The significance of the Spirit in Jesus miraculous conception isnâ€™t just that Jesus was born of a Virgin, as true as that may be. As theologian Steve Studebaker explains, the Spirit enables the incarnation as the â€œSpirit creates, sanctifies, and unites the divine Son with the humanity of Jesus Christ.”
The role of the Spirit in Jesus’ conception is also significant because it also points to the fact that Jesus is Israelâ€™s Messiah.
Anointed by the Spirit
When we read that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit played a dominant role throughout Jesusâ€™ ministry. And this is, in part, what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah.
To be clear, being the incarnate Word of God does not make Jesus the Messiahâ€“the Spirit does.
The Greek word Christ and Hebrew word Messiah both mean â€œthe anointed one.” And in the Old Testament, the Israelites expected that the Messiah would be anointed with the Spirit.
When Jesus started his ministry, he was filled with the Spirit at his baptism. Afterward, he affirms Isaiahâ€™s prophecy that â€œthe Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor” (Luke 4:18).
As the Messiah (the anointed one), Jesus ministered â€œfilled with the Holy Spirit’s power” (Luke 4:14). And long before his public ministry, we are reminded of this fact in Jesus conception.
Jesus Identity and Our Identity
The biblical stories of Jesus birth arenâ€™t there just to tell us about how Jesus happened to come into the world. They are there to remind us of Jesus identity. As the angels told the shepherds, Jesus was not just any baby; he is â€œthe Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
â€œThe Spirit is central to both who Christ is and what he did.” The Spirit enabled the incarnation of the Son of God, and the Spirit-empowered Messiah came to bring redemption to the Israelites, and even for the whole world.
Likewise, the Spirit is central to both Christian identity and action. The Spirit gives believers new life, making them children of God. And the Spirit anoints Christians to continue in the Spirit-empowered ministry of Jesus.
May we be found faithful as we move forward into 2018.