Matthew 1:18-25 Key Verse: 1:23
“‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”
In the last Sunday’s passage, we learned that Jesus took three of his disciples and was transfigured to a glorious image, dazzling white like sun shining right in front of them. Jesus showed the disciples his glorious image in order to plant the glorious hope of God’s kingdom in their hearts so that they could focus on rewards not earthly but heavenly. Though Peter was still talking about earthly things at that time, this glorious image he saw on the mountain was imprinted in him. When Peter had the hope of the glorious God’s kingdom and heavenly rewards, he could preach the gospel of Jesus with the power of the Holy Spirit. He could overcome all kinds of sufferings and hardships, and his faith was refined by fire of persecutions to be a pure gold. Thus he became the foundation of the first church of Jesus Christ. Let us focus our eyes on Jesus and see this glorious image. May God bless each one of us to have the hope of the glorious kingdom of God where we will live forever, so that we work hard for the eternal rewards which will last forever. Amen.
From this week, we are studying Christmas passage in the gospel of Matthew. Today’s passage is about the angel’s Christmas message to Joseph. He was a righteous man who practiced not only laws and regulations but also and mercy and love. In God’s sovereign plan, God chose Joseph to be the father of Jesus. Jesus came to save people from their sins. Originally; however, he is God the Creator who became a human being. When the author of this book saw God in Jesus, his heart was moved and realized that the birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy written for the Messiah, “’The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means ‘God’s with us.’” God the Creator came down to be with sinners not to condemn but to save them from their sins and eternal condemnation. May the Immanuel God be with each one of us in this Christmas season. Amen.
Look at verse 18, “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” The Bible is exciting to learn the birth of Jesus Christ in different perspective. While Luke wrote the angel’s Christmas message to Mary, Matthew made a short comment on Mary, focusing on mostly Joseph. Mary was engaged to Joseph. At that time, a couple was engaged at least for a year before married in order for them to prepare the wedding ceremony. In fact, an engagement was treated like a marriage, making a pledge before people . According to Mary, my wife, it is the happiest time for a woman, living with the dream of establishing a happy family. Mary could be very happy to be engaged with a righteous man, Joseph, who kept all the laws and regulations. Thinking of Joseph, Mary could not but smile ear to ear. How happy carpenter Joseph was while making a new bedroom set for Mary!
But the happiest time was interrupted by God. Mary was called to be a mother of Jesus before the marriage ceremony, which meant breaking her dream of happy marriage. Without discussing her fiancé, Joseph, Mary accepted God’s called, saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to be as you have said.” So she was found to be with child before the day of marriage by the power of the Holy Spirit. Though we know how she conceived the baby, yet Joseph did not know at this time.
When Joseph found that Mary was pregnancy without him, how could he feel and react? What could Joseph go through in such a situation? He could go through emotional turmoil. Joseph loved Mary very much. He was working hard and saving with the dream of a happy and loving family with Mary. Now, his heart was broken and his dream was shattered into pieces. He had live right before God, believing that God would bless him and his descendants for 1,000 generation as he promised. But why this terrible thing happened to him. How could his innocent fiancé Mary become unfaithful and pregnant by another man? He might have cried out to God with tears, “Why God? What happened? What did I do wrong that this terrible thing is happening to me?”
Moreover, Joseph had to deal with law of the time as a Jew. Look at verse 19a, “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law.” Joseph was a faithful man, keeping all the laws and regulations. Usually, people like this are very legalistic and rigid. They cannot endure other people who break the laws and regulations. There was one young girl who wants to be a lawyer, working in a retail store part time. When her mother asked her to buy something her with her employ discount, she yelled at her mom, “Mom, how could you ask me to do that?” So her mom was shocked and could not say anything because the daughter was right legally. But she was not wise and loving. If she bought her mom a gife, she could have received much more back from her mother.
By Moses’ law, Mary supposed to be stoned to death because she broke the pledge of engagement. Even today, many of Middle Eastern countries practice this law, stoning a woman if they are found with another man before marriage, not to mention being pregnant. This is what a regular Joe among the people of Israel would do during the time of Jesus. If Joseph practiced his legalistic way of life, he could have exposed Mary’s unfaithfulness so that justice was done as God told the Jews through Moses.
Yet Joseph did not practice his legal right. He was different. Look at verse 19b, “…and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly,” Most people are very generous to themselves but strict to others. But Joseph was opposite. He was very legalistic toward himself but very merciful and loving to others, especially to Mary though she broke his heart. He did not want to expose her from her sins he thought that she committed. He struggled what to do with her. Maybe his emotion was telling him to punish her severely or at least follow the Law of Moses for her unfaithfulness. Joseph, however, knew God seeks not only justice but also love. God’s love covers multitudes of sins. He remembered how God also forgave all his sins. He loved Mary so much so that he did not want her any harm. He wanted to cover her from public disgrace. He made a decision to divorce her quietly, thus save her from being stoned to death. He was a righteous man who had a right relationship with God and with people.
How did God help this righteous man, Joseph? Look at verses 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.’” After Joseph made a decision through much struggle, God sent his angel in order to give him God’s message. Joseph’s heart was also open to listen to God’s direction. What was God’s message? Fundamentally, there are two messages. First, support the work of the Holy Spirit. God reminded Joseph who he was. He was a descendant of David. God promised that he would send the Messiah in the line of David. So God chose Mary to be a mother, who conceived the baby by the power of the Holy Spirit. His mission is to take Mary home. God called him to protect and provide Mary and her son. In fact, Joseph already thought about taking Mary home, but he was afraid of that idea. Maybe he thought that it was a public disgrace having a baby before marriage. In order to take Mary home, Joseph had to overcome the fear and have faith that it is the work of the Holy Spirit. By faith, he had to take her and support the work of the Holy Spirit in her.
Here we learn that we must overcome fear in order to support the work of the Holy Spirit. Abram started his life of faith in the Promised Land, but he went to Egypt and lied that his wife was his sister when he fell into fear. Though God rescued his wife Sarah by his power, Abram was ashamed due to his lie. Though the disciples knew that Jesus is the Messiah, they all ran away when they were fearful. When they overcome fear of death, they became powerful messengers of God’s word. May God help us to overcome fear of people so that we can share the gospel of Jesus with the power of God. Amen.
Secondly, Joseph is to give her son name Jesus. Look at verse 21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. The angel told Joseph that Mary will deliver a son. God also gave him a specific direction for the baby; he had to name him Jesus. It was because the purpose of his life is to save his people from their sins. Sin is the fundamental problem of all human beings for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Sin breaks the relationship between God and men. In his righteousness, God has to punish sin in a sinner, and at the same time, God wants to save sinners. In order to save sinners, God sent his Son, Jesus, to receive the punishment of all sinners. On the cross, Jesus had to suffer and die in order to take our sins away.
Why did God send Jesus on earth to save us from our sins? John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” By faith in Jesus that Jesus took all our sins on the cross, we are saved and receive eternal life. This love of God in Jesus moves the hearts of sinners to live a new life for his one-sided grace. This is the reason why the angel of the Lord said that the birth of Jesus is the good news of great joy for all people, all sinners. The birth of Jesus brings glory to God and peace on earth. Now, we can serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness. Amen
It is a great privilege to be the father of the Messiah. At the same time, it is also a great responsibility. It is not easy to take care of the baby Jesus, nurture him and raise him to be the way God wants. In the same way, we have a great privilege to be a Christian, knowing who Jesus is. Jesus is the savior of the world. At the same time, we have a great responsibility to bring the savior to this sinful world. Amen!
The author of this book, Matthew, added his comments on the angel’s message based on the word of God, revealing who Jesus truly is. Look at verses 22-23, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” It was to fulfill the prophecy written by Isaiah at the time of the King Ahaz. The prophecy was written for the Messiah to come. The Messiah should come through a virgin. As God promised, he was sending the Messiah to Mary and Joseph who were in the line of David. Simply speaking, the birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s prophecy. We call it the authenticity of the gospel. In history, there have been innumerable people claimed the messiahship, calling themselves Savior or Messiah, but no one could truly prove to be the one because they did not fulfill what was written about the Messiah in the Old Testament except Jesus. Simply speaking, all of them had nothing to back up what they claimed to be except Jesus who fulfilled the prophecies beginning from the virgin birth to the end of his life on the cross, death and resurrection.
But Jesus is not a mere human being. He is God himself. John the Apostle wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the Only and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This Creator God disowned his original glory and honor in the kingdom of God and came down to this sinful world. Matthew saw God in Jesus. The presence of Jesus with him was the same as Immanuel God with him.
Why did God come down to this world? It is to be with sinners. Matthew was once Levi a tax collector, who was known as a traitor. Romans hired tax collectors among the Jews in order to collect taxes effectively. Romans did not care even if they collect more than what was required. The Jews hated tax collectors who betrayed his own people in order to be a dog for Rome, collecting money for their enemy. Tax collectors did not care for how much other Jews suffer if he collected money for himself using the power of Rome. What a selfish person a tax collector should be? Matthew was one of them, but Jesus called him to be a disciples. He left everything to follow Jesus and saw God in Jesus. In his mind, it was amazing: How could God come down to be a sinner like him, a traitor? Moreover, God did not come to punish him for his sins but to save him from his selfish way of life and thinking. Jesus patiently bore all his sins, showed his power and taught him life-giving word of God. In his great love and hope, Jesus changed his name from Levi to Matthew, so that he could be change to be a gift of God to many people. When he remembered Jesus who was with him, he could not but exclaim Immanuel, God with us. Immanuel God who was with Levi the tax collector can be compared to a human being becomes a cockroach in order to save all cockroaches from dirty way of living in the darkness.
Thank you Jesus who gave up all his power and glory in heaven in order be with sinners. Though God himself came down, not many recognized and accepted Jesus. Rather, they proudly rejected Jesus. Yet, God did not come to punish them but to save them from their sins. Thank you Jesus and praise your humility and grace upon this sinful people including me. Moreover, Immanuel God not only saved us from our sins but also promised to be with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, bearing all our sins and raising us to be disciples of Jesus, a source of blessing to others. Roman 8:26-27 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” May God help each one of us to believe that God’s presence is with us through the Holy Spirit who is interceding in our weakness. As Immanuel God has been with us, may God help us to be with others bearing each others’ shortcomings. Amen!
What was Joseph’s response to the angel’s message? Look at verses 24-25, “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Joseph just woke up from the dream. Humanly speaking, it was a crazy dream. Could you believe that your fiancé conceived a baby by the power of Holy Spirit? And the son will be the savior of the world. It was beyond human understanding and common sense. He could have considered that the angel’s message in a dream was just another dog dream because it did not make any common sense. But he obyed what the angel had commanded him. In order to do so, he had to overcome human thinking and common sense. Here we learn that obedience requires humility, not insisting our own thinking but accepting God’s message.
Did he understand everything the angel said in order for him obey? Maybe not 100%, but he obeyed it by faith believing that it was the work of God. Faith is certain of what we do not see. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith is believing in God’s message and taking an action. If he did not take her as his wife and pass the day of marriage, people will find out Mary conceived a baby not by him. Then what could have happened with God’s salvation plan? Through his obedience, Joseph was used to bring Jesus, God’s salvation plan on earth. In the same way, we are called to bring Jesus on earth, to the people whom we are meeting. If we do not do anything when God moved our hearts with God’s message, we cannot bring God’s salvation plan to them.
There is one young man who really wanted to share the gospel of Jesus with the people, but no one paid attention to his small voice in a market place. Then an inspiration came; he began to roll down, screaming for pain. As the crowd of people began to surround him, so he got up and share the gospel of Jesus. Most of them called him stupid, but one of them accepted Jesus as his personal savior and later became a precious coworker who was used to evangelize innumerable people, establishing many churches in north part of Korea. May God help us bring the message of God’s salvation to people going beyond our human limitations or common sense.
Through today’s passage, we learned that God chose Joseph to be the father of Jesus. Jesus came to save us from our sins. Jesus is God who created the heaven and the earth, but he gave up all his power and glory in heaven in order to come down to be with sinners and save them from their sins. Jesus was with Levi the tax collector, bearing all his sins and weaknesses until he was changed to be Matthew, a gift of God. In the same way, God is with us in the presence of the Holy Spirit, interceding our weaknesses. Thank God for his grace coming down to this world and his presence in our lives. May God use each one of us to bring this good news of great joy to this world in this Christmas season. Let’s share God’s precious gift with others as we share our gift with them. Amen.