We live in a world that attributes worth on a person based on what that person is able to do. The Bible attributes worth on a person based on who that person is. Our world treats personhood as something completely different and separate from your physical body. In other words, the physical body is expendable because it is only a bundle of nerves and no more than a machine. The body’s worth is determined by personhood; this is known as personhood theory. The Bible makes no such distinction.
Just recently, Planned Parenthood endorsed Raphael Warnock who is challenging Senator Kelly Loeffler for one of the seats in the Senate. Raphael Warnock also serves as the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is a mega church located in Atlanta, Georgia. When asked how he can reconcile abortion with the Bible, he said that his support of abortion is consistent with his beliefs as a minister. In an interview, the pastor labeled the right for a woman to abort her child as “reproductive justice.”
This past Wednesday, lawmakers in Massachusetts voted to legalize abortion for any reason up to birth. Elizabeth Warren, who ran for president earlier this year, said that she was proud of the Massachusetts House and Senate for doing so. As it stands now, Joe Biden appears to be the president elect; he has pledged that as president he will make the right to abortion the law of the land. He has gone as far to say that abortion is both a constitutional and moral right of every woman.
If what is in the womb at conception is only a collection of cells and does not have any worth unless the woman carrying that child deems it to be so, then there is really no moral issue. This can only be true if the human body forming in the womb is not really a person. In our secular world, the only person who has the ability and right to make that decision is the mother. When I read my Bible, there is never a distinction made between the human being and his/her personhood; they are both one and the same.
Jesus was an Unborn Child
Originally, I was going to title this sermon something different, but both the staff and my family advised me to use a different title. Originally, the working title of this sermon was: “Jesus was a Fetus.” I understand the wisdom in not titling my sermon “Jesus was a Fetus”, but think about that statement for a second. Just so you know, I never referred to my unborn children as a fetus although that is the scientific and medical term used to describe an unborn child. Human beings are separate from the animal kingdom as those who bear the image of our creator; we stand over the animal kingdom and are responsible for managing it (see Gen. 1:27-30).
However, just as vulnerable and dependent each of us were while in the womb of our mothers, Jesus was equally vulnerable and dependent in the womb of Mary. In fact, although Jesus was certainly wanted, he was also unplanned by his mother. For nine months, Mary carried Jesus until his inevitable birth, and while she carried him, her appetites and emotions most likely changed as well. While Jesus was growing and forming in her womb, Mary could feel him kick, she could see his feet and hands push against the inside of her womb. Why? Because everything about him was fully and completely human. For unto us, a son is given.
Almost every person in Mary’s life did not believe that her unplanned pregnancy was actually planned by God. Nazareth, the place where Mary and Joseph lived, was about the size of a football field. It was a small town, and news travels fast in small towns. Not even Joseph believed that Mary’s pregnancy was supernatural. The idea that a very poor and very young teenage girl would become the mother of the promised Messiah was unfathomable. What was written hundreds of years before Mary was born by the prophets was hope for, but probably not taken too seriously: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). It took divine intervention on God’s part to keep Joseph from ditching Mary (see Matt. 1:18-25).
After Mary found out about her pregnancy and the pregnancy of her relative Elizabeth, who was too old to have children, she “arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah.” I wonder if part of the reason why Mary visited Elizabeth was because it was safe. As soon as Elizabeth heard the voice of Mary we are told that John leaped in her womb. The significance of this is that Elizabeth was around 6 months pregnant and Mary was likely in her first trimester. Do you know why John leaped at the presence of Mary, who was only in her first trimester with Jesus? Because both babies were more than a fetus, for they were human beings from the moment of conception.
Jesus is a Person
When Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, she was told: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 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 1:30–33).
Understandably, Mary was “greatly troubled” because the way that she became pregnant was the stuff of stories and not reality. When she asked how it was possible that she could be pregnant, the angel answered: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Not once was Jesus referred to as fetal tissue in the womb. In Mary’s womb was a son. In Mary’s womb was not just a son, but a son who had a name as two single cells came together to form the beginning of a human body; the new conceived human would from that point on be known as Jesus. Not only was Mary’s child to be called Jesus, but he would be great because he was the rightful heir of the throne of David. From the moment it was announced to Mary that she was pregnant, it was assumed by all of heaven, and Mary as well, that what was in her womb was a human being who was promised long ago who would save his people from their sins (Luke 2:11).
However, in order to save his people from their sins, he was like them in every way. Every experience in Jesus’ life was intentional from the very moment conception took place. Concerning Jesus, we are told in the Bible that, “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” (Heb. 4:15). Before Jesus was our savior, he had to first be a human; as a human, he understood what it was to be vulnerable, tired, hungry, and dependent. If taxes were recorded and paid the way they are today in America, Joseph would have listed both Mary and Jesus as dependents.
The moment Jesus was born, he cried, needed his diaper changed, and had to be feed. As he grew up, Jesus behaved like any boy behaved in his day but without ever sinning; this means that he scrapped his knees, cried, got picked on, and had to go to school to learn to be a productive citizen in Jerusalem just like any other boy had to do.
As he grew up, Jesus learned the same trade as his stepfather. He got up every morning to go to work and went to bed tired because, like Joseph, he had to work hard to provide for his mother. Every second growing up and living through his twenties was not unwasted time, but time spent identifying with sinners who needed saving. Jesus lived out his humanity perfectly. This is part of what it means for the Son of God to be given.
Jesus is the Son of God
When Jesus was born, the first people who witnessed his birth were shepherds. They learned of Jesus’ birth through the announcement of an angel and were told: “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10–12).
The message to the Shepherds was simple and clear: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The Lord of heaven and earth took on human flesh! Of the essence of his nature and person, we are told in Hebrews 1:1-4,
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Jesus was born to redeem sinners like you and like me so that we could be reconciled to God. In redeeming the likes of us, Jesus will ultimately break the chains that bind all of creation to death, decay, violence, disease, injustice, and everything else that is wrong with our world. Remember the song Mary Did You Know? It has graced many radio stations, TV Christmas specials, and multiple artists have covered it; consider some of the lines from that song:
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.
Because Jesus was fully human from the moment of conception, and fully God before his conception, he was and continues to be the perfect and only qualified savior who is able to rescue us from our sins. His humanity began at conception, not when another human being decided that he was a human person. This is the mystery and majesty of the virgin birth as it is for the promise of Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Permit me to close in the same way I began. The reason why John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when she heard Mary’s voice is because Jesus (in his first trimester of development) and John (in his second to third trimester) were not animals but human beings who bore the image of God. The only difference between the two babies, was that Jesus was perfect humanity whose deity qualified him to do all that was necessary to redeem and pardon lost and weary sinners like ourselves.
The incarnation teaches us that human life, from the moment of conception, is valuable. This is evidenced with the interaction of two unborn children who played centerstage in one of the most important events in human history second to the resurrection of Jesus. Of the two children, John’s role would be to prepare the way for Jesus’ public ministry, while Jesus’ role was to accomplish redemption. The bible says of the unborn, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14). It is because we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, that we are the only species Jesus was born to save: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Human life is precious, that is why God moved history and time to redeem lost sinners. If all we are at conception is just fetal tissue, and that humanity is no more valuable than the animal kingdom, then there is really no moral issue with abortion. However, we are separate from the animal kingdom and we bear the image of our God who created us with value and worth. This is the principal reason why abortion is an egregious evil in our day and age. To anyone who would call abortion good, I close with these timely words from the Prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…” (Isa. 5:20).