Father of the King | Matthew 1.18-25 (Snohomish)
December 8, 2013 Series: The King Has Come | Matthew
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 1:18–1:25
Matthew 1.18-25 | The Father of the King (Advent Love)
December 8, 2013
Intro – the Genesis of Jesus
Outside of the Christmas season, I have found it uncommon for us to speak about the Christmas story. Churches have their “special” services where we sing songs about Jesus in the manger, some schools have their infamous Christmas plays, a few families assemble nativities in their yards, and a couple awesome parents force their children to perform the Christmas play as ransom for any presents they might get. In truth, we are relatively silent about the events surrounding Jesus birth for 11 months of the year. And when December finally comes around, we do well to report what the story is, but we often ignore what the details of the story mean. After years of nativity sermons, we have come to expect little more than the same old story that has lost its freshness. Like Matthew, I am not interesting in simply telling the story; I am here to preach the gospel.
As I shared last week, Matthew titled his gospel the new beginning of God saving the world through Jesus the promised Jewish King who will bless all the families of the earth. After setting the stage by sharing the sordid family history of the King, Matthew immediately turns to the beginning of that new beginning—the birth, literally GENESIS, of Jesus. And like the First Genesis, God begins his RE-CREATION of the darkened world, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The first two verses of the book of Genesis:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
In Matthew, we again have the Holy Spirit actively involved in creating. The genesis of Jesus within Mary is an act of the Holy Spirit; an act of God whereby he enters into darkness and creates something out of nothing. The presence of the Holy Spirit here teaches us several things:
First, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings new physical life. Mary is teenage virgin. Without going into great explanation, having not “known a man” in the biblical sense, pregnancy is not possible. New life is never accidental or purely biological. And nothing is impossible for our Creator God.
Second, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings new spiritual life. Mary is carrying the savior. Jesus is the only one who reveals the true person of God, and the Holy Spirit is the only one that reveals Jesus to a person. As one theologian wrote, every conversion is like a virgin birth (Bruner, 24)—unplanned, unexpected, and unavoidable. Spiritual birth has nothing to do with human initiative.
Third, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings God’s plan to life through sinful humans. Mary is a sinner. God could have made His Son appear in a shaft of light. God didn’t use humans because it was the most efficient way to fulfill his plan. He chose to unfold his plans through men to magnify his glory and bless us.
Joseph the man
Mary was not the only one involved in this miracle. She was betrothed to a man named Joseph. The name Joseph means “to add, increase, or do again”. Placed alongside of Jesus’ name, we have a play on words reading “God Saves Again.” Joseph is one of the most common names in the Bible, mentioned nearly 250 times. Ironically, beyond the birth story, we hear little to nothing of Jesus adoptive father Joseph even though we hear much about Mary.
The first Joseph in the Bible was the man who was the eleventh son of Jacob. He was favored by his father because he was the son of Jacob’s first love Rachel. Joseph was a dreamer, meaning, God gave him many dreams. He was also a loud mouth and shared his dreams with his brothers—including one where they would all worship him. Not amused, his older brothers sold him into slavery, faked his death, and Joseph find himself in Egypt. There, Joseph was falsely accused of rape, thrown in prison, only to be saved by God and promoted to 2nd in command under pharaoh. Eventually, he was reconciled with his brothers when they came to live in Egypt during a famine. After their father Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers began to fear that Joseph would now that Dad wasn’t there to see it. 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50.15- 20.
We’re left to wonder if THIS Joseph will feel the same way THAT Joseph did about the evil that has been brought into his life.
Joseph the Betrothed Man
According to Luke 1.26-38, after the visit from an angel explaining her morning sickness, Mary immediately went and visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist). Mary stayed with her three months then returned home. Joseph (as did the community) learns what has happened upon her return home—when the woman he has saved himself for is 3 months pregnant. Doctor Luke, who wrote the longest most detailed gospel includes even less than Matthew in this respect. The only information we get from Luke’s gospel is that Joseph, betrothed to Mary, took her from Nazareth to his hometown of Bethlehem. There is no discussion about how Joseph felt, what thought about doing, or what changed his mind. Matthew wants to us see Joseph, a man who remain largely invisible (When do we talk about him?)
Joseph and Mary were betrothed—he is called Mary’s husband. Betrothal is like engagement, but in Jewish culture, betrothal was as binding as a marriage and could only be dissolved through a certificate of divorce. Mary and Joseph were engaged and were not to come together as husband and wife until after the covenant ceremony. There were very few legal reasons a man could divorce his betrothed; one was sexual immorality. Mary’s pregnancy would have been embarrassing for Mary, but even more humiliating for Joseph. We can probably imagine their conversation as Mary is trying to explain her baby bump: “Well…this angel came and visited me…” When we consider all the ways that God could bring His Son into the world, bringing him through an engaged couple (not a married one) has to be the most scandalous. And while there are all kinds of theological trails we could explore about why Mary had to be a virgin, I wonder if God wanted us all to learn something from Joseph.
Joseph the Just & Loving Man
The Bible doesn’t explicitly say, but we can imagine that Joseph is devastated and he is angry. It’s likely he didn’t believe Mary. Legally Joseph could divorce Mary and socially he should. But one thing Joseph was not was reactive. The Bible says he considered these things—he thought long and hard about what to do. The Bible also says he was a just man, meaning, he respected God’s law. Joseph knew it was evil to overlook such a thing, but he also knew it was even more evil to proclaim such a thing publicly. Joseph loved God and he loved Mary. He resolved, therefore, to put her away quietly without anyone knowing. The truth is, Nazareth is a pretty small town, and everyone would know. His decision to privately write up a certificate of divorce, without announcing a reason, was a decision to take social shame upon himself. This is the picture of a loving man.
Joseph went to sleep, most likely intending to divorce Mary in the morning. And as he sleeps, an angel appears to him in a dream telling him not to be fearful to take Mary as his wife. The angel confirms Mary’s report about the miraculous conception. His told to who this child will be (GOD), what he is to be named (JESUS- GOD SAVES), and what he is going to do (SAVE PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS). When Joseph wakes up, he doesn’t doubt what he experienced, he doesn’t counsel with a friend, he simply does as He was told—he marries Mary and becomes Jesus’ adoptive father. He sacrifices his rights, he sacrifices his comfort, and even sacrifices his lifelong reputation for Jesus. He takes the blame for Mary. He endures the shame. He loses his name so that he can give Jesus one.
We know that Jesus lived with some kind of story surrounding his birth: John 8.39 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.”
Out of all of the men that God could have chosen as an adoptive father to Jesus, he chose this young man named Joseph from an undesirable little town named Nazareth. God did not choose him to simply be the “guardian” of Jesus; he was chosen to be his father. As a father of five children, I know that that my actions and my attitudes will serve to shape my children. How I love, serve, and relate will indirectly influence my children—even more than the lessons I directly teach them. Joseph was a quiet man. Joseph was a just man. Joseph was a loving man. Joseph was an obedient man. Jesus was an unknown man. He is not remembered for some amazing work or accomplishment. He is remembered for his obedience—he loved his wife and he loved his kids. Men, your children certainly need to learn how to love a bride and love Jesus. But what they really need to learn is how Jesus loves his bride by how you love your bride. Parenting and marriage is our primarily Gospel work—our most powerful sermons.
And ALL that Joseph was and ALL that Joseph did had an impact on Jesus. I believe it helped shape his personality—like Father, like Son. Just as Jesus was the perfect image of ourheavenly Father, I believe he is also an image of his earthly father. And how Joseph loved his mom did more than just shape who Jesus became, it shaped the very gospel itself.
Joseph the Gospel Man
How Joseph treats his bride is a picture of how Jesus will treat his future bride—the church. Joseph not only loves like Jesus, Jesus loves like Joseph. He is a better Joseph to a worse bride (US). Joseph saved his bride from the “appearance” of sin—Jesus actually save his people from THEIR sin. Considering the captivities of Assyria, Bablyon, and Rome, saving from their own sins must have seemed less important. We all believe we need to be saved politically, saved economically, even saved socially. But Jesus tells us that he came to save his bride from their own sin
Like Joseph, Jesus goes beyond justice to mercy for his bride. Although Mary did not really commit adultery, we have, through our idolatry. There is none who is good, all have gone astray, all have wrongly worshipped things that are not gods. Though God has created the world, sustained the world, and blessed the world, the world refuses to acknowledge him. With regards to sin, we are not virgins. We have slept around with all kinds of false gods and, as a result, given birth to all kinds of sin and destruction and we try to blame something outside of ourselves, including God, for that. This is the same thing our first parents did. I appreciate the “pregnant” language of James, Jesus half-brother (had sisters to) who says: 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1.13-15. We have rebelled against the one true God, refused to obey him because we wrongly believe we can find happiness apart from Him. Legally, therefore, we are guilty. Legally, Jesus could put us away. Legally, we should be killed. But like Joseph, Jesus goes beyond justice to mercy. He lays down his right, by laying down his life for his bride.
Like Joseph, Jesus loves me takes my shame that he is not responsible for. Apart from Joseph, no one would have wanted Mary as a bride. Joseph choses to take responsibility for Mary’s sin when he didn’t have to. He could have walked away and few would have blamed him. Even if they have angel stories, who will believe them. This is a people who haven’t seen God move in 400 years. In obedience to His heavenly father, having learned from his earthly father, Jesus took the shame for his bride when he didn’t have to. Jesus did not work to put me away quietly for fear of being associated with me. He pressed in and identified with me. More than that, Jesus took responsibility for sins that were not his own. He not only removes my guilt, but he stands up to shamelessly claim me as his. When I marry young couples I tell them: Although God sees both of you as individuals; he sees your new family represented in you HUSBAND. Your brides issues become your issues, even if you didn’t cause them. This is because the Bible says that, in a marriage, the husband IS the HEAD of the home—not “ought to be.” How you lead will govern the nature of the home. When no one else would love you, when the world declares you unwanted, Jesus stands to claim you as His beloved.
Like Joseph, Jesus adopts me as His Son so that I will live and love like him. Joseph’s decision to make Mary his wife was not a commitment to a one-time event, it was a commitment to live and love Mary until death parted them. Jesus is the better Joseph. Having chosen mercy, having chosen to identify with my shame, Jesus choses to dwell with me, not until death parts us death, but beyond death into eternity. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8.38-29. Jesus is the better Joseph. And until you identify with Mary as the no one wanted, but the one that God chose to love, you’ll be looking for love in all the wrong places. God has given us His Spirit not only so that we might know love, so that we can love.
More in The King Has Come | Matthew
May 11, 2014Jesus the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29 (Mville)
May 11, 2014Jesus is (Scary) Gracious | Matthew 7.15-23 (Snoh)
May 4, 2014Kingdom Admission | Matthew 7:13-23 (Mville)