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God With Us

Date: Sep. 27, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

Matthew 1:18-25

Key Verse: Matthew 1:23

“‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”

Have any of you lost your kids in a supermarket? Or have any of you been lost? I remember one incident clear as day, I was probably 5 years old, and my cousin, who may have been in her late teens or early 20s, took me to K-Mart. I think it was a Super K-Mart. Somehow I lost her, ended up in the cafeteria and I started crying. I don’t think I knew the word “cousin,” so I told an employee there I lost my mom. So the employee got on the intercom and said, “Will Michael’s mom come to cafeteria and pick up her son?” I’m not sure how much I might have embarrassed my cousin, but it sure felt better to be with her again. Now, fast forward 20 years, and I’m taking my little brother Joe everywhere I go. I don’t think I ever lost him, but he seemed happy to be with me, and to follow me wherever I went. And I was genuinely happy to be with him. But now, he’s in his teenage years, and doesn’t want to hang out with his big brother so much anymore. But I haven’t lost that desire to be with him, to hang out with him, to mentor him, and I do cherish moments we have together now. Likewise, God wants to be with us. He wants to protect us, keep us safe and secure. He also wants to commune with us, to teach us, guide us and grow us, but many of us have wandered or strayed away, like lost sheep, or have lost an interest to be with God. But it also goes deeper than that. Our sins have separated us completely from God, in our sins we cannot go to God, but God wanted to be with us. In today’s passage Matthew will show us how God came to us to be with us, and opened up the way through sending his Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

We begin in v.18, “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.” Mary was a virgin. But she was pregnant. Does anyone see a problem here? This could not be possible – you cannot be a virgin and be pregnant. But what is impossible for man is possible with God. How did Mary become pregnant? We are told here that it was the Holy Spirit who made her pregnant. Was she still a virgin? Yes. How? Because the Holy Spirit is God, and the same power the created the universe, the same power that creates all life on earth is the same power that caused Mary to conceive. There are stories of pagan gods who come down to mate with humans, some of the things they do cannot even be mentioned. But the Holy Spirit is different, he does not have flesh, and he is holy, and pure.

Why is it so important that Mary needed to be a virgin? Because the son she would give birth to would be holy, and would be called the Son of God. Jesus did not come from a man and a woman, he came from God and a woman. Jesus did not come into existence when Mary conceived: Jesus existed long before Mary was ever born. As for you and me, mere mortals, we did not exist forever. We began to exist when our dad and moms got together. But Jesus existed before the creation of the world. So what’s going on here? The Holy Spirit was putting together a body for Jesus in Mary’s womb, the Holy Spirit would fuse the eternal Spirit of the Son of God with the flesh of a woman. He could also make this flesh holy, blameless and pure, whereas mortal men are full of evil. Job tells us “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble…Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! … What are mortals, that they could be pure, or those born of woman, that they could be righteous? (Job 14:1,4,15:14).” Jesus was not conceived in the normal way, by the seed of a man. His body was prepared by the Holy Spirit, and he, as I said before, was fused into that flesh. Even in heaven today, as we speak, Jesus is in the flesh, the same one born to Mary over 2,000 years ago. Heb 10:5 says, “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and burnt offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.’”

Note also, the manner in which Jesus came. He did not come from heaven to earth in a flash of lightning. He is not Thor. He did not come from heaven to earth in a meteor or comet. He was not even born to Mary as a full grown man, with a full grown beard. No, rather Jesus was born as a helpless baby, just like all of us. Php 2:6-7 says about Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Jesus though he is God, is gentle, and humble in heart. Some people may think that God is far away, or distant. Some try to find God on a mountain, or at some high place. But God came to us gently, humbly, in meekness and in love. He came in weakness to help those who are weak, he came in poorness to help the poor, he came as a servant to serve, and Jesus calls out to all people, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt 11:28)”

Jesus came to give us comfort when we are wounded in this sin-filled world. It is always on God’s heart to give comfort to his people. Let’s look at how God comforts Joseph in v.19-20, first verse 19, “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.” At this point Joseph did not know about what the Holy Spirit was doing in Mary. In Luke 1, after Mary conceived the Spirit led her to hurry to see her cousin Elizabeth who lived in Judea, around 80-100 miles away from her hometown of Nazareth. Elizabeth was very old with no children, but by a miracle God enabled her and her husband to conceive. Mary spent 3 months there to witness the birth of Elizabeth’s baby, and then returned home to Nazareth. By this time she may have been visibly pregnant, or might have told Joseph about the news.

Now put yourself in Joseph’s shoes for a moment (you may have to pretend to be an engaged man). You have been engaged to your fiancée for at least 3 months, and you both have kept pure, waiting for the marriage day. Your fiancée goes out of town for 3 months, and then comes back pregnant. She might even tell you it was the Holy Spirit. As faithful as you are, it may be hard to believe. Joseph might not have been able to help feeling betrayed, though he loved Mary, he really could not know about the pregnancy. He may have been wrestling with his faith, at the same time, fighting with feelings of anger, jealousy, doubt and confusion. Joseph was mentioned to be faithful to the law, and the law would require him to either bring Mary before a court to be severely punished, and made an example for the crime of adultery, or he would divorce her quietly in the presence of a couple of witnesses. No doubt he loved Mary, and cared deeply for her. But he would be guilty also if he overlooked her adultery, or, he may be accused of violating the engagement by sleeping with his fiancée. It seemed Joseph had no other option but to divorce, and out of compassion for Mary he had decided to divorce her quietly.

Look at v.20, “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.’” It seems that when Joseph finally came to a decision, an angel of the Lord came to him. Why didn’t the angel come to him sooner? Sometimes our faith is being tested or tried until the very end, but if we remain faithful, God will guide us in the right direction. Joseph was faithful to the law, and it seemed that this would be the right thing to do. Psalm 94:18-19 says, “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Even before Jesus was born, the Lord sent an angel to comfort Joseph. We can ask the Lord for help when our anxieties are great within us. Though our faith may be tested, the Lord knows our limits and our weaknesses, and will help us. Prov 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Just when Joseph had come to the conclusion to quietly divorce Mary, God consoled him and guided him down a better path. The Lord may not come to us in a dream, as he did with Joseph, but he may guide us through providence, circumstances that happen in our lives, or even through the help and advice of others.

The angel said to Joseph, “don’t be afraid.” This is the same advice the angel gave to Mary in Luke 1, when he brought the news to her that she would be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is believed that the same angel, Gabriel, who spoke to Mary in Luke 1 is the one who is speaking to Joseph now. Although God is mighty, he is holy, awesome and powerful, he tells his people, “don’t be afraid.” The angel also called Joseph “son of David.” Indeed, as we saw in the genealogy last week, Joseph is the descendant of David and of Solomon and of all of the kings of Judah, but the angel here is giving comfort and confidence to Joseph, reminding him that he is the son of David. Who was David? David was the man after God’s own heart. David was a beloved king, loved by the people and by God, and David was given a certain promise by God: that a direct descendant of his would sit on his throne, and rule forever. David’s kingdom, and his dynasty would be established and never fall. The Messiah would be this king. Joseph may have had some idea of the Messiah, and perhaps this address might instill some expectation. But also, this address, “son of David,” is meant to give encouragement to Joseph. In the same way, when we become anxious, let us remember that we are children of Abraham, children of God (through Christ), and look to him for help.

God will protect his people, and he will take care of his people, and he has good news for his people. The angel told Joseph who the child will be. Look at v.21, “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.” Now we are given the name of the Son of God, who before this time, did not have a name for us to call him by. His name is Jesus, so the Son of God, the Messiah, will be named Jesus, and that is what we call him. His name tells us about who he is. The name Jesus means “the Lord saves.” It is the same name as “Joshua,” so Jesus and Joshua are the same name. Joshua is the Hebrew form of the name, which becomes “Jesus [Iosus]” in Greek. Kind of like how Tony’s name is really “Tao Li” in Chinese. The angel even gives the reason the child will be named Jesus, and that is because he will save his people from their sins.

Sin is the biggest problem in all of humanity. Sin is what has separated us from God. Sin is what is wrong with all the world since the dawn of mankind, from Adam and Eve. Sin is what is wrong with the world today, and sin is what is wrong with every one of us. What is sin? Sin is unbelief in God. Sin is a rejection of God, and a rebellion towards God. When people refuse to listen to God, and to obey his laws and commands, all hell breaks loose. Murder, greed, envy, strife, jealousy, lust all come from sin. If you remember our study of 1 & 2 Kings, you can see how sin had caused the downfall of Israel and Judah. Because they worshipped idols instead of the true and living God, the people murdered their own children and shed much innocent blood. And all of their idolatry, even though they loved idols, was a manifestation of their heart’s desire to rebel against God. Examine yourself for a moment. Do you have desires from time to time to rebel against God, to disobey his commands and to do what you want to do? Are you guilty of unbelief? Or tempted not to trust God when you know you should? We all are guilty. I am guilty.

This is why Jesus came: to save us from this, our sins. Jesus came to take away our guilt by his death. He came to redeem us, to set us free from our slavery to sin. We are saved because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That is why he needed to come in the flesh, and that is why he had to be born of a virgin. He became flesh to redeem flesh. He didn't become lightning to redeem lightning. That would be utterly useless. But he became flesh, he became a man to redeem mankind. Jesus was blameless, perfect, and sinless. He came in our flesh and in our weakness. He was tempted in every way we are, but was without sin. He went through what we went through. He experienced our temptations. Isn't it wonderful to know we have a Savior and God who truly knows us and understands us. He was truly righteous. He deserved to live forever. But on him was every sin laid, every sin for every person, every one of you in this room, every one of your sins: the weight of infinite and eternal punishment for sins was pressed into his body and soul. He tasted death for us, he tasted the full brunt of the wrath of God for us, so that all of our sin may be paid for. His sacrifice atones for all our sins. When we believe in Jesus, because of his blood, we are purified, and justified in the sight of God. By faith in Jesus, we are declared righteous, and have been given the right to live forever, the right to enter the kingdom of God, and the right to be called children of God. This is how much love the Father has lavished on us.

Jesus came to save us from our sins so that God can be with us. Sin has separated us from God, Jesus has brought us back to God. He has reconciled man and God. Through his death he paid our price, through his resurrection his sacrifice was accepted. Jesus rose again in the flesh, his body, born of the virgin Mary, is no longer in the grave. He gives us hope that we will rise to live again forever, our bodies to never see decay. He has made peace between man and God. Look, look up in heaven, and who is seated at the right hand of God? It is a man! It is Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of God. Surely now, that is a sign of the peace between God and man. It’s kind of like how Cuba has opened up an American embassy in their country. We’re friends now, right?

So how can we be sure these things are true? How can we be sure that Jesus is the Savior of the world? Matthew directs us to prophecies in Scripture to prove that these things are true. Look at v.22-23, “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’).” So what does this prove? It proves that there is a Supreme power that lives beyond time, that has a will and will carry out what he says he will do. It means that the arrival of the Savior, the virgin birth, was not an accident. It was not random. Evolution did not decide one day to have a virgin give birth. It was intentional, it was planned, and it was promised by God who inspired men to write his words down. This prophecy was written by Isaiah in 730 BC. We know to a good degree of accuracy the time Isaiah was written. And we know the events in Isaiah can be confirmed by real archaeological evidence and records in the Middle East. The book of Matthew is not a made up story. He writes about real people and real events to testify to the work of God.

Matthew quotes Isaiah writing about a virgin giving birth to a son, who will be called Immanuel. In no time before Mary or after Mary did a virgin give birth, and to no one else did an angel say to Mary (as we see in Luke) that he will be called the Son of God. Mary was the virgin in the prophecy, and Jesus was the promised Messiah. The one and only Jesus, the Jesus of history, is God in the flesh. Jesus existed, there are many sites in Jerusalem associated him, such as the place of his birth, the place of his crucifixion, and eyewitness accounts of all of his disciples. God, the creator of heaven and earth, actually came, and walked and lived among us. And he did not just come and go. He didn't just come to earth to take a tour, or just to take a look around. He came to serve, and more than that, he came to save his people from their sins.

Jesus has saved us from our sins. So now what? You might ask… Look at what Joseph did, when he believed the God was with him, in v.24-25, “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.” What did Joseph do? He obeyed the command of God. Mary did the same thing when she believed that God was with her. She said to the angel, in Luke 2:38, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” Joseph did not delay. He took Mary home as his wife. We are not sure how many more months were left in their engagement, but Joseph and Mary were officially married, so that she lived with him. He would adopt her child as his own, so Jesus, though not the biological son of Joseph, became his adopted son. And because Joseph was a descendant of David and the kingly line through Solomon, Jesus was legally entitled to become the next king of Judah (and Israel). Just as Prince William is legal heir to the throne in the United Kingdom, and Prince George his son has a legal right to the throne, Jesus is also a true king who has a legitimate right to the throne, and recognized even under the laws of this world. Now Joseph, also being a righteous man, did not interfere with God’s plan, and although they lived together, they did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born. This leaves absolutely no doubt that Jesus was the Son of God, and could not possibly be the biological son of Joseph. And Joseph named him Jesus, just as the angel of the Lord had commanded.

When we are saved, we are saved from the guilt and set free from slavery to sin. That means when we are saved, we should no longer live a life of sin, especially intentional sin. That also means we are free to serve and obey God. When we were slaves to sin, we could not serve God, we always served our sin. But being set free, we are now free to obey God. More than that, when we are saved, we are brought into the kingdom of God, and subjects to the king, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Rev 1:5-6 says, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” He made us to be a kingdom and to serve God. Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” This is our blessed hope, that our Savior in heaven will appear again and take us to heaven, to a life immortal, indestructible, and glorious. Since we have been saved, let us be eager to do what is good until he comes again.

Jesus purified us to be his very own. All of us were lost, perhaps like little children at Super K-Mart, or like teenagers too cool for old people, but God desires to be with us. He wants to keep us safe, he wants to watch us grow, he wants to show us the glorious things about himself and his creation. Since the moment we fell into sin, he wanted to give us comfort, peace and hope, and promised to do so. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Acts 4:12 tells us, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Believe in Him, and be saved. Jesus is the Messiah, the one whom God sent to save his people. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

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