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If Only We Had Listened to Gabriel
by Anthony Buzzard
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child will be called the Son of God" (Gabriel, Luke 1:35).
“Calling brings to expression what one is, so that it means no less than ‘he will be.’ Interchangeability of the two phrases is seen by comparing Matthew 5:9, ‘they will be called sons of God’ and Luke 6:35, ‘you will be sons of the Most High.’”1
In John 10:36 Jesus spoke of his own history: “God made him holy and sent him into the world.” With this simple account our other gospels agree perfectly. The supernatural coming into existence of the Son of God constituted him a uniquely holy human being and thus Son of God in a matchless way. As Son of God, God’s final agent, he was sent by his Father on the mission of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43).
Hebrew prophecy had announced the birth of Messiah in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). God had raised him up, that is, put him on the scene of history and then sent him to deliver the Gospel to Israel (Acts 3:26). This verse should put to rest any suggestion that if God “sent” Jesus it must mean that Jesus was alive and conscious before his conception. Peter says that God first produced the Messiah and then sent him as His commissioned agent. The detail of just how Jesus, God’s Son, came to be is the subject also of the united and detailed testimony of Matthew and Luke, who provide by far the longest accounts of the origin of the Son of God. Both writers intend to anchor the origin of the Son of God firmly in history.
Neither Matthew nor Luke presents us with a theological problem of vast proportions needing armies of theologians to provide an explanation. The biblical accounts describe the Son of God as the object of age-old Jewish promises — that a biological descendant of the royal house of David would appear as God’s instrument for the salvation of Israel and the world. Commentators are so accustomed to thinking of the Son as eternal God Himself that they instinctively imagine that Luke and Matthew agree with them. A writer of a tract on “Who Is Jesus?” tells us that “Luke teaches that the origins of Jesus’ human life were supernatural.” He does not observe that Luke describes the origin of the Son of God himself. There is not the slightest hint that he is other than human originating from his mother. Our writer claims Christ was “to be confessed as Lord and God,” but he gives no text from Luke or Acts in support of that amazing statement. He thinks that “Mary’s son was called the Son of the Highest by the angel because that is who he was from eternity.” But Luke and Gabriel say nothing of the sort. Quite to the contrary Gabriel links the miracle in Mary expressly to Jesus being the Son of God. The Son of God is entitled to that designation because God was his father by biological miracle (Luke 1:35). No other reason is supplied, and it is quite unnecessary to imagine any other origin for the Son of God.
It is a relief to turn to the far more scientific and factual accounts of Luke’s view of Jesus found in the excellent article on “Power” in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. The author approaches his subject from the Old Testament background:
“There can be no disputing the link with the Old Testament and Jewish picture of the Messiah. Of the Old Testament Messiah Isaiah says that the spirit of counsel and strength rest on him (Isa. 11:2). Isaiah calls him ‘a mighty hero’ (9:6).” The dictionary happily corrects the complete mistranslation of standard versions which attempt to read Trinitarian theology into Isaiah and describe the Messiah as “the Mighty God,” thus presenting us with the amazing concept of a second Almighty God! Isaiah was speaking of a descendant of David who was to be el gibbor, “mighty or divine hero.”2 The dictionary points also to Micah’s prediction of the human Messiah. “Micah compares him with a shepherd and says that he will tend his flock in the strength of the Lord his God.” The Messiah will operate “in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God” (Micah 5:4). Such a portrait prevents any idea that the Messiah will be God. He works in the power of one who is his God. The same Messianic agent of God is described in the royal Psalm 110:2: “The Lord [Yahweh] will send the rod of your royal strength out of Zion.” Corroboration of this regal picture of the supernaturally endowed Messiah is found in writings half a century before the birth of Jesus. Psalms of Solomon 17:24, 42-47 read:
“And may God gird him to defeat unrighteous rulers, to purify Jerusalem of the heathen who trample it to destruction…God has made him strong in the holy spirit and wise in counsel with power and righteousness. And the good pleasure of the Lord is with him in strength and he will not be weak. Strong is he in his works and mighty in the fear of God.” The dictionary observes that “in all these passages the picture is that of the King. The power granted to him is victorious power to defeat his enemies. It is the power confessed by the King of Israel: ‘For who is strong save the Lord…the mighty one who makes me strong with strength and makes me mighty with strength to battle’ (2 Sam. 22:32, 33, 40; cp. Ps. 18:32, 39). The king attributes his success in battle to the power which Yahweh has given him. Messiah is thought of as a king like this endowed with the strength of Yahweh.”
Luke is excited by the picture of the Messiah and he reports the prophetic power of Jesus demonstrated in his ministry: The two disciples who walked with the risen Jesus on the way to Emmaus know Jesus to be “a human prophet powerful in deed and in word” (Luke 24:19). The picture is that of a wonderful “new Moses.” Moses was likewise “mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). What more does Luke tell us? “Jesus is unique in his existence. His existence is peculiarly determined by the power of God…This is an important feature in the Lukan infancy story…Luke describes the conception of Jesus as the miracle of the Virgin Birth…A divine miracle causes pregnancy…In the background stands the biblical conception of God who begets His Son by a verbal act which cannot be rationalized…For this reason the Son has a special name not borne by other men, namely ‘Son of God’…At the beginning of his existence a special and unique act of divine power gives him the title ‘Son of God’…The Messianic title Son of God is linked with the miracle of conception and birth.”3
God has not left Himself without powerful witness both in the text of Scripture and in expert commentary. It must be obvious to any unprejudiced reader how far these sublime accounts are removed from the later paganized view of Jesus as an eternal Son of God, begotten in eternity, and entering the womb of his mother from a fully conscious existence as God, second member of the Trinity.1Raymond Brown, Birth Narratives, p. 289.
2 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 299.
3 Ibid., pp. 299, 300.Page 2>
(“If Only We Had Listened to Gabriel” in Focus on the Kingdom, Jan, 2007, at www.restorationfellowship.org and chapter 7 of my Jesus was not a Trinitarian, pp 192-225.)Focus on the Kingdom is a magazine dedicated to spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the world (Matt. 24:14).To subscribe for free:Restoration Fellowship