Matthew 1:18-25 The Birth of Jesus Christ WC McCarter
Jesus could legitimately be king based on 1:1-17, but He could not save mankind if that is all that could be said about Him. Yet, Matthew goes on to tell his readers, in 1:18-25, that Jesus Christ was/is the God-man. He will show us that the Holy Spirit conceived the Child in Mary and that prophecy was fulfilled in Him.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Mary was Betrothed to Joseph (vv18-19)
We do not know anything much about Joseph. We know that he was a carpenter, and verse nineteen tells us he was a righteous man. We know that Mary was highly favored by God and was submissive to His word. These two, who were likely both teenagers, were humble, righteous, obedient, favored Jews. They were young and poor, but they were an outstanding couple.
The word “betrothal” refers to the official engagement of the couple. First, the families of the two young people would arrange the marriage; the father would choose a wife for his son. Second, the families would throw a party, when the two became of age, to make the betrothal official. Formal (and legal) arrangements would be made at that time. The couple was legally married at that time (husband and wife), but didn’t live together or have physical relations for sometime around a year when the wedding took place. For an entire year the two would have to go on about their lives knowing that they were married, but not living like it. If the two split, they would have to legally file for divorce. If one was found to have had intimate relations with another, they would be guilty of adultery.
Now, it is during that engagement period that Mary was found to be with Child. It was during that period that Joseph was considering the real possibility of a divorce. It is important to hear that Joseph was a just man. That is what caused him to consider divorcing Mary secretly. Apparently, Joseph already loved and respected Mary. He knew that he did not want to make her a public example.
An Angel of the Lord Appeared (vv20-21)
There is no telling how long Joseph considered these things in his mind or how much stress was placed on his heart. While Joseph was still considering these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. Luke tells us that an angel appeared to Mary, but Matthew gives us another story. He tells us that an angel appeared to Joseph. Let’s be clear, this particular dream that Joseph had is unlike any dream we have ever had. The word of the Lord was delivered to him by an angel. We know that throughout the Old Testament God caused a deep sleep to fall on many individuals and He spoke to them in dreams. Joseph is an Old Testament saint.
Listen to what he was told. First, he is called by name, Joseph, and he is called, “Son of David.” I think that is to reinforce what Matthew has already told us: Jesus is a legitimate descendant of David. Second, he is told to do the exact opposite of what he had been doing: “Do not be afraid. . . .” Notice how Mary is already referred to as Joseph’s wife, although they have not been together. Third, it is important to realize that the angel is clear about the Child who had been conceived in Mary. That conception took place without Joseph or any other man, it happened by the power of the Holy Spirit. To reiterate that point, the angel says, “And she will bring forth a Son. . . .” Lastly, Joseph is told to name the Child Jesus. Why this name? “He will save His people from their sins.” The name literally means, “Yahweh saves.”
That It Might be Fulfilled (vv22-23)
In the next two verses, Matthew adds an annotation. This was all done so that Scripture may be fulfilled, Scripture that had spoken by the prophet Isaiah some 700 years earlier. What is the point of the inclusion of this prophecy? First, it is fulfilled in the Son of Mary; but, second, it climaxes with the promise that the Child would be Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” This is exactly why the little phrase “of the Holy Spirit” appears in verse eighteen. This Child is like no other. This is God in the flesh, entering humanity, and changing history forever. This is God coming to dwell among His people, His creation. This is God coming to save His people from their sins. This was God coming to save you from your sins, to save you from the present wicked age, to save you from the wrath to come. This is the Word become flesh. This is our God. He is real. He is not far. He is “with us.”
You see, only God could do something about our sin problem. Psalm 49 says, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him— for the redemption of their souls is costly. . . .” Only a perfect, sinless sacrifice would do. Only God Himself would do.
Took to Him His Wife (vv24-25)
What did Joseph do in response to the word of the Lord? He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. Matthew wants us to be sure of one thing: Joseph would be the legal guardian of this Child, but the conception and birth had nothing at all to do with him. Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he did not have physical relations with her until after she had brought forth the Boy, and Joseph then called Him Jesus.
Doesn’t this story give you chills? You haven’t heard it so many times that you are numb to the truth, have you? Does it still resonate in your soul? Does it still spark interest, faith, and joy in your heart?
In chapter one, Matthew wants to demonstrate how Jesus is the Son of David, the rightful heir to the throne. He wants to establish that Jesus is a legitimate Jew, a Son of Abraham. He wants to show how Scripture is fulfilled from the very beginning of Jesus’ story. He wants to exhibit how miraculous that story is. BUT. . . . First and foremost, Matthew wants to tell us that God is with us (Immanuel). What does that mean?
First, God is a promise-keeping God. He is faithful to His word.
Second, God has not abandoned us in our sins. He has interceded to save us.
Third, He is not far from any of us.