“God Turns Bad News into Good News”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 1.18-25
Matthew 1. Thirty years ago, the famous and widely acclaimed talk show host Larry King was asked, “If you could interview one person in history, who would it be?”
The Jewish agnostic and Emmy award winner said that his fantasy interview would be with Jesus Christ. “I would ask him if he believed that he was born of virgin birth, because whatever the answer is changes … the world.”
Thankfully, we have a more sure word that any fantasy interview. We have the word of God in our hands.
We’ll read Matthew 1:18-25 which is about the physical origin of Jesus: His conception is from the Holy Spirit. And Matthew’s point is to show that Jesus has the legal right to the throne of David through Joseph. Second Samuel 7 declares that the Messiah would be through David’s line. Joseph is Jesus’ legal human father because Joseph adopted Him and named Him. And Joseph’s lineage is traced back to David. And so Jesus has the right lineage to be the Messiah.
Let’s read Matthew 1:18-25
Matthew 1:18–25 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 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 the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “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.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Matthew’s main point is that Jesus is qualified to be the Messiah because…
of the miraculous birth and
because He is a biological descendent of David through Mary and
because He is a legal heir to the throne of David through Joseph, who is a descendant of Solomon.
But, what we’re going to do this morning is look at this familiar passage from Joseph’s point of view.
I mean, come one, you don’t really think Joseph believed Mary, do you?
ILL: Think of this … today, in our day and age, did you know, that nearly 1 percent of young women ages 15 to 28 in a U.S. study who have become pregnant claim to have done so as virgins? Think if someone close to you were to explain that to you.
45 of the 5,340 pregnancies in this study through the years occurred in women who reported that they conceived with no male counterpart.
Now, would you believe those ladies? How devastated would you be if you were engaged to be married to one of them?
So, here’s Joseph and he’s making plans for the future as all soon to be husbands do!
TRANS: Then he gets the bad news…
Joseph Thinks He Gets Bad News (Matt 1:18-19)
Matthew 1:18–19 18…, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.
For Joseph, this is bad news! And for us we need to know, “when did this happen and how did it happen?”
Verse 18 tells us it happened during the betrothal period, kind of like an engagement.
But Joseph and Mary probably didn’t get engaged when he wrote “will you marry me?” in the snow some Saturday night. It was serious, legally binding, and could only broken through the Law of Moses.
There was no intimacy allowed. And being raised in a strict Jewish society, the families would have been very careful about this.
Okay, so how did this happen? She was, verse 18 says, found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
EXP/ILL: Literally she was found to be “in stomach having” … It’s one of those Greek idioms that you really like to point out because it is strange to her ears.
And this pregnancy is “by” or better, “from the Holy Spirit.” The word “by” can be translated “from.”
And that’s an important distinction.
ILL: You can easily get off track like the Catholics do. They believe that through this event, Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit.
But this pregnancy is from the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary just like what the Lord did in the Temple and the tabernacle in Old Testament. The glory of God overshadowed her and gave the miraculous conception.
But at any rate from Joseph standpoint, he’s upset.
Joseph hasn’t been visited by the angel as Mary had. And he doesn’t have the divine helicopter view over the highway of life. He’s in the car and he only sees the next car in front of him.
He feels alone and stuck. He’s offended and upset. He was just working as a carpenter making plans for his future family. And he trusted Mary was going to be faithful to him and faithful to the Lord. But she seems now to have betrayed him and he’s crushed.
And so he has a terrifying problem! Who was she with? Who was the father of that child? All night he would roll around and toss in an agony upon his bed…he must make a decision. The day before, he was counting down the days until he would be able to take this fairest among ten thousand as his wife…his lily of the valley….
And the plans he had made for the future and the great happiness that awaited them … all lost! The dreams are broken and all that’s left are the shards of happiness that lay painfully now at his feet.
“What do we do,” Joseph muses. “Do we have a public trial according to Deut. 22 or do I simply send her away privately according to Deut. 24?”
And he lays in the darkness upon his bed and considers this … it seems he hears the cries of his unfaithful wife over her public shame …. “No,” Joseph says, “that can’t happen! I love her, and I will do this privately and write her a bill of divorce. That way,” Joseph thinks to himself, “I can preserve my own integrity in society and not marry an adulterous woman, while still being merciful to her.”
Pondering this… he falls half asleep … And dreaming sees himself standing between an angry mob with stones in their hands as they rush toward a shrieking Mary … and all of a sudden Matthew 1:20 … 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 the Child who has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Yah …the angel relieves our suspense…whew!
TRANS: You see, Joseph thought what Mary claimed was crazy, and should have! I would doubt that the story was true if it said that Joseph was so pious that he believed Mary from the beginning! The fact that Joseph doubted the whole story is comforting to me.
And so we realize that we sympathize with Joseph. What a difficult thing to go through!
And until you read about the angel appearing to Joseph, you don’t believe Mary’s story either. Not believing in the virgin birth is nothing new…
ILL: A study conducted by Tufts University in Mass. interviewed 5 pastors who are really unbelievers.
The author of the article writes…
Darryl is a 36 year old Presbyterian minister with a church outside of Baltimore. He is married and has three young children.
Darryl writes of ministers like him, ‘We are not “un-believers” in our own minds – but would not withstand a strict “litmus test” should we be subjected to one…. I reject the virgin birth. I reject substitutionary atonement. I reject the divinity of Jesus. I reject heaven and hell in the traditional sense, and I am not alone.’
It’s true he’s not alone. A 2017 survey of the general public found that 66% say they believe Jesus was born to a virgin, down from 73% in 2014. Deniers seem to believe that there were no doubters in the NT.
But Joseph was the first one to doubt the story! And we can understand!
ASK: Why didn’t the Lord tell Joseph at the same exact time that He told Mary?
[don’t know, but one reason could be to overcome reasonable doubt. What other explanation could there be for a man to marry a pregnant teenager in that kind of a society? The angel told him to go ahead with it.]
But even though he received such bad news before the angelic dream… he didn’t act out of anger, he was self controlled and acted graciously and wisely and made a loving choice as best as he knew how with the information that he had.
APP: You’ve already and will face situations in which you receive some bad news. Will you properly consider and seek the loving option? Be a righteous person…
APP: but more importantly, are you considering the gospel? Joseph was a doubter, but he carefully considered. Anyone who is doubting the gospel, if you get with friends or family, talk to them about Joseph. Carefully consider these things! You could say, “You know, Joseph was the first to doubt, but he carefully considered these things. Will you?”
TRANS: And for Joseph, God turned bad news into good news.
But God Gives Good News (1:20-21)
Matthew 1:20–21 20 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 the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
EXP: “Don’t be afraid? What do you mean? If I marry her, everyone will think I’ve married an adulteress. I’ve got a reputation to upkeep … plus, everyone will hold her in suspect, and me too. What will our life at the synagogue be like? They won’t accept us, we can’t serve, and even the kids will snicker at us as we walk down the street. As a carpenter, who would want to buy my woodwork? If I obey God here, it’ll cost me my life.”
And so it is with every believer.
1 Corinthians 1:18 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Now, this is the second Joseph in Scripture to receive a dream. You remember the first Joseph in the book of Genesis, Jacob’s son. Joseph received dreams God used to providentially guide him. Jacob’s son Joseph had a lot of bad news in his life.
But God used all that bad news for good. Even though it was extremely difficult for Jacob’s son Joseph to go through all that, God blessed him greatly in the end.
And so it is with Joseph, Mary’s husband. Thankfully the unnamed angel tells Joseph to take Mary as his wife. For the child has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. And Joseph is to name him Jesus for a particular reason.
ASK: and to get to that reason, let me ask you … What does your name mean?
[Nathanael: God has given; neil: The Irish name may be derived from words meaning “cloud”, “passionate”, or “champion”; abe father of multitude]
Why name Jesus? He will save His people.
Jesus’ name means “the LORD saves.” Every time that Mary and Joseph called His name… “Jesus, come along” … the gospel was proclaimed, “Yahweh is salvation,” “Yahweh saves.”
Now, interestingly, the angel gives the reason for this to be His name… you are to name the baby Jesus … why? Because …what does it say … because literally He himself will save His people from their sins.”
Let me say this, there is a mission revealed in his name… Jesus’ mission is revealed in His name!
Joseph, you name the baby “the LORD saves” because He Himself will save His people from their sins.
You tell me ….
if the LORD alone saves people from sin and …
Jesus saves people from sin.
Who is Jesus? …. He is the LORD!
You are to name the baby “the LORD saves,” because He himself will save…
His name tells of His person and it tells of the very mission He came to accomplish his mission: “the LORD saves” has come to save His people from their sins.
That’s why He has come; He’s in the business of saving people and of saving them from sin.
ASK…But what do people really want to be saved from?
Not saving them from inconveniences, not saving them from a bad life to give them a good life. Not saving them from bad relationships and from a bad job. Jesus is in the business of saving people from their sins, from all that is offensive to Him.
APP: And after that, He appeals to us to live a certain way. Look how he appeals to Joseph in verse 20…“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife….” Joseph, remember who you are. You’re a son of David. Now, take Mary as your wife and listen to God’s word.
APP: Christ followers are appealed to the same way…
Do you understand who you are as a Christian? Ok, now follow what the Bible says.
Colossians 3:12 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, [… you children of God …. ] put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
Do you understand, that if you’ve trusted Christ and repented of sin, you’ve been chosen of God? That you’re set apart for Him and beloved? If you do understand that deeply, now…let that motivate you to put on a heart of compassion kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
Objections: I do that in this case, but not when people are really getting after me…then, I feel like I have a right to.
No, you’ve lost your focus on who you are. Remember that you’re a child of God and obey … have compassion, be kind and gentle.
Justin Trudeau is a sinner…let’s have compassion.
The government is made up of sinners; it’s not actually that surprising that our provincial and federal governments are acting sinfully, right? Be gentle in your spirit toward those people.
TRANS: Well, Joseph took the angel’s command as the word of God and obeyed.
Joseph Obeyed (1:24-25)
Matthew 1:24-25 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Joseph’s response is an example of how to respond to the gospel.
Notice that Joseph obeyed at the risk of his own reputation.
ASK: how would those in Joseph’s family potentially respond to Joseph? When they asked, “Why take her as your wife?” What would he say? What do you think?
And then how would they respond?
Joseph would’ve been mocked and ridiculed for taking Mary as his wife. “Don’t you realize that she is an adulterous? Why would you take her is your wife.”
Joseph responds, “an angel has appeared to us and us told us that Mary’s pregnancy is from the Holy Spirit.”
Joseph’s detractors say, “have you lost your mind?”
And so Joseph’s reputation is at stake. There is great loss!
APP: That’s the calling of a Christian. To follow Christ takes a willingness to suffer loss…loss of esteem, plans, ambitions, wishes. The world despises Christ and they’ll despise those who truly follow Him also.
ASK: What would Joseph lose? comfort, safety, esteem, job opps?
In a shame-honour society, shamed forever. Saying “yes” to the Lord meant turning his back on plans, ambitions, wishes, reputation, a good name. (Jn. 8:41).
Joseph bore the shame of false accusation, of sins he didn’t commit.
That’s just like Jesus. He bore the sins of the world, sins he never committed but would pay for.
2 Corinthians 5:21 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 1.18-25
But it’s not all lose; there is great gain. But it’s delayed.
Joseph was a man of God who found trials along the way. But God was with him to make good come out of evil, joy out of sadness and eternal value out of tragedy. And that’s true for every follower of Christ – there is glory and reward, heaven itself is coming.
Romans 8:28 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
May the Lord help us to be like Joseph and turn from everything we dream to be to cling to what God is calling us to.