Galatians 4:4-5 “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law…”
I was present at the birth of all four of my children. I wouldn’t want you to have the impression I think their births were anything less than a miracle. Who can fully appreciate the privilege God gives parents of being part of his creative power— that we should have a part in bringing a new life into existence that nine or ten months ago didn’t exist at all?
But childbirth is also something of a messy affair, isn’t it. At the birth of one of my children I remember fussing about tearing one of the paper coverings they give fathers to wear in the delivery room. The doctor and the nurses all told me not to worry: there is nothing particularly clean or sterile about the natural delivery of a child. It’s actually a rather “germy” event.
Like my children, like each one of us, when God sent us his own Son, he was “born of a woman.” Is the great humility and condescension of our Savior in his birth lost on us today? If all Jesus wanted to do was become a human being, there are more majestic and glorious ways in which he might have done so. He could have fashioned a body for himself something like the way God first made Adam at creation. Perhaps he could have even chosen something more precious like gold or gems from which to make that body, rather than the dust of the earth.
But God sent his Son to be one of us, not some other super race of human beings. He so loved us that he accepted the lowly process of child birth, and the lowly life of ordinary people, and a lowly death with common criminals. The depths to which Jesus was willing to sink to save us defies human description. Some have tried to illustrate this with stories like that of a man who had magical powers and became an ant to warn other ants to stay out of houses or they would be killed. But the difference between the holy Son of God and this sinful human race is far greater than the difference between people and ants, or worms, or other lowly forms of created life. And Jesus did so much more than warn us. He was so fully human that he lived our life and he died our death. His love led him to become just like us.
Another example of his full humanity is that he was “born under the law.” As the Son of God, Jesus was above the law. We have no right to take the life of another person, but God oversees the death of every one. We must obey the law not to steal, but everything already belongs to the Lord. Before his birth, Jesus had always been above the law.
But when Jesus was born, he placed himself under the law. He obligated himself to keep it. He subjected himself to all its warnings and threats. He gave up his freedom and put himself under the rules and requirements of God’s 10 commandments.
He did so “to redeem those under law.” When you and I hear that Jesus has redeemed us, we usually think of the price that he paid on the cross when he gave his own life for our sins. And that is certainly part of our redemption.
But Jesus started paying the price of our freedom from sin and hell long before he was crucified. Look at his life under the law already in Luke chapter 2, where the Christmas story and Jesus’ childhood is recorded. You and I may gripe about our government at times. We strain against God’s command to be subject to the governing authorities. Jesus, while still in the womb, is under the authority of the government as his parents make the trip to Bethlehem dictated by Caesar Augustus. On the eighth day he feels the knife of circumcision in obedience to the law God gave to Abraham. After 40 days he is presented in the temple with the appropriate sacrifices for a first born under the law of Moses. Countless are the times you or I rebelled against our parents when we were young. But when Jesus’ parents foolishly leave him behind in Jerusalem at the age of 12, he does what any obedient child should do: he finds the safest place in town at the temple and he stays in that one location until his parents find him. Afterward we are told that he continued to be obedient to them.
Do you see what he is doing? He is paying God the life of love and obedience that you and I owed him. He is setting us free from our debt, taking care of the obligation to keep God’s laws that makes us acceptable to him. This is an important part of the mission for which God has sent us his own Son. This is why we are thankful that Jesus was born just like us.