Christ / December 24, 2011

Christ the Warrior Baby: The Violent Warfare of the Incarnation

“The kingdom of God dawns in a peasant Jewish virgin’s uterus,” states Russell Moore. The virgin birth of Christ is a major milestone in the kingdom conflict of redemptive history. It was not a silent night. Instead, according to the apostle John, it was a violent escalation of the warfare between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Rev 12:1-6).

As Thomas Torrance explains, “Everything in Christianity centers on the incarnation of the Son of God, an invasion of God among men and women in time.” There are several dimensions of Jesus’ birth narrative that confirm the warfare significance of the incarnation:

First, the genealogies of Christ seem to suggest that Jesus is a second Adam and new David who will reconstitute the kingdom of God and restore shalom to its rule. Luke’s genealogy presents Jesus as a new Adam who comes as the son of God in order to reverse the kingdom collapse that resulted from the sin of the first Adam (Luke 3:23-38). Likewise, Matthew’s genealogy presents Jesus as a warrior king from David’s lineage (Matt 1:6) who is also Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt 1:23).

Thus, the genealogies of Jesus show the convergence of three militant motifs of the Old Testament’s messianic expectation in the incarnation—the messiah as second Adam, new David, and Immanuel who fights for the people of God to establish the kingdom of God.

Second, the birth announcements of the angels confirm Christ as an infant warrior king. For example, Gabriel reveals to Mary that Jesus will be great, will be called Son of the Most High, will receive David’s throne, will reign over Jacob’s house, and will have an everlasting kingdom (Luke 1:32-33). John later explains that the reason for the appearance of Jesus that these angels announced was to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

The angel who announces Jesus’ birth to the shepherds points out both that this child will be a savior and that he is born in the city of David (Luke 2:11). As the angels announce the identity of Jesus, they capture the kingly dimension of his coming.

Third, the response of others to the birth of Christ indicates his royal status. As Mary marvels over the birth of Jesus in the Magnificat, she celebrates how this miraculous birth is the means by which God will bring down thrones (Luke 1:52) and fulfill the Abrahamic promise (Luke 1:55). Before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Zechariah recognizes the coming child king as a descendant in the line of Abraham (Luke 1:73) and David (Luke 1:69) who will defeat the enemies of God by the power of God (Luke 1:71, 74).

After Jesus’ birth, the wise men identify him as the “King of the Jews” to Herod (Matt 2:2), which initiates a title repeatedly used of Christ in both delight and derision. Finally, Herod’s slaughter of the innocents (Matt 2:13-18) echoes the actions of pharaoh (Exod 1:15-17)—and the Pharaoh behind the pharaoh (Rev 12:17)—in seeking to eliminate the threat of the royal seed of the woman.

The genealogies, angelic announcements, and personal responses to the birth of Christ all signal that something significant occurs at the incarnation. It is a seismic step in the kingdom warfare of redemptive history.

As Jonathan Edwards declares:

“But yet this feeble infant, born thus in a stable, and laid in a manger, was born to conquer and triumph over Satan, that roaring lion. He came to subdue the mighty powers of darkness, and make a show of them openly, and so to restore peace on earth, and to manifest God’s good-will towards men, and to bring glory to God in the highest, according as the end of his birth was declared by the joyful songs of the glorious hosts of angels appearing to the shepherds at the same time that the infant lay in the manger; whereby his divine dignity was manifested.”

As we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas with our churches and families, may we remember that the crying infant came as a conquering warrior king.

Tags:  Christ incarnation

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