“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, 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.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
Matthew wrote his Gospel for an audience of Jews. While Matthew did not know it at the time, his book became a natural bridge between the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is a record of God’s relationship with Israel whom he used as a vehicle to bring His Son, Jesus, into the world. With this audience in mind, Matthew was trying to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah! He begins his book right away with a genealogy (specifically of Joseph’s descendant line) to show that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and a descendant of the house of David. In the Davidic covenant, God promised that a descendant of David would occupy the throne forever. As a result, the Jews imagined this Messiah to be a powerful political leader, a warrior-king who would bring Israel independence, national greatness, and a new religious identity.
Yes, Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise and Old Testament prophecy as He is the eternal King who rules over the world in the Kingdom to come. But Jesus did not come as the original hearers of Matthew’s message had envisioned. Instead, He arrived through a supernatural virgin birth, as an innocent child. God used a supernatural sign and a supernatural method to reveal to us that Jesus was indeed a fulfillment of His promise to us. A promise that He would never leave us nor forsake us, a promise to reconcile us to Him.
The angel in Matthew 1:22-23 is quoting Isaiah the prophet’s words,
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)
In Matthew 1:19 after Joseph hears the news that Mary is pregnant, he presumes by another man, he decides to divorce her quietly. By Jewish customs, a woman who was caught cheating would be stoned to death as a punishment. So, Joseph being a righteous man did not desire to send Mary to that fate. But, in Matthew 1:20, the angel of the Lord convinces him otherwise. Notice how the angel addresses Joseph, “Joseph son of David.” As we see early in Matthew’s genealogy recording, Joseph is a descendant of David. So, the angel draws Joseph’s attention to the bigger plan, the Davidic covenant, by calling him the son of David.
If we were to back it up all the way to Genesis, we see that through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin entered the world. As a result, they produced offspring that shared in their sinful nature, passing from generation to generation. Everyone listed in Matthew’s genealogy in 1:1-15 were all sinners. This sin created a debt separating them and us from the fullness of God.
But God so loved the world that He created a way for us to be reconciled to Him through a perfect sacrifice, His Son Jesus the Messiah. Jesus was the ransom payment to pay off this debt of our sinful nature. This is the bigger plan, this is the Gospel message. That God would send His Son, a descendant of David, into the world by supernatural means to die in our place as a ransom payment for our sins so that we may inherit eternal life. Jesus, being fully human and fully God, is the perfect ransom payment for our sinful debt because He was born without sin. He did not enter the world by conventional means because He, being God’s own Son, had to be born without a sinful nature. Mary was the vessel in which the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus, our Immanuel, God with us. And Joseph, being obedient to God, remained with Mary by marrying her, to help carry out God’s bigger plan.
These words were penned by Matthew to change our hearts. While his original audience was the Jews, the Holy Spirit inspired these words to move us out of darkness and into the light of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and our Immanuel, God with us.
I encourage you to reflect on this gift of Jesus during this Christ-mas season as we first and foremost glorify a God who loved us so much to send His Son into the world to save us.