5th January 2023
Read (Matthew 1v18-25)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Unfortunately there is nothing we like more than a little bit of scandal. The aisles of B&M often echo to the sound of "Did you hear?" "Did you know?" "Did you see?" The Scriptures tell us that there is nothing new under the sun and scandal has been rocking communities from the beginning. The first man and woman sinned against God, their eldest son murdered his little brother and from that point on humanity has witnessed the impact of sin, scandal and slander.
It certainly seemed that our Lord's birth was going to be mired in scandal like so many others. A young couple called Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married (v18) but scandalously Mary was found to be pregnant with a child that didn't belong to Joseph. Can you imagine the talk of the town? There's nothing juicier than a betrayed boyfriend, an unexpected pregnancy and an unknown father.
I'm sure Joseph must have been distraught when Mary shared the news but even though not much is written in Scripture about Christ's earthly father, we see a little glimpse of his integrity in these verses. Distraught or not, Joseph was a just man (v19) and even though it appeared to him that he had been betrayed, he was not willing to put Mary to public shame. He had every right to shout it from the rooftops and to tell everyone about his disgraceful fiancee but instead he wanted to divorce her quietly and move on with his life. How often do we strike out with vicious words and actions after being wounded? Joseph walked the much harder path of gentle mercy.
As the story unfolded it became clear that Joseph had nothing to worry about. Mary's child was from the Holy Spirit (v18) and an angel explained to Joseph in a dream “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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (v20-21) Have you ever moved from despair to relief? One minute the world is ending and the next the sun comes out from behind the clouds?
Not only was Joseph's relationship intact but Joseph "son of David" was now being told that the unexpected child was actually the long expected Saviour. The child was to be called "Jesus" which means "God saves" and to this day in the English speaking world we still use the name "Joshua" which is the English equivalent of "Yeshua" or "Jesus" A name has never been more suitable than the name given to the Christ. Jesus came to fulfil what the Lord had said in Isaiah 7v14 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” Immanuel means "God with us" (v23) and today we confess that the baby given to Mary and Joseph was the Son of God born to die for the sin of His people.
Jesus is eternal but there was a moment in history that He took on flesh and became like us in every way with the exception of sin. When we speak of Christ we should understand a little of who He is. Christ is true God who upholds the universe by the word of His power. Christ is true man who is able to sympathise with us in our human weakness. Christ is sinless, spotless and pure, the perfect obedient servant who was the only one able to save us. We describe this as the hypostatic union - Christ is true God, true man, without sin and furthermore we speak of Christ's two natures, His divine nature and His human nature. His two natures are distinct from one another free from conversion, composition or confusion. What do we mean? Christ's manhood didn't convert His divinity to something less. Christ's divine and human nature didn't come together and compose some sort of mixture. Christ's divinity caused no confusion to His humanity or vice versa.
There was no scandal in the story of Mary and Joseph and nothing to whisper about in the darkest reaches of Poundland. But my friends it would be scandalous for us to ignore the glory of the virgin birth and the arrival of the Christ. God Himself stepped down into creation and this causes us to speak of the humiliation of Christ - the author of the universe willingly submitted Himself to the limitations of this world and the human condition, the King of heaven made His bed in the muck of this sinful world. How will you respond today? Let me humbly suggest that instead of seeking the latest scandal you instead seek Jesus. Behold your King! May every knee bow before Him!
Q42 What is the sum of the ten commandments? The sum of the ten commandments is, to love the Lord our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.