setting the scene for the first coming of Jesus

Isaiah prophesied that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son who would be Immanuel - "God with us".

In the eighth century BC Isaiah spoke of how a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son and how that son born to her would be God.  The word that the prophet Isaiah uses is ‘Immanuel’ which means ‘God with us’. So, even centuries before it happened, the Bible indicated that the Messiah would actually be both God and a man:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)


Jesus the Messiah was born to be the King of Israel

The prophecies made just before the birth of Jesus also make clear God’s intention to give Him the throne of King David, such that He would be the King of Israel:

26In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”                          Luke 28-33 (NIV)


Then, in or around the year that we call 4 BC, Jesus Christ was finally born, centuries after the prophecies had been given. He was born in a little village called Bethlehem in southern Israel. Even the place of His birth had been prophesied by the prophet Micah about 700 years earlier:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days Micah 5:2 (ESV)

Jesus was born to a virgin called Mary who was a descendant of King David, and it was through her that Jesus inherited the right to be King of Israel and to sit on David’s throne. Jesus was conceived within Mary while she was unmarried. This was done by the power of the Holy Spirit:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:26-35 (ESV)

Mary had been betrothed (engaged) to marry a man called Joseph. When he learned that she was pregnant he intended to divorce her quietly because he knew he was not the father. However, God sent an angel to reveal to Joseph what was happening and why. Joseph therefore married Mary and brought Jesus up as if he was his own son:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

When the time came for Jesus to be born, God engineered the circumstances so that the birth would take place in Bethlehem, as Micah had prophesied. It took place there because Joseph and Mary had to travel back to Bethlehem, which was the town that Joseph was from, in order to take part in a population census which the Roman Emperor had ordered:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:1-21 (ESV)

The name Jesus was given was actually Yeshua in Hebrew. It is the same name as Joshua and means “Saviour”. Jesus is the Greek version of His Hebrew name. He then grew up in Nazareth and was apprenticed to His human step-father, Joseph, and became a carpenter/builder. That is what He did until the time came, at about the age of 30, for Him to begin His public ministry. He then travelled in and around Israel teaching the people and announcing that the Kingdom of God had begun.

His public ministry lasted for three and a half years and then ended with Him being crucified in Jerusalem and with Him rising from the dead three days later and ascending into Heaven 40 days after that.

So, in this ninth chapter we have looked at 2000 years of Jewish history which set the scene for the coming of the Messiah.  Now, in the next chapter, we shall look at exactly how Jesus' death solved the problem of our sin. He made it possible for us to be forgiven, made righteous, and reconciled with God the Father. Thus we are now capable of entering the Kingdom of God and escaping from God’s punishment.

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