by Rev. Michael Voytek
35. What is the meaning of “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary”?
That the eternal Son of God, who is and continues true and eternal God, took upon Himself the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Spirit; so that He also might be the true seed of David, like unto His brethren in all things, except for sin.
36. What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ?
That He is our Mediator, and with His innocence and perfect holiness covers, in the sight of God, my sin, wherein I was conceived.
What is the greatest miracle of all time? C.S. Lewis answered this question thus: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation… Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this… It was the central event in the history of the Earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about… By a miracle that passes human comprehension, the Creator entered His creation, the Eternal entered time, God became human—in order to die and rise again…” (Miracles, chapter 14).
The Catechism has already addressed the question of “Why the God/Man?” (the necessity of the incarnation) in questions 15 through 17. Now, as we continue in the exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, the question “How was this greatest miracle accomplished?” is raised and answered.
Note the importance of the prepositions “of” and “by.” There have been those in history (such as the Eutychians) who denied that the physical body of Jesus Christ was taken from the substance of the virgin Mary. But this would deny that God fulfilled His gospel promises that Christ would be “of the seed of woman,” “of the seed of Abraham,” and “of the seed of David.” Our catechism opposes this error and correctly emphasizes the biblical truth by adding the phrase “of the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary.”
Furthermore, it was by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that Christ would be born distinct from the rest of mankind who are born in Adam. Thus Christ was born without sin, having righteousness and true holiness (or “innocence and perfect holiness”) and was able to accomplish our redemption as the second Adam (our representative head of the Covenant of Grace).
Now what is the comfort that we receive from knowing and believing this truth? Question 36 reminds us that Jesus Christ is “our Mediator.” Again it is helpful to consider the importance of a little word such as the pronoun “our.” “He is our Mediator” because He was made like us in all ways, except for sin. He is our kinsman redeemer (Job 19:25) and He is not ashamed to call us brethren (Heb. 2:11). We belong to His family and He belongs in a special relationship to us. He is the Mediator that has reconciled us to God (1 Tim. 2:5) and continues to maintain that relationship. There is so much more that could be said about this relationship, but let us close with the Word of God found in Hebrews 2:14-18: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus and rejoice in His great love for us displayed in the greatest miracle of all time. Amen!