Matthew’s Advent Message: The Christ Has Come
Scripture: Matthew 1:18–25
Matthew’s Advent Message: The Christ Has Come – Matthew 1:18–25
PRAY & INTRO: Waiting on the arrival of a package (gift)
Let’s read the text of Matthew 1:18-25 with brief comments as we go to make sure we’re clear about some of the details so that we know we are rightly understanding the text, then let’s sharpen our focus for today on the unique arrival of this long-awaited promise.
Matthew 1:18 ESV
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
betrothed - Although they had not yet come together for the wedding and consummation of the marriage, this engagement was a legally binding one. So breaking it would require a legal divorce (which we shall see as we continue reading).
found to be with child - Based on Luke’s account of the timing of revelation to Mary and then her visit to her relative Elizabeth, she may be about 4 months pregnant. Imagine the shock to Joseph, and what he must have imagined about her unfaithfulness to their betrothal.
Matthew 1:19 ESV
19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Again, this would require legal action to terminate the engagement. Since Joseph was a just (an upright) man, he deemed it necessary due to perceived infidelity. But he wanted to do so quietly out of compassion and kindness, that she should experience less shame.
Matthew 1:20 ESV
20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Addressing Joseph as son of David would give weight to the significance of what is taking place and to confirm the importance of what he is being told to do.
For a second time this emphasis of conception by the Holy Spirit must not be overlooked. Not only is it miraculous, beyond God’s own norms for nature (an important emphasis in the nativity narratives—the uniqueness of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus), but it is critical to confirming for Joseph that he will not be defiling himself by taking Mary as his wife.
In fact, this is the express will of God that he do so, and has ramifications for how God is fulfilling his promises made to Israel and through Israel.
Matthew 1:21 ESV
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The name Joseph is instructed to give him—Jesus—is the Gk name Iēsous, which in Hebrew is Yeshua‘/Yehoshua‘ (Joshua), meaning “Yahweh saves.” What an appropriate name for God sending his own Son into the world to save his people from their sins! Iēsous or Yeshua‘—it is God who saves.
Matthew 1:22–23 ESV
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
This statement from Matthew and quotation from Isaiah 7:14 is central to his theme of fulfillment, so we’ll come back to it with further explanation.
Notice now how this brief episode about the birth of the Christ closes with Joseph’s obedient response.
Matthew 1:24–25 ESV
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Joseph’s obedience, that arises from faith in a God who keeps his promises, will be a key component of our own application for today.
This morning, I want us to ask two questions that we really ought to ask of any text of God’s word that we study: What is the author explaining that he intends to make sure that we know? And how should we apply that to a right response to God?
In the birth account, in the nativity narrative,
What does Matthew want us to know?
Doctrinally we should understand that Matthew is indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit as he writes this Gospel account (so that what we receive is revelation from God), but such does not remove the human author from the equation. (Said another way, what is the Holy Spirit communicating through Matthew?)
What does Matthew want the reader to comprehend, understand, see with the eyes of faith? He wants us to know that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah of God’s promise.
Matthew demonstrates how…
Jesus fulfills the promises, predictions, and even patterns of the OT Scriptures.
Just consider first how Matthew begins this account:
Matthew 1:1 ESV
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
The word Christ, calling Jesus the Christ, bears great significance, as it is the Greek translation for the Hebrew term mashiakh, “anointed.” The Jews were awaiting the Messiah, God’s anointed one, with great expectation of being freed from subjugation to their enemies, and of reestablishing the throne in Jerusalem and the great kingdom of Israel.
The genealogy that follows is important then because it proves the pedigree of Jesus to be a fulfillment of promises made in God’s covenant with David and God’s covenant with Abraham.
That Jesus was a direct descendent of David would mean that he could be the rightful legal heir to the throne of David, because God promised to David that the anointed one, who would be the permanent king, would come from his lineage. (2 Sam 7:12-16) [The fulfillment coming almost 1,000 years after the promise]
That Jesus descended from Abraham means that he can be the rightful legal heir to God’s covenant with Abraham, which not only established Israel as God’s chosen people and gave them certain land possession expectations, but the covenant also promised that through Abraham’s seed the whole world would be blessed. (Gen 12:1-3) [More than 2,000 years after the promise was made - see 2 Pet 3:8-9]
So Matthew shows that Jesus is the Christ who fulfills the covenant promises made to Abraham and to David.
We see further (in our text for today and beyond) that this Jesus also fulfills Scriptural prophecy, both specific predictions and typological patterns.
When we come to v. 22 that we read, we should pay close attention to the word fulfill and to the phrase associated with it. The Gk word means to accomplish thoroughly and entirely, understood as if filling a container completely.
This first instance quotes Is 7:14, in which there would have been a kind of fulfillment in the nearer context of the prophecy, but then Jesus Christ becomes a deeper and more complete fulfillment of such prediction. Isaiah’s prophecy found ultimate fulfillment not only in Christ’s literal virgin birth but also in His nature as Immanuel, “God is with us.”
Matthew will repeat this many times, often with the same formula: “to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet.” Although Matthew does this throughout his Gospel account, it is by no means unique to Matthew. It is a common feature of the Gospels and of the NT as a whole that Jesus fulfills OT promise, prediction, and pattern… so fulfilling God’s plan. Jesus is the Christ, and not for the nation of Israel only, but for the entire world.
In the near context, Matthew emphasizes prophetic fulfillment again, this time in a different way, as the magi from the east search for the child, asking around for him in Jerusalem. Out of concern, Herod inquires of the experts in the Scriptures, and finds out that there is prophecy from Micah 5:2 that messianic expectation marks Bethlehem as the place where Messiah was to be born. But because his intent is evil, God warns the magi in a dream to return another way (Mt 2:12), and he warns Joseph (in another dream) to flee with the child to Egypt (Mt 2:13).
Three more times in chapter 2, Matthew will show God doing with Jesus that which is the greater fulfillment of former patterns, or types. Just as God could refer metaphorically to Israel as his son, in bringing them up out of Egypt, so now God brings his literal Son, Jesus the Christ, back out of Egypt. “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hos 11:1, Mt 2:15)
Again, Herod’s wicked murder of innocent male children in Bethlehem, and the mourning it caused, was predicted by Jeremiah (Jer 31:15) and prefigured in Israel’s weeping over the Babylonian captivity. And like the attempt to annihilate God’s chosen people failed, so this attempt on wiping out the anointed one failed as well.
Finally, Matthew’s general reference to the Christ being called a Nazarene (Mt 2:23) seems to refer to a fulfillment of a theme in the OT prophets (plural) that the Messiah would be despised (Ps 22:6, Is 49:7, 53:3), hailing from a place that in his day was proverbially despised: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46).
So what does Matt want us to know? There is proof that Jesus is the Christ through clear evidence of fulfilling God’s covenant promises in the Scriptures, and of fulfilling prophetic predictions and patterns (or types).
Matthew also wants the reader to know that Jesus is the Christ by noting…
Christ’s conception was as unique as his person.
This is no ordinary man. This is no ordinary king.
The miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and not by Joseph couldn’t be more clear: “before they came together (in marital consummation), she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18), “for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20), the quotation of “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Mt 1:23), and Joseph obeyed but “he knew her not until she had given birth to a son.”
Secondly, Matthew is saying by this quotation of Isaiah 7:14 that Jesus is literally God with us. The second person of the Godhead, the eternal Son, became a man when he was conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is truly unique: He is Christ, the Lord. He is God with us. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Col 1:19 “For in him the fullness of deity dwells bodily.” Col. 2:9 You know what that word is Paul is using in Colossians? It’s pleroma, the noun form of the verb fulfill we discussed earlier. Jesus is the Christ, and the fullness of God revealed in human form.
Like Paul, Matthew want us to know: Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan, and he is the fullness of God revealed to us in human form.
From what we read in the nativity narrative, we see one thing more that Matthew wants us to know: what God was doing in Christ’s first coming.
God’s purpose for Christ’s first advent, and the work he would accomplish, was to save his people from their sins.
It’s interesting to note the deepening of this purpose, as Messianic expectation would have been primarily for deliverance from subjugation to Israel’s enemies (and once again establishing the strength of the kingdom of Israel), but here the thing from which we need most rescuing is the consequences of our own sin.
So God’s purpose for Christ’s first advent is different than expected, but also better than expected! - You thought you ordered a fish, but instead you received a fishing pole and a fishing license.
They thought Christ would come to free them from physical oppression and to make Israel great again under their permanent king, but instead he came to free all his people from the just consequences of their sin, and to expand those who are his to all tribes, tongues and nations, and to prove that he is the rightful king over more than just Israel—he is Lord of all.
Matthew wants us to know, and embrace, that Jesus is the Christ, the fulfillment of promises and prophecies. Matthew, and all the NT authors, want us to know that Jesus is truly unique: Jesus is the Christ, and he is Lord of all. And Matthew desires that the reader should continue to following along and see just how Jesus would save his people from their sins, and how we can be among those who worship him.
Just so, then…
How does Matthew want us to respond?
Matthew wants us to respond like Joseph, and like he himself has responded. Matthew wants us to submit to and worship Jesus as the Christ, by faith.
Respond in faith like Joseph, knowing that God is faithful to keep his promises, and demonstrating faith by obedience.
Joseph responds to God’s promise with faith in God. But how do we know that Joseph believes the word of God? By his obedience.
If God says this is the Messiah, then this is the Messiah. If God says that I must bear the reproach of society around me in order to obey him, then I will obey him.
By obediently taking Mary as his wife, Joseph was exposing himself to public shame, to a stain against his good name. But public perception about whether or not we are righteous holds no weight compared to God’s measurement of us.
-This is not to say that, according to the NT epistles, having a good testimony in the community isn’t important, that we ought to be above reproach in any way we can. But for our application, what Joseph does could be compared to our culture defining righteousness according to their own standards, and so they declare us as backwards bigots because we are convinced that it is never our place to contradict the command of God.
Our faith is in a faithful God who keeps his promises. And because he can always be trusted, we always obey him, even if we should suffer for it. A faith that believes the promise of God in Christ Jesus is a faith that obeys the command of God.
Respond in faith like Matthew, following the Christ who saves sinners, and learning to be like him and to teach what he commanded.
When Matthew met Jesus, he was already a social and religious outcast because of his chosen profession in Israel as a tax collector.
Matthew himself tells of the time that Jesus called him, from his tax booth in Capernaum, to follow him.
Matthew 9:9–13 ESV
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Maybe some of us are like these Pharisees, focused more on the external standards and ceremonies. But what takes place inside us, in the secret moral conduct of our hearts, we are all proven to be as unrighteous, as spiritually sick as these tax collectors and sinners with whom Jesus willingly shared table fellowship.
Matthew here gives us indication that, whatever limited understanding he may have had early on, he ultimately followed Jesus by faith that this one could save sinners.
The Gospels were written to reveal that Jesus is the Christ, Savior and Lord, and that by faith in him we can receive the full blessings of becoming his covenant people. But those who would receive such blessings must have genuine faith, I faith that follows, and submits in obedience.
Following Jesus means to believe that he alone saves sinners. Following Jesus means learning to become like Jesus, and learning to teach what Jesus taught.
In the process of being with Jesus during his ministry, Matthew and his fellow disciples would learn from Jesus how to be like him and to teach what he taught. In fact, Matthew closes his gospel account after the resurrection with Jesus giving these final commissioning orders to his disciples:
Matthew 28:18–20 ESV
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Notice that followers of Jesus learn to be like Jesus, to do what he commanded, and to teach others the same.
I also want us to end our thoughts and application this morning concerning Matthew’s advent message with something that arises from these final words of this Gospel account: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Where do we go from here, living between two advents of the Christ, the Son of God?
If you will respond in faith to God’s promise in the Lord Jesus, if you will repent of your sin, believing that Jesus alone accomplished what is necessary for salvation, and worship Jesus and submit to him and follow him, then you will be ready to meet him, whether in death or at his second advent.
And if that’s true of us, then we are already the saved sinners, awaiting the completion of our salvation as we serve him on this earth. Christ fulfilled all that God had planned for his first coming, and we look forward to yet further fulfillment at his second advent.
Let’s go back to our opening illustration and tweak it just a bit.
When you place an order, you might get this message: “Your order has been filled.” or “Your order has been completed.”
The work of Christ’s first advent is finished. Although his second advent is still to come, you have a proof of Christ’s purchase, the indwelling Holy Spirit whom God has given us.
We indeed live between two advents, but we have God with us, even as Christ promised.
And even as we wait on his second coming, we can know for certain, because of God’s proven faithfulness, that everything prophesied, everything promised in God’s perfect plan will be completed.
It is also true that Christ’s work is done, ours not done. So we must live intentionally like the Christ has come and is coming again. But even as we strive to serve him with all that we are and have, we do so with great hope and joy and expectation of our King’s return.
Perhaps you already know this, but Isaac Watt’s well-known hymn Joy to the World is actually a song about the second advent of Jesus, the culmination of God’s fulfillment and our salvation. You may notice it more specifically when we sing it together, particularly in the third verse.
And yet, it is an appropriate song for Christ’s people when we celebrate his first advent, because we confidently await his second coming with joyful expectation.
More in Christmas 2023
December 24, 2023Light to the World