The King’s Arrival

// December 8th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Advent 2019 Sermon Series

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent.  You can listen online or download it and listen later…The King’s ArrivalFor this year’s Advent my sermon series is called The Coming of the King, based on Matthew ch. 1 and 2.

Matthew wrote his Gospel with a Jewish readership in mind.  His purpose in writing this Gospel was to show that Jesus really was the expected King of the Jews.

Last week we looked at “The King’s Ancestral Line” – the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 – to did an overview of the human ancestry of Jesus.

Today, looking at Matt. 1:18-25, we see the divine ancestry of Jesus.  In the Bible we find several stories of incredible births.  For example:

  • Isaac was born to Sarah when she was more than 90 years old and long past the age of having children (Gen. 17:16).
  • Samson was born to Manoah’s wife, who was barren (Jud. 13:2-3)
  • Samuel the prophet and anointer of kings was born to Hannah, who was also barren and childless (1 Sam. 1:2, 19-20).
  • John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah—Mary’s relative—who was not only barren but also well along in years (Luke 1:7, 57).

And, even though every baby is an absolute miracle from God, no other birth comes close to the miraculous birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In reality, Jesus’ birth was as normal as any other child’s birth.  What is remarkable about Jesus is His conception.

Theologians and song writers refer to the Virgin Mary and the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  What they mean was that Mary was still a virgin at the time when Jesus was born; she had become pregnant supernaturally without any other human involvement.

And so, while it is okay to talk about the Virgin Mary and the Virgin Birth of Jesus, it seems to me that a more accurate heading would be the Supernatural Conception of Jesus.  But, we won’t try to change all the theology books and do a re-write of the Christmas carols.

As I said earlier, Matthew’s purpose in writing his Gospel was to show that Jesus really was the expected King of the Jews.  Jesus’ deity was continually under scrutiny and even being denied.  The starting point of attacking His divine nature is His conception.  No doubt the people of that day would have accused Mary of becoming pregnant through sex outside of marriage.

Matthew is intending to set the record straight by writing His account of what really happened.

Matthew starts out, in v. 18:  “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.”  The truth is, he doesn’t really talk about the actual birth, but he does tell us about the events surrounding the Supernatural Conception of Jesus.

And even though it is his desire to clear the air about these things, he gives very few details about what actually happened.  There are many enquiring minds that would love to have much more detail – but, the sketchy details actually add to Matthew’s credibility regarding this Supernatural Conception of Jesus.

And so, today, as we consider the arrival of the king, I’m using Pastor Ray Pritchard’s outline of these verses, because I like his use of alliteration – each point has a word starting with the letter “D”.  First, let’s notice:

  1. Mary’s Dilemma – v. 18

Matthew starts this section with:  “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph.” – v 18a

We notice that Joseph was following ancient customs – Mary was pledged to be married to him – some translations use the word betrothed.  Many Bible scholars estimate that Mary was probably only about thirteen years old, and typically, Joseph would have been around eighteen or nineteen years old.

According to Jewish custom, a betrothal carried more weight than a modern-day engagement and was a required part – no Jewish woman would be able to get married without a betrothal.

At that time, a Jewish marriage consisted of two stages, the betrothal and the wedding ceremony.  The marriage was almost always arranged by the families of the bride and groom, often without consulting the couple.

A contract was made and was sealed by payment of the mohar – the dowry/bride price, which was paid by the groom or his family to the bride’s father.  This bride price was to compensate the father for wedding expenses and to provide a type of insurance for the bride in the event the groom became dissatisfied with her and divorced her.

The contract was considered binding as soon as it was made, and the man and woman were considered legally married, even though the wedding ceremony and the consummation often did not occur until as much as a year later.  This betrothal period served as a time of probation and testing of fidelity to ensure that the bride was not carrying somebody else’s child.  During that time, the bride and groom usually had very little social contact with each other.

So, Mary was in the betrothal stage of her marriage, pledged to be married to Joseph, but they had not yet had the wedding ceremony; and their relationship had not been consummated.

Matthew notes that before they came together – before consummation, she was found to be with child.  He does not say how this information – that she was with child – how that came out.  He simply states that she was pregnant.

We can look into the Gospel of Luke and read about how the angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son” (Luke 1:30-31).

Helping to substantiate the story, Mary asked the angel, “How will this be since I am a virgin?”

In v. 35-37 the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

And, in v. 38, we find Mary’s very mature and God-centered answer, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.  And then the angel left her.”

  1. 39 tells us that a few days later, Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth, who was now pregnant with John the Baptist. She stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home to Nazareth.

It is likely that shortly after Mary’s return to Nazareth she started to look pregnant, and it is possible that this was when she was found to be with child.

No doubt the questions regarding who the father was, started circulating really fast.  Did it happen when she was over at her cousin, Elizabeth’s house?  Was she raped out in the hill country of Judea?

Mary knew the answer to all the questions – she knew that she was with child through the Holy Spirit.  The angel Gabriel had told her that she would become pregnant through the Holy Spirit, so she was not shocked when she started to show.

But who would believe her?  No one had ever heard of such a thing – a virgin suddenly becoming pregnant – that is impossible.  And, the biggest dilemma, how would Joseph ever believe her?  This was Mary’s dilemma.  Secondly,

  1. Joseph’s Distress – v. 19

Matthew does not tell us how Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, but he obviously did, and it distressed him greatly.

He was pledged to be married to her – the contractual agreement was in place; he was building them a home.  And now he had to wonder if all his work was for nothing.  If she had made a sham of their commitment to each other.

Matthew tells us that Joseph was a righteous man (v. 19).  Joseph trusted in God and had a reputation of being a just man.  He wanted to obey God and His laws – and so, deep down he knew that he could not go through with the wedding ceremony because, all the evidence pointed to the fact that Mary must have had relations with another man.

But, from his reaction, it is clear that Joseph was also a loving, compassionate and tender man.  He did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, which he had every right to do if she had been unfaithful to him – he decided to divorce her quietly – privately.

The OT Law actually required death for a person caught in adultery. Deut. 22:23-24 read, “Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, you must take both of them to the gates of that town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man’s wife. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you.”

But, the Law also stated that he could divorce Mary privately in the presence of two witnesses (Numbers 5).  This is the compassionate choice that Joseph decided to make.

It seems clear that Joseph loved Mary.  He must have felt shame, she had become pregnant by another man – but his concern was not for his own shame, he was concerned about what this would mean for Mary. Even though he was distressed about the situation, he decided to do what was best for her.  #3…

III. The Angel’s Directive – v. 20-21

Matthew tells us that after Joseph had thought out his plan of action, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”.

What an incredible turn of events!  Joseph was deeply distressed because of Mary and, then suddenly, while he’s sleeping an angel appears to him and gives him the most incredible news:  Mary really was pregnant by the Holy Spirit!

Imagine the mixed emotions – how Joseph felt when the reality sunk in.  Part of him must have been ecstatic…Mary had not lied to him!  She had not been unfaithful!  She had told him the truth!  I wonder if chastised himself for having doubted her.

But, then beyond the stuff of their relationship…the child Mary was carrying was the promised Messiah!  She was carrying the King that Joseph and the people of Israel had been waiting for.  If he felt ecstatic over Mary being faithful, he was over the moon with joy about the coming Messiah.  And he – Joseph – was being entrusted with the task of helping take care of this precious child, whose name was to be Jesus.

Because Joseph was a righteous man and names had such purpose and meaning for the Jews, I’m sure he researched on Wikipedia to find that the name Jesus, is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua.

And Jesus, or Joshua, means “salvation.”  There were two well-known men named Joshua in the OT.  Both men of these were types of Christ; that is, they prefigured the person and work of the coming King.

The first Joshua was a soldier – Moses’ successor who led the children of God into the Promised Land.  Just before the fall of Jericho Joshua had an encounter with the “commander of the army of the Lord” – this angelic commander told him that he would lead the people of God to victory.  In the same way, our Lord Jesus is the Commander of our Salvation, and He is leading us to victory in and through His completed work of salvation.

The second Joshua was the high priest that is mentioned in Zech. 3.  He represented the people of God before the throne of God.  The NT book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our Great High Priest, representing us before the throne of God.

In Luke 2:19 we read, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  I imagine Joseph pondering the OT prophecies that would open up so many questions about this child in Mary’s womb.  The angel of the Lord had brought clear directions, but the message would also have opened up so many questions.

They were to call His name, Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.  This was Good News to Joseph, on so many levels!  #4…

  1. The Prophet’s Declaration – v. 22-23

Matthew took note that all that was happening to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).”

Which prophet was Matthew referring to?  He is quoting from Is. 7:14.

The word virgin has often been questioned by some who say that it could also mean “young woman” or “young girl.”  They are trying to remove the miraculous conception of Jesus.

Pastor John MacArthur wrote, “Scholars sometimes dispute whether the Hebrew term in Isaiah 7:14 means ‘virgin’ or ‘maiden.’ Matthew is quoting here from the Septuagint which uses the unambiguous Greek term for ‘virgin.’ Thus Matthew, writing under the Spirit’s inspiration, ends all doubt about the meaning of the word in Isaiah 7:14.”

The child born to the virgin will be called Immanuel—which means, “God with us.”  Immanuel is used as a title/description, not a proper name.  It signifies the most wonderful and miraculous action ever – God left the glory of heaven in the person of his Son, and came to dwell with us!

In the OT God dwelt among His people in the Tabernacle and the Temple.  But, now in the NT, God dwells with his people in the person of His Son, Jesus and through the presence of the Spirit of Jesus – God’s Holy Spirit.  And God did all this to save His people from their sins!  #5…

  1. Joseph’s Decision – v. 24-25

When Joseph woke up after his message from the angel, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him – he took Mary home as his wife.  But, v. 24-25 are very clear, he had no relations with her until she gave birth to a son.  And, in keeping with the message, Joseph gave this son the name, Jesus.

It is important to notice the instant obedience of Joseph.  Gordon MacDonald wrote that delayed obedience is disobedience.  In Joseph, we see immediate obedience to the command of the angel of the Lord.

This is another confirmation of the righteousness of man, Joseph.  As soon as he understood the command of God, he obeyed the Lord.  He imitated his adopted, legal Son, Jesus – Whose desire always was to do the will of the Father.

When considering the arrival of the king, we see God orchestrating His Master Plan of Redemption.  The Sovereign God was coordinating various events in order to bring about the Supernatural Conception and birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.

From Mary we learn that God sometimes brings unusual events into the lives of His children.  And when He does, His providence seems strange to us, but we need to be patient and trust in God.  And when we can’t figure out the ways of God, we need to respond as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant. . . . May it be to me as you have said.”

From Joseph we learn to be compassionate.  Joseph felt he had been wronged and legally could have pursued absolute justice.  He could have had Mary stoned to death, but, even though he had been wronged, he decided to do what was compassionate for Mary.  When someone wrongs us, we need to think about how we can be merciful to the person who has wronged us, like Joseph was to Mary.

From the angel we learn that Jesus is our Savior – the Commander-in-Chief of our Salvation and He is our Great High Priest.  He is the only one who can save us from our sins.  We know we are all sinners – we have all broken God’s perfect and holy aw.  We deserve to be sent to hell for all eternity.  But Jesus paid the penalty for our sin/ for all sin/for my sin!

From the prophet Isaiah we see the supernatural conception in the womb of a virgin named Mary, confirmed.  We don’t need to understand the “how” – we need to believe that Jesus is the only one who possesses 2 natures – He is fully human and fully divine.  That truth makes Jesus the unique Son of Man and also Son of God.

And finally, from the decision of Joseph we learn obedience.  Because Joseph had been shown God’s grace, his heart’s desire was to obey God.

You and I do not obey God so that we can earn or merit His grace.  Rather, because we have experienced God’s grace, we desire to obey God as means of expressing our gratitude to God – we were condemned to die and God’s grace gave us a pardon and forgiveness and love and mercy and grace.  As a result we desire to obey every command of God given to us in His word.

Let’s pray…

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