Angels At The Birth of Christ: God's Sign of the Birth of His Son
By Pastor Ron Jones, ©The Titus Institute, 2006
“If Jesus really was the Son of God, was there any sign or indication of this at his birth?”
“After all, you would think that such an incredible event would be revealed in some way by God himself to make sure that everyone understood who this child really was. And you would expect that any sign would be seen by more than one person so it could be verified by multiple witnesses.”
That is a legitimate question and a legitimate comment. It is surprising that more people do not ask Christians that question. After all the burden of proof is on us. We are the ones that claim that Jesus was the Son of God. We are the ones who need to give evidence to others that Jesus really was the Son of God.
God did, in fact, send a sign, an indication that his Son was to be born into the world to a virgin named Mary and she was to name him Jesus.
The sign was a series of announcements made by God’s supernatural and powerful angels who came and revealed who Jesus was.
They were seen by Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist, by Mary, the mother of Jesus, by Joseph the husband of Mary, and by a group of shepherds on a field in Bethlehem of Judea.
They were four angelic appearances to four separate individuals or groups proclaiming the coming of God’s Son.
In these announcements, the angels make clear exactly who this child is so that there would be no confusion or mistake as to the true identity of this child born in such humble circumstances.
Luke, the historian, records the angelic appearances to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds of what they saw as he researched his biography of Jesus. Matthew, an apostle of Jesus who lived with him for during his ministry, records what happened to Joseph.
Keep this in mind, if God is a supernatural being and he created angels and he sent his Son to become a human being, we should not be surprised that God sent his angels to announce the birth of his Son.
We need to look at this testimony and share this testimony with others.
Let’s look at the four announcements.
I. The angelic announcement to Zechariah
II. The angelic announcement to Mary
III. The angelic announcement to Joseph
IV. The angelic announcement to the shepherds
The first one was the angelic announcement to Zechariah.
I. The angelic announcement to Zechariah
The angel Gabriel comes to Zechariah to announce the identity of his son, John the Baptist who would be the forerunner of the messiah, God’s Son, Jesus.
Lu.1: 11-17 records,
“And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zachariah saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Fear not, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son. And you shall call his name John. And you shall have joy and gladness and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel he shall turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah had been chosen to burn incense in the temple of the Lord. It was a sacred privilege and honor. It was at that exact time God sent his angel, Gabriel, to speak to him.
From his words it became obvious to Zechariah that his Son was to be a prophet, and the forerunner of the messiah.
He was to fulfill the prophecy that Elijah would come before the messiah came. He was a spiritual Elijah, one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
The angel identifies himself in v.19.
v.19 “And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”
God sent John the Baptist to be the first human messenger to the identity of God’s Son. The appointed forerunner must come before the messiah came to proclaim his coming. That appointed herald must come in the spirit and power of Elijah.
This is what God said would be an important sign of the true messiah so Israel would know when he came. It was crucial that his parents understand who he was and so God sent the angel Gabriel to Zechariah.
God chose the exact time that Gabriel would appear to him so that his message would have a deep impact on Zechariah. He chose the time when Zechariah was representing the nation of Israel in the highest form of worship, the burning of incense outside the veil of the Holy of Holies in the temple. This is exactly what we might expect if the Son of God were soon to be born in Bethlehem.
Gabriel, then came in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy to
announce to a young woman named Mary that she would be the mother of the
messiah. He was bringing a second angelic announcement of the coming of
God’s Son to the earth.
II. The angelic announcement to Mary
Lu.1:26-33 records this incredible event. It says,
“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her, and said, ‘Hail, you are highly favored; the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.’ And when she saw him, she was troubled at his statement and wondered in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Fear not, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end.’”
Then in Lu.1:35 Gabriel explains how this will happen. It says,
“And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. Therefore that holy child shall be called the Son of God.”
Gabriel tells Mary four truths about the identity of this child.
First, his name is to be Jesus. The name Jesus was a common name and meant “he will certainly save.”
Why didn’t God select a name which was unusual, unique, or one of a kind for his son? Instead, he selects a common name although meaningful. I believe it was because he wanted to show that when Jesus became a man, he was not trying to be somebody above the ordinary or common in terms of his humanity.
To God, common or ordinary is not negative. He created every human with inherent dignity and desired that humans could see that it is not the money you possess, or the social status, or fame or all the other worldly measurements that humans use to push others down.
So he was born in normal common circumstances with an ordinary common name. Yet a name that implied who he really was.
Second, Gabriel clearly revealed that he would be the Son of the Most High God. The designation of God as “the Most High” is one used frequently in the Old Testament to indicate God’s sovereignty and majesty. Mary was told that the “High and Exalted One” was going to bear a son through her.
Jesus will be his “Son.” This term “Son” identifies Jesus in two ways. He is the Son of God in his deity, the second person of the Trinity. It also shows that he had no human father in his human nature, God was his father. That is clearly revealed later when Gabriel tells Mary that she will become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The third truth about this child is that he will be the messianic king, the prophesied descendent of David who will rule over Israel forever
Isa. 9:6-7 prophesied that the messiah would be a descendent of David and that he would be a king sitting on David’s throne. This child that Mary was to birth was to be a king.
The fourth truth was that this child would be conceived by the Holy Spirit not by a man.
It is crucial that Mary have a clear understanding of what is happening to her and that we understand that she was a virgin when she conceived Jesus. Therefore, as I said earlier, Jesus had no human father. If he had a human father he could not have been the Son of God become a man.
After the angel announced this to Mary, there was a real dilemma created
for her in regards to her betrothed, Joseph. Mary would soon be pregnant
and Joseph would need to know this child was from God. Again, God sent his
angel to announce the birth of his Son.
III. The angelic announcement to Joseph
Weddings for Israelites took place in a different way than today. First, the couple was betrothed where they had a wedding ceremony and were considered married, but did not live together for one year. This made sure that the wife had not had pre-marital intimacy within anyone else. During this time, if a woman was found to be pregnant by another man, she would be divorced.
Matt. 1:18-21 records what happened with Joseph. It says,
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on like this. When as his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man and not willing to make her a public example, decided to divorce her privately. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.’“
Before the betrothal period was over, Mary was found to be pregnant. Matthew doesn’t tell us if Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit or if Joseph noticed that she was pregnant and was deciding how to confront her about it. Maybe Mary had not told him yet and was waiting for the right moment.
We do know that he knew and he had decided to divorce her quietly rather than through a public trial, which was then an option he had. His first concern was Mary and what would be deeply hurtful to her.
During the time that Joseph was contemplating this so he would not make a hasty decision, an angel appeared to him while he was asleep to reveal what was going on. The angel announced two truths to Joseph.
The first was that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not another man. Mary was still a virgin. This parallels what Gabriel told Mary. Joseph must take Mary into his home and provide a stable environment for Jesus to grow up in. He also must be absolutely certain who this child was.
The second truth revealed about the baby was that his name was to be Jesus and he would save his people from their sin.
Like Mary, the angel tells Joseph what the name of this child is to be, but here the angel reveals the significance of this name and the child who will bear it.
This child would eventually save his people from their sins. This gives the mission of this child – to save his people from their sins. This child was the long awaited Savior.
The announcements to Mary and Joseph came well before Jesus actual birth,
but God sent one more announcement, a fourth one, which was on the day of
IV. The angelic announcement to the shepherds
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were very afraid. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; you shall find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”
The angel announced to the shepherds three titles for Jesus, which were brief and concise, but powerful in revealing his true identity.
The first is “Savior.” This is a title that God alone claimed for himself in the Old Testament.
In Isa. 43:11, the Lord says, 11I, even I, am the Lord and there is no Savior besides Me.”
Later the Lord states in Isa. 45:21-22,
“…there is no God besides Me, a just God and a Savior. There is none besides Me. Look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no one else.”
When the angel gave the title of Savior to Jesus, he was proclaiming his deity.
Jesus claimed to be this Savior in Lu.19:10 when he declares, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
After Jesus stayed met the woman at the well and stayed with the Samaritans for two days, they came to a recognition of his true identity.
Jn.4:40-42 records this. It says,
“So when the Samaritans had come to him, they urged him to stay with them and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his own word. And they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard him ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’”
The second title the angle used of the child born in Bethlehem is “Christ.” This title, which means “anointed one,” is the Greek equivalent of the Jewish title “messiah.”
This is the one that the Israelites have been waiting for. He is the anointed by God to deliver them from sin and set up His kingdom. Jesus was the Christ, the messiah.
In Matt.16:16 Peter declares to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?” and Jesus reinforces that truth when he responds in v.17, “Blessed art you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
The third title used of the child was “Lord.”
The two major words used for God in the Hebrew of the Old Testament was “Elohim” which is translated “God” and “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” which is translated “Lord.” When the angel uses this term he is saying that this child will be called Lord, Jehovah.
When Thomas bowed before the risen Lord Jesus, these two terms were used by him showing that he and the other disciples were completely aware of who Jesus claimed to be. Jesus accepted those titles as accurate descriptions of who he was.
In Jn. 20:28 Thomas submitted himself to Jesus and proclaimed to him, “My Lord and my God.” And Jesus responded in v.29, “Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
At the birth of Jesus Christ, the angel declares that Jesus will be Lord
God chose that his Son would be born in very humble circumstances, in a manger in the small village of Bethlehem.
When Jesus would be born, there would be no indication from the circumstances and the family that he was born into that this child was truly the Son of God.
If we had been there that day with them, we would seen an ordinary couple having an ordinary birth in a very difficult situation. That’s all.
But it was not an ordinary event, nor was Jesus an ordinary person.
It was a supernatural event involving a supernatural person.
How would God testify to the supernatural nature of that event when everything and everyone looked so ordinary and common?
God chose witnesses, supernatural ones.
God says in his word that a fact is established by two or three witnesses.
So God sent supernatural witnesses, his angels to testify to this supernatural event.
And this is what we would expect from God who is a supernatural being.
Yes, our faith is based on the supernatural because God is supernatural. Faith in the natural is not Biblical faith. Biblical faith is faith in the supernatural.
So God sent his angels to testify to the identity of His Son. The angels who appeared to Zechariah, Mary. Joseph, and the shepherds establish for was the witnesses we need to trust that this child who was born on that day was indeed the Son of God.