The Birth of the King (Exposition of Matthew 1:18-25)

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“Have you ever asked yourself what would be different if Jesus had never been born?” Pastor Sam Crabtree asked that question this year and gave the congregation of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN a list of things which would not be had Jesus not been born approximately 2,000 years ago. I’ve edited and adapted that list to share with you this morning.

  • This would not be the year of our Lord 2006.
  • We would never hear a Christmas Carol and there would be no Christmas plays
  • We would have never heard of William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, John Knox, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, John Hus, Billy Graham, Elizabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, Fanny Crosby, Lottie Moon, C.S. Lewis, Adrian Rogers, John MacArthur, John Piper, or Sam Petty (former pastor and current member of WBBC).
  • There would be no organizations such as the Gideons, the Good Samaritan Center, The Red Cross, Baptist Hospital, The Salvation Army, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary or Universities such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Purdue, and countless others.
  • We would have no such books as Tale of Two Cities, Dickens’s Christmas Carol, or even The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
  • We have no movies such as Ben Hur, The Cross and the Switchblade, Chariots of Fire, Narnia, the Passion of the Christ, the Nativity and hundreds more.
  • The Pilgrims who came to this continent in search of freedom to worship God according to their consciences would not have come.
  • There would be no Southern Baptist Convention, Tennessee Baptist Convention, Loudon County Baptist Association, or West Broadway Baptist Church.
  • The Wuaorani Indians of Ecuador would still kill white men and one another.
  • The Arawakan Indians of the Caribbean would still be cannibals.
  • Descendents of the Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico, would still sacrifice their children instead of teaching them to praise the true Creator.
  • Prophecies would remain unfulfilled, the serpent would not be crushed, we would not be delivered, death would not be conquered, and God would be a liar
  • The entire New Testament would never have been written.
  • There would be no mediator between God and man, for the man Christ Jesus would not have been born. We would remain dead in our trespasses and sins.

In this morning’s text, Matthew describes the fact that Jesus Christ was born.

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.

In Matthew’s birth narrative he

I. The Manner of His Birth, vv. 18-20, 22-25.
The birth of Jesus is unlike any other in history. Matthew records here what Luke also records and the church has always affirmed: that Jesus was born of a virgin. In vv. 16, 18, 20, 25 reference is made to the Virgin Birth. In v. 23, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14. The Greek word translated “virgin” here always means virgin and cannot be translated “young woman”! This is no secondary matter of trivial importance. As Dr. Albert Mohler has written:

Christians must face the fact that a denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ. The Savior who died for our sins was none other than the baby who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. The virgin birth does not stand alone as a biblical doctrine, it is an irreducible part of the biblical revelation about the person and work of Jesus Christ. With it, the Gospel stands or falls.

Although Matthew’s account affirms that Mary was a virgin when the Christ child was born, his emphasis is upon Joseph and not Mary. Luke, on the other hand, goes into much detail describing the birth of Jesus from Mary’s perspective. But Matthew is concerned with Joseph because of the legal link between Jesus and David that must come through Joseph.

The betrothal period was somewhat like the modern engagement in that it was a premarital agreement that led to marriage. However, this betrothal was a much more binding contract. After entering into betrothal, a legal divorce was required to break the bond. The betrothal period was usually for one year. During this year the wife-to-be continued to live with her parents and the husband-to-be would make preparations for their new life together. It was during this betrothal period that Mary became pregnant.

When Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy he had a few options to consider:

  • He could have had her publicly stoned according to Deuteronomy 22:23.
  • He could have divorced her in a public manner with a full and open trial.
  • He could have divorced her quietly and privately before only two witnesses according to Numbers 5:11-30.

In v. 19 we read Joseph’s decision. Because he was just man (a “righteous” man who observed God’s laws), not divorcing was not an option. But because of his compassion, he would not put Mary through the scandal of a public trial. He decided then to divorce her secretly (before only two witnesses).

But before Joseph could follow through on his plans, God sent an angel whose message gave Joseph another option: to marry Mary!

II. The Nature of His Person, vv. 18, 21, 23.
We can tell something of his person by the names and titles that are given to Him in this passage.

A. He is Jesus vv. 23, 25 (Human name)

Parents often choose names for their children that have some meaning. But God, His Father, gave this name. It means, “Jehovah is salvation” Gk. equivalant of Heb. Joshua.

B. He is Christ v. 18 (official title)

It means “annointed” Gk. equivalant of Heb. Messiah refers to prophecy. Long expected deliverer (often misunderstood militarially and politically)

“Joseph, Son of David” When Joseph heard these words he was reminded that he was heir to the throne. The term of address used by the angel would bring to mind the promise made to his ancestor David:

And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever. 2 Samuel 7:16

Do you realize that Jesus is the only Jew alive who can actually prove his claim to the throne of David! Matthew 1 contains the only genealogical record that remains of the Davidic line. All of the other records were destroyed when the Romans took Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The line ends with Jesus! He is the Christ, the Messianic David King who has come!

C. He is Emmanuel “God with us” vv. 22-23 (who He is)

The Apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write in 1 Timothy 3:16,

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,

This mystery of godliness has baffled some of the greatest minds in the history of the church. The fourth century bishop of Hippo Augustine declared this mystery in a Christmas sermon:

He, through whom time was made, was made in time; and He, older by eternity that the world itself, was younger in age than many of His servants in the world; He, who made man, was made man; He was given existence by a mother whom He brought into existence; He was carried in hands which He formed; He nursed at breasts which He filled; He cried like a babe in the manger in speechless infancy — this Word without which human eloquence is speechless!

The fifteenth century German Reformer Martin Luther once said, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.”

In our day J.I. Packer has written about the mystery of the incarnation in these words:

The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.

The miracle of Christmas is that God came in human flesh to dwell with us. This is the wonderful truth of John 1:14.

III. The Purpose of His Mission, v. 21.
Jesus did not come on some fool’s errand. But He came on purpose, for a purpose. Jesus is not a frustrated king who will have no subjects. He came to live and die in order to redeem the people who are to be His subjects in His everlasting Kingdom!

“He shall save his people from their sin.” Bible commentator Adam Clarke stated:

This shall be his great business in the world: the great errand on which he is come, viz. to make an atonement for, and to destroy, sin: …The perfection of the Gospel system is not that it makes allowances for sin, but that it makes an atonement for it: not that it tolerates sin, but that it destroys it.

Conclusion: As Matthew describes the birth of the King, he details the manner of his birth, the nature of his person, and the purpose of his mission.

The virgin born, Son of God. “He who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). Are you a sinner? If so, then the message of Christmas is good news for you! Christ came to save you from your sin!

I love the story which is told of the great German Reformer of the 16th Century Martin Luther, when accused by Satan for being a sinner. Luther said, “I thank you that you have told me I am a sinner. For the Bible says that Christ died for sinners.”

That’s the confidence you can have today, a forgiveness that will save you from your sins. What if Jesus had never been born? Neither you nor I would be here this morning! And you would not have this opportunity to believe and repent. This is a special moment: Believe and be saved today!

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