Big Idea: Though humanly unexpected the birth of Jesus was God’s plan to save people from their sins.
During the week King Charles was visiting a university as part of their 125 year anniversary celebrations. As he was doing the usual Royal walk-by, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with the commoners one of the students yelled out … Can you bring back Harry?
To which the King replied … Who?
According to palace insiders he didn’t hear the name. But he did join in the hilarity once he realised the implications of what he said.
Coming to terms with a challenging royal. What’s a good solution?
That could be the heading of our passage today. And the question, as we look at the virgin birth of Jesus.
What’s a good solution in dealing with the virgin birth?
And what Matthew will promote in his telling are thoughts on what the solution could be.
And there are a few solutions …
Matthew, having shown us the family tree of Joseph, the husband of Mary Now tells us about the time Joseph wanted to change his relationship status.
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. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
The birth of Jesus will happen, it is happening; The pregnancy test is positive, two clear stripes. There can be no doubt.
Just as there is no doubt in Joseph’s mind that this child is not his.
No matter what anyone says or thinks Joseph knows 100% that Mary being with child is not due to him.
This is a scandal for a betrothed couple in Jewish community. We are not told what Mary thinks or feels – Luke covers that in his gospel.
For Joseph it’s heart breaking. Walk in his shoes, breathe in his air, feel his pain – not very hard to imagine.
He is a just man; concerned to keep the law of God. And to marry Mary will be to lie and to cover sin and ignore the law. But he also knows there is room to exhibit God-like grace.
There will be no marriage (v19), but neither will there be a stoning at the town gate for this charge of adultery.
He will divorce her – because to be betrothed is a legal status, not married, not come together as man and wife, but legally covenanted to one another, to the exclusion of all others. He will divorce her.
But he will do it quietly. A quiet divorce from ‘Quiet Joseph’ – as church history has come to call him.
Joseph, a central character here speaks no words. None here, nor anywhere else. “Quiet Joseph.” But his actions speak volumes.
Now we, the readers know that Joseph is not the dad but that Mary (v18b) is found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Medical insurance will term this an ‘act of God.’ Father’s occupation on the birth certificate will read ‘God of all creation.’
But for the moment Joseph does not know that. How could he?
I mean even back then science would tell you, “This is just plain impossible and any claim to the contrary is foolishness and ignorance.”
Today, Richard Dawkins, a semi-famous biologist is prepared to believe that the earth was populated by aliens rather than entertain thoughts of a virgin birth.
And in your science class at school the claims of a virgin birth are considered fanciful at best, maybe delusional, but most likely an embarrassing lie that simpletons fall for and a belief that you need to be educated out of.
Where would Jesus get his Y chromosome from without a dad?
But this is a very human solution. From a human point of view it sounds too hard to believe.
If someone today claimed to be a virgin and yet pregnant; seriously, what would you say?
And science confirms it. It just does not happen. A woman’s egg can self-activate. It can start to grow. But it cannot progress very far and becomes a benign tumour. Certainly not a person and certainly not the Saviour of the world.
But what we need to see here is that our need is way beyond a human solution.
Matthew’s opening genealogy and the 1000’s of stories embedded in it are a repeating refrain and constant reminder that all the self-help books and YouTube channels in all the world, and all the science in all the laboratories can’t rescue us.
But something is happening here, unfolding here that defies human logic or experience or imagination. AND SCIENCE AGREES!
This claim of a virgin to be with child from the Holy Spirit is completely out of the ordinary.
We are not denying science to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. We are not throwing our brains away. We are agreeing with science. This is unique, this is not normal, this is beyond human capacity/capability. We agree with science.
What we also know is that making a statement beyond that observation is way above science’s pay grade. Science observes and comments on the natural.
What Matthew is helping us to see is that a solution beyond science or human logic, or imagination is needed if God’s promise of blessing will be fulfilled.
Which would indicate that our problem is a lot bigger than we are usually prepared to believe. We cannot pull ourselves out of this hole.
We need a …
We already know this is a divine solution, we heard it in v18. Joseph needs to hear it too, so God sends his messenger with the solution.
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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
People usually talk about names when babies are on the way. One of my nieces is expecting, she is calling her bump lemon.
Notice all the names in this section. Angel of the Lord (v20). From the very presence of God. This is a REVELATION not an observation. God in his grace and kindness letting us in on what he is doing. Sacred not science.
Joseph, son of David (v20). For the moment the newest branch on the family tree. In the line of David. This is the only time that title has been used for someone other than Jesus. We’ll come back to that. Take Mary the pregnant virgin as your wife – Mrs Joseph of Nazareth. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. A new creation. Empty and void. God the Holy Spirit gave God the Son his human body, soul, mind and strength.
This is referred to as the incarnation. Chili con carne = chili with meat. Incarnation = God with meat. God with a body.
Jesus is truly divine and fully human at the same time. It took 451 years of deep theological discussion for the church to publish a statement on this. You are allowed to take some time to wrestle with it too.
Jesus has two natures, distinct but united together in the one person of Christ. Human nature – just like ours only free of sin. Divine nature – just like that of God the Father. Hypostatic union.
By the creative work of God the Holy Spirit, God the Son became God with meat, God with a body and a human (though sinless) nature.
HUGE! While you’re trying to wrap your mind around that realise that sin is such a massive problem. But understand also, that God’s grace is bigger. This one both fully human and truly divine has a name.
v21 Jesus. He will save his people from his sins – that’s how Matthew translates the meaning of his name.
We called our youngest son Fergus. It means strong man. He has grown to be a man standing 6’5″ (195cm) and weighing in at 125kg. Prophetic.
And that is why God has given Jesus his name.
Jesus the Christ, the promised rescuer and ruler will win the victory; not over something as trivial as Roman rule or bring something as fleeting as worldly status and wealth. Those things don’t last, the Roman Empire faded just a little while later.
But salvation from our sins; Jesus will completely deal with the consequences of our rebellion against God. That rebellion can be passive – just ignore him, he can do his thing I’ll do mine. Or active – shaking our fists at him. Both lead to death and punishment.
As fully man he paid the cost of our human sin. As truly divine he was qualified to offer the only acceptable sacrifice to appease God’s wrath and restore to us righteousness and life. Sin is completely dealt with.
v22-23 Immanuel. Isaiah – the virgin will bear a son to the house of David and they shall call him Immanuel. God with us.
Not simply God on the sidelines, cheering us on. But God with us.
Remember 28:20: And behold I will be with you always to the very end of the age.
Do you see what God is promising his people? ‘We are in this together. ‘
COVID 19 lock downs people got so angry at celebrities in their massive mansions with gyms and cinemas and personal chefs and swimming pools assuring their followers and anyone else who’d listen, “We are all in this together.” NO! No we are not. Not when we are working from home which is a two bedroom unit with three kids and home schooling!
But God became one of us … just a stranger on a bus … well maybe not that but he is in this with us.
That’s our hope. It’s not all future, he is with us now by His Holy Spirit until the end of this age. That’s the role of Jesus
Notice the role of Joseph.
v20 take Mary to be your wife. V21 name him Jesus.
We are going to see that through Joseph God unfolds his …
I have referred to Quiet Joseph a number of times. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that he is collateral damage in this virgin birth episode, or an extra in the background as the main actors play their part.
What Joseph brings to the scene is vital/essential.
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Joseph wakes up from this divine dialogue; this dream and he does what he is commanded.
1. He took Mary to be his wife.
We get it wrong if we overlook the role of Joseph, the importance of his role here, taking Mary as his wife and …
2. He named the child, the son, JESUS. What’s the big deal.
Somehow when it came to naming our kids, I got the say!?! Jo did all the hard work I got the names I liked.
What is happening here in Matthew is that according to the laws of that time and place Joseph is officially recognising Jesus as his son.
By marrying Mary, even though pregnant with a child not his own, and by naming that child, Joseph is adopting the child as his own.
So, Jesus is adopted as it were into the line of David. This does not make it any less authentic and real.
Our friends adopted their 3 kids. All the official, legal documentation declares that our friends are the parents, no less than if they were born into the family.
In the account of Joseph and Mary we see how God the Father has been at work all the way through history to bring about his perfect plan of salvation through the power of God the Holy Spirit by sending God the Son as a man, born in the line of David, as the promised rescuer.
Jesus, Son of God, born of a virgin, in the line of David, to save people from their sins.
During the week Jo and I heard the story of someone who was adopted as a baby but had just recently learned the story about their birth mother her situation and decision in the face of an unexpected pregnancy.
So many lives touched by that situation and decision. So many emotions and feelings. So many implications in seeking the best solution for an unexpected pregnancy.
In the unfolding of all that mess that little baby was adopted into a Christian family who raised them to know and love Jesus, to have and know eternal life.
Out of all the scandal and emotional turmoil came the gift of eternal life.
Doesn’t that sum up what we see in the birth story of Jesus? The solution to our problem.
He will save his people from their sins. I love the ‘his people.’
Just as he really was born in the line of David due to his adoption. So, through faith in Jesus we are really adopted into eternal life as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
All authority in heaven and on earth.
Officially. Fully. Eternally.