What was Jesus thinking at the moment of His conception?
That may seem like an odd question for two reasons. First, at that moment Jesus’ human mind was not yet formed. Of course, in uniting to humanity, His divinity remained undiminished. But a second reason we overlook Jesus’ personal perspective is that the gospels do not do so. Luke tells it from Mary’s perspective. Matthew emphasizes Joseph. And John describes the Incarnation in cosmic terms.
So what was Jesus thinking? While the gospels may be silent on the matter but the Book of Hebrews gives us a glimpse into what the Second Person of the Trinity approached the Incarnation:
For this reason, when he came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’”
First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.” These are offered according to the law. Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:5-10).
As Archbishop Luis Martinez says in The Sanctifier, this passage gives us a window into the mind of Christ at this vital moment:
In these words we have, as it were, a revelation of the depths within Jesus: we know what He felt, what He said, and what He longed for in the beginning of His life; He came to do the will of His Father and the full accomplishment of that will was his oblation on Calvary. In this accomplishment we have been sanctified (The Sanctifier, 112).
As Martinez notes, Christ’s obedience to the will of the Father is also reflected in several gospel texts. In John, Jesus declares, “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (John 6:38). Likewise: “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him” (John 8:29). This culminates in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
The Hebrews account alludes back to Psalm 40, which gives us yet another portrait of the Incarnation from Christ’s perspective:
Sacrifice and offering you do not want;
you opened my ears.
Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request;
so I said, “See; I come
with an inscribed scroll written upon me.
I delight to do your will, my God;
your law is in my inner being!” (Psalm 40:7-9).
Read as Christ’s own words these lines of the psalm take on an added richness. Christ the Word of God indeed has “an inscribed scroll written upon” Him and God’s law truly is His “inner being.”
The Greek version of this psalm—which Hebrews quotes—has an added detail: “A body you prepared for me.” This line—which only makes sense in the light of the Incarnation—shows the Father at work preparing Jesus’ human body. The Father sends Jesus and prepares a place for Him. Even in being sent, Jesus remains within the Father’s warm embrace.
But it’s not just a human body the Father has prepared for Jesus. It’s also Mary’s womb. She has been, before the foundation, selected to be the Mother of God. She was born without original sin and preserved pure and spotless her whole life. She was filled with grace in order that she might be filled with God.
Mary was so united with Jesus that she reflects His submission to the will of the Father. As she tells the angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Here Mary’s will—her desires, her wishes—has been completely turned over to God, so much so that identity has been totally relocated with God. In a way, she has no personal identity apart from God. Indeed, when she it is addressed, it is not actually as “Hail Mary, full of grace,” but as “Hail, full of grace.” Such radical self-emptying is what allowed Mary to bear the infinite God in her womb—just as Jesus’ own self-emptying is what allowed the infinite God to take on the nature of a finite creature.
Once again, Mary leads us to Jesus, who shows us the way not only to God, but also the way to be truly human. And His message is that the purer our submission to God, the more He can work within us and the greater the wonders He produces through us.