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Sunday, September 22, 2013

4 - God's Provision of a Savior [B]

Matthew 1:18-24 & Luke 1:26-35 by Robert Dean
"What's in a name?" Shakespeare wrote. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Listen to this lesson to learn the remarkable significance of the name of Jesus and how it was prophesied over 700 years before His birth. Find out the reason for His miraculous conception by a creative act of the Holy Spirit rather than the result of Mary and Joseph having sex. See how the adoration of Mary is related to pagan practices and how the title, Son of God, indicates that Jesus, although fully human, shares all of the attributes of Deity.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:50 mins 59 secs

God's Provision of a Savior
Matthew 1:18–24 and Luke 1:26-35
Matthew Lesson #004
September 22, 2013

WE focus now on God's provision of a savior. In the announcement to Mary in Luke chapter one and to Joseph in Matthew chapter one there is this emphasis on the naming of the savior. There is this confirmation in two separate instances of revelation. As the angel appears to Mary and then to Joseph he reveals that the child shall be named Jesus because He will deliver His people from their sins.

We look first at the announcement to Mary. Luke 1:26 NASB "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, [27] to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary." It is impressive to see how much information Luke packs into a couple of short sentences. He gets all the information there in a very economic use of language. We see the emphasis here, as we see in Luke, on Jesus as being from the house of David, connecting us back to the fulfillment of God's covenant with David. This comes in again in vv. 31, 32 where the Lord is emphasized as being given the throne of His father David. Then in verse 33, "and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."

In the hymns, Hark the herald angels sing and Joy to the world, the emphasis is on His being a king. In Joy to the world, it is easy to read it as if Isaac Watts is writing about the King reigning today. But that is a misreading of the writing. He is writing the message as it would be heard when Jesus was born. The King is here! The kingdom is about to come! And this is what would characterize the kingdom. Isaac Watts was a premillennialist. He believed that the kingdom was offered, that is was postponed, and that Jesus will not come until the Second Advent. So he is not writing as if we are in some form of the kingdom today, he is writing from the perspective of being there at the time of Christ when the kingdom was present because the King was here—not because the realm had been established.

We have the emphasis in the Gospels on Jesus presenting the kingdom, and of course it was rejected and postponed. So it is emphasized here at the very beginning of the announcement to Mary about the birth of the savior.

  1. The sixth month that is mentioned is the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is presented as a kinswoman, probably a cousin of Mary's. She is married to Zachariah, a priest. They are both from a Levitical priestly background. Zachariah is serving in the temple and an angel appears to him announcing that his wife Elizabeth who had been barren is indeed going to give birth to a son. That is going to be John the Baptist. It is in the sixth month of her pregnancy that this announcement is made to Mary. So John is roughly six months older than Jesus and is a cousin of Jesus.
  2. The announcement is made by Gabriel. There are two angels that most people think of that are named in the Scriptures, Gabriel and Michael. Michael is the archangel—there is not more than one—and seems to be given the responsibility of protecting Israel. Gabriel seems to be given responsibility to make revelatory announcements that specifically impact God's plan for the nation.
  3. Luke is a very precise historian and gives us a lot of intricate details. There are a large number of historical and geographical events that have been identified and enumerated in the Gospel of Luke, and Luke is dead-on accurate in every single one of them. He is an extremely precise historian and he locates these events well for us. As he is writing for Theophilus who is a Gentile of Greek background he writes to help him, so he gives specific details. He says that the angel was sent by God to a city of Galilee, which is in the north of Israel, called Nazareth. Mary lives in Nazareth and for some reason this was where Joseph now lived as well. Later we find that he goes to his traditional family home in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph are betrothed.
  4. Mary is actually the Anglicized or Latinized form of the Aramaic Miriam. What is interesting is that we don't find many Jews naming their daughters Mary. They will name them Miriam, the name going back to the sister of Moses, a very time-honored name. But Mary is associated with the mother of our Lord and a Latinized version of the name. 

Luke 1:28 NASB "And coming in, he said to her, 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord {is} with you.'"  The word that is used here is the Greek word charitoo, perfect passive participle, indicating that she has already realized this (completed action). She has already been the recipient of God's grace to her. She is taken aback by this sudden appearance of an angel. For all appearances he seems to be a man but there is something apparently different about him and something that is arresting about the way he addresses her and speaks to her. And so she is quite perturbed, confused. 

Luke 1:29 NASB "But she was very perplexed at {this} statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was." She doesn't really comprehend the significance of his saying and so he goes on to explain in vv. 30-33 the content of his message.

Luke 1:30 NASB "The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.'" Notice the double emphasis. We have the noun charis, the noun form of the Greeting used earlier, charitoo. So twice he is emphasizing that she is the recipient of God's grace. Whenever we see a repetition like that is Scripture we know that God the Holy Spirit wants us to really pay attention to this. God is giving her the superabundance of grace in the role that she is going to play in God's plan. It is not based on who she is or what she has done, it is based upon God's grace, His own character is expressing His favor to her. It is not because she is somehow special. The Scripture emphasizes that she is the recipient of God's grace, which is undeserved merit.

There is the Roman Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, which isn't talking about the virgin conception; it is talking about her conception and birth. Under the doctrine of immaculate conception she was born without a sin nature. That is very much a part of Roman Catholic doctrine and it has led eventually to the almost deification of Mary within the Trinity. We see this trend going on today where Mary is elevated almost to the status of deity, and this goes hand-in-hand with the emphasis that we see more and more from radical feminism in the way they are distorting the role of women in society in contrast to biblical teaching that both man and woman are created equally in the image of God and yet there are role distinctions. So in radical feminism women are being taught that the question you always have to ask is, "What does this have to do with women."

Mary is to be honored because she was the recipient of God's grace, not because there was something inherent within her that deserved special grace.

Luke 1:31 NASB "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. [32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; [33] and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."

There are several things to observe from this passage. First of all, that Mary has found favor from God. She is the recipient of God's grace.

Secondly, Gabriel tells her that she is going to conceive and give birth to a son. The emphasis really is on the conception because it is the conception that is truly miraculous. It was the conception that distinguished the life that was in her womb from the life that was in all other wombs. She is going to give birth to a son, and this also emphasizes the true humanity of the savior—He is born of a woman. This takes us to the initial promise, the first indication of God's salvation plan in Genesis 3:15 that the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent. So there is this tracing of this doctrine of the seed of the woman, the significance of the woman, the virgin, all through the Old Testament, leading up to its fulfillment in Mary.

Third, the son is going to be named Jeshua—Jesus—because He will deliver His people from their sins. The word "deliver" is the word for salvation. The full statement is given to Joseph in Matthew chapter one.

Then the angel says that He will be great. In Matthew 12:6 Jesus borrowed from that when He is challenging His listeners and the Pharisees: "But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here." This emphasizes His superiority over all others because He is not only true humanity but He is undiminished deity. We see in the whole story of the incarnation this emphasis on the unique conception and birth of our Lord because He is born as a true human via a normal human birth, but He is also divine because of the role of God the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, the angel says that He will be identified as God. He is the Son of the Most High, and later in verse 35 He is called the Son of God. Those terms go together. Often in Judaism, rather than use the term God they will out of respect for the name of God use a substitute word. Often today they will refer to Hashem, the name. And instead of reading the proper name as Yahweh they will substitute Adonai. Often instead of saying the kingdom of God there is the example of Matthew who uses the name kingdom of heaven. This is also true in terms of calling Jesus the Son of God. Another way of saying that would be the Son of the Most High, the Son of the Highest.

What is interesting about the name "son of God" is that in a birth narrative like this we might think that he is talking about "son" in a birth sense. This phrase "son of" is an idiom on Hebrew. It is not talking about birth; it is talking about nature. In Hebrew the idiom was that if you shared certain characteristics with something then you were the son of that something. Forty-two times in the Gospels Jesus is called the Son of God. That is not emphasizing that God gave birth to Him but that He shares in the attributes and characteristics of God. It is another way of saying that He is fully God; He is the same nature as God.

We see this is in passages in the Old Testament. For example, Numbers 17:10 when there is a period of rebellion against Moses. NASB "But the LORD said to Moses, 'Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die.'" The rod is "to be kept as a sign against the rebels", but in Hebrew it is the sons of the rebels. What that is not saying is that the rebels had kids and their kids led the revolt, it is that they are characterized by rebellion. So they are called the sons of rebels. Job 30:8 NASB "Fools, even those without a name …" Actually it says sons of fools. It is not talking about the fact that their parents were fools, it is saying that they share in the characteristics of fools. So when we see titles of Jesus: Son of the Most High, the Son of God, the Son of Man, what these are emphasizing is that Jesus shares in the characteristics of the noun in the genitive.

So Gabriel announces that He will be identified as being fully God.

Sixth, He will fulfill the Davidic covenant. "… the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." So the emphasis is on the covenant God made with David. The central passage for that is 2 Samuel 7:12-16. There is also another part to that in Psalm 89, which is a meditation on the Davidic covenant. There is a parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 17:11-14. In the Davidic covenant God promises David that He will establish him as an eternal house, an eternal kingdom and an eternal throne. That culminates in one who is eternal. Solomon was not eternal; he was a creature.

Mary is confused still and she begins to question this. Luke 1:34 NASB "Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?'" The word that is used for virgin is the Greek word parthenos which indicates literally a virgin. It is the Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word almah in Isaiah 7:14. 

Luke 1:35 NASB "The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'" There is something of a mystery here because how this transpires we can't fully say, although some things we know from biology to help us to understand some of the dynamics that are going here. But this is not a sexual event. This is a creation event under the power of the Holy Spirit.

The reason the virgin conception and birth is necessary is first of all because all human beings are born spiritually dead because of Adam's original sin. Adam and Eve were originally created without sin with a perfect, flawless nature. But the instant they sinned they became spiritually dead. Corruption entered into the universe and everything in the universe became affected by sin. Not just their own spiritual death but botany, biology, astronomy; everything changed. There was the beginning of the second law of thermodynamics—everything running down, everything shifting into a state of entropy. This affected the corruption of animals and of plants. The spiritual death was the spiritual aspect of the penalty on man, but then there were all of these other consequences that reverberated like a tsunami throughout all of God's creation. So every human being is corrupt, every cell in the human body is corrupt and man became spiritually dead and possessors of a sin nature.

That sin nature is passed on physically, exclusively through the male. Romans 5:12 NASB "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— " Eve's sin affected one person—her. Adam's sin was significant because he was the designated spiritual head of the race and was the biological head of the race. Eve is brought from his body. So when Adam disobeys God that is the determinative sin that impacts everything. Adam's sin nature is transmitted to all of his descendants.

Biologically there are some interesting things that happen. Every cell contains 46 chromosomes which carry the same genetic blueprint for the individual. These cells transmit all of the characteristics that make us who we are and they also transmit the sin nature. In reproduction it begins with one reproductive cell that has 46 chromosomes which divide into two cells of 23 chromosomes each. In the female the original egg is produced also with 46 chromosomes, and then it divides in a process called meiosis and throws off 23 chromosomes, which are discarded leaving a purified egg. It is that egg that with 23 chromosomes which combines with the 23 chromosomes from the sperm of the male that then produces life in the womb in a normal process.

But in the case of Mary there is not a provision of those 23 chromosomes from Joseph because if that were to transpire there would be the transmission of the corruption of sin via the male. So there is something miraculous that takes place in the genesis of Jesus so that God the Holy Spirit is able to fertilize through His creative ability, not sexual ability. The reason for saying that is that the Mormon view is that God had sex with Mary. That is not what this is describing. It is describing a creative event by God the Holy Spirit who is able to quicken the ovum of Mary so that she conceives and gives birth to a son who is without sin. He does not inherit the sin nature or the corruption from Adam. 

In Matthew we are told the story from Joseph's perspective. Matthew 1:18 NASB "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows …" It is interesting that the word "birth" there is he genesis. What does that sound like? Genesis. It is the same form of the word and can mean beginning, birth. Here it means birth, it has the idea of beginning, the beginning of Jesus Christ or the birth of Jesus Christ. "…when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." Again the emphasis is that this is the production of God the Holy Spirit; it is miraculous. This is the first of three statements in Matthew that emphasize the virgin birth. There is this statement and then the second in verse 23 where Matthew quotes from Isaiah 7:14, which shows how Isaiah 7:14 was understood within a Jewish context, that is was clearly talking about a virgin and not just a young woman of marriageable age. Then Matthew 1:25 states NASB "but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus."

Matthew 1:19 NASB "And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly." Joseph is righteous but he understands grace. [20] But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.'" Notice the emphasis again the emphasis on Joseph as the heir of the Davidic throne—"son of David." [21] "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." This is the emphasis in the synoptics: the deliverance from sin and that He will save them from their sins.

Matt 1:22-23 NASB  "Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,' which translated means, 'GOD WITH US.'" 

This was a prophecy given to Ahaz in the Isaiah chapter seven at a time when the southern kingdom of Judea, ruled by a descendant of David, is under threat by an alliance from the northern kingdom of Israel and Syria. They have asked Ahaz to join them in an alliance against the Assyrians and Ahaz has declined this. So now they want to come in and take him off the throne and replace him with someone of their own choice. In other words, they are brining an assault against the house of David.

There are two signs that are going to be given in the chapter. One the sign given to Ahaz related to the immediate deliverance, and then there is another sign that is given to those who are the descendants of the house of David, indicating a long-distance sign that the house of David will indedd survive. The way that this is distinguished in the Hebrew text is the second person pronouns, the "yous", shift from you (singular) which is addressing Ahaz in the current situation to a you (plural—you all) addressed to the house of David. Isaiah 7:14, the quote that we have in Matthew 1:23, is addressed to the house of David. This is a sign to reinforce God's promise in the Davidic covenant.

In the English it is translated "the virgin." There is an article there. It is not a virgin, not any virgin, but the virgin. That definite article emphasizes something that would be understood within the prophetic tradition going back to Genesis 3:15, the seed of the woman. "Shall bear a son" emphasizes the humanity of this descent. Immanuel—born of a human mother but identified as being fully God, fully divine. He is fully human but also fully divine, and therefore qualified to go to the cross as a man to doe in our place. But as God what He does has eternal value, so He can pay for the sins of the whole world.

Joseph is aroused from his sleep. He does exactly as the angel of the Lord commanded. Matthew 1:24 NASB "And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took {Mary} as his wife, [25] but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus." The point is, this is God's grace. It is God's grace to Mary and God's grace to the world to provide a savior who will deliver us from our sins.