The Birth of Jesus, the King Matt. 1:18-25
May 11, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 1:18–1:25
Matt. 1:18-25 18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of 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.” 22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” 24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
I was listening to a conversation between Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville Ky. and a theologian named Stanley Hauerwas.
Hauerwas is not an evangelical. He's sort of an Anglican post liberal theologian, but no matter. His view looking at American Evangelicalism from the outside in is of great value.
Now put your thinking cap on for a moment or two. He says mainline American evangelicalism is orchestrating it's own demise because it's catering to a buyers market. I'll let that sink in for a moment.
Here's what he means, and I think he's spot on. A buyers market is when the buyers can dictate the product. For example, after WWII when no cars had been produced for 5 years it was a sellers market. You could get more than the car was worth and the buyer was glad to get it.
Later on when the market was saturated it became a buyers market. The buyers could dictate what they would and wouldn't buy and the sellers would follow the current trends.
Modern American evangelicalism has become a slave to all the latest gimmicks that the world is dictating to it. Walk into any mega church in any large city and chances are you'll get a taste of all the latest stuff to make christianity palatable to the world.
Coffee bars. Pastry kitchens. Worldly music. Shallow or non doctrine. Everything is catered to the felt needs of the consumers. The consumer gets to define the faith they want.
Evangelicalism according to the Mega Church 101 model has been aptly decribed as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. We design a god and it's all about how he makes us feel. God becomes a divine butler, a cosmic therapist.
Cafeteria christianity. You get to choose what you like and want to keep and just pass over the rest. Resurrection? Virgin birth? If those are objectionable to you, pass them by and go on to what you like.
To Evangelicals the deliverables of their faith are what matter. What can I get. We've got to get the world in the door. We've got to make it sellable.
Let me turn the clock back 120 years. When I was a small child and my family was intact, and no, I'm not 120 years old, but stick with me, when I was small, a word heard in our home was fundamentalism. My parents went to a fundamentalist Bible college, and later on we went to a Fundamentalist church.
That was a mid century reaction to something else. Christian liberalism. Liberal Theology. Here's what happened in a real quick glimpse.
In the 1890's and earlier, as the electric lights began to come on across America and in Europe, people became "enlightened".
Suddenly the stories in the Bible about non-rational things became simplistic and unbelievable. We had science and technology and higher learning and all that stuff was written by simple unlearned shepherds and fishermen.
To the sophisticated enlightened world, it began to sound, rather like, mythology and fairy tales. Modern people couldn't accept seas parting and manna coming down from heaven and water coming out of rocks.
The solution to the problem was for scholars and theologians to de-mythologize the Bible. No one's going to believe all that wacky non-rational stuff, we've got to explain it away. And they DID in a myriad of ways.
The Word of God always takes the first and biggest hit. Instead of the words being authoritative over men, men become authoritative over the words. Someone decides what's in, what's out.
And the main line big box denominations couldn't get on board fast enough. This was going to be the solution to get modern people back inside the churches and it would all be sophisticated and scholarly and respectable to modern people. They adjusted christianity to match the demands of the "buyers" the world.
The miracles; gone. The Bible; all chopped up in little pieces. Parts of it were inspired perhaps but there's a lot of muddle mixed in by ignorant shepherd boys and fisherman and the authority of scripture was shattered. Transferred to so called scholars and theologians.
I remember having a discussion with my dad about 40 years ago about something in Hebrews we dis-agreed on. We were out in his shop in Venice, and he went back in the house and got a pair of scissors and came back out. I said what are those for. He said, well you don't like that part, take the scissors and cut it out. And that's how it was at my dad's house. It was a good lesson, ably presented.
Back to our story and we're near where I want to go.
Fundamentalism was a reaction to liberal christianity. It was fundamentalist schools and churches that split off from liberal christianity and stood alone and saved the framework of verbal plenary inspiration and authority of the word of God and albeit imperfectly, provided a solid platform for evangelicalism.
In the 1940's and '50's and '60's little groups were standing outside mainline denominational christianity and holding onto the solid historic christian faith with tenacity. We owe them much.
Fast forward to 2014. Evangelicalism, mega-church 101, is doing exactly the same thing that the liberals did! Market driven christianity is cheapening doctrine and doing whatever it takes to look just like the world. We've got to get them in the door. We've got to look just like the world or the market driven masses won't come in.
What happened to the main line denominations, largely? Death.
What is happening to modern American evangelicalism? Death.
What does any of this have to do with the virgin birth of Jesus? A ton.
Market driven christianity could care less about the virgin birth. They don't deny it, like the liberals, they ignore it. The virgin birth doesn't have any place in christianity that's all about a happier healthier better me. We avoid the doctrines that turn the world off. It just doesn't seem like something we need to talk about.
Vs. 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
This is a repeat of verse 1. Same words. Birth, geneseos. Genesis. The beginning of Jesus the annointed one is as follows;
The first long geneology that we looked at last week left us hanging, didn't it. It stops at Joseph, who is not the earthly father.
And then as if to relieve the tension created in those 17 verses, Matthew starts over. He even repeats the same words.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah happened, he says. when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
This is an economy of words, and each word is carefully chosen.
Mary is betrothed to Joseph. The jews had famously long engagements. Many of the responsibilities of care that a husband enjoys, but without the conjugal visits.
before they came together Make no mistake. This means exactly what the words sound like they mean. Before there was any sexual relationship between Joseph and Mary, she was found to be with child she's pregnant, and she's showing. She's got a little tummy going on that a teenage girl who is betrothed to one man and a virgin, absolutely should not have. by the Holy Spirit.
One of the first arguments that the secular world will throw out, derisively, of course, is that this is nothing new. In mythology this happens all the time. Some god or demi god hooks up with some woman and creates a new super being.
What they'll say is that this is a thinly veiled copy of mythology that is already common at the time.
Could it be . . that Satan, knowing his theology better than most of us know ours, purposely put all of the myth's out there so that when the real comes, it's somehow cheapened?
The mother and child religions that came from Babel? And right on down through history, preparing the world, so that when God really does cause the once and only real virgin birth, it's battling for market share with all of the false.
This is what Satan does. Copy cat.
We need to look quickly at Luke's account. Lk.1: 26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
Luke tells us 2 times in vs. 27 that Mary is a virgin. Well, you say, that just means a young woman, that's all. Except Mary has a problem. How is a baby going to be inside of me, since I am a virgin. No relations with a man. Ever.
The angel has told her she's going to conceive in her womb and bear a son, and Mary is like, how is this going to work, I'm a virgin.
And the angel tells her point blank, no man needed, the Holy Spirit is going to cause this, and for that reason, the Child will be called the Son of God. The same Holy Spirit that brooded over the waters in the creation. It won't be a problem for Him.
Luke tells Mary's side and her concerns, Matthew tells Joseph's side and his concerns.
It's interesting here, and we'll see it when we get to the Isaiah prophecy, that the greek word chosen to interpret the Hebrew word is narrrower in meaning even than the hebrew word. To the greek readers it means exactly, a young woman of marriageable age who has never had a sexual encounter with a person of the opposite sex. A virgin. No further questions asked.
What's interesting though is the Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 is not quite as well defined but everyone understood the meaning that way. So when the 70 elders worked on the septuagent, the greek version of the hebrew scriptures, about 270 years before Jesus, the greek word they chose for what is being described in the Isaiah prophecy is this same word Matthew uses here. It can only mean virgin.
Then later when Matthew came along and said, Isaiah 7:14 is describing the birth of messiah and assigned the event to Jesus, the jews backpeddled and changed their translation to mean something less than a virginal virgin. They tried to change the word. Too late, we have copies of the codex old enough to prove that they were revisionist in the later versions. Sort of hypocritical, but no worse than liberal denominational scholars would do later.
I remember that the 1947 RSV, the Revised Standard Version was held in low esteem in our fundamentalist household. Everywhere that should be interpreted virgin, it says, a young woman. Weak! We don't like weak Bibles! The original autographs are not weak. Get me a translation that isn't weasley with words.
Vs.19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly
A jewish betrothal at this time period would require a divorce proceeding to split up.
Joseph, no doubt broken hearted, because his love for Mary is evident and real, considers how best to quietly and secretly break the engagement off. The worst has happened.
Notice how God works in His servants lives. Joseph is an excellent object lesson for us.
God doesn't send an angel ahead of time to spare Joseph any distress. "now Joseph, the girl you love is going to appear undeniably pregnant in about 3 weeks from now, it'll be showing, but don't you worry about it, buddy."
No. Joseph's heart is broken. I'm a wimp, so I imagine Joseph walking somewhere a good half mile from where any human ever goes, and just sobbing.
Maybe not. Maybe Joseph is a lot more constitutionally stronger than me, but that's what I would have done.
And then I see him pulling it together, after a time of real heart break and sorrow, and saying to himself, I've got some options I've got to consider. What am I going to do!
Options: Biblically, he can stone her to death. That's an option. The romans would probably put him in prison for that, they didn't put up with many stonings at this point.
It still happened though. Remember at Nazareth, and in John Ch. 10 when Jesus preached, the people were taking up stones to stone Him when they perceived that He was claiming to be the Son of God.
Stephen was stoned. It wasn't completely impossible. Stone first, apologize to the Romans later. Oops, that one kind of got away from us. We won't do it again . . for a while.
Bad option. Joseph is in love with this girl, no matter the heartbreak.
Another option is to have a public display. A big divorce with the elders and the whole place involved. This option is purposely orchestrated to inflict shame on the guilty party.
This is similar to the woman caught in adultery in John 8. They drag her before God and everybody and make a huge display. This is what the self righteous pharisee types would do.
This option would clear Joseph's name and he would be redeemed in the sight of the village.
But Joseph loves this girl, and he decides, even if he wanted to marry her, it would be an offense to God, and he can't go there, because he really is a righteous young jewish man doing his best to follow the laws of Moses. He is a God fearer, and even though he's in love with her, and perhaps could forgive her, marriage to her isn't allowed in the law, so the only option left is to put her away quietly.
The decision is made. His heart is shattered. He's worked through it. He figures his life will never be OK again, but he'll just have to soldier on somehow.
Now look at verse 20;
20But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
And that's how God does it. He doesn't step in and eliminate the heartbreak and the trouble and the sorrow and the working it through.
After all of that, God steps in. It isn't what you think Joseph. You need to go ahead and marry her. The child in her is from above. Don't be afraid about breaking the law of Moses.
Notice that God didn't solve all of Josephs problems either. Sure, his heart is relieved! His girl is faithful after all! But now he gets to spend the rest of his life with a stigma that will never go away.
To every onlooker he's dad to a kid that he's not really the dad of, and there's always the whispering. Joseph doesn't get the better carpenter jobs. People don't esteem him as a manly man, perhaps. They judge him as somehow weak.
There's a wonderful lesson for us in here, and I'm trying to get at it. Modern christians think God is in heaven to make our lives excellent. This is a picture of a God who owns slaves, and assigns them His purposes. Not much explanation. No apologies.
But there's more. In the village, Joseph will be somewhat of an outcast perhaps. There will always be the whispering. But look at how Heaven sees him. What the angel says when he addresses Joseph just makes my heart leap with joy for him.
Joseph, son of David Do you realize that if it hadn't been for all the wickedness and the curse on Jeconiah and the captivity, that Joseph would have been king in Israel.
So while the podunk people in the village of Nazareth are doing their whispering, heaven says, we know who you are! Joseph, son of David...and that's how God treats His soldiers. Low esteem on earth. High esteem in heaven. And that little phrase let's Joseph know, he's going to be dad to the man who will restore the throne of David to Israel.
Vs. 21“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
This verse is just full, and we need to consider all of it, but first, since we're talking about Joseph, and his role on mother's day, there is an assignment in this verse.
Mary has a necessary role. She will bear a son. And Joseph has a necessary role. you shall call His name Jesus
Mary is going to be the Mom, and you're going to be the Dad. Not physically, but in every other sense, Joseph, you are to be Dad.
Joseph isn't a bystander in this odd but necessary arrangement, he's assigned the role of Dad. Parent. In every respect. All of the normal bonds of parent and child, all of the love and nurture that a real Dad brings, Joseph, will be yours with this child. You give him his name.
you shall call His name Jesus Jehovah Saves.
for He will save His people from their sins
OK, now that's one of those statements that's so earth shattering, that it stalls me. It's so important that I feel ill equipped to do it justice.
Isa. 59:1,2 Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. 2But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
Sin. Sinfulness. We are born into it. Every baby born in Adams race inherits it at birth. We are a planet at war with the God who created us, and sin is the defilement that makes us enemies of God. Seperation from God is spiritual death. We're born dead, spiritually. Sin is the problem.
This planet is on a collision course with judgement. We are in full rebellion. That picture of arab boys throwing dust into the air in open hatred is how God sees this planet full of people infected with sin.
That sounds harsh, and it is harsh, except, God in grace, sent his son into the world to individually stand in the place of some and take the wrath that their sins fully deserved, and in so doing, make them spotless.
2Cor5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We trade places. The righteous Man takes my sin and gives me His righteousness.
That's the gospel. That's the good news. you shall call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins
The planet is still on a collision course for judgement, but we can individually be clothed with the righteousness of Jesus. Saved!
22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
There's lots of fuss about this verse. Isaiah 7:14 The hebrew word here is hÄ-‘al-mÄh, and the liberals who would like to divorce themselves from this irrational miracle will argue that the word just means a young woman.
Now I'm no hebrew scholar and it's too late in my life to start. I'd have to learn english first. But I can read, and this is what I learned.
The hebrews true enough had a more technical word to describe virginity. And the stone throwers will say, if that's what was meant, it would have been used here.
Well, no, historically in that time and place, once a young girl was betrothed, that word wasn't used any more, this one was.
hÄ-‘al-mÄh, It describes a young woman of marriageable age who is betrothed but the marriage hasn't taken place.
No different really than our spanish folks south of us who might say seniorita for the pretty young woman not married and senora for the mothers and wives.
The argument does not hold water, and in fact, the word should be tranlated virgin, not young woman like the RSV did. Here's why.
In context from Isaiah; 13Then he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? 14"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign
Young women getting pregnant is pretty common. And even getting pregnant and having male children only narrows that down by half. Great sign.
That's like saying, the "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign go down to the sea shore, and there you'll find a grain of sand. Or look into the heavens. One of those stars is a sign.
Anyone who does that, and frighteningly, that's exactly what the liberals DO, mocks God and makes His word and His ability to communicate to men through words and signs, a mockery.
God said I'll give you a sign. A virgin who has never had relations with a man will be impregnated miraculously by the Holy Spirit, and the resulting child will be God With Us.
There's a lot of miraculous stuff going on here for rational modern people to get their heads around. 2 angelic visits to explain and prepare Mary and Joseph, and the miraculous conception of the Son of God inside Mary.
Is all this really necessary, or is this a mythological tale that is so preposterous as to be an embarassment to christianity that's trying to appear more respectable in the modern world.
The liberal theologians backed away from this story almost as fast as the resurrection. This sort of thing is a stumbling block for any modern rational person. The world is too sophisticated for these myth's.
So what is lost if we jettison the virgin birth?
The first thing that comes to my mind is if you jettison the virgin birth, you are still in your sin. Jesus wasn't God. There was no perfect sacrifice. You're still reeling headlong out of control towards a destiny of judgement and hell.
Listen to what Paul the apostle has to say; Romans 5:18,19
18So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
If Jesus was not born of a virgin, he inherited the same condemnation as every other person born into Adam's race. He's no different than you or me, and he's not able to die a substitutinary death, because he's not righteous.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
If the seed didn't come from the Holy Spirit, Jesus is not God. He's no substitute on the cross for you, he's no different than you. Salvation collapses in from the middle. You're as lost and worthy of judgement as ever you were. There's no other hope.
That's why christianity is so exclusive. That's why Peter says in Acts 4:12 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
The doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is not on the list of negotiables. It is ground zero to the gospel and salvation.
24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Joseph and Mary obeyed God. Remarkable!
a quick note; 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son
See the word until. It means exactly what it seems to mean. After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage in the normal fashion and had brothers and sisters for Jesus and lived a semi-normal life, and died.
Mary is not a perpetual virgin. She is not equal with her son. She's a normal every day mom that God chose to do His special service, and bear His son, and then she went right on being a wife and a mom.
You know, one of the problems the world has, in fact perhaps the biggest problem the world has with us fundamentalists, is the exclusiveness of the gospel.
It makes them furious when you have the audacity to tell them there's only one way to get to God. Period. All other roads lead to hell.
Get rid of the virgin birth, and you're half way or more back to common ground with the world. The virgin birth was the reason for the one exclusive saviour that alone has the keys to removing my sin. He alone can make me righteous.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2