If God became one of us in Jesus, does this mean that Jesus faced the risk of death in the womb? Could God in man have been still born?
1. That never would have happened because God (ie. The Father) would have especially protected Jesus.
In this picture of the world most everything unfolds according to basic laws of nature. Still births happen because of chromosomal disorders or insufficient oxygen to the baby. However God is not bound by these laws and can make exceptions to them in “special cases”. Jesus is one such “special case”.
The problem with this picture is that it causes us to doubt the extent of the incarnation of God. If our humanity is subject to laws, even chance, but somehow Gods participation in humanity is in some unique way guarded and preserved then maybe Jesus was never one of us “fully”.
Jesus may still have experienced humanity in terms of a lack of foreknowledge, pain and loss, even friendship and betrayal… but if Jesus alone was being preserved for their destiny, guaranteed of both death and resurrection, can they really know the uncertainty of our humanity as we do? If they were never at risk of death in the womb was their incarnation total?
2. The still birth of Jesus never would have happened because everything, even still births, occurs according to the will of God.
In this picture of the world there is nothing inhuman about Jesus having his destiny determined (and still birth prevented) because that is the rule of all our lives. Jesus experienced full humanity in having his life determined by the will of God – there is no contradiction between the two.
The problem with this picture, where miracles are not exceptional and everything unfolds according to Gods plan is that it makes a mockery of our search for the whys and hows of still birth. Why do we bother to investigate the illusion of causality in a world in which everything is pre-destined?
Nobody lives like that. Nobody I know would ride a donkey late in their pregnancy confident their child will survive if God wills it and only die if God wills that too. We humans would worry. Did Mary worry?
3. It was possible for Jesus to have been still born.
Reflect on that for a moment.
My first thought (which occurred while writing the nativity play you can read here) is of Mary’s reality should that have happened. Imagine the messiah she promised to bear, dead in her arms. How could she have “processed”, to use our horrible inadequate modern term, that reality?
Like the crucifixion, blame could be laid at the Romans feet. That census, that donkey journey, across a desert with bitterly cold nights, was hardly safe for the child. But would Jesus death still have redeemed the people of Israel by dying for their sins if it had happened in utero? Perhaps; the messiah has still shared in the oppression of God’s people. He has taken on their (and our) plight.
If this was the central point of Jesus life does this need to have happened when he was thirty three? Could it have happened before he breathes air?
A separate question is whether anyone would have joined this new religion without the miracles and teachings of Jesus and without the male disciples? If Mary had been its sole voice, a grief stricken woman in a patriarchal world, would she have just been declared mad? Would even the patient Joseph had stayed with her if Mary’s life had become preaching that her dead child was the Messiah?
If the incarnation of God shares with humanity in a reality that is not predestined then I also wonder something else. Could the Jesus that died at age 33 be one of many possibilities? Can we imagine a Christ that was killed by Herod after being refused entry into Egypt or even a Christ with schizophrenia? Can we imagine a Christ with a congenital defect, a ticking time bomb in his chest or skull?
None of this is meant to argue anything. I’m not trying to “prove” something about Christianity or destiny. I just think that a part of my human reality is to feel lucky to be alive, and very lucky my child is alive and healthy (knock on all the wood in the world). The parents I know are starkly aware that our pregnancies are fraught with risk, as we have our children later in life than our parents. That too has been especially on my mind of late.
As I entered into the nativity story I felt a part of it that I’d never pondered before was the tale of a pregnancy that it tells. I had to wonder was it a pregnancy like our own child’s? I wonder if Mary felt what I felt when our child was born; sweet relief.