Monday

19 March 2012

"'She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel', which means, 'God is with us'." (vv. 21-23)

Background

Matthew writes primarily, to a Jewish audience well acquainted with the Old Testament prophecies, aiming to present Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah (Christ in Greek), and as king.

The genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 establishes Jesus' direct lineage to the throne of King David, legally through Joseph (listed as Mary's husband, and not as Jesus' father), and Mary (see also Luke 3:23-38). By including five women amongst Christ's ancestors, three of whom were non-Jewish, gender and racial distinctions are removed, pointing to Jesus as Saviour for all.

In verse 18, Matthew's Gospel shows that Mary chose to place her faith in God's word (Luke 1:35), and was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. As a result of her faith choice, Mary is known as the most blessed woman, to this day.

Verses 19-25 give Joseph's perspective of Jesus' birth. The Jewish custom of betrothal, meant that the couple would enter a legally binding pre-nuptial contract for approximately a year. During this engagement period the couple was recognised as husband and wife, even though they didn't live together, and any basis for annulment would require a legal divorce.

Joseph, when faced with a heart-wrenching decision, demonstrates integrity; love, compassion and justice, by deciding to discreetly divorce Mary. But God intervened by sending an angelic messenger to explain Jesus' divine conception, and saving purpose, to Joseph. His response was one of belief, and obedience to God's guidance, regardless of consequences.

Joseph fulfilled God's purpose by marrying Mary, and naming the baby, "Jesus" (meaning 'the Lord saves'). In verse 23 Matthew quotes two Old Testament prophecies that relate, to the birth of Messiah: Isaiah 7:14. Only Christianity announces a God who took on human form, suffered death and was raised again in order to save people from their sins.

To Ponder

As you reflect on Jesus' humanity and deity, what concern, or seemingly impossible situation, will you take to the Lord in prayer, knowing that he understands our human frailty, and as God has the ability to help?

Individually, Mary and Joseph listened to God's message and then acted in obedience. For what task is God asking you to step out of your comfort zone and trust him?

Bible notes author: Carmel Ieraci

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