************ Sermon on Matthew 1:18-25 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 25, 2017
"The Virgin Birth"
Christmas Day 2017
I The Virgin Birth Contested
A The Pharisees had no problem seeing Jesus as the son of David in the flesh. They even had no problems with seeing Jesus as the royal son of David. They did have problems, however, with Jesus' claim to be the Son of God. This means they had problems with the virgin birth.
B A 1998 poll of 7,441 Protestant clergy in the U.S. found that a disturbing percent of ministers do not believe in the virgin birth:
American Lutherans, 19 percent do not believe in the virgin birth
American Baptists, 34 percent
Episcopalians, 44 percent
Presbyterians, 49 percent
Methodists, 60 percent
Yet another poll, in 1999, surveyed 103 Roman Catholic priests, Anglican priests, and Protestant ministers in the United Kingdom. That poll found 25 percent do not believe in the virgin birth. A 2004 survey of ministers in the Church of Scotland found 37 percent do not accept the virgin account. No poll has been done but I can confidently say that 100 percent of URC ministers believe in the virgin birth.
C Now, look at Joseph. He discovered that Mary was pregnant. Joseph was not the kind of man to fool around before marriage so he knew he was not the father. Joseph, like God, valued purity and virginity -- for both himself and Mary. Joseph was a righteous man. This puts him in the same class as Zechariah and Elizabeth and Simeon who are all described as righteous people. That is, he was a real God-fearing Jew who strived always to be obedient to God.
Mary was found to be pregnant. And Joseph wasn't the father. Joseph doesn't understand and doesn't believe this virgin birth thing. The miracle doesn't make sense to him. The miracle creates problems for him. What was he to think? He doesn't know what is happening. His whole world has just come crashing down. He has been waiting with great anticipation for their wedding day. And now Mary is found to be with child. Mary can say what she wants but in Joseph's mind she has shown herself to be a woman of loose morals.
Joseph was jolted and scared and upset. But he still loved Mary. He still cared for Mary. What was he to do? In that day and age, Joseph had two choices.
Joseph's first choice under Jewish law was to make Mary a public example. He could charge Mary openly in a public court with adultery. She would be shamed. She would be brought to trial. She would be convicted in front of everybody. The marriage would be ended and Mary's reputation would be forever ruined.
Joseph's second choice under Jewish law was a more quiet way. Joseph and Mary would get together before two or three witnesses. They would write out a private statement of divorce. There would be no judicial procedure. There would be no public knowledge. It would be kept quiet. You did not even need to write the reason for the divorce in the statement. Nobody would know what really had happened. It was done secretly.
Joseph just couldn't bring himself to make Mary a public example. He just couldn't bring himself to go the route of public scorn and public shame. So he decided to divorce her quietly.
You might wonder why a divorce when they weren't even married yet. Among the Jews the betrothal was so binding that a man and woman were considered married.
"But after he considered this ..." That's what verse 20 says. This means Joseph was thinking and praying. This means he tossed and turned in bed. He was thinking about Mary's pregnancy. He was thinking about what Mary said. He was thinking about the virgin birth.
D Let me ask a question: Can you deny the virgin birth and still be a Christian? The virgin birth, my brothers and sisters, must be accepted as gospel. Think about it: Without the virgin birth the Christian faith falls apart. If Jesus was not virgin-born, then He is not the Son of God. If Jesus is not the Son of God, then He is just another crucified man and not the sacrifice that redeems the sins of the world. Without the virgin birth Jesus is simply a man who speaks about God instead of the Son of God Who presents the Father to us. Deny the virgin birth and Christianity means nothing.
To the world, and to a host of ministers, the virgin birth is part of the foolishness of the Gospel. But to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
E That wonderful Christmas carol, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" speaks to this. Listen to stanza two:
Christ, by highest heav'n adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th'incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King."
The fact of the virgin birth is so clear in our Bible reading this Christmas morning. No matter what the Pharisees may say, no matter what the liberals may deny, no matter what people may focus on, it tells us that Jesus is virgin-born.
II The Virgin Birth Explained
A So Joseph falls asleep as he is thinking about Mary and the virgin birth and divorce. Notice what Scripture says happens next. The virgin birth is explained:
(Mt 1:20) 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.Now this is not a dream like you and I have a dream. For instance, I had a dream last night that my dad was living with Pete & Diane. We all know what we have in a dream is not real. Somehow, in someway, what Joseph saw in his dream was real. It was a revelation from God from a real angel.
This is not the only time in Matthew we see an angel giving a revelation from God in a dream. The wisemen were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. Joseph was warned in a dream to escape to Egypt. And, later, Joseph was told in a dream to return to the land of Israel. And, at the end of Matthew's gospel we are told Pilate's wife was given a dream that Jesus was innocent.
So Joseph is in bed tossing and turning and thinking and praying and meditating. And the angel of God explains to him "what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."
This, dear people, is the reality of the virgin birth. There was no human father involved in conception. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is how the eternal Son of God took on human flesh.
B Now, look at the first phrase of verse 21: "She will give birth to a son ..." "She will give birth to a son ..." The angel doesn't say, "Joseph, you will have a son." The angel doesn't say, "Joseph, to you will be born a son." "She will give birth to a son ..."
Not once in the Bible are we told that Joseph is the father of Jesus. For example, in Matthew 2:13, Joseph is told to "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt." Not, "take your child and your wife." Again, in Matthew 2:20, Joseph is told to "take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel." It is always the child and His mother. It is never Joseph as father. Joseph is never identified as the father. Why? Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin.
III The Virgin Birth Prophesied
A The virgin birth was not an accident. It was not a spur of the moment thing. It was not some last minute afterthought. Long ago, says Matthew, the virgin birth was prophesied. In other words, it has been part of God's plan for our salvation since the beginning.
So, in verses 22-23, Matthew stops his story to quote the Old Testament. Matthew loves to quote the Old Testament; he does it 50 times in his gospel. Listen to what he says:
(Mt 1:22-23) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: (23) "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" -- which means, "God with us."Matthew's quote comes from Isaiah 7:14. The virgin birth was prophesied. The virgin birth was promised by God. And that promise is being fulfilled through the work of the Spirit in Mary.
B Now, liberals and critics and slanderers say the Hebrew word in Isaiah 7 should NOT be translated as "virgin"; instead, they say, an accurate translation is "young woman." But, under the inspiration of the Spirit, Matthew knew exactly what Isaiah meant and used the word "virgin." Jesus was virgin-born. There is no reason to argue about the meaning of the word used by Isaiah; instead, listen to God's commentary on it in the gospel of Matthew.
C The virgin birth was prophesied. And this way, says Isaiah, and this way, says Matthew, God is with us. God Himself. The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace is with us through the virgin birth.
IV The Virgin Birth Accepted
A We end with the virgin birth accepted. Look at what is said in verse 24:
(Mt 1:24) When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.What a wonderful ending to a wonderful story.
When Joseph woke up it was all clear to him. No more tossing and turning. No more laying awake at night. What was clear?
Let's start with Mary. It was clear Mary was pure. Mary was a virgin. Mary was faithful. Mary was righteous.
It was clear that Mary's child was God. Immanuel. God Himself with us in the flesh.
It was clear that Jesus will be the Savior Who will save His people from their sins.
It was clear Joseph was being given a tremendous job in the Kingdom of God. It was clear Joseph was to look after Mary and the child. It was clear they were to be in his home. It was clear they were to be his family.
"When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife."
B We don't know much about Joseph. We do know he was a righteous man, a godly man, a God-fearing man.
We don't know much about Mary either. We do know that she -- like her husband -- was righteous, godly, God-fearing.
This young couple -- by the way, do you realize how young they were? Girls were betrothed at the age of 12 or 13 already. Marriage happened at 14 or 15. Both Joseph and Mary sound so mature in the faith so I am guessing they were the ripe old age of 17 or 18. Anyways, this young couple, this young godly couple, accepted the will and Word of God. In spite of the problems. The talk. The gossip. The questions.
On this Christmas morning we rejoice Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. We rejoice that the eternal Son of God took to Himself a truly human nature. We rejoice that He did this to take up our infirmities, carry our sorrows, be pierced for our transgressions, be crushed for our iniquities, take the punishment that brings us peace, and suffer the wounds by which we are healed.
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