Peninsula Community Church
December 23, 2012
God’s Gift of Family – From Humiliation to Exaltation
Text: Matthew 1:1-6 & Matthew 1:18-25
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
As we come to the close of this series, today, we are looking at the story of Mary and Joseph. Through this story, we are confronted with the amazement of God’s grace. As we peer into the lives of Mary and Joseph and the conditions that had an impact on the news they were about to receive, we see a couple that move from a position of humiliation and potential embarrassment to a position of exaltation.
As we look at this passage, there are few things that stand out to me. First, we find that Mary and Joseph were betrothed to one another. When we hear the term ,”betrothal” it does not hold much meaning to us. My guess is that we only hear this term when we read the story of Christ’s birth, but the term in Biblical days had great meaning. The term “betroth” or “betrothal” αρμοζο (harmozo) is a term that literally means to “pay the price to gain the right of possession.” The groom would ask the father of the potential bride for his daughter’s hand in marriage but to secure the proposal he was to pay a predetermined price to the father for his future bride. The price to be paid was based on both the groom’s and the bride-to-be’s status socially and economically. For example, if the groom’s family were poor the price paid might be in livestock. If the family was more wealthy, the price would be much higher and could, in fact, be several thousand dollars and possible property.
Once completed, the transaction attached the woman to the man as if they were married. It was an interesting transaction as it was often a period of ten to twelve months before they would be officially married. It should be noted that during this betrothal period that there was to be no physical contact whatsoever. While there was certainly social contact during this period, physical contact was strictly forbidden. Once initiated, the act of betrothal was legally binding and could only be broken in cases of adultery. Therefore, the breaking of a betrothal covenant required a bill of divorce and was therefore a serious transgression. When this happened the woman accused of adultery faced death by stoning if the groom or the groom’s family were to insist on this action.
It is for this reason, when Joseph heard the news of Mary’s pregnancy, he assumed the worst. His first assumption was that Mary had committed an act of adultery and had therefore nullified the betrothal covenant. Can you imagine the emotions that he initially experienced? I am sure that he felt betrayed and used. I am sure there were concerns about what people would say. It is easy for us at this point to say that it was no big deal because we see the end of the story. We must remember at the time he did not know what the future would hold. Even with these emotions, we find that he was a righteous man and instead of taking the legalistic approach to the law which called for stoning, he choose instead to exhibit a spirit of grace. Rather than see her humiliated and worst case stoned, he made plans to divorce her quietly and respectfully.
In the height of his despair, Joseph had a dream where the angel of the Lord came to him. He spoke to Joseph’s heart and proclaimed that he should not fear and that this event was beyond any one human’s doings and therefore would see a different outcome. This was a work of almighty God himself. He, God, had impregnated Mary through the work of the Holy Spirit. This was God’s child and Mary was to be the channel by which the Messiah would come. He would be all God and He would be all man wrapped in human flesh. He would be called “Jesus,” the Savior of the world. As we see in the account of Luke, He was to be called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” In other words, He would not be a distant God where man could not reach Him but He came low so that all men might have total and complete access to Him. He came to earth so that He could experience life as a man. He was totally human, but He remained righteous in all of His ways and did not sin.
Unfortunately, as we review this story, we are only touching the surface of all that is contained here. Time does not allow us to dig as deep as we could, but I would encourage you to do your own study to mine the gems hidden in this story.
As we have noted in our previous studies, I believe we can learn some great lessons from this story. The first lesson I see if that nothing is impossible with God. While it was impossible to be pregnant without having sex, it was not impossible with God. He is the creator and sustainer of all life. He needed a channel for His son’s birth. He needed a human vessel that would give birth to His son. This was not some sensual act on God’s part but in essence, Mary became the surrogate for God’s son so that He would remain fully God. He also needed a human mother so that He could experience life not as deity but as a human. So, Mary was given this most holy responsibility. As we read scripture, we now know that in the City of David the Christ was born to humble and yet righteous parents who were favored and chosen by God for a greater purpose. What could have been a humiliating situation turned into an exaltation of Mary and Joseph.
The second lesson we see is that God reaches out to people and includes them in His family even though we might not have included them ourselves. He has included the Judah and Tamar’s of the world. He has included the Rahabs of the world. He has included the Boaz’s and Ruth’s of the world. He has included the David and Bathsheba’s of the world. Now, we see that he also includes the Mary and Joseph’s of the world. Each of these stories teach us that Christ came to change our dysfunctions into breakthrough, our barrenness into fullness, our failures into forgiveness and now we see that God takes our humiliation and turns it into glory and exaltation. Mary and Joseph upon hearing the news was humiliated and wrought with wonder about how such a thing could occur, but we see that as they accepted the path that God had chosen them to take, they found favor with God. Why? It was because they were in the center of His will. The fact is in life we may not always understand the journey we are on, but we can be assured that God knows where you are and He will provide a way of escape so that His is glorified and so that you will find your destiny in Him.
The third lesson we see is that Christ has come to betroth himself to us. He wants to be our groom and we His bride. He wants us to live like we are married to Him. There will come a day when He will come to us as that bridegroom to take us from our earthly home to the home that has been promised to us. In the meantime, He has paid the betrothal price by giving Himself for our sin. He gave us His life so that we could be forgiven of all of our sin. We get to enjoy His presence, but one day He will come and gather His bride to Himself. That bride is the church. This is not the visible church but the true church that has accepted the price paid. What a price he has paid? He bought us from the marketplace of sin and has called us to Himself. He paid the price to gain possession of us or in reality He repossessed us.
How about you? Do you know that you are His? Have you accepted the price He paid? It is free and available to all who will receive this gift. He has come and we have been called to be His bride.