Matthew 1: 18-25, Immanuel God is with Us
Context: Jews, at the time of Christ, thought a royal king would come to save them; that is why they accused Him of blasphemy. Even though they knew the Scriptures, they refused to accept the Word or Him, and held to their presumptions instead! People will accept a human Jesus, but not a divine Jesus-the same problem we have today, both in our presumptions and our acceptance of truth!
This passage is also about the humanity and struggles of Jesus' human mother and adoptive father. A scandalous beginning and great struggle for a new marriage and family, it fulfilled prophecy even while countering cultural ideals. Mary was dealing with personal shame and at the same time the wonders of giving birth-the birth of our Lord, no less. Joseph was dealing with family and cultural dishonor, but decided to obey God and trust in Him, not his cultural peer pressure. This passage is also a picture of how God provides us with opportunities and situations to better ourselves, but we may not see them because we are either not looking or we are so consumed by our past experiences, expectations, or hurts that we refuse to look or strive.
Word Meanings and Commentary:
1. Mary: A virtuous and wondrous women to be chosen for this extreme of tasks. She was perhaps between twelve and fourteen years old; Joseph was much older-at least between eighteen to over forty years old. Their marriage was almost certainly prearranged through their parents, as was the custom. (For more information see theological note below.) Matthew places the focus on Joseph for his Gospel, while Luke focuses on Mary.
a. Pledged to be married: Engagement in first century Judaism was as binding as a marriage, hence the words here of husband and wife, as they were pledged to each other, perhaps from a family agreement or barter. The couple would not have had sexual relations without great scandal and shame as well as the loss of family property and cultural rights. It is unlikely that they would ever have been alone together (Deut. 22:24).
b. Joseph: Little is known about Joseph other than his occupation of being a carpenter, his character as being just and wise, and as one who trusted in God. Joseph is clearly shown to us in this passage as a great and honorable man by his affectionate consideration for Mary and reverence for God. God picked him to be Jesus' "step-father!" Joseph went with Mary to Bethlehem; he was there when Jesus came into this world (Luke 2:4-16), and when Jesus was presented at the Temple (Luke 2:33). He was the head of a family that included Jesus plus up to seven other sons and daughters (sorry Catholics, this is what the Word says: Matt. 13:55-56)! He also took Jesus and Mary to Egypt and back to Nazareth, and worked as a carpenter.
c. Mary deserved to be divorced from her engagement, perhaps even the death penalty by public stoning, or at the very least, to be publicly shamed for being pregnant before the final marriage and without Joseph's aid (Deut. 22:23-24).
d. The language of Matthew suggests Joseph died before Jesus began His public ministry (Matt. 13:54-57). John suggests that Joseph was alive, but again does not outright say it in John 6:42. Matthew does not absolutely tell us this, but why else would Jesus put His mother in the care of John if Joseph were not around (John 19:26-27)?
2. Found to be with child through the Holy Spirit: This refers to what is called the "Virgin Birth." Jesus' birth was an unprecedented miracle! This is vital to our faith and practice and the understanding of the Gospel (Matt. 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-56; 2:4-7; John 1:1-9). If Jesus is God, then He could not have been born as a normal baby by a mother who was younger than He! He could not have been comparable to "normal" babies. Thus, He was not merely born, but came into this world though the birth canal as His passage of choosing (Matt. 28:20; Is. 7:14; John 18:37; 1 Pet. 1:19).
a. If Jesus had a human father, then the Bible is untrustworthy, there would be no reason for His supernatural life, and He would have no ability to save us!
b. Without the "Virgin Birth" we have no deity, no miracles, and no salvation. Thus, this is an essential doctrine, and if the Bible and Christ are true, the Virgin Birth must be true also! Otherwise, He could never have conquered death and Satan, or have taken our place of suffering and death.
i. Liberal thinking rejects the Virgin Birth, because liberal thinking is that there were a lot of Virgin Birth myths floating around, so Matthew must have just incorporated one of them. Of course, there are a lot of fakes, because Satan is the great deceiver and will go out of his way to make counterfeits even the Caesar's Virgin Birth stories to prove his godhood. (Of course, they all really died but did not come back!)
ii. Fifty-six (56%) percent of seminary students (Barna.org) reject the Virgin Birth! Never base your theology on a majority vote or opinion! Always look to Him and His Word!
iii. People may reject the Virgin Birth and/or Christ Himself, but this does not negate who He is, His Nature, or His office! By His Resurrection from the dead, He proved true to His Name. Wrong thinking will always be proven wrong!
c. Righteous man: Referred to being zealous in keeping the law. This also meant he obeyed God beyond commonsense, and is a role model for us all!
d. Divorce her quietly: Joseph was willing to bear ridicule from his family and village. He could have signed the "legal papers" or made an announcement at the town's gate to the elders (Deut 22:23-24).
e. A dream: The phrase refers to a practice that God sometimes uses to speak to people, and was used to convince Joseph to keep his vows to Mary and trust in God during this time (Gen. 37:5-11; Dan. 1:17; 2:19-45; Luke 1: 26-35).
f. Son of David: This is a title for Jesus, referring to His being the Messiah (Is. 11:1-3; Jer. 23:1-6; Matt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; Luke 18:38).
3. The name Jesus means "Yahweh is Salvation," as in God is salvation, our Savior's Name to be! This was a common name, which was a declension of Joshua. For Jesus, this was a title of His office and Nature over and above a name to be called. It had extra significance because God intervened and gave this name, when the family lineage was usually used to give a person a name with a meaning behind it (Jer. 23:5-6; Matt. 2:6; 15-23; 7:21-23; 28:19-20)
a. His birth and name were foretold centuries beforehand! (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 42:8)
b. In contrast, as Joshua led the nation of Israel into the "promised land" of Israel/Canaan, Jesus leads the people of God into the Promised Land of Salvation and eternity.
c. He will save His people from their sins: This is His "office," meaning salvation and faith will be through Jesus Christ as God now gives humanity a new Covenant (Jer. 31:31-37). We are saved from the consequences of sin, the wrath of God, and our guilt by His blood interceding on our behalf (Matt. 1:21; John 3:16-17; Rom. 5:8-9; 8:1-2,12-14; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; Heb. 4:14-16; 7:24-25; Rev. 7:13-17)
d. Fulfill: Matthew uses this term twelve times to make the point that this is the Messiah, then proves that he has indeed fulfilled the Old Testament requirements (Matt:1:22; 2:15, 23; 3:15; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; 27:9). The events of Jesus' life, death, Lordship, and Salvation in the New Testament were predicted in accurate details and are a powerful testimony and proof for the infallibility of the Bible by its exactness.
e. Through the prophet: Controversies arise from the Isaiah passages, as many liberal scholars assume it alludes to Isaiah's son or perhaps Hezekiah's. However, none of Isaiah's sons had this name, and Hezekiah predates this passage and prophecy. Other good scholarship points out that this would be for an unborn king or a theme that will liberate Israel after the captivity. These may be true, but often Hebrew prophecy has double meanings-one for the time in which it was written, but in addition, points to a future fulfillment as the books of Daniel and Revelation attest to. The bottom-line is that God used this prediction of Isaiah, so it means what it means; Jesus was predestined, He is here, and He is with us.
f. Immanuel: Meaning "God with us" (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 10:21; 11:1; Matt. 1:23). His Name is also His nature; God is with us, for He is God indeed (John 1:1-3,14; 4:9-10; 8:56-59; 17:5; Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:17; 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:17-18).
g. Jesus was born into the world, yet was not from it. That is, He did not come from it (since He created it), nor is He corrupted by it, lest He be corrupted by sin. Jesus Christ is God incarnate!
i. Jesus must also be born/formed into you (John 3:7; Gal. 2:20; 4:19)!
ii. Have you allowed Jesus into all aspects of your life? Are you surrendered and poured out to be His Bethlehem?
iii. For Him to be in you, you must yield all of your rights and will to Him!
iv. Then Christ can use you to "form" others around you. We cannot do the work of God unless we are the people of God, as Christ is formed in us!
h. When Joseph woke up: This involves more than just awakening from a sleep, but engaging in the call and responsibility that God has given and being obedient, trusting, and loving (Luke 2:1-7; Col. 4:14).
i. He had no union with her until she gave birth: Another point Matthew uses to make his point (Luke 1:26-35).
Thoughts and Applications:
Jesus is Transcendent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent. Although He is Sovereign, at the same time, He tells us that He is Immanuel, which means "God is with us." This describes God in the most powerful and profound language the Jews have and/or that we have: God, THE God who walks besides us and holds us. His name, Immanuel, is also His attribute and nature, for He is God and is fully able to save us by substituting Himself in our place, living a sinless life, and taking God's wrath upon Himself so we would not be lost forever. He is a God who indeed carries us through both the trials of life and through our jubilations, too (Isaiah 7:14; Psalm 24:7-8; Prov. 1; Matt. 1:23; John 1:1-3,14; 4:9-10; 8:56-59; 17:5; Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:17-18).
In Matthew 22: 42, Jesus asks "Who do you say I am?" is answer to us is Immanuel which also means that Christ was birthed in history; by so doing, He must also be birthed into you and evident in you! His Immanuel means He is touching you, discipling you so He is fully engaged in your heart and mind, and so He is Supreme in you, too. Your transformation and Fruit are the evidences of Christ carrying you. For Him to carry you, He must be evident in you!
The Essential Inductive Questions (for more Inductive questions see Inductive Bible Study):
1.What does this passage say?
2.What does this passage mean?
3.What is God telling me?
4. How am I encouraged and strengthened?
5. Is there sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
6.How can I be changed, so I can learn and grow?
7.What is in the way of these precepts affecting me? What is in the way of
my listening to God?
8.How does this apply to me? What will I do about it?
9.What can I model and teach?
10. What does God want me to share with someone?
1. What was your father like? What qualities did you inherent from him?
2. How does the birth of the Lord impact you, considering the way He came in to this world as a helpless baby? How is Jesus Supreme in you? How do you know it and show it?
3. What do you think of Joseph's character, and his reaction to Mary's pregnancy? How does God provide you with opportunities and situations to better yourself? What gets in the way of your seeing them? What about our habits of not looking or being so consumed by past experiences, expectations, and/or hurts that we refuse to strive in our faith?
4. Joseph was willing to bear ridicule from his family and village because of Mary. He could have put her away, but he did not. Why?
5. The Bible does not have much more to say about Joseph; so, what do you think his relationship with Jesus might have been like?
6. When someone says the name of Jesus, what comes to your mind? How does it feel when someone uses it in vain as a swear word?
7. Are you ready to receive the reality of who Jesus is? How did Joseph decide to obey God and trust in Him rather than in his cultural peer pressure? What does this mean for you?
8. Would you have a strong foundation for your faith and hope? How did Mary and Joseph deal with their scandalous beginning and struggles while countering some of their cultural ideals?
9. What do you need to do to keep in constant view of your Savior's name IMMANUEL (God with us) and JESUS (God is Savior)?
10. How have you experienced Jesus as IMMANUEL in your life?
11. Having become flesh, God understands our human plight, so we can never say to Him, but Lord you do not understand…. So, how can this affect your prayer life?
12. Are you willing to obey Jesus as the One who was "God with us", and through whom "God is Savior?"
13. His Name is also His nature ("God is with us" Matt. 1:23). How can this fact empower you further in your spiritual growth? What about your interpersonal relationships?
14. Jesus saved us. That means He substituted Himself in our place, lived a sinless life, and took God's wrath upon Himself so we would not be lost forever. Has this hit you in your realization of what Christ went through for you-the magnitude and depth of His life and suffering that was given for you?
15. Why is the Virgin Birth important?
16. Why would people, especially pastors, deny the Virgin Birth?
17. If you deny the Virgin Birth, how do you reconcile forgiveness of sins and His atonement for you?
18. Jesus was born into the world yet was not from it. What does this mean for your salvation?
19. Have you allowed Jesus into all aspects of your life? Are you surrendered and poured out to be His Bethlehem?
20. For Christ to be in you, you must yield all of your rights and will to Him. So, how can you start to implement this more fully in your life? What can you do to be better at knowing and showing that Jesus is supreme in you?
© 2002, revised 2006, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org