The Christmas Gospel 2

Advent is when we proclaim the gospel. What we proclaim is that Jesus is born, and this Jesus is the Messiah, the King. We proclaim, in other words, the King Jesus gospel at Christmas. Yesterday we pondered briefly the genealogy of Matthew, and today we look at Matthew 1:18-25 (text after the jump). What do we see here for Christmas?

First, Matthew tells up front that this Jesus is the Messiah, the word for King, and this very title evokes a long history now finally coming to fulfillment. Joseph is a Son of David, and this secures Jesus’ location — through adoption — in the Davidic lineage.

Second, Matthew tells us that God acted strangely: he chose a virgin who was impregnated supernaturally, with her engaged husband idly watching it all happen, and this conception was through the Holy Spirit. Joseph resisted because he was faithful to the Torah — and the strangeness gets deeper: now Mary has gained a reputation and Joseph has lost his.

Third, the Christmas gospel tells us more: this Messiah, this child as the result of a strange act by God, will save Israel from its sins. I’m of the view that this saving act is not simply personal, though it is that. It’s about the saving of a people by ending its exile. Jesus will liberate the people of God, and the one who told this story was Simeon in Luke 2.

Fourth, all of this is accordance with Scripture: the Christmas gospel then is the Story of Israel coming to its fulfillment in Jesus, in the big picture (Savior) and small picture (virginal conception).

Finally, the whole can now be summarized: the Story is about Jesus, and Jesus is God-with-us. Jesus is Immanuel. The Christmas gospel is a message, front to back, about Jesus.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yetdid not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,  because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Rob Henderson

    This divine transcendence carries within the message and transformation of the human person. Jesus’ life will come to embody what it truly means to be human: his life becomes my life to live and his sacrifice for my life becomes my sacrifice that I might have a life to live.

    This is the most wonderful time of the year. And “I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and His love. I love to tell the story because I know ’tis true. It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.”

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    I don’t know exactly what Matthew had in mind by verse 21, Jesus saving His people from their sins, and I wonder how the Jewish mind would have taken that. But seeing that Matthew twice references the Babylonian exile, I see how there might be a connection between that and verse 21. A passage that comes to mind is Ezekiel 36:24-25, where there is a connection between return from exile and cleansing from sin:

    I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.

  • Kenton

    Pigtailing on Jeff’s comment, I think it was Kenneth Bailey that I heard make the comment that the idea of “saving His people from THEIR sins” would have been scandalous in the first century. It would have seemed that it was not the sins of Israel that Israel needed saving from, it was the sins of the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Greeks(during the inter-testament period), and then the Romans.

  • http://www.abcwesterville.org Mark Farmer

    In my sermon on Matthew 1:18-25 a couple of Sundays ago, I suggested that Israel’s sins before the Exile were about idolatry, and that Jesus’ ministry suggests that it was still the case in the first century. The idol was no longer the Baals, but their own God-given religion. Paul added circumcision to the list of God-given religious practices that Jesus had relativized or negated (sacrifices, sabbath observance, dietary laws, unclean people such as lepers…).

  • gingoro

    “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”

    According to a recent article in the HufPuf:
    “The pregnant woman in Isaiah 7:14 is never called a virgin.”
    Our translations are mistaken in their translations of the word.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-joel-hoffman/five-mistakes-bible-translation_b_1129620.html?ref=religion

    Any comments?
    Dave W

  • scotmcknight

    The Hebrew term in Isa 7:14, almah, means a young woman who may or may not be a virgin. The LXX translation into Greek chose parthenos, virgin. And Matthew follows the Septuagint.

  • Tim Atwater

    Jeff and Kenton,

    As far as saving from their sins — isn’t this entirely in line with mainline Jewish theology from Torah through all the prophets?
    I wouldn’t think orthodox Jews would be any more unsettle by that than ‘orthodox’ Christians today being told we have to be saved from our sins.
    (so ok maybe we’re not so different?)

  • Tim Atwater

    PS — Scot, the dates above are interesting — are we experiencing time travel here ?


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