Summary: Joseph encounters an angel of the Lord who gives him the startling news that Mary will be the mother of the Son of God (Matthew 1:18-25)
1. Matthew 1:18-25 (NKJV) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife. 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS."
2. In the first four months of this year, a high percentage of our sermons will come from texts in the book of Matthew. We begin today with two lessons having to do with the birth of Christ.
a. You might think, "You’re a couple of weeks late preaching about the birth of Christ." I disagree. People associate "Christmas" with Christ’s birth, but the Bible does not teach us anything about the day on the calendar when Jesus was born. Certainly gospel writers such as John and Matthew who knew Jesus intimately could have provided information about the time of His birth, but they did not do so. It is right for us to think and study about the Lord’s birth, but there is no reason to think that study should take place in December and not in January. Matthew begins with the background leading up to the birth of Christ and so shall we.
b. Matthew and Luke are the only gospel writers who discuss Christ’s birth. Luke writes from Mary’s perspective, but Matthew approaches the story with Joseph as the focal character.
3. The Bible tells us very little about Joseph. This Joseph is mentioned only 17 times in the New Testament. Tradition says that he was much older than Mary and that he had died by the time that Jesus reached adulthood. We don’t know whether or not that is true, but he is not present with Jesus any time after the incident in the temple at Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. I want to pay special attention to the statement that Joseph was a just man.
I. JOSEPH AND MARY
A. Mary is identified as the mother of Jesus Christ [Matthew 1:18]. Joseph is not called His father. [Other people sometimes called Jesus the "son of Joseph" and the genealogy in Luke 3:23 identifies Jesus as "supposedly the son of Joseph." ] Bible writers were very careful to make it clear that Joseph was not truly the father of Jesus.
B. Mary and Joseph were betrothed [Matthew 1:18].
1. Betrothal in Bible times was a more official relationship than modern-day engagements. Note that Joseph is referred to in verse 19 as the "husband" of Mary even though their marriage had not been consummated. Betrothed couples couldn’t simply break up. Their relationships had to be ended by divorce [Deut. 22.23]. Joseph intended to put Mary away when he learned she was pregnant [Matthew 1:19].
2. Betrothals began after the groom (or in some cases, the groom’s parents) had negotiated a bride price with the parents of the bridge. At least some of the bride price had to be paid before the betrothal was announced. The betrothal usually lasted at least a year, sometimes considerably longer. Sometimes very young children were betrothed in arrangements made by the parents and it was necessary to wait until the children reached an appropriate age to marry. Roman betrothals used engagement rings, but it is not certain whether or not the Jews did in the time of Mary and Joseph.
C. Mary was "found with child" while she and Joseph were in the betrothal stage [Matthew 1:28]
1. After Mary learned from the angel Gabriel that she would be the mother of Jesus, she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, in the hill country of Judah [Luke 1:26-40]. Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months before returning home [Luke 1:56].
2. Before long after this, Mary’s pregnancy became obvious. Her intended husband, Joseph, knew the child was not his. The Bible teaches plainly that Mary was a virgin. That means that Joseph had not committed fornication with her. This "just man" found himself with three options: