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Dec. 5 2021 - Advent 2 - From Doubt to Faith

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately.

20 When he had contemplated 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, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

21 She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.“ 22 This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: 23 "Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel," which means "God with us."

24 When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, 25 but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.

Matthew 2: 13 An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him." 14 Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: "I called my Son out of Egypt."

Doubt to faith

I’d like to thank Dick for filling in.

We’re going to look at the questions of Advent. Joseph is the one who has no questions. This first line – Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened in this way.

Our question? What is Matthew trying to communicate in his Advent narrative? It is more than just an historical account. All of the gospel writers were pastors writing to churches. They weren’t writing a book to make the New York Time Bestseller. They were writing to churches to address the concerns of those churches – so it is an historical account with purpose. We need to ask – what was going on in those churches that caused Matthew to write his gospel the way he did?

Why do Matthew and Luke choose such different stories to include in the birth narrative.

Luke talks about Mary, Zacharias and Elizabeth; Matthew does not.

Matthew includes the Magi – Luke does not

What issues are Matthew addressing? How can we know? From the rest of the book.

If you were to read Matthew 100 times in the next six months, you would recognize themes, patterns, and issues that Matthew was getting at – giving insight into what he is trying to do.

Matthew is a very Jewish gospel – to the Jews – starts with a long genealogy – like the credits in a movie that you skip over.

1:1 – this is the record of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham… - like the credits – but Abraham, the father of the Jewish faith. David – the king of the Jews. He is connecting the Old Testament with the New.

He emphasizes Moses, Torah, and David. Moses was protected at birth. Jesus was protected at birth from Herod. Moses passed through the Red Sea (the waters) – Jesus passed through the waters in the baptism at the Jordan. Moses spent 40 years in the desert. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Moses received the Torah on the mountain. Jesus started his ministry ‘on the mountain’

The Torah has 5 books. The gospel of Matthew is structured around 5 major sermons of Jesus.

You can go to the Bible Project – introduction to the gospel of Matthew is fascinating and very well done. The churches Matthew is writing to has a large Jewish population.

There is this unique contrast of phrases and language used in the gospel. ‘Their synagogue’ – is used in a negative way… “The church” or ‘My church’ is a contrast. The Jewish Christians were receiving persecution from the Jewish religious leaders. These were not two separate faiths – it was a continuation of it. The Jewish Christians followed Torah, followed the Sabbath, and went to synagogue. But things were beginning to separate and divide -and eventually there was a complete severing of the two. The Jewish Christians were kicked out of the synagogue. Matthew is writing a defense of Jesus being the Messiah – so it was written to the Jewish Christians to encourage them to stick it out. It is also evangelistic – not only to Jews, but to Gentiles as well.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit

Next issue? The Virgin Birth. It was being called into question by the Jewish religious leaders. Many do that. Why? Science/Biology! We know science. That was not the issue with the Jewish leaders. They were concerned – that – Jesus is an illegitimate child; therefore, he cannot be the Messiah! We know what really happened – and Matthew was defending it – No, it was through the Holy Spirit that this happened. It was a work of the Spirit of God. Jesus was not born of the biology we know – He is a new human – a new creation – like at Creation – the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters – and the Holy Spirit instigated this new creation of Jesus – and now, the Holy Spirit enters Christians to make them new creations!

. 19 Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man

He was KNOWN as a righteous man. These were small communities. Everyone knew. There’s that Mary – we know about her! Everyone knew Joseph was a righteous man. He followed the Torah – Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy – just like the religious leaders did. He was just as good as those religious leaders were.

Jesus says that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees. Here is how Joseph did that:

“ and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately.”

He was righteous AND compassionate. True righteousness follows the law – and also the law of LOVE. Having compassion.

Matthew uses the word “Compassion” many times. Twice he quotes from Isaiah – I desire compassion, not sacrifice. When he says sacrifice, he is not talking about giving up chocolate for Lent! He had Moses write those laws! But He desires more.

If you love Me and your neighbor, you have fulfilled all the laws. Loving God; Loving neighbor.

Compassion and Righteousness are not in conflict with one another – they go together. If you are righteous, you must have compassion. They go together. You cannot be compassionate if you are not righteous. The priority is given to compassion, though, the Scriptures and Jesus make that clear.

When Paul lays out the fruit of the Spirit – the first is LOVE – and the rest are just results of LOVE.

If we don’t love our neighbor – whoever that neighbor is – Samaritan – you are not being righteous. We think we can be righteous and not love – we want to hate and still be righteous. Jesus took it to the next degree – love your ENEMY!

20 When he had contemplated 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, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

The question we have – what is he contemplating? Divorce. Yes – that is one. Another possibility – and maybe both together – not either or – but both and… - How does he divorce her? The law was clear that he should do it publicly – to shame her – in order to preserve his honor. He was allowed, by law, to divorce her privately. That is one of the things he is contemplating. Is it possible that Joseph was told Mary’s account of the story? Some would say Absolutely not! Just because how engagements worked – they may have never met. Others say that the angel is just confirming what Joseph already knew – so maybe he is contemplating if what Mary was saying is true. We have no way to know which is true – and that is a good thing – because it allows us to use our imagination and enter into the story and discover possible applications to our lives.

Joseph chose to be righteous and compassionate. Ask – in what ways might we find ourselves needing to choose righteousness AND compassion. Human tendency is to do one or the other – HE chose to do both.

How compassionate are you…

Let me ask in their context – it appeared that Mary messed up her life bad. How compassionate are you with people who mess up their own lives? It is hard! We think people are getting what they deserve. We know the truth – but up until this point, Joseph did not. He is still compassionate and righteous.

When the angel says do not be afraid to take Mary as her wife… He was not afraid of seeing the angel in his dream - because it is a dream – but in marrying her – the community would conclude that Joseph and Mary did not refrain from relations until they were married. Joseph placed following God higher than his reputation with others. How might we find ourselves in that situation? The reality – we will find ourselves in situations where people think less of us. Friends and family outside the faith may think less of us because we don’t live the normal lifestyle that others live. That is okay. We should live differently from the typical American. It must go beyond personal morality. There are many things that we must engage in that the world is engaged in – social justice – social morality – the communication of truth – (or so-called truth) – we should be involved in proclaiming the truth in social justice and morality – THE WORLD IS INVOLVED IN THOSE – everyone is doing that – with their morality and their truth – but we need to do it differently from how the world does it. We need to take our clue that that is not how we should do this!

People will think less of us for sharing our faith story. If we make that a part of our lives – it is okay if they think less of us for that. It is a good thing for them to think less of you for that. If you are rude and obnoxious about it – they SHOULD think less of you – not for sharing your faith story, but because you are rude and obnoxious.

People think less of us when we mix the gospel with stuff we are trying to sell – connecting the gospel with certain positioning – and I don’t mean standard

When we go to sins – and rail on this one – and think that one is not so bad… we don’t say that – we don’t acknowledge – there are sins we don’t acknowledge and sins that we rail on – we say – the unacceptable ones are the ones OTHERS do!

It is also a problem when we connect our political ideologies with the gospel. That is like making offerings on the high places… God does not like that.

21 She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.“

22 This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: 23 "Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel," which means "God with us."

24 When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, 25 but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.

Joseph did what the angel told him. Most in the Bible have significant flaws and failures. We don’t get to see that with Joseph. We, in our best moments, can be like Joseph. The problem is – we are not usually around our best moments. Instead, we see those with flaws and failures and think – well, maybe I’m all right after all.

The few in the scriptures whose flaws are not shown – you might think – that is encouraging! IF Joseph (or Daniel) could do it – so could I! Others see this and say – how discouraging – I could never be like them!

Daniel – when you get to his prayer – Lord, we have sinned against you –

The book does not say anything about his flaws – but Daniel knew. Look at Acts – We think we could never be like Paul – but he himself said he was the chief of sinners.

True righteousness is only found in Jesus. We must only look for it in Jesus – we will never attain it by ourselves – He has already attained it for us.

Let’s pray: Lord, we ask You to help us to hear these words that You speak to us. We would all desire to be like Joseph – that is our goal, that is our aim. If we were there, we would see his failures and flaws. Help our faith to develop and grow. In Your Name we pray.


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