The text for this lesson is Matthew 1:18–25.
- Just as the angel proclaimed to Joseph that Mary would bear an infant who is the Son of God, the Savior, so God proclaimed to us in His Word that this same Jesus is our Savior from sin and death.
- Law: “Seeing is believing,” or so we tell, or, rather, deceive ourselves. We live by sight, not faith in the divine Word. Worse yet, most often we see only what we want to see. We school our eyes to perceive reality as we desire it to be, not as it really is. In our own eyes, our own senses, we trust, not Christ.
- Gospel: God tells us what is real, what is true, what is trustworthy. He acts in a way perceptible not necessarily through the eyes, but through the ears—ears attuned to what God says. Believing is not seeing, but hearing, for “faith comes from hearing” (Romans 10:17) and is “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is in Immanuel, God with us, cradled in a virgin womb.
In the Jewish culture, to be betrothed or engaged was to be 90 per cent married. The other 10 per cent would be cosummated on the wedding night. Thus, when Joseph discovers Mary is pregnant, he plans not simply to break off the engagement, but to “divorce her,” albeit quietly (Matthew 1:19).
Matthew positions this story immediately after the opening genealogy, where David is in the forefront, mentioned five times. For this reason, the angel addresses Joseph as a “son of David” (Matthew 1:20), a way of subtly reminding him, and us, that in Jesus the promises to David (2 Samuel 7) are being fulfilled.
The prophecy cited by Matthew (Matthew 1:23) is from Isaiah 7:14, where the prophet Isaiah calls upon King Ahaz to live by faith, by first saying, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (Isaiah 7:9).
Discussion Points and Questions
- Joseph is described as a “just” man (Matthew 1:19). What is the response of this just man to finding his betrothed already to be with child before their marriage? Read Deuteronomy 22:23–24. What could Joseph have done to Mary, according to the Law? How does his justice coincide with mercy?
- Does the reason for Mary’s pregnancy given by the angel make sense apart from faith? What could have been the different reactions of Joseph to this news from the angel? Does hearing this reason by itself make Joseph any more comfortable with or pleased by this situation? What does give Joseph comfort in the midst of this situation?
- Compare the announcement made by the angel to the prophecy quoted by Matthew. What is most noticeably different about them? How does the name Jesus further explain the name Immanuel? Read Isaiah 59:15–21. How does this relate to the discussion about “God with us” and “Savior”?
- When Joseph woke from his sleep, what did he do? Did he obey all the words of the angel, or just part of them, or just the intent of the words? Or did he just agree in his heart, but then do something different?
- Before the visit from the angel, Joseph was considering Mary’s pregnancy and his options for divorce. The angel’s message nullified all of his presuppositions and previous considerations so that God’s plan of salvation would be carried out. What does this teach us about God’s plan for us in the face of difficult decisions and situations? Where do we go to hear the Word of God and the assurance that He is working out His salvation for us?
- What are the O Antiphons? What do they have to do with the announcement of Jesus’ birth?
- We have talked much about the name Jesus, and especially its connection to the name Immanuel. What is another aspect of Jesus’ name? See Revelation 14:1 and Revelation 22:4 for help.
For next week, we will be working through Luke 2:1–20: the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Think about the setting and environment that Mary and Joseph had to face traveling to Bethlehem and staying in a cave or stable to give birth to Jesus. Contrast what Jesus underwent to what He truly deserves in His glory.