At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. He came to rescue people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). And in order to save humans, He had to become human Himself. He was the divine and human representative of humanity. However, this leaves us with another question. Since Jesus is the almighty God, He could have simply come as a fully grown man, ready to begin His ministry on earth, but He did not. He spent about 30 years in relative anonymity before taking up His work. So, why did Jesus come as a baby?
Fully human, one of us in every way
Jesus became fully human. Being 100% human included going through the humiliating experience of being born, being helpless and fully dependent on His parents. Jesus could not have humbled Himself more deeply. His earthly life included growing up, learning obedience (Hebrews 5:8) and going through the difficulties of puberty.
By being born as a baby and growing up in an ordinary human family, Jesus was like us in every respect. He knows what it is like to be a child, to be an adolescent and to be an adult. He took the full human journey. Therefore, He can sympathize with us as we go through the same challenges and temptations. As Hebrews 4:14-15 explains, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 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.”
Prophecies about a baby
An Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah already indicates that He would come as a baby. Isaiah 9:6-7 pictures the Messiah as a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” who will be on David’s throne. But it also calls Him “a child” that is born. This is remarkable.
Another important verse here is Isaiah 7:14, which is quoted in Matthew 1:23 as referring to Jesus: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” This person, whose name means “God with us”, will be born of a virgin, not suddenly appear as an adult.
True Son of David
If Jesus had appeared from heaven as a fully grown man, He would not have been the promised “Son of David”. The Old Testament foretells that the Savior will be a descendant of Eve (Genesis 3:15). In Genesis 12:1-3, God specifies that all nations will be blessed through Abraham. His grandson Jacob has twelve sons, and shortly before his death Jacob prophecies that his son Judah’s family will be kings – not only over Jacob’s other descendants, but over many people (Genesis 49:10). King David is from the tribe of Judah. God promises him: “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
All these references make clear that the Messiah will be from a certain people, tribe, even from a specified royal family line. When the angel Gabriel announces Jesus’ birth, he connects to this expectation: “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, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). Matthew begins his account with a genealogy of “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”, showing that Jesus really is the expected Messiah. You can read this for yourself in Matthew 1:1-17 (or compare Luke 3:23-38). So, in order to fulfill all these prophecies, Jesus could not just be human. He had to be born as the “Son of David” and “Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).
Suffering Servant and glorious King
This may not have been relevant for His atoning death, but it is certainly meaningful for His role as the legitimate King of Israel – and of all nations. The suffering Servant and the triumphant King are one and the same! This is expressed beautifully in Philippians 2:8-11:
“And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The little baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is the almighty and everlasting King of the universe.
Thanks to GospelImages for the wonderful image