Now the birth of Jesus Christ - This is not the birth of God, and Mary is not the mother of God, like the Roman Catholics would have you believe. This refers to the birth of the "humanity" of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has always existed, and there never was a time when He didn't exist. In the past He was not human, He existed as God. The birth referred to here in Matthew chapter one refers to Him taking on true humanity.
was on this wise: When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph - This refers to the mother of His humanity. Deity does not have and does not need a mother. Mary is not the mother of God, but she is the mother of the humanity of Jesus Christ. In Luke 1:28 it says, "And the angel came in unto her, and said, 'Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." The angel's announcement to Mary in Luke 1:28 that she was "highly favored" actually means "highly graced." Some might argue that the rest of the phrase, "blessed art thou among women" indicates her preeminence. But notice, it says, "AMONG WOMEN," not "above women." Mark 6:3 tells us that Mary had other children after she had Jesus, and even names them. "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" Therefore, it is very important to understand that Mary is just another human being that God used, just as He has used so many. There is nothing special about Mary.
Literally, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was this: When as His mother Mary."
was espoused to Joseph - This is similar to our modern day engagement, except it was a lot more serious. Under the Jewish system at that time a woman who was "espoused, or betrothed, or engaged" was treated as though she was married (Gen 29:21). And the only way a "betrothal" could be broken was through divorce. That meant that if there was any adultery or fornication during betrothal the laws of marriage applied (Deut 22:23-24). This meant death, and all of the woman's property went to the one she was engaged to.
It should be noted that Joseph was from the line of David through Solomon and Coniah, while Mary was from the line of David through Nathan.
before they came together - This means, before there was any sexual relationship between them.
she was found with child of the Holy Ghost - In other words, "she was discovered to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit." This does not mean that everyone in town knew about it. This means that only Joseph found out about it. Evidently Mary did not tell him.
Literally, "NOW THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST WAS THIS. WHEN HIS MOTHER MARY WAS ENGAGED TO JOSEPH, AND BEFORE THE MARRIAGE WAS CONSUMATED, SHE WAS DISCOVERED TO BE PREGNANT FROM THE SOURCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT."
When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, and knew that he never touched her, he decided to divorce her. But when he would go to the court and request a bill of divorcement, he would have to give them a reason. If he mentioned adultery, Mary would be stoned to death. So now we see the nobility of Joseph. A man who wanted to protect Mary from embarassment and stoning.
Then Joseph her husband - I want you to notice that before they were technically married he is still called "her husband."
being a just man and not willing to make her a public example - Joseph was a righteous and fair and upright man, and he did not want to make this a public issue. Therefore, he decided not to go through the normal procedures for divorce. It appears that Joseph truly loved Mary and wanted to protect her.
was minded to put her away privately - This means to simply divorce her without saying anything. In other words, getting a divorce without putting any reproach on her. Again we see his noble character. But the solution to Joseph's problem cannot be found through his noble character. Only revelation from God could solve this problem. And since the Bible was not yet completed, God's revelation came through an angel. The angel is going to quote Isaiah 7:14 and tell Joseph that Mary and her child are the fulfillment of that prophesy. Joseph was positive toward the Word of God and therefore accepted what the angel said.
Literally, "NOW JOSEPH HER HUSBAND, BEING A RIGHTEOUS MAN, AND NOT DESIRING TO EXPOSE HER PUBLICLY, DECIDED TO DISMISS HER SECRETLY."
vs 20: But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream - Surely Joseph needed God's help if ever a man did. If Jesus was really God's Son, then Joseph was entitled to know this truth, so that he might be just to both Mary and her child. It was in a dream, but the message was distinct and decisive for Joseph.
saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost - First of all I want you to notice that the angel says that Joseph is a descendant of David, then he tells Joseph, "do not fear." Fear is the one thing that neutralizes faith, and neutralizes any and all Biblical information you may have learned. So one of the first things the angel tells Joseph, is to "not fear." Then he tells him why he should not fear. "Because that which is conceived in her is from the source of the Holy Spirit."
Literally, "BUT WHILE HE THOUGHT ON THESE THINGS, BEHOLD, AN ANGEL FROM THE LORD APPEARED TO HIM THROUGH A DREAM, SAYING, 'JOSEPH, SON OF DAVID, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO TAKE TO YOURSELF MARY, YOUR WOMAN, BECAUSE THAT WHICH IS CONCEIVED IN HER IS FROM THE SOURCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT."
vs 21: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." The word "Jesus," comes from the Hebrew word for "Joshua." The words "Joshua," and "Jesus" mean "Savior or deliverer." This verse tells us why Jesus Christ came. He came to die on the cross. Jesus said in John 12:27, ".....for this cause I came to this hour...." referring to the cross.
Literally, "AND SHE SHALL GIVE BIRTH TO A SON AND YOU WILL CALL HIS NAME JESUS, FOR HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THE SOURCE OF THEIR SINS."
vs 22-23: "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, (quotation from Isaiah 7:14) 'Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Matthew is simply saying that the events in Matthew chapter one fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah 7:14. The Jews received various warnings concerning the coming of their Messiah.
(1). Isaiah prophesied three warnings to the Jews concerning their dispersion and the destruction of Jerusalem.
(A). The virgin birth: Isaiah 7:14.
(B). The unique death of the Messiah through crucifixion. Isaiah 53:9.
(C). The speaking in tongues. Isaiah 28:11.
(2). Jesus Christ also warned the Jews concerning their destruction and dispersion in Luke 21:20-24. Jesus actually tells the believing Jews how, when, and under what circumstances to evacuate Jerusalem, and how to avoid the great coming disaster.
(3). The last warning the Jews received concerning the destrucion and dispersion of Jerusalem in 70 AD was given by the writer of the book of Hebrews, written about 67 AD.
(4). Then Peter wrote to the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem. I Peter was written to the Jews of the dispersion. The dispersion began in 70 AD and continues to this day.
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ was just one of the signs given to the Jews to warn them of the coming disaster.
Literally, "NOW ALL OF THIS TOOK PLACE IN ORDER THAT IT MIGHT BE FULFILLED WHICH WAS SPOKEN BY THE LORD THROUGH THE PROPHET, SAYING, 'BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN WILL BECOME PREGNANT, AND WILL GIVE BIRTH TO A SON."
vs 24: "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife." You can see that Joseph was very positive and very sensitive to the leading of the Lord.
Literally, "THEN JOSEPH, BEING RAISED FROM HIS SLEEP DID AS THE MESSENGER OF THE LORD HAD COMMANDED HIM AND HE TOOK TO HIMSELF HIS BRIDE."
vs 25: "And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus."
When it says, "And knew her not," this refers to having a sexual relationship. In other words, Joseph did not have a sexual relationship with his wife Mary until after Jesus was born. But after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary lived together as any other husband and wife. Which means, they had a sexual relationship, and they became the parents of other children. These other children were the half brothers and sisters of Jesus. Again I refer you back to Mark 6:3, where it gives the names of some of the children Mary had after the birth of Jesus. They were the half brothers of Jesus.
Another passage that tells a little more of the story of the first Christmas is Luke 2:1-14.
vs 1: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." This refers to all the Roman world.
vs 2: "(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) This is mentioned so people can relate to a certain period of history.
vs 3: "And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city." In other words, every one had to return to their place of birth where all the records were kept. Today it would be similar to us returning to the county where we were born to obtain a copy of our birth certificate.
vs 4: "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
vs 5: "To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child." Here we see Mary and Joesph making the trip from Nazareth, which is in northern Israel, down to Bethlehem which is about 6 miles south of Jerusalem.
vs 6: And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered." This means, that her time came to give birth to her baby.
vs 7: "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." After Jesus was born, it says that they wrapped Him in "swaddling clothes." The Greek word that is used for "swaddling clothes" is the same Greek word that is used for "burial bandages." So the first clothing that was used to cover the baby Jesus was the same type of cloth that would be used for His body after His death on the cross.
vs 8: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night."
vs 9: "And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid."
vs 10: "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
vs 11: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." The phrase "Christ the Lord" refers to the Jewish Messiah.
vs 12: "And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." A baby wrapped in burial clothing was an unusual sight; therefore, it would be a sign.
vs 13-14: "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." When it says "on earth peace, good will toward men," this is a reference to the result of our Lord's work on the cross. It did not mean that there would be an absence of war and violence. Paul said in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, being justified by faith, WE HAVE PEACE WITH GOD through our Lord Jesus Christ." Thirty-three years after the birth of Jesus, and during His ministry, Jesus Himself said in Matthew chapter 24 that there would be "wars and rumors of wars" until He returned to set up His kingdom. So don't think that the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem was to bring an absence of war and violence on the earth. It was only the first phase of God's plan to establish His kingdom upon the earth in the future.
The History of Christmas
1. The date of Christmas (December 25th) was originally established by Jewish Christians because of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (which means "dedication).
2. The word "Christmas" came into existence sometime in the 5th century AD, when the Roman Catholic Church instituted "Christ's-Mass."
3. The evergreen tree was established as a Christmas tree in the 8th century AD and represented the tree of life, because it was always green.
4. Jesus was born at the perfect time in human history (Galatians 4:4). In other words, God chose the right time, the perfect time to take on a human body. God's timing is always perfect. Whether it is collective or individual.
5. Jesus is a direct descendant of David and the heir to the Jewish throne. Therefore he was born in the city of David, Bethlehem. (Matthew chapter one, & Luke chapter three.)
6. Jesus was marked for death from the moment of his birth. Mary even wrapped him in burial clothes after his birth.
7. Jesus was born in the place where the animals were born and raised, in a stable, or barn yard. At that time animals were used as sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem. And Bethlehem was one of the places that raised the lambs that would be used for sacrifices on the altar in Jerusalem. Jesus was the Lamb of God in whose own body the sins of the world would be judged once and for all.
8. The birth of Jesus Christ on that first Christmas day was not intended by God to create peace on the earth. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34; "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth: I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." The only peace that Jesus brought to this world was a peace with God that could only be obtained by faith in Him. Romans 5:1; "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." But world peace will never occur until Jesus Christ returns the second time to set up His kingdom. And until He comes again, this world will see war, terrorism, crime, and violence of every kind. And there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to stop it.
9. The birth of Jesus Christ on that first Christmas day was not intended by God to create good will toward all men on the earth. The birth of Jesus Christ put into motion the plan of all ages, God taking a human body, living a perfect life, dying on the cross for the sins of mankind, then raising from the dead and ascending back to heaven from where He came.
MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB
Mary had a little Lamb who lived before His birth,
Self-existent Son of God, from heaven He came to earth.
Mary had a little Lamb, see Him in yonder stall,
Virgin born Son of God, to save man from the fall.
Mary had a little Lamb, obedient Son of God,
Everywhere the Father led, His feet were sure to trod.
Mary had a little Lamb, crucified on the tree,
The rejected Son of God, He died to set men free.
Mary had a little Lamb, men placed Him in the grave,
Thinking they were done with Him, to death He was no slave.
Mary had a little Lamb, ascended now is He,
All work on earth is ended, our advocate to be.
Mary had a little Lamb, a mystery to behold,
From the Lamb of Calvary, a Lion will unfold.
When the day star comes again, of this be very sure,
It won't be the Lamb-like silence, but with the Lion's roar.
by Marvin J. Rosenthal
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Copyright 1999 by Robert H. Kreger. All rights reserved. Anyone is allowed to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.