Summary: Matthew's birth narrative has a single focus: to tell us that the arrival of Jesus was better than anyone could have expected.
Jesus Is Better than Anything You've Expected
I am truly excited to be at Coggins Memorial this morning. This is my 3rd time preaching here. You all have been very gracious and encouraging to me the past. A second reason for my excitement is that it's Christmas and I haven't preached a Christmas sermon since I was a full time pastor. I've been teaching high school for the past 6 years. When I was a pastor I always strained at something new to say. But this time around I am busting with what to tell you. That leads me to my third reason for excitement. As I told Jerry Byrd, the ideas for this morning's message and the one for next week both came to me while sitting in a tree stand just before Thanksgiving. So far I've received two sermon ideas from God and put two deer on the ground from a tree stand. That probably means something, but I'm not sure what.
For two Sundays that I'm with you, I'll be in Matthew, chapters 1 and 2 where we will see the Christmas story from the perspective of Joseph. He takes the lead in Matthew's account of the Christmas story because it's all part of Matthew's purpose in writing his gospel. He's trying to communicate to a Jewish Christian audience who Jesus is. In this case Matthew wants them to see that Jesus is literally King of the Jews by David's line through Joseph. That's why there are two strikingly different genealogies in Matthew and Luke. Matthew's giving his readers the kingly line. Luke is not. Matthew's makes the point that Jesus is both King and Messiah, Savior of the Jews. He is both Joseph's Son, legally, and the Son of God, in His very nature.
Read Matthew 1:18-25
This might sound slightly irreverent to you, but when I picture Matthew writing this gospel, I see him giggling a lot of the time. He wrote things that would have literally blown the minds of his first century Jewish audience. This Jesus of Nazareth, who many of them had put their faith in as the Christ, was so much better than anything they had expected. I know Matthew was led by the Holy Spirit to write, but me must have giggled at the thought of their mouths hanging wide open as Jesus exploded all their categories.
There's no doubt that Joseph's mind was blown. The outcome of his life with Mary was so much better than anything he could have expected.
I see a pattern in Joseph's life. I heard about this when I was young, but I didn't want to believe it. Now that I am deeply into middle age I know it from experience. Here's the pattern: 1) we come to know God; 2) we have expectations of God; 3) things happen (or don't happen) that bring disappointment with God; 4) if we continue trusting Him we realize that God is doing something much better than we could have expected.
Consider Joseph. The English standard version says he was a "just man." Other versions say he was a "righteous man." From a first century Jewish perspective that meant Joseph loved God and devoted himself to following God's law. He was a faithful Jew and as such expected God's reward of a good life. Imagine his disappointment when the little Jewish girl he loved and expected soon to marry turned up pregnant. She had publicly shamed Joseph. The best he could hope for was a quiet divorce (betrothal was marriage without consummation).