Going Deeper 12-20-19

The Gospel reading for Advent 4…

Matthew 1:18-25  18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. 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. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


We learn a lot about Jesus in this opening text to our New Testament, preceded only by the genealogy of “Joseph, son of David”.  (We learn a lot about Jesus in that genealogy as well… descended from both Abraham and David, and with three women named—which was unusual.  And two of the women, Tamar and Rahab, have ‘interesting’ stories… see Genesis 38 and Joshua 2.)


In our text, Matthew points out that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Now there are other stories of miraculous conceptions in the Bible, but none are described quite that way.  And while Jesus is therefore the Son of God, He is also to be known as the son of Joseph, who will play an important role in this story.


The name “Jesus”—while very common at the time—is very important, as well.  It means “saves.”  The angel points out that this Jesus “will save his people from their sins,” which would be both surprising and disappointing to those who were hoping to be saved from the Romans and the seven enemy nations that surrounded Israel.  The covering of sins was understood as being taken care of through the temple’s sacrificial system.  But as the "Lamb of God" Jesus came to take away the sins of the world.


Verses 22-23 also point to Jesus as a fulfillment of prophecy, tied to our earlier text from Isaiah.  This will be an important emphasis throughout Matthew’s Gospel, where we are repeatedly told “this was to fulfill the scriptures…”


Finally, Jesus’ additional title of “Emmanuel," which means, ‘God is with us’” is extremely important.  Jesus will be God’s presence among His people.  At one time it was understood that God’s presence was in the temple, most specifically within the “Holy of Holies.”  But as was later signified at the moment of His death by the tearing of the curtain—from top to bottom—which separated the Holy of Holies, Jesus came as the presence of God among His people.  And as we will hear Matthew quote at the very end of his Gospel, Jesus/Emmanuel promised to be with His followers forever.  And that, obviously, includes us.  What a gift!!!  Merry Christmas!


With You in His Presence,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."