Good morning. I hope you enjoyed your weekend. I have to say that I did have a good weekend. Saturday I was blessed to hear Henry "The Fonz" Winkler speak in Charleston. He is a very good speaker. Yesterday, we had a good Lord's Day. Today, we get to return to our work together as we continue to explore the Gospel of Matthew. Today, we will begin looking at the birth narrative found in Matthew.
Now, I find the birth narratives to be quite interesting the more I study them. Perhaps what I find most interesting is what the Bible does not say about the birth of Jesus. Have you realized that out of the four gospels that we are given only two record the birth story of Jesus? Mark and John say nothing about it. But, then there is something else to consider. The Apostle Paul is credited with writing the majority of the New Testament. Guess how many times Paul writes about the birth of Jesus...one time. Here's what Paul writes: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law..." (Galatians 4:4) That's it! That's what Paul says about the birth of Christ. Paul doesn't even mention the name of Jesus' mother. Paul places an emphasis on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Here's a frightening question: "What if we had only been given one gospel?" Hmm...if the Gospel of Mark was the first gospel written, and I will argue later that it was, what would we know about the birth of Jesus? Would we even have Christmas? Well, we do have more than one gospel and we do have Christmas. The four gospels work together in order to give us a complete picture of the messiah. We will take our time with this study.
"Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way." (NRSV) "Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise." (KJV) "When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:18)
I would encourage you to read the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke side by side in studying the birth narrative. I will cover Luke later of course, but there are a few things we need to consider as we go concerning both gospels. In Matthew the focus is on Joseph. In Luke, the focus is on Mary. And there is a reason why this is so. To begin with, let's look at the relationship between Mary and Joseph. Mary was engaged to Joseph, but the KJV (we are most familiar with in regards to the Christmas story) says, "before they came together." Well, this is, of course, speaking of their being engaged, but before they had sexual relations. They were not even living in the same house together. However, an engagement in Jesus' time was not the same as an engagement in our day. Today, an engagement is a preliminary to marriage. In Jesus' day an engagement meant marriage part one (without the sex). Part II was when the bride moved in to he husband's house.
We are told that "she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit." The Greek says: "She was found to have something in her womb." Well, poor Joseph. He had to have known that he was not the father. I mean, it wouldn't take a genius to know that if you haven't...then that means someone else must have...umm...to some it all up...Joseph, you ain't the daddy! So, you have two people engaged. The woman is pregnant, but the man is not the father. Now days, if this were to happen, no problem. The woman would go her way, and the man would go his. But, the only way to break off an engagement in Mary and Joseph's time was to get a divorce.
"Her, husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly." (verse 19) Well, we really don't know much about Joseph. Each year we put his figurine out with the nativity, but then put him away for another year afterwards. We don't say much about him during Advent and Christmas, so we sure don't say anything about him afterwards. In fact, the Bible doesn't say much about him. But, we are told that he was "a righteous man." What dos this mean? In order to find out we need to read elsewhere. The Jewish readers grew up reading the Psalms. If you recall, on Friday I said that the Gospel of Matthew was written to a Jewish-Christian community. Therefore, Matthew stating that Joseph was righteous was very important to the reader. Why? Well, if the reader is familiar with the Psalms then they may recognize that Psalm 37:21 says that the righteous shows mercy. Joseph is a merciful man. He is going to do the right thing, but he is not willing to embarrass Mary.
Well, Joseph may be a merciful man, but how is he really feeling? The NRSV reads: "But just when he had resolved to do this..." (Mat. 1:20) In other words, this translation makes it sound like he simply made up his mind to do what needed to be done. However, this translation unfortunately misses the mark. The KJV reads: "But while he thought on these things..." (same verse) Well, unfortunately, in the English language we do not get the entire meaning of what is taking place. The Greek understanding of this indicates that Joseph had a burning feeling in his chest, similar to what one would get when he/she is disturbed.
Well, there is so much more to cover here and we will need to pick up here tomorrow. Have a great day. -Pastor Rick