Advent Sermons and Studies
Mark12Ministries Advent 2009
Matthew 1:18a “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”
Bryan E. Walker
Read Matthew 1:18-25
18 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. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 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. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
- I. Exegesis
- A. Literary Analysis
- 1. Matthew is one of the four Gospels in the New Testament that tells the story of Jesus Christ. The word “Gospel” comes to us from the Anglo Saxon “god spell”, meaning good tidings, and is a translation of the Greek euaggelion A Gospel is a theological writing that is part history/biographical and part didactic; the chief purpose of the Gospels is to reveal Jesus Christ and to bring the hearer to faith in Christ. They give us the essentials of the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus from the view of the apostles and early church. Matthew is one of the 3 synoptic Gospels (along with Mark and Luke), called synoptic because these three Gospels take a similar view and have many stories and verses in common.
- 2. In the early church, Matthew’s Gospel was the most used and highly valued. Although it is technically anonymous, like the other three Gospels, the early Church unanimously ascribed it to the apostle Matthew, an eyewitness to the events recorded.
- 3. Although the Early Church placed Matthew first in the New Testament, we believe the Gospel of Mark was written first and that Matthew used Mark as a source. Since Matthew has the prediction by Jesus of the destruction of the Temple, which occurred in AD 70, yet does not mention that prophecy being fulfilled, and fulfillment of prophecy is a defining aspect of Matthew’s Gospel, we believe that the Gospel was written sometime prior to AD 70. Antioch is a likely location for place of origin of this Gospel, written more for the Jewish people with its emphasis on Jesus as the King and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
- 4. Matthew, or Levi, was a tax collector and would likely have been capable of communicating and reading in Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. As a professional, he would have been very organized and we see a high degree of organization in his Gospel. Matthew is organized around a back and forth, alternating pattern between narrative and discourse. The basic outline of the Gospel is:
- a. ch.1-2, Prologue- Genealogy and Birth Narratives
- b. ch. 3-4 Narrative of the Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry
- c. ch. 5-7 First Discourse- The Sermon on the Mount
- d. ch. 8-9 Narrative of Jesus’ Miracles and Power
- e. ch. 10 Second Discourse- Commissioning of the Disciples
- f. ch. 11-12 Narrative of the Rejection of the King
- g. ch. 13 Third Discourse- Parables of the Kingdom
- h. ch. 14-17 Narrative of the King’s Mission
- i. ch.18 Fourth Discourse-The Fellowship of the Kingdom
- j. ch.19-23 Narrative of the Conflict with the King
- k. ch. 24-25 Fifth Discourse- Mt. Olivet
- l. ch. 28-28 Narrative of the Trial, Crucifixion and Resurrection of the King.
- 5. 1:1-2:23 The Genealogy and Birth/Infancy Narrative- the key word in this section is the Greek word for origin, beginning, or birth which appears prominently in vss. 1, 18 and again in 2:1, but as “fathered” or, “the father of” throughout 1:2-17. This is a deliberate tie in with the book of Moses, Genesis, which begins with the same word and which, translated, is Genesis.
- 6. 1:1-17 The Genealogy traces the ancestors of Jesus back to Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people. The genealogy is not complete when compared to other genealogies in the Old Testament, and is arranged in an order emphasizing the number 14 with a theological purpose, rather than a 21st century purpose of exactness and precision. The goal here is to show that Jesus is in the line of David. D.A. Carson writes (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, Zondervan, 1984, p.68f) “The symbolic value of the fourteens is of more significance than their precise breakdown….The simplest explanation- the one that best fits the context- observes that the numerical value of David in Hebrew is fourteen. By this symbolism Matthew points out that the promised ‘son of David’ (1:1), the Messiah, has come. And if the third set of fourteen is short one member, perhaps it will suggest to some readers that just as God cuts short the time of distress for the sake of his elect (24:22), so also he mercifully shortens the period from the Exile to Jesus the Messiah.”
- 7. 1:18-25 The Birth Narrative outline:
- a. v.18 Mary is found to be pregnant.
- b. v.19 Joseph plans to divorce her quietly.
- c. vv. 20-21 The angelic announcement and Matthew’s central point: Jesus is the Savior-King
- d. vv. 22-23 The prophecy fulfilled
- e. vv. 24-25 Joseph’s obedience
- 8. 1:18-25 The Birth Narrative- Donald A. Hagner, (WBC vol.33A Matthew 1-13, Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN 1993, p.14) writes, “This pericope is closely related to the previous one, as is evident from the opening sentence, including the specific use of the word genesis. Indeed, the passage intends to explain in some detail the surprise encountered in v. 16, namely that egennnsen “he begat” gives way to egennethe, ‘he was begotten’, and that Mary accordingly becomes the focus of attention.”
- 9. The Birth Narrative is built by Matthew around Isaiah 7:14 and focuses on Joseph’s story. Luke’s focus is Mary. The opening phrase, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ” and the concluding phrase, “he called his name Jesus” form bookends clearly identifying the pericope.
- A. Literary Analysis
10. The fulfillment quote from Isaiah 7:14 takes center stage. The wording before the quote and after amplifies the quote, (v.21) “bear a son…call his name…” v.23 “bear a son… call his name”; (v.25) “called his name….”
11. Parallelisms in the passage are found in v.20 and 24 “do not fear to take Mary as your wife” and “he took his wife.” Then in v.21 and v.25 “you shall call his name Jesus” and “he called his name Jesus.”
12. Hagner writes, (p.16) “While not strictly midrash, the genre of the passage is best labled ‘midrashic haggadah’- i.e., midrashic in the sense that the OT quotation is of key importance and phrases of it are utilized in the surrounding narrative; haggadah in the sense that the story is not told for the sake of facts alone, but in order to illustrate their deeper meaning, that is, the theological significance of Jesus as the fulfillment of OT promises. The point is that Matthew’s approach in the pericope is highly stylized and has very evident theological purposes.”
- B. Theological Analysis- Verse 18 Mary is found to be pregnant
- 1. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. “Jesus Christ”- ties is directly with v.1 and 16-17. Jesus is a common name in 1st century Palestine and is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua; the name means Yahweh saves. Christ is titular as is made clear in vv.16-17. It is the Greek word for the Hebrew Messiah, meaning anointed one, and comes from the ceremony in ancient Israel of anointing a king or priest for office, recognizing God’s approval. During the intertestamental period there was a lot of speculation and anticipation of a coming Messiah who would deliver Israel militarily and politically from the oppression of the Gentiles.
- 2. Application: Sadly, many today simply look at Christ as being Jesus’ last name and completely miss the point of his being the promised One, the anointed One from God. Worse, many use the full name of Jesus Christ as a common blasphemy. It could be a useful witnessing tool to challenge those who use the Lord’s name in vain in this manner, and take the time to explain the meaning of the names Jesus and Christ. This could be especially appropriate now in the Christmas season.
- 3. When his mother Mary- Mary is likely from Nazareth and would be around 14-16 yrs of age. She may be the daughter of Heli in Lk.3:23 even though Heli is listed as the father of Joseph there. The problem is that Matt.1:16 lists the father of Joseph as a Jacob. The fact that Jesus’ brother is James (Jacob) would indicate that the Matthew account is accurately portraying Joseph’s father’s name, but then what do we do about the Lucan account? One theory is that Mary’s father, Heli, actually adopted Joseph. When you look at the emphasis that Luke places on Mary, and the fact that sense Joseph was not the real physical father of Jesus but Mary was the real physical mother, then it would make sense for Luke to give the real, natural descent of Jesus. Ultimately, we do not know for sure the answer to this question. We do know that Mary had a sister named Salome from Matt. 27:56; Mk. 15:40; and John 19:25. Salome was the mother of the apostles James and John, which makes them the cousins of Jesus. We also know that Mary was related to Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias and mother of John the Baptist. She was either Mary’s cousin or aunt so John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. Mary was present at the crucifixion and Jesus assigned John to be her “son” in John 19:26-27, in order to take care of her. Notice that Mary is called ‘his mother’ but Joseph is never called ‘his father’. 1:16 has “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born,”. Luke 3:23 has “Jesus…being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph”. Mary’s response to the Lord’s choosing her to give birth to her Savior is recorded in Lk.1:38 and shows a humble, submissive heart. Lk.1:46-55 is Mary’s Magnificat and demonstrates she is of sound biblical knowledge and theology for a teenager, and is highly creative and talented with poetry. There is tremendous depth in her soul.
- 4. had been betrothed- The first stage of betrothal was normally the choosing of young girl for a young boy by the parents of the boy. This would normally occur at about the age of 12-13 for the girl and a couple of years older for the boy. The betrothal would become official with a ceremony before witnesses and from that point on they were considered married, but were not to be together for a year. To break this bond required a divorce and if one of the two died the other was considered a widow or widower. A bride price was paid by the man’s family and a dowry was paid by the bride’s. They were called husband and wife though they still lived apart; they were not to have sexual relations. Sex outside of marriage at this point would be adultery, punishable by stoning, although it was rarely practiced while under Roman rule as capital punishments were reserved for the Romans. Men would marry around the age of 18 and the girl would be 14-16 in a ceremony where they dressed in special wedding garments and the bridesmaids and groomsmen escorted the couple back to the groom’s house where the couple would host a wedding dinner, the parents and friends blessed the couple, and the father of the bride drew up the marriage contract. Then the couple would go to a special nuptial chamber to consummate the marriage and afterwards exhibit the bloodstained cloth as proof of the girl’s virginity (Michael J. Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary, Matthew, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2004, p.74).
- 5. Application- the concept of ‘arranged’ marriages and lengthy betrothals with no sexual contact sounds foreign to our radical individualistic, hyper-sexualized culture of the 21st century. But clearly our conception of “dating” is a total failure and does not help Christian young people to stay pure before marriage. The divorce rate for “Church” couples is the same as for unchurched couples. Modern man has extended adolescence out into the mid twenties with college and the over all scheme of society, and that is when people are at their peak in sexual desire and capacity. Yet would it really work to have arranged marriages today and expect couples in their late teens to complete their education while married and producing children? Would marrying young in the midst of culture of easy divorce solve anything? What is called for is a RIGOROUS course of discipleship, catechism, and training in sexual morality, dating and marriage for our children that is led by strong modeling by godly families in a close knit, supportive church family. While perhaps arranged marriages would not be a solution today, some type of a modified dating/courtship relationship within the local church where the families and elders would have serious input into the young person’s choice of a partner. A yearlong prep course for marriage would be helpful as well, with a follow up class or Care Group for newlyweds for the first year or two.
- 6. to Joseph- We know even less about Joseph than of Mary. 1:19 calls him a “just man” and his unwillingness to publicly shame Mary shows him to be merciful and kind besides righteous. He is sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit as he obeys all of the dreams God send him with the angelic messages, and he is prudent and protective of his family. His willingness to forego sexual relations with Mary until after the baby Jesus is born (v.25) demonstrates a right sense of priorities, self control, and a sacrificial love. His willingness to be the adoptive father of Jesus, the Messiah, shows humility and courage to take on a huge responsibility. According to 13:55 Joseph was a carpenter and Jesus also took on that trade, Mk.6:3. It is assumed that Joseph died young since, after the story of their trip to Jerusalem in Luke 2:41-52, Joseph is not mentioned again. Because of this may also assume that Joseph was considerably older than Mary, which was possible, just not mentioned in the Scripture.
- 7. Application- if each of us fathers would raise our children as if they were the son of God, what kind of a difference would it make? We should at least be keenly aware that each of children are a unique gift whom the Lord entrusts to our care. There are many fine qualities in Joseph for us to emulate.
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