Summary: Matthew opens his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. From Abraham to Joseph the births of those in the genealogy were natural births, except one.
The Birth of Jesus
Matthew opens his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. From Abraham to Joseph the births of those in the genealogy were natural births, except one. In verse 16 it is written, “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by which Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” The birth of Jesus was unlike any other birth in the genealogy. His birth was miraculous.
In verse 18 it is written, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follow; when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” “Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins."
According to Matthew, all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’” (v 22-23). Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and he took Mary as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son, and Joseph named Him, Jesus.
Matthew tells us Joseph and Mary were betrothed a word we don’t use today. We use the word engagement. We would say Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married. But, this engagement was more serious than engagement today. Today, engagements are broken without any problems from the law. Today, an engagement is not technically legally binding. In the Jewish culture, when a couple was betrothed, they were legally married, even before the marriage day. This is why in verse 19 Joseph is called Mary’s husband. In order to break the engagement Joseph had to “put her away,” divorce her.
According to the Jewish custom, Joseph and Mary had to wait a year before they were married. The purpose of this time was to demonstrate the purity of the wife. If she had a child during this time, it would demonstrate her unfaithfulness and the husband could call off the marriage. When it was found Mary was with child the natural assumption was that she was unfaithful to Joseph and that she was involved in an immoral relationship, through which a child was conceived. The social stigma at this time was great. When a righteous man found out that his wife had been unfaithful during the betrothal, the godly thing to do would be to give her a certificate of divorce. According to the law he could have her stoned (Deuteronomy 22:21). Joseph wasn’t seeking revenge. He was attempting to be gracious and kind to Mary, while doing the thing that was prescribed of him in the law.
Joseph was ready to act when God intervened. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ’Joseph, son of David do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21. The child in Mary’s womb is not as the result of immorality. Mary had not been unfaithful. Mary conceived a child by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Joseph could take Mary to be his wife, even though the whole purpose of the betrothal period was compromised.