Matthew and the Birth of Jesus
Matthew describes the birth of Jesus succinctly and factually: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way” (Matt 1:18). This is after he has spent time on the genealogy of Jesus, showing that He is the rightful King descended through the line of David. He is expressly called “the Messiah” (v. 17, Christ). Perhaps we hear echoing in the background the promise of God made to David that he would have a son who would build a house for God and whose throne would be established forever (2 Sam 7:12-13). Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of this promise (Acts 2:29-36). He was born to fulfill God’s promises. He was born to save. He was born to build. He was born “to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26).
Matthew also writes about the nature of the birth of Jesus. Mary had not known a man, so this birth process would not come about through ordinary means. Instead, it was a grand work of the Holy Spirit, and Mary willingly accepted God’s plan. This was fitting for the Son of God who proceeds from the Father, yet who is also the Son of Man in the flesh who would walk the earth, die to rise again, and assume His position as the King with power over all (cf. Dan 7:13-14). The way that this happened was in fulfillment of “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).” Isaiah’s messianic promises were coming about, and the power was of God, not from the feeble nature of humanity.
There is an important point in this account about the character of Joseph as righteous and concerned about how to approach this delicate situation. Because he did not want to shame Mary, he would act in wisdom and discretion to minimize what could have been scandalous to the ears of those who did not know better. Was this because Joseph did not accept that Mary was pure and thought that she was guilty of sin? Or, perhaps better and giving the benefit of any doubt, he did believe Mary and was acting out of reverence for God, not wanting to get in the way of God’s plans. Either way, Joseph wanted to do what was right, and God reassured him that there was a plan for him to be in the life of the Son. “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.” Joseph trusted God and took Mary as his wife.
Joseph was told that Mary would “bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The name “Jesus” is about salvation and highlights what God was planning from the time sin entered the picture. The disciples would later describe it this way: “and there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Yet HIs name was not just “Jesus,” but also “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us.” God saves and God is with us. This was not a mere human being exalted to the status of savior; this is God in the flesh, the living testimony and Word (cf. John 1). He is God and He is man, the only One who could be the perfect Mediator between the two. The Savior would be none other than God Himself. This echoes Isaiah again: “I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me” (Isa 43:11). John also highlighted the idea: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Joseph must have felt a tremendous responsibility knowing now what he is being called upon to do. He, with Mary, would be raising the Savior of the world. But there is no indication that Joseph fought this. Like Mary, he stood resolved to do the Lord’s will. “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” (Matt 1:24-25).
In one brief chapter, Matthew packs a solid punch in showing that Jesus is Savior, God, and King. Shortly after his birth, he would be visited, worshipped, and then taken out of the land to have his life spared. But no threats would stop God’s plans and purposes. Jesus came into this world through miraculous means to die, be raised again, and thereby pave the path for all of us to follow Him into the resurrection of life.