LONG BEFORE JERRY SPRINGER...
Good Halloween morning. Ahh the days of going Trick or Treating with your mouth all watery because you are thinking of the homemade popcorn balls made by Drucella Osborn. After stopping at our grandparent's house (always the first stop) Drucella's house was next. We wanted to make sure she didn't run out of popcorn balls. And, once we had made all our rounds we would often make a second stop at Drucella's. Oh well, those were the days. But, for today, we will get right back to our look at the birth narrative of Jesus as found in Matthew's gospel. If you remember, yesterday we left poor Joseph dealing with the fact his fiancé is pregnant...and the baby is not his. He didn't even go on the Jerry Springer Show to find out.
"But while he thought on these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20-21)
As we have mentioned already in yesterday's study Joseph is the main character in this story. In Luke, Mary is the main character. Now for something else very interesting. Joseph never speaks! Let me repeat that...Joseph never speaks! Yes, he called his name Jesus, but he is never actually speaking in the text. However, when we get to Luke's gospel we will discover Mary having a conversation with the angel. Now, I just find that to be interesting.
Why is Joseph the main character in Matthew and Mary in Luke? Again, we must try to discover what it is the author wants us to know about the messiah. And, we also must keep the author's audience in mind. Matthew, just to remind you, was writing to a Jewish-Christian audience. Joseph is to be the one naming the baby. Matthew wants us to know that. Why? Does it make a difference? Melody and I have four sons. Melody named two of them and I named two. I wasn't supposed to name the fourth one, but while Melody was under the anesthesia I took advantage and filled out the birth certificate. If I hadn't done this Zander would have been named Brody Matthew. I think it was God's will that I named the baby and not Melody. Why? Because as it is we have two sons with names that begin with "R" (Rickey and Ryan) and two names that begin with "Z" (Zac and Zander). Did we plan it that way? NO! Not at all. We didn't realize that until much later. Guess who named the "Z" brothers? Yep, I did. But, did it make a difference who named the boy? For Matthew and his audience, yes it made all the difference in the world. I will share with you why in a moment. But first:
"Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matthew 1:22-23)
Ever since I have been a Christian I have heard people complaining about those who argue against the virgin birth of Jesus. The virgin birth is important. If it was not a virgin birth, then the baby would have been, not the "son of man" but the "son of a man." Here, we are told that this child is "God with us." Also, keep in mind that the genealogy does not say that Joseph was the father of Jesus. Mary was a virgin when she conceived. But, let me remind you, the Apostle Paul never gets in to this debate. Mark and John do not say anything at all about the birth of Jesus. So, why is it so important to Matthew?
I will eventually argue that there was speculation going around that Joseph was not Jesus' real father. Trust me, it never takes long for rumors to circulate. There is scriptural proof that "there was talk" about Jesus and who his daddy might have been. Can you imagine a messiah who was a "b..t..d?" In Judaism paternity was not biological. You could not tell by looking at a child who the father was according to ancient people. Oh, how I wish folks would go by this today. I'll be near a nursery window in the hospital and there will be a crowd of folks looking in at the little newborns (kind of like looking at the animals at a zoo).I'll hear them "oooooh, and aaaaah," and then I'll hear one say, "Oh, he looks just like his daddy!" I want to say, "No he doesn't! He looks just like all the other little babies around him." In fact, I can't tell which one is a girl and which one is a boy. There were two babies lying side by side in the nursery. One said to the other, "Hi, I'm a little boy." The other replied, "Oh, how can you tell?" He uncovered himself and said, "See, blue diaper." I'll never forget visiting a new mother in the hospital. I was sitting in a chair while she was resting in bed. Soon, a nurse comes in to the room carrying the newborn. She looks straight at me and asks, "Sir, would you like to hold your daughter?" Again, you can't tell by looking!
Paternity in ancient times was not biological...it was legal. According to ancient sources if a man said, "this is my child" and the man gave the child a name then the man was to be believed. We are told that "Joseph ...did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him...he called his name Jesus." (Matthew 1:24a,25b) When a child was born mid-wives would take the newly born baby and lay it at the feet of the "possible" father. If the father stooped down and pick the child up and gave the child a name he was making it legitimate. He was claiming the child as being his very own. If he walked away from the child then the child would be unclaimed. Sadly, a routine practice in ancient times involved unwanted infants being left out in the elements (exposed). (Although the Jews did not practice this) They would often die, or unsavory individuals would come along, rescue them, but then sell them. Joseph names the child. He claims the child as his own.
O.K., I did not talk about the fact that Joseph "took unto him his wife. And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son." (Matthew 1:24b-25a) Joseph has taken Mary into his home. He did not have sex with her, however. I can't wait until we look at the birth narrative found in Luke. I will bring so much more out at that time in regards to Mary and Joseph.
Tomorrow, please join me as we look at something very interesting before moving on to the next chapter. We will look at the relationship between Jesus and Joseph. Even though there is little to go on in scripture, there is enough. See you tomorrow. God Bless. -Pastor Rick