A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 1:18-25
Today, we turn to the birth narrative of Jesus Christ. Even though better known as “the Christmas story”, Matthew is writing about so much more than a holiday moment.
It is at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel where we see salvation history hinging on one magnificent moment; the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is the beginning of the story of all that God has done for you and me, and what happens when men and women come into contact with Jesus Christ. Lives are deeply affected, and radically transformed not by a teaching or by miracles, but by the person they come to recognize as the Son of God.
In this passage he is making a case for the supernatural and miraculous birth of Jesus because in his day many disputed this miracle; The Pharisees accused Jesus of being illegitimate (see John 8:41). What they failed to understand is that without the miraculous conception and virgin birth of Jesus Christ the gospel cannot stand. All must, by faith, believe that the incarnation is real.
In this text, Matthew describes for us two things so that we might know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and believe in him. First, he puts on display the miracle of the incarnation.
[Read Matthew 1:18-20]
Matthew begins his book by detailing Jesus’s lineage in Matthew 1:2-17. He is from the royal line of David having been adopted by Joseph. “This is how the birth of Jesus took place” Matthew begins, but the emphasis isn’t on Jesus’ birth, but rather on how Mary conceived.
Mary and Joseph were betrothed, and their betrothal is much more than an engagement. A betrothal lasted about a year and then the marriage ceremony was held, and marriage physically consummated. Only death or divorce could end a betrothal.
In a stunning turn of events Joseph discovers Mary is pregnant. How he found out is anybody’s guess. Most likely her pregnancy began to show. Matthew though doesn’t just tell us that Mary is pregnant, he tells how she became pregnant. She did not conceive her child illegitimately in some adulterous affair, but by the Holy Spirit.
God is at work keeping his promise, fulfilling his prophecies, and bringing to fruition all that was predicted. A virgin conceives by the Holy Spirit, not by any human means where the sin of Adam could be passed down. Jesus is conceived and born in a way that is absolutely unique. Here is the most miraculous and greatest moment in history. Without this miraculous conception there is no gospel! It is the uniqueness of this miracle that makes Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension possible.
What an incredible mystery this is, and it requires faith on our part. We should and must be in awe and wonder of how God has fulfilled his eternal plan to save men and women from their sin and its consequences.
Matthew’s entire gospel hinges on this one brief statement; “she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Here is the fulfillment of the glory, goodness, mercy, love, and power of God, and Matthew wants to be clear; either the eternal Son of God entered our world in this way or he did not, and if he did not he was an illegitimate child born from some secret union with Joseph or another man. And if this is true then how can we look to Jesus Christ as our Savior? If he was born of fornication how could he possibly be considered our sinless substitute? This is why the miraculous conception is so crucial.
Before Mary and Joseph came together, she was with child from the Holy Spirit. What a mighty and marvelous beginning to Jesus’ life. God in his eternal wisdom and power bypasses the taint and stain of sin on all humanity by bringing forth his son with a human mother through the agency of the Holy Spirit making Jesus fully human and fully God. The God who existed before creation and was present at creation has come to earth in human flesh.
There was nothing we could do to restore our relationship with God. He took the initiative as he always has by sending to Jesus to live in our world that he might rescue us from our sin. What a marvel of grace, and yet it was also a moment of great anguish and stress.
The stress of the situation is seen in Joseph as he becomes aware that his betrothed wife is pregnant and Mary has no way of proving her innocence. A betrothed woman found to be pregnant prior to the marriage ceremony would be branded as either an adulterer or fornicator.
Can you imagine Joseph’s emotions? Feeling betrayed, angry, confused, and fearful he is broken, but he is, as Matthew tells us, also a righteous and godly man. He is a man that knows the scriptures and also knows he must obey the scriptures. If she has committed adultery she must be put to death. But Joseph wasn’t just a “righteous” man, he was also a merciful one as he seeks to put her away quietly.
As he considers his options through a few anxious days, God once again intervenes in human affairs. In verse 20 Matthew describes how an angel of God comes to Joseph in a dream and assures him things are not as they seem. The angel speaks to him; “Joseph, son of David, the prophecies and predictions have come true. God is fulfilling his plan through the baby in Mary’s womb.” Mary was not unfaithful! She did not sin. The woman you love you can still marry. She can still be your wife. She has been true to you.
In the following verses this marvelous story continues on. The miraculous conception now moves towards the virgin birth which climaxes in the incarnation and all that it means.
Matthew then turns to the second that one must understand to know Jesus Christ as the Son of God: The meaning of the incarnation.
[Read Matthew 1:21-25]
Two names make clear what the incarnation is all about. The first is in verse 21. We read, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew began his gospel with a genealogy to show his readers (particularly Jewish ones) how God has been working since Adam and Eve’s tragic rebellion in the garden. Adam’s rebellion catapulted men and women into a world of sin and suffering, where they were cut-off from God and driven from his presence. Like Adam and Eve, we are all fugitives, and wanderers, but with the incarnation everything has changed in a baby named Jesus.
There is more meaning behind this name than any name in history. It is not just a name but an act of God that brought redemption by all Jesus did in living out that name. What does the name “Jesus” mean?
JC Ryle writes, “This is his special office. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in his atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when he takes them out of this world to rest with him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when he gives them a glorious body at the last day. Blessed are Christ’s holy people! From sorrow, cross, and conflict they are not saved; but they are saved from sin forevermore. They are cleansed from guilt by Christ’s blood. They are made fit for heaven by Christ’s Spirit. This is salvation!”
John writes in his gospel that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). This is exactly what the incarnation means.
But there is also another name Matthew brings to our attention. It is not a name that Jesus was ever called by as far as we know, but it is the name that describes both his human and godly nature. It is the name with a promise.
Many people today believe in a heresy called Deism. Deism teaches that God exists but remains distant from his creation. A modern spin on deism proposes that God set the world in motion then sat back to watch it go, like a clockmaker.
In Matthew 1:22-23, Matthew dispels that notion with a powerful quote from Isaiah 7:14. He both confirms the virgin birth, and the meaning of that birth. Jesus has not only come to save us, he also promised to always remain with us because he is Immanuel.
It’s remarkable to note that Matthew ends his gospel with Jesus’ promise to be Immanuel. We see this in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus is with us at every moment, and we are never alone. He is with us until the end of the age. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us.
God is with us today. God is with us tomorrow. God is with us throughout all the years that lie ahead of us, and when we go through the valley of the shadow of death, we know he is with us, and then we will be with him forever.
Jesus grew up. He became a man, he lived a sinless life, he suffered on the cross taking our sin upon himself as our substitute, and then, rejected by his father, he died in our place that we might no longer be cut-off but restored by his saving work. These are the facts of the incarnation.
God has come to us: the miraculous conception
God is for us: the gift of salvation
God is with us: eternally dwelling – curtain torn in two.
May we all marvel at the incarnation of Jesus Christ, not just in December of each year, but every day as we take time to consider the wonder and grace of the gospel in our lives.
Song of Response
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