Sunday, December 17, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "The Birth of Jesus Christ"

“The Birth of Jesus Christ”
The Gospel of Matthew
December 17, 2017 :: Matthew 1:18-25 

Last week, we began our newest sermon series very cleverly and craftily entitled, “The Gospel of Matthew.” I’m still working an snazzy title for the whole series.

We’ve begun a multi-month, maybe multi-year, journey together through this theological biography of the most important person who has ever lived–the Lord Jesus Christ.

Last week, we looked closely at his genealogy. Which was a lot more interesting than someone might think at first.

It turned out that his genealogy revealed his identity. It was like a form of ID that the first readers of this gospel would have considered valid and interesting.

Matthew gave us an account of Jesus’ genealogy that presented Jesus as the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, the Christ.

The Son of Abraham - Realizing All of God’s Promises
The Son of David - Ruling All of God’s Kingdom
The Christ - Rescuing All of God’s People

And Matthew arranged his presentation of the genealogy into three sets of fourteen generations. Three eras: from Abraham to David, from David to the Exile, and from the Exile to Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus.

Fourteen. The perfect number seven multiplied by two.

And three perfect sets of a doubled perfect number.

I think that Matthew was saying that the time has now come for the Messiah to arrive.

The time is perfect. More than perfect. Doubly perfect. Triply doubly perfect!

This is where the whole line of generations has been heading all along.

What Paul called in Galatians 4, “The fullness of time...” (Galatians 4:4-5).

This is what they’ve all been waiting for.

This Person is Whom they’ve all been waiting for.

And now it’s time to read about His conception and His birth.

V.18 begins, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about...”

“The Birth of Jesus Christ.”

Now, the funny thing is that there is very little about Jesus’ actual birth in the Gospel of Matthew. The Gospel of Luke is the place to go if you want to know most of the details of that story. The who, what, where, when, and how.

Matthew only barely mentions his actual birth.

What Matthew does give us is mostly the backstory of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of Joseph. Luke focuses more on Mary. Matthew focuses more on Joseph.

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about...”

That word “birth” in the Greek is “geneseos.” What does that sound like?

Genesis, right?

Which means, “origins, beginnings, births.”

Matthew is signaling that he is going to give us the origin story of Jesus Christ.

He is going to tell us how it all came down. The circumstances that surrounded Jesus’ birth.

And in particular, he’s going to tell us about the scandal and how it was resolved.

There was a scandal brewing, no doubt about it.

Verse 16 made it very clear that this genealogy was the genealogy of Joseph who was the husband of Mary, of whom (feminine pronoun, Mary) was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

So Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus.

Look at verse 18.

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”

Now, take out Matthew’s words, “through the Holy Spirit,” and you can see how you’ve got a scandal brewing.

Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph.

The old King James word was “espoused.”

And it meant much more to them than our word “engaged.”

They had already signed all of the papers.

They had already been to the courthouse.

They and their families had agreed before witnesses that these two were going to come together in marriage.

Their betrothal period was legally binding and could only be broken by a divorce.

But they had yet “come together.” There were still some significant steps before they were finally and fully married. And that included sexual intimacy and consummation.

They hadn’t got that far.

But Mary was obviously pregnant already.

What happened?

Well, if it was anybody else, we would all know what happened.

Mary must have been with somebody.

I mean, that’s just how it works.

And Joseph knew that it hadn’t been him.

Of course, Mary knew that she hadn’t been with anybody.

Matthew says that she was “found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”

It’s a miracle.

Don’t miss that.

Don’t miss the miracle.

Our Advent Readings this year are all about the Holy Spirit, the True Spirit of Christmas.

We’re learning about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the story of the birth of Christ.

Don’t miss this one! The Holy Spirit miraculously conceived the humanity of Jesus inside of the womb of Mary who was a virgin.


Now, certainly that created a scandal.

But which would you rather have? A non-scandalous birth of a regular old baby who can’t save the world or a scandalous birth of a divinely miraculous baby who does?

We know which one God picked.

He picked the scandalous miracle.

But what would Joseph pick? V.19

“Because Joseph her husband [legally if not fully yet] was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

Now we sometimes have a hard time understanding what that means.

It says that Joseph was righteous. And at least in part, that must have meant that he felt duty-bound to divorce this seemingly adulterous woman. That’s what a righteous man would do.

He might think that fully marrying her would say to the world that he was guilty of fornication when he was not.

Now, our world laughs at that.

Our culture seems to think that it’s okay for men and women to have sex together outside of the covenant of marriage. Even to live together like they are husband and wife but not be.

But the Bible calls that kind of behavior “sin.”

And Joseph was a righteous man. He wasn’t going to engage in that sinful behavior, and he wasn’t going to implicitly say to the world that he had.

But the logic of verse 19 says more than that. It says that because Joseph was righteous, he not only wanted to do the right thing, but he wanted to show compassion towards Mary.

“Because” he was righteous he “did not want to expose her to public disgrace.”

He didn’t want a trial.
He didn’t want her to be ostracized and attacked. Maybe stoned to death.

He could have demanded a public divorce and probably got to keep her dowry and the bride price that he had probably put down.

She had reneged on their agreement, not him.

But because he was righteous, he was merciful.

I think that say a lot about what it means to be righteous.

Joseph decided to divorce her quietly. Life was going to be hard enough for her to have no husband to have some illegitimate son.

You know, they probably didn’t know each other very well? Betrothed couples in that day didn’t have any time alone until they were married.

They would have met, but never had much conversation–and always with others listening.

How must he have felt?! So disappointed. So let down.

And yet, he decides to not only do the right thing but to do it as gently as possible.

But then God intervenes! v.20

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

And that changes everything!

I have no idea what that might be like. To be visited by an angel. Perhaps “the angel of the Lord.” He’s not named here.

All we get is his amazing message.

Notice what he calls Joseph!

“Joseph, son of David.”

This humble carpenter is a Son of David.

That’s what we read about last week in the genealogy. This guy is the heir to the throne.

In an alternate timeline, we could call him, “King Joseph.”

“King Joseph, heir of David, do not be afraid.”

“Don’t worry what they say about you.

Don’t worry about the scandal. I’ll take care of that. It’s worth it.

Mary has not been unfaithful to you. Marry Mary!

“ not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

That child is very special.

And then the angel say just how special He is. V.21

“She will give birth to a son, and you [Joseph] are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”

#1. JESUS.

Now if you have the New International Version, it has a footnote for the name “Jesus” in verse 21. We are used to the name “Jesus,” but we don’t always recognize what it meant in the original language.

The NIV footnote says, “Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the LORD saves.” “Yahweh saves.” That’s why the angel says, “give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

The angel is saying that his name has prophetic mean.

“Jesus” means God saves His people.

This little boy whom the angel is telling Joseph to adopt is going to be a savior. A deliverer. A rescuer.

A savior from what?

From the oppression of the Romans?

What does it say (v.21)?

“He will save His people from their sins.”

Not their enemies.

Or at least, not what they think of as their greatest enemies.

What do you think of as your greatest enemies?

Did your know that your greatest enemy is not your problems?

Your greatest enemy is not your fears.

Your greatest enemy is not your earthly enemies like Korean dictators or ISIS terrorists.

Did you know that your greatest enemy is not even Satan, the enemy of God?

No. Your and my greatest threat to our eternal joy is our sins.

Our sins separate us from God and makes us His enemies. It earns us His righteous wrath.

And there is nothing you and I can do about it on our own.

We are, by nature, dead in our transgressions and sins.

And dead people can’t earn their way back.

We can’t rescue ourselves. We can’t bring ourselves back to life.

But God in His mercy has sent a Savior for us!

And His name is “Jesus.” “God saves His people.”

Here’s how He did it. Jesus lived a perfect life. He never sinned. He lived in perfect obedient communion with His heavenly Father.

And then one day, He took on our sin for us. And He died in our place on the Cross.

The Bible says, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

And then three days later, He came back from the dead to give us forgiveness of sins and new life!

We’re going to read about that at the end of this book.

But here it is at the beginning!

“Jesus” Means God Saves His People.

Question. Are you one of His people?

That’s a question that we all have to make sure we have answered.

The Gospel of John says, “ all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”

Are you born of God?

Are you one of God’s people?

You get there through faith.

And faith in alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ?

Because He came to save His people from their sins.

But it’s not automatic. You need to trust Him. You need to receive Him and believe in His name.

You cannot earn this salvation, but you must receive it by faith.

Jesus means God’s saves his people.

Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus came to save?

He could have just come to observe.

Or worse. He could have just come to judge.

But He came to save. To seek and to save what was lost.

And then Matthew takes over, I think, in verse 22 to show how this was a fulfillment of the Old Testament. V.22

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’”


That’s what choir just sang this morning.

“Our God is with us!”

Matthew says that all of this (not just the angel’s greetings but the whole thing, including the potential scandal) took place to fulfill Isaiah 7:14.

Now, that’s one of Matthew’s favorite words, “fulfill.” We’re going to see it again and again in this gospel.

Matthew loves to look at his Old Testament and see what it promised and prefigured and predicted and then look at Jesus and show how He fulfills it perfectly.

Three years ago, we studied this prophecy in Isaiah 7 and 8 in some depth. We took two weeks to unpack what it says and how it relates to Matthew chapter 1.

Basically, it’s a prophetic pattern. God promised King Ahaz a sign even though Ahaz didn’t want one. The sign would be that a young maiden would have a child and before that child could even say, “Mama,” the threats that King Ahaz was so worried about would be neutralized. He would see that God is with Israel.

But it was also more than that!

When the LORD said in Isaiah that a “virgin will be with child,” he actually meant that eventually a VIRGIN would be “with child!”

The Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 could be just a young maiden of marriageable age, but it could also mean someone who has never ever had sexual relations.

And the Greek word used in both the Septuagint (the Greek translation of Isaiah 7:14) and in Matthew’s Gospel right here in this verse (23) is almost always used to mean a young woman who has never ever had sexual relations.

And Mary has never ever had sexual relations.

“What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

So Matthew sees clearly that ALL this took place to fully fulfil Isaiah 7:14.

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel–which means ‘God with us.’”

The Greater Immanuel, the Greatest Immanuel is Mary’s son!

Immanuel was a pattern. The first Immanuel was a sign that God was with His people, Israel.

But the Greater Immanuel, the Greatest Immanuel has come not only to be a sign but to be the literal fulfillment of His name.

God is with us.

This is no ordinary child!

He is literally God in the flesh.

Jesus Christ was not just an earthly savior who came to deliver people from their sins.

Jesus Christ was (and is!) God Himself come to Earth an entering into humanity!

Veiled in Flesh, the Godhead See
Hail, the Incarnate Deity
Pleased as Man With Men to Dwell
Jesus, Our Immanuel

Immanuel wasn’t his name like “Jesus” was.

Immanuel is a title, to describe the essence of Who Jesus was and is.

He is God With His People.

Think about what Immanuel means:

It means that God has walked on Earth as a man.

It means that God understands everything that we humans go through–experientially!

It means that because He was God Jesus could infinitely pay for our sin debt against an infinite holy God. In other words, because He was Immanuel He could be Jesus–our Savior.

It means that God could reveal Himself fully in language we understand–the language of humanity, of personal experience, of human love and sacrifice.

It means that ours is a “visited planet.” We are not alone. There is a Creator who made us and cares about us. Life is not meaningless.

It means that humanity is not just an insignificant class of primates wandering around aimlessly on this planet. Instead we are a significant class of beings, created in the image of God, and blessed by our Creator's humility to take on our nature.  We among the creatures of the universe have a dignity that is unheard of, because God became one of us. Because God was with us!

God “became flesh and dwelled among us.”

Let’s get personal now.

Do you feel alone this Christmas Season?

Christmas is often a hard time for people. Winter has come. It gets darker earlier.  Financial burdens pile up. People get lonely. We miss loved-ones who have died.

I find this a very stressful time of year.

Do you feel alone this Christmas Season?

You are not alone if you know Immanuel.

The most important person in the universe is with you. And for you.

You are not alone.

Three years ago on Christmas Eve, I gave this summary of what it means for God to be with us.

Not Alone
Not Afraid
Not Abandoned
Not Ashamed

God is with you.


Do you need to hear that?

I know I do.

Because often I live like I am alone.

I live in fear.
I live in anxiety.
I live in anger.
I live in attack mode.
I live in lying mode.
I live in revenge mode.
I live in impurity.
I live in foolishness.

That’s living as if God was not with me.

But we don’t have to live like that!


God is with us!

God is here.

God has saved us through His Son.

We can live differently!

We can live in joy.
We can live in peace.
We can live in increasing harmony with others.
We can live in hope.
We can live in edifying speech.
We can live in wise choices.

Because God is with us.

And if God is with us, who can be against us?

It’s interesting that the very last thing that Jesus will be quoted saying in the Gospel of Matthew is what?

“...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."


Verse 24.

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. [He embraced the scandal because He knew about the holy miracle!] But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

You know, Joseph never says anything.

He is never quoted in the Bible as saying anything.

He might have been one of those strong silent types. We don’t know.

But he was a man of action.

He was a righteous man. He was an obedient man.

Joseph had that wedding. And after He was born, he adopted that boy. And acknowledged Him as his son.

That boy became his legal heir and heir of all of God’s promises from Abraham on.

Heir of the royal lineage from David.

And Joseph named that boy “Jesus.”

And that boy grew into His name. He saved His people from their sins.

And He grew into His title. He was truly God with us. Immanuel.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus