Christmas has passed, but its message remains. To get one last lesson from this incredible season open with me to Matthew 1.
This morning, meet two teenagers – Joseph and Mary, that God had all of their lives! How does one who God has a complete hold upon all their life respond to some very stressful times? Watch and see!
Look at verses 21 and 23 with me because in those two verses we have presented the greatest truth and the greatest question you will ever be confronted with. First the greatest truth is about salvation.
Matthew 1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
First, the greatest truth of Christianity is–that the instant of our salvation, when our sins were forgiven instantly by the gracious work of Christ on the cross–we got all of God! The One who saves us is God with us! We have all of God in the person of Christ who dwells in us!
Then comes the greatest question that each of us need to answer this morning–does God have all of me?
As you open to this first book of the New Testament we are looking at the incredible spiritual maturity and responsiveness that God can produce in the life of a teenager. How many of you here this morning, are teens? Here is what God can do with a teen that He has all of their heart.
It was nearly 2,000 years ago that God spoke to this young, teenaged couple. They had been engaged for marriage since their childhood, by their parents. Mary was by all available data from this historic period somewhere between 14 and 16 years of age, and Joseph was most likely between the ages of 18 and 20.
Their lives up to this historic moment had been exemplary, in fact they were chosen by God because He knew He could count on them. Think about how many right choices Joseph had made at such a young age. He was not perfect, but he had chosen to respond properly to the authority around him—from the heart. He actually was an obedient, law abiding man in God’s sight!
In verse 19 Joseph was described by God as “just”. He was righteous as a young man of conviction. He had chosen the path of holding to his Biblical convictions and practicing self-denial. God knew he was pure, had chosen pure habits, and fled sexual sins. Those choices made him just the man God could use at this historic moment. And Mary was the same. She was a woman of the Word. She lived her faith, and considered herself a bond slave for the Lord.
In every story of the birth of Jesus there is mention of individuals we know just enough about to be amazed—Zacharias & Elisabeth, Simeon & Anna, Wisemen & Shepherds, and now Joseph & Mary. God has captured with His Holy Word a picture that inspires and challenges us. This season of remembering Christ’s Birth, join me in looking again at that familiar story of Joseph and Mary and Baby Jesus. But pause with me in God’s Word and extract some powerful truths by observing what the Scriptures reveal and imply about this amazing couple who were walking with the Lord.
Joseph is such a powerful lesson to all who will look closely. Joseph was willing to be obedient and obscure! Joseph was willing to obey even if he didn”t understand what God was doing with his life.
Please read the story with me again in Matthew 1:18-25 as we stand, read, and pray.
How can we apply the story of Joseph and Mary to our lives this morning? First seven quick lessons from Matthew that outlines the type of choices that please God in the life of a teenagers, or anyone for that matter who really wants to let God in to reign in their life. Why don’t you write these down as notes and ask the Lord to help you make these choices also for Him in your life.
- Joseph sought the Lord with his problems(Matthew 1.18-20a)
- Joseph listened to the Lord for His guidance(Matthew 1.20b-23)
- Joseph obeyed the Lord with his actions(Matthew 1.24-25a)
- Joseph honored the Lord by his obedience(Matthew 1.25b)
- Joseph waited on the Lord for His leading(Matthew 2.13-18)
- Joseph followed the Lord’s directions for his family(Matthew 2.19-21)
- Joseph led his family in the ways of the Lord(Matthew 2.22-23)
Matthew 1:18a “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph…”
- In the World of the Bible, betrothal signified more than our modern engagement. The marriage was almost always arranged by the families of the bride and groom, often without consulting them. A contract was made and was sealed by payment of the mohar, the dowry or bride price, which was paid by the groom or his family to the bride’s father. The mohar served to compensate the father for wedding expenses and to provide a type of insurance for the bride in the event the groom became dissatisfied and divorced her.
- Look at the wording of Matthew’s account. To us who live in a western culture it all sounds quite confusing. Matthew 1 records that Joseph is betrothed to Mary in 1:18; then he is planning to divorce her in 1:19; and then in a few more words she is called his wife by the angel in 1:20. But the relationships represent normal Jewish marriage procedure, in which there were three steps.
- Therewas the engagement. The engagement was often made when the couple were only children. It was usually made through the parents, or through a professional match-maker. And it was often made without the couple involved ever having seen each other. Marriage was held to be far too serious a step to be left to the dictates of the human heart.
- There was the betrothal.The betrothal was what we might call the ratification of the engagement into which the couple had previously entered. At this point the engagement, entered into by the parents or the match-maker, could be broken if the girl was unwilling to go on with it. But once the betrothal was entered into, it was absolutely binding. It lasted for one year. During that year the couple were known as man and wife, although they had not the rights of man and wife. It could not be terminated in any other way than by divorce. In the Jewish law we frequently find what is to us a curious phrase. A girl whose fiancée had died during the year of betrothal is called “a virgin who is a widow”. It was at this stage that Joseph and Mary were. They were betrothed, and if Joseph wished to end the betrothal, he could do so in no other way than by divorce; and in that year of betrothal Mary was legally known as his wife.
- The third stage was the marriage proper, which took place at the end of the year of betrothal. If we remember the normal Jewish wedding customs, then the relationships in this passage are perfectly usual and perfectly clear.
How can we apply the story of Joseph and Mary to our lives this morning? Go back to those seven quick lessons from Matthew about Joseph. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:
- Joseph sought the Lord with his problems(Matthew 1.18-20a).Matthew 1:18b “before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.”
- Just as the Great Creator God reached down and formed a perfect man named Adam from the Earth, so in similar Omnipotence God reaches down to make a perfect man from Heaven – our Virgin born Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ. “We could no more fathom such a thing than we can fathom God’s creating the universe from nothing, His being one God in three Persons, or His giving an entirely new spiritual nature to those who trust in His Son. Understanding of such things will have to await heaven, when we see our Lord “face to face” and “know fully just as [we] have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). We accept it by faith”.
- Are you ready to start growing spiritually? Then it is time to take that first step and seek the Lord’s help when you have troubles and problems. Are you seeking Him?
- Joseph listened to the Lord for His guidance(Matthew 1.20b-23).
- And just where do we hear the voice of God? Right here in His Book. He wants to talk to you every time you will slow down, pull off the highway of life, raise your antenna and let him speak.
- We found out when we rented a convertible once that no matter how badly we wanted to feel the warmth of the sun shining on our faces and feel the breeze blowing by us—the top of the convertible would not budge until the car was stopped and the parking brake engaged. God says ‘be still’ to know that I am God. Stop and listen to Him each day. Pull over, pull the brake and let Him shine into your life! Are you listening to Him?
- Joseph obeyed the Lord with his actions(Matthew 1.24-25a).
- It is not what you say it is what you do. James said ‘but be ye doers of the Word’ and not merely hearers. Take one truth from the Word and consciously do it out of love for God. Then another, and then another. That is what a godly walk is made of! Are you obeying Him?
- Joseph honored the Lord by his obedience(Matthew 1.25b).
- It is a choice we make to honor the Lord by honoring His Word, by obeying what He says and what those He has placed over us in life say! Are you doing that in your family and in your job? Are you honoring Him?
- Joseph waited on the Lord for His leading(Matthew 2.13-18).
- Nothing is worst than leaving the Lord out of anything we do. God’s leading must be waited for. We can’t rush Him, we can’t guess what He wants—He wants to make our path straight if we will just wait upon the Lord. Are you waiting for Him?
- Joseph followed the Lord’s directions for his family(Matthew 2.19-21).
- God has laid down the plan, we are just to obey and follow it. Do you know what God’s directions are for you as a son? As a daughter? As a mother? As a father? Are you following His directions?
- Joseph led his family in the ways of the Lord(Matthew 2.22-23).
- We remember Joseph because of these few words. They started with him being righteous. He was a man you could count on to do the little things God delights in. Are you going in the way of the Lord? That simple and well know verse sums it all up:
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Second, more deepening truths to live out as we also walk with the Lord:
- JOSEPH WAS COMPASSIONATE.Matthew 1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man,] and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. (NKJV) he planned to put away Mary privately. Matthew 1:19 “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly”.
- “The penalty for adultery under Old Testament law was death by stoning, and this penalty applied to infidelity during betrothal as well (Deut 22:23–24). In New Testament times, Joseph would have merely been required to divorce Mary and expose her to shame; the death penalty was rarely if ever executed for this offense. (Betrothals were so binding that if a woman’s fiancé died, she was considered a widow; betrothals could otherwise be terminated only by divorce.) But a woman with a child, divorced for such infidelity, would be hard pressed ever to find another husband, leaving her without means of support if her parents died”.
- JOSEPH WAS SENSITIVE.Matthew 1:20-24 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, (NKJV)
There are very few New Testament verses about Mary. It is likely that she was a native of Nazareth and that she came from a relatively poor family.
- Her actual name was Miryam. In English this Hebrew name is usually rendered by the spelling “Miriam” in the Old Testament and “Mary” in the New Testament.
- From Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25 we learn she had a sister named Salome, the mother of James and John (who therefore were Jesus’ cousins).
- From Luke 3 we receive her Davidic lineage. If, as many believe, the Eli (or Heli) of Luke 3:23 was Joseph’s father-in-law (Matthew gives Joseph’s father as Jacob, 1:16), then Eli was Mary’s father.
- We know that Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias, was Mary’s “relative” (Luke 1:36), probably her cousin. Those are the only relatives, besides her husband and children, of whom the New Testament speaks.
- JOSEPH WAS OBEDIENT. Matthew 2:13-19 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping [for] her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,(NKJV) Joseph was a leader in Caring. He was a protector of his family: he made decisions for the future of his family going to Egypt.
- JOSEPH WAS A HARD WORKER. Matthew 2: 19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”(NIV) Joseph was a leader in God’s order for the home. He was a provider: he went to Nazareth and worked.
- JOSEPH PASSED ON HIS TRADE TO JESUS.Mark 6:3 “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” And they were offended at Him. (NKJV). He was a modeler: Taught Jesus his trade and that took time side by side Mowing, driving, care for the car, finances, etc. Men just put some time in them each week.
- JOSEPH FOLLOW GOD’S WORD FOR RAISING CHILDREN.Luke 2:27-33 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to [bring] revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” 33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. (NKJV)
- JOSEPH LED HIS FAMILY IN WORSHIP.Luke 2:41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. (NKJV) He was a worshiper, he took them to the feast Joseph was a leader in godliness. He was a Maintainer: Proverbs 22:28 Do not remove the ancient landmark Which your fathers have set.
Let’s meet this incredible woman. Of all the writers of Scripture it is Luke who highlights Mary. Twelve of the 20 verses that name her are in Luke and one is in Acts so 65% of all that we have comes to us through Luke. So we need to turn to Luke 1. We will find out the qualities God admires in a woman. He picked her out of the entire world for this special assignment!
The Yeshiva in Zippori – There is an old Christian tradition, dating at least to Byzantine times that Mary was born in Zippori. Israeli guide, Yossi Ashkenazi, stated that evidence from Talmudic sources confirms this, and that Mary’s father was the headmaster of Zippori’s Jewish school (Yeshiva). The Gospel accounts indicate that the Lord Jesus was often called “Rabbi” by His disciples and other people. The term Rabbi was not used loosely in Israel; it was only attributed to someone who had received the rigorous training in the Law of Moses provided by a Yeshiva. The small town of Nazareth was large enough to have its own synagogue, but it was certainly not large enough to have a rabbinic Yeshia. So it is reasonable to speculate that Jesus studied at the Yeshiva in Zippori where His own maternal grandfather was the headmaster. This conclusion helps us to fill in some of the gaps in the silent years of our Lord’s life.
first, Mary a devout student of God’s Word and a godly woman was looking for jesus (Matthew 1:18)
- Mary listened to God. (Luke 1:26-28).
- Mary humbled herself before God said yes to God’s Grace. (Luke 1:29Who me?) No airs, no pride, just a humble troubled heart that anyone would even say such a thing. She knew her own heart, certainly God would to! She was Saved by God. (Luke 1:30lit. ‘discovered grace of God ‘) Mary joined the countless multitude who are heirs of life eternal by God’s grace. Her study of the Word led her to the open arms of “God my Savior”.
- Mary surrendered to God’s will (Luke 1:31-33) To produce within her body tiny hands that would some day touch lepers with a healing touch, to form a mouth within her womb that would speak the very Word of God, to feel the kick of feet that would walk the roads of Israel and spread the Gospel. What an incredible ministry opportunity.
- Mary experienced God (Luke 1:34-37) She wouldn’t even consider anything immoral. Instead she was surrounded by the Shekinah as God the Son entered her womb. God doing the impossible is what our life for Him is all about.
- Mary served God joyfully (Luke 1:38-45) She was a Slave of God.Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (NIV) Wow, what a submissive and godly attitude. I’ll say yes Lord yes to your will and to your way! All I am all I have all I’ll ever be . . . And off she goes to be a blessing, starting with her cousin who hadn’t told her the big news yet!
- Mary immersed herself in the Scriptures. (Luke 1:46-55) She Sought God. Have you paused to ask yourself how she did it? For starters, chew on this – In a world where Mary lived:
- Every drop of water was carried home by women from springs or wells in clay pots.
- Every ounce of flour was ground with a stone mill.
- Every loaf of bread was baked in an oven with a wood fire burning to heat it.
- Every dish was hand washed (remember that well, the pot, the walk . . .)
All this to say that, time was at a premium, what’s new right? But also, women were not at a premium. Jesus was the first to elevate women to their proper place. In Mary’s time they were close to being furniture. So her knowledge of the Scriptures must have come from either her dad who Luke tells us was named Heli (Luke 3:23 traces Mary back to Adam to show Jesus was Savior of the world. Matthew 1 traces Joseph back to Abraham to show Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews.)
Maybe Heli encouraged his daughter by exposing her deeply to the Scriptures. What a wonderful pursuit for any dad. Whatever the means Mary SOUGHT GOD! Mary was a woman about whom all we know in a practical way is that she learned her manners from the Word of God. Sounds like a good idea. If we were to look over her shoulder as she read from the scrolls and listened to God’s truth we might learn what made her tick!
Matthew 1:16 “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ”.
- Joseph was a great man in the sight of the Lord, with few details given in God’s Word. His father’s name was Jacob (Matthew 1:16) and he is described as a craftsman or construction worker (tektōn), which may have meant a stone worker or a carpenter (Matthew 13:55). The most important truth recorded by God is that he was a “righteous man” (1:19). Joseph is a clear portrait of an Old Testament saint.
Mary is also portrayed as a godly woman who was sensitive and submissive to the Lord’s will. Her response to Gabriel’s announcement says it all – Mary said, ‘Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
 Keener, C. S., The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament . InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill., electronic edition.
 MacArthur, J. 1989. Matthew. Moody Press: Chicago
 The Gospel of Matthew : Volume. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. The Westminster Press: Philadelphia
 MacArthur, J. 1989. Matthew. Moody Press: Chicago
 Keener, C. S. The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament . InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill.
 Keener, C. S. The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament . InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill.
 Tom McCall with Zola Levitt, The Stones Cry Out. Dallas, Texas: ZOLA, no date, pgs 59-63.