We tend to often believe that the greatest miracle ever performed by the mighty hand of God was Jesus walking on water, or the feeding of the 5,000, the calming of the storm, or the raising of Lazarus. Certainly, the Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ would be on top of our list. But was this the grandest, most spectacular of all miracles?
Enter the hills of Judah, home of Zechariah and Elizabeth, both ancestors of the first high priest, Aaron. In a town within the territory of the tribe of Judah lived the aforementioned man, Zechariah, a priest who faithfully served in the Temple. A man who trusted God and was righteous before Him, acknowledging the prophecies concerning Messiah, and putting his faith in God through those. The Old Testament had been completed, and the next stage on God’s decree was the advent of His eternally begotten Son. While Zechariah was on Temple duty, God decided to break His silence, a silence He held for over four hundred years.
If we try to get into the skin of Zechariah, we might catch some of the importance of this visitation. He was a humble and godly man who lived in Judea, most likely close to the Temple grounds, in which he exercised his priestly duty. Being elected for the sacred duty of offering incense inside the Holy Place was a once-in-a-lifetime ordeal for such a priest. The Altar of Incense was literally right before the veil which hid the Most Holy Place, the room which once had accommodated the Ark of the Covenant, upon which God Himself used to speak with Moses (Exodus 33:9). This moment was to be the highlight of Zechariah’s life. He steps into the Temple and walk toward the Altar. He offers the incense as a symbol of prayer from the people as the aromatic smoke rises toward heaven. Looking upward in a posture of solemn prayer, when suddenly, the unimaginable happens. A messenger from God stands right beside the altar. Terrified to death, Zechariah stands as if frozen, and the angel delivers his God-given message. A boy was to be born to a barren, 80-year-old woman. This boy would grow up to be the last Old Testament prophet. The last herald of the coming of the Messiah. God remembered His promises to Israel. Maybe the very meaning of the Zechariah struck a note in the priest’s mind. The name means “Yahweh remembered.”
As Zechariah was continuing his sacred Temple duties, God was fulfilling His promises, and by doing thus, He was completing the earthly use of the Temple and all its statutes. While he was offering his prayers as priest, God was readying the way for the True High Priest. There would soon be no longer be any need of the Temple, for the One who offer Himself for God’s people was on His way, and Zechariah’s son was to make a way for Him.
Six months later, the greatest miracle of all would take place. After having broken His four-hundred-year silence by sending His angel to Zechariah, God again sent forth Gabriel, this time to the house of a betrothed virgin named Mary, in a remote little town called Nazareth. In the middle of her sleep, a blazing presence awakens Mary. Scared and confused, she wonders what this visitation might be. Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to be the bearer of the Holy Son of God. Being a virgin, she does not know how this can possibly take place. As the Holy Spirit of God overshadowed creation (Genesis 1:2), so He would overshadow Mary and bring forth true humanity to the eternal Son of God.
The new creation, new heavens and new earth find their inception in this moment. God took on humanity. He humbled Himself and was made of no reputation by adding something to His eternal spiritual being. Everlasting God perfectly united to mortal humanity. Almighty Creator joined to weak flesh. The Sovereign Lord as a humble Servant. This is the greatest miracle of all, words really do fall short. Two natures in One Person, undivided, not confused, inseparable, unmixed. The eternal deity took on human being in the womb of a woman. He was perfectly united to His full human nature as a baby in the womb, as a toddler, as a boy, then a young man, until His ministry, and until death. God was perfectly united to a corpse for three days, and He is forever the God-man.
His purpose? To perfectly represent His frail, sinful, useless people. By living a perfect life according to God’s Law, dying the death we deserve, being raised for our justification and being seated at the right hand of His Father, making intercession for us as our Great High Priest, forever committed to bringing us to His glory. Never once did Jesus Christ feel fulfilling God’s Law as being a burden, it was His daily joy, His food and sustenance. This is where we must draw our strength from. God becoming a man and doing what we must do on our behalf, solely out of love for His Father and for us, His bride.
This is the greatest miracle, God stooping down to such wretches like us, perfectly accomplishing the payment of our debt and our eternal communion with Him.
Written by Paul Tkaczuk, @reformed.wretch