Have you ever wondered why the Son of God came to earth as a baby? I sure have.
I mean, if His sole purpose was to die as a perfect, blameless sacrifice to deliver us from sin and death, then why was Jesus Christ born as a little baby? Why did He first have to grow up, like the rest of us?
God could have sent his Son as a perfect, grown man to the earth, just like He sent Elijah to meet with Jesus on the mountain one night (Matthew 17). Or He could have created Him in the same way as He made Adam, who was formed from dust into a man and placed on the earth (Genesis 2:7).
But instead, God sent His Son as a little baby, born of a woman. Why?
Reading through the Bible I discovered this was God’s plan from the beginning.
Right after the first sin, when Adam and Eve had eaten from the forbidden tree, God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15.
This already was a prophecy about the future Savior who would defeat the devil. And He would be “her offspring”. Eve’s offspring.
God affirmed this promise to Abraham, when He said that in him all the nations would be blessed – which according to apostle Paul refers to Christ, the offspring of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3).
And later on, the Messiah is referred to as the son of king David (2 Samuel 7;12-16, Romans 1:3), who would reign forever.
Eve – Abraham – David – they all were ancestors of that young woman Mary who miraculously conceived the Son of God in her womb through the holy Spirit.
Mary wasn’t a rich girl. She didn’t belong to an important family. She was just a humble, God-fearing girl, a virgin, who had found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
And when the time came she had to give birth, she happened to be in a small town, Bethlehem, that was looked down upon, and there even wasn’t a place for them in the inn. So she wrapped her newborn in cloths and laid Him in a manger.
Could His entrance in this world have been more lowly? His crib was a manger, his birth town was of no importance, his mother was an insignificant girl of whom people might have assumed that she had cheated on her betrothed Joseph… And Jesus was just a baby.
A baby with the living God as his true Father – but still, a tiny, vulnerable, human baby.
Jesus had to learn
Researching the topic of Jesus’ early years on earth in the Bible led me to several interesting passages.
Matthew, for example, refers to Isaiah 7:14 when he writes about the Immanuel that had to come (Matthew 1:23). “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son…” What caught my eye are the next two verses:
“He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.” Isaiah 7:15-16.
Before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good… Wait – does that mean there actually was a time He did not know how to refuse the evil and choose the good? Even though He never chose to do evil, He somehow still had to learn how to refuse evil? Just like the rest of us?
And Luke writes, after Mary and Joseph had searched for a twelve year old Jesus for three days, and they finally found Him in the temple in Jerusalem and He went home with them: “ And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52.
Again, wait a second – did He increase in wisdom? Didn’t He have all wisdom right from the start, as a little baby? Might there have been a development, did He have to grow in wisdom – just like the rest of us?
Jesus was a human being just like you and me
What I understand from what I’ve read in the Bible is that there is an important reason Jesus had to be born as a baby. He had to fully become like us, with a human flesh (nature) like ours, in order to fully experience and understand our weaknesses. In that way He is also truly able to help us. Or, as the Hebrew writer says:
“He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:17-18.
It was through this suffering in temptations – as a human being, just like his brothers – that He is able to help those who are tempted. It was through the partaking in flesh and blood – human flesh and blood, just like Abraham’s – that He, by dying, would destroy the one who had power over the death (Hebrews 2:14-16).
That’s how victory was gained – through His humanity.
Jesus’ battle wasn’t a masquerade
When Jesus faced the devil in temptations, His battle against sin and evil wasn’t a masquerade. It would have been if He would have opposed the devil as God. Of course God wins. That’s not a real battle.
But now He was human, it was a real, tough fight on eternal life and death. It wasn’t easy for Jesus! He had to give up his own will to obey God’s will, and that hurt. He prayed and cried out to God (Hebrews 5:7-10). Being a man, He knew He had to fully rely on his Father’s strength and power (John 5:19, 30).
Satan had mankind in his power since that first dark moment of sin in the garden of Eden, but one day it would be that same mankind that would bind him and break his power.
Mankind empowered by God, for sure! But still, the seed of the woman, Eve’s offspring – a man of flesh and blood – would crush the devil, and not even his successful plan to kill that man could prevent this to happen. On the contrary – that completed the victory!
The realization of that fact when Jesus rose from the dead must have been a terrible humiliation for God’s arch enemy!
He was tempted as we are
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15.
This verse always gives me comfort and hope. Jesus truly knows what it means to be tempted. He experienced our weaknesses!
When Jesus was a young boy, He must have felt something when one of his younger brothers got a toy He also would like to have… And when His earthly father Joseph would have asked Him to do a chore, He might not always have “felt like it”. Perhaps He also wanted to play outside!
When He was mocked, or teased, or mistreated, it did not leave Him untouched. He might have felt it was unfair, He might have been tempted to repay evil with evil…
We are tempted towards these things, right? And He was tempted as we are in every respect!
But He never repaid evil with evil. He always overcame evil with good. In every temptation to sin He always refused to do his own will, and He did the will of his heavenly Father instead. Therefore, sin was never born (James 1:13-15). Instead, godly virtues were brought forth in every situation: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, self-control.
From the very moment He started to gain understanding about His heavenly origin, this was His life: to refuse the evil and choose the good. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Every second. Not once He slipped. Think about that…
And because He never sinned, death could not hold Him (1 Corinthians 15:55-56).
Isn’t that victory?
Jesus is the Way
By living this victorious life, even though He had a weak human flesh like all of us, He made a way. He became the Way. And we can go that Way.
When we walk in His footsteps, we will be transformed into His image, the One who did not sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:21-23). We will not just be forgiven and counted as righteous, we will be cleansed from sin through His blood and truly become increasingly righteous.
That’s why Jesus did not just come as a grown man to serve as a perfect sacrifice for our sins, by dying. He started out as a baby and showed us what is well-pleasing in God’s sight, by living.
He set the example for a life we are called to live. A life we will be empowered to live by the holy Spirit, when we humble ourselves and acknowledge that we need help.
And Jesus is able to give us this help, because He has suffered in temptations when He was a human being just like us.
Soon it’s Christmas, and we celebrate Jesus’ birth. And all through the year, but especially during Christmas time, I focus on this aspect of the Gospel: that the Son of God came to earth as a little baby, in humility and weakness. That the greatest victory in history took place in human flesh. Isn’t that wonderful to think about?