The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25 – 12/09/2015
This is a series in the Gospel of Matthew which looks to visit the text from the Gospel of Matthew on a line by line and verse by verse teaching and Lord willing we will get through the full book of Matthew, this is part of a New Testament bible study series that you can read all other studies in this section on this link.
Matthew 1:18 (ESV) Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
I love this part of scripture as it is so dynamic, so cross cultural and so wonderful in its simplicity and this is why I love the book of Matthew. Matthew is a no nonsense guy, a tax collector who gets straight to the point and lays out the facts in an easy to read historical format. After dealing with the family tree of where Jesus came from in a legal perspective he then starts with the betrothal and in the Jewish ceremony there were three steps to marriage..
• Engagement – Is when the initial interest is noted and they are set aside for one another, sometimes this is done before they would be able to decide for themselves and it was somewhat common for families to “align” by marriage by setting aside children to be married at a later date.
• Betrothal – is when the couple is old enough to wed, they betroth and this would be the same as what we would call a legal wedding, they are married by law and can only break this by a formal divorce, however they still live apart for a period of time, usually the first year.
• Marriage – this took place last and then the couple would start their lives as man and wife.
Now you can see why a betrothed woman would be scandalous if the man was a righteous man like Joseph was. The fact that Mary was with child would have culturally caused an issue and the first thought would have been that she had been adulterous. Mary must have been under intense pressure as by agreeing to do this she knew that she was essentially making herself a social outcast as no-one would believe what she said regarding the Holy Spirit.
So much so that initially Joseph did not believe (v19) Joseph is shown here as a man with great compassion as he could have had Mary stoned for breaking a betrothal. (He is called here Mary’s husband to illustrate how legal the betrothal was) You have to see it from Joseph’s point of view also as everything points to Mary being unfaithful to him and legally and in his heart also it would have been virtually impossible to go through with the marriage. Joseph still showed love for Mary by wishing to not publically humiliate her and seek a quiet divorce.
A divorce in those days was not the quick and convenient option that it has become these days. There would have been witnesses to the betrothal and other young men in the area would have known that Mary could not be courted so Joseph was trying to make it as painless as possible for both parties. So it would not be private as we read it but Joseph despite his obvious hurt and feeling of betrayal has it in mind to allow as painless a separation as possible and it is right that he is described as “a just man” as he still wanted to protect Mary’s interests as well as his own.
V20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Divine intervention convinced Mary to conceive from the Holy Spirit and divine intervention also convinced Joseph to take Mary as his wife and reassured him that she had not been in disgrace. Can you imagine what a relief that was and how that made Joseph feel? That trust had been restored between man and wife and husband, we know he loved her by his desire to not disgrace her and now he could have the woman that he had waited so long in anticipation for.
Joseph is addressed as “son of David” so this will have alerted Joseph that he was being spoken to using the lineage of his family back to King David and the messianic meanings behind what was about to be said. You have to remember that the nation was looking for the returning Messiah so everybody knew the prophecies and everyone was on alert. And it was confirmed to him that Mary had not been unfaithful to him and was still pure.
V21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Joseph has the future revealed to him that he will witness a son, that will be called Jesus and that he will be a Savior. Jesus meant simply “The Salvation of Jehovah” it was as common as John and Joseph is today but there will be nothing common about the mission that this special child will have. He will save his people from their sins. Note that it says “his people” and not “Children of Israel” or “God’s people” which advises that Jesus will save those who come to faith in him and that was the purpose we find out even at the announcement of his birth that this child will do something to save his people.
V22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: V23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
The angel is quoting from the seventh chapter of the book of Isaiah which reads…
Isaiah 7:14 (ESV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
It is very God that even at the announcement of the birth of Jesus he points to the fact that he had advised hundreds of years before in the prophets and that it would not be some vague prophesy that could have been fulfilled by a hundred different people throughout history. God gave a specific prophecy about something that was biologically impossible except by supernatural intervention.
The name Immanuel (God with us) shows how far God was willing to come to meet us in our sin that he would send his son to come to earth to be with us, live like us and be an example to us and eventually die on a cross for our sins to reconcile man to God. God literally came 99.99% of the way to us and told us that he wanted communion that much that he was willing to walk this earth to demonstrate a divine nature in the historical man Jesus of Nazareth.
V24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,
Joseph was tremendous here, for me Joseph does not get enough credit in the scriptures and when he woke, he went straight away and was obedient to the angel of the Lord and did not debate or resonate it in his heart, maybe take stock of it and logic away the divine nature of the whole thing. I feel that as Christians we tend to do that too much where we tend to overanalyze things that are obviously God and backed up by both the will and word of God and sometimes we miss out on the blessings God has for us because we are too conservative. Joseph does not do that, he walks by faith that God has blessed this union.
V25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Matthew wants to make three things clear from this verse…
• Mary remained a virgin until after Jesus was born
• Eventually Joseph and Mary had marital relations
• They were obedient to call the child the name God wanted
These are important observations because it takes away the opportunity for scoffers to doubt the miraculous birth, that she would fulfil the prophecy not just at the time of conception but also at the time of delivery. It also removes the credence for the idea that Mary remained a virgin always that some denominations promote, it simply is unbiblical and unhistorical because we know that Jesus had at least two other brothers they were called James and Jude and they both wrote epistles so we have writings from these men to show that they did in fact exist.
Legally the marriage was finalized and they could live together but it was not consummated and from a male point of view that showed incredible restraint and faithfulness on the behalf of Joseph. Lastly they called him Jesus, they did what they were told by God, perhaps it was easy to be obedient when they were faced with such direct confirmation of the will of God, they called him that common name that would eventually become name above all names.
God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to