Joseph & Mary’s place in the history of redemption
(Follow along listening to audio above while reading full transcript below…)
Let me review the great message of Matthew before we continue our study together. There are three great movements through the gospel of Matthew which are very easily caught as you read through the gospel of Matthew. One, which we illustrate by the arrow pointing downwards to the cross, we just call “the path of rejection”, the path of the cross, where humans and worldly wisdom says “no”. As you go through the gospel of Matthew the Lord Jesus is increasingly rejected. More and more as you go through the gospel this becomes clear, starting with His birth where Herod went on a murderous rage against all the babies, all the way up to when they finally put Him on the cross, the Lord Jesus was rejected. He was not wanted by man. He was refused and they said “no”. All the way through to the cross they said, “Crucify Him; crucify Him; His blood be upon us and upon our children.” All the way through the book you see increasing rejection of the Lord Jesus. The rejection gets deeper all the time.
The second movement is illustrated by the arrow pointing upward toward God and toward the will of God. On one hand He’s increasingly rejected but on the other hand He is being increasingly accepted, not by man but by God. He’s being increasingly approved of by God. God is happy with Him and God is satisfied with Him and God is pleased. As man was busy rejecting Him, God was busy approving Him. Through the gospel record now and then God breaks the silence with a majestic voice out of heaven, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. I have glorified Thee on the earth and I will glorify Thee again.” He is increasingly approved of by God.
The third movement has to do with the great heart of God and we illustrate it by the arrow pointing forward. We’ve summarized it in the single word “missions” or “soul winning” or “souls”. God has a worldwide heart and as you go through the gospel of Matthew you can almost feel it moving toward this end. As you go through the gospel of Matthew and Christ is rejected and Christ is accepted, you seem to be moving closer and closer to the great commission, to the time when the Lord will say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” It’s moving toward world evangelism, downward toward the cross, upward toward the Lord and forward toward the world and towards missions. The distinctive message of Matthew, over against Mark and Luke and John, is summarized in the word “the rejected savior King”. Matthew more than any book in the Bible in the Old and New Testament, presents the Lord Jesus as the King. It’s the royal book and it’s the book of the King and the book of the Kingdom. More than fifty times in this short book you have the reference to Christ as the King.
We need to be saying, “I only want Him satisfied.” That will lead to world redemption. The outworking of that kind of a life is souls, is missions and is evangelism. Matthew 10:24 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It’s enough that the disciple be as his teacher, that the slave be as his master.” It’s enough that we be like Him. That’s how He was and it lead to world redemption. Modern evangelism is so watered down these days, it couldn’t save a flea. We’ve gotten the idea that soul winning is a vocation. And if you take a few little courses on soul winning and memorize a couple of Bible passages and present a plan of salvation or a formula to somebody and show somebody their need for your product, the one that you are offering and then have them sign on the dotted line and fill his pocket with literature and send him on his way and if he ever needs help, to give you a call. That’s soul winning. Well, that’s how you sell a vacuum cleaner or how you sell a set of encyclopedias or an insurance policy but that’s not God’s plan for evangelism. That’s not God’s plan for soul winning.
God’s plan for evangelism is this; the message of Matthew. God’s message for soul winning is the message of Matthew. I’ll tell you, if you find an individual or a group of individuals whose hearts are set just on pleasing God, and to whom it doesn’t matter if they are rejected by the world, then you are going to find an attraction there for the gospel that people are going to respond to. The result when He was rejected and approved was world evangelism. If you find a group with a passion like, “Lord, we just want to make you happy and we just want to please You. We live to minister to Your heart and satisfy You.” That person will live so far outside the camp that his head will spin. He will be radiating such purpose and peace in his life and such assurance and he’ll evidence such joy of communion with God and his life will give off such a savor and fragrance of sweet fellowship with God, that he’ll be brilliant contrast to the world system.
The unsaved are going to flock to a life like that. The world is looking for reality and not a plan of salvation. They are looking for somebody or some group. It’s not playing religion; it’s somebody that’s real that knows God and knows that they know God, that are living in an unclouded union, an unbroken relationship with Him. They were created for fellowship with God and they know it way down deep and they hunger to see somebody who is real. People in the main are not interested in being cloned. They aren’t interested in being railroaded through some religious system and they don’t want to join anything. They are finished with joining things. It doesn’t work. They are tired of reading and listening to sermons and listening to tapes and listening to teaching and preaching and going to church. Their hearts are crying out for reality. They want to see somebody who is real and doesn’t compromise God’s smile, somebody who is living in union with God and doesn’t behave for personal gain and someone through whom the love of God flows naturally and somebody who is at peace with God and someone who is assured and walks in deep conviction.
That’s how Jesus walked and saw souls saved. The path of the King is the path of the King’s servant. If we are ever going to see people saved, it’s when we get our hearts set on the knowledge of God, “Lord, just please You.” They might not like that and you might end up on a cross, too. Just say, “I just want to please God and that leads to souls.” Soul winning from the gospel of Matthew is not a course you take; it’s a life you live. That’s soul winning. It’s a life of taking up your cross daily and following the Lord Jesus. I think this will make more sense as we go through Matthew’s gospel together.
Last week we looked together at Matthew 1:1-17, the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. For those of you that missed that, I think it’s a strategic passage for the study of Matthew. You may have that on tape and catch up on the study if you would like to have that. That brings us now to our new material. I’ll ask you to turn to Matthew 1:18-25. I’m going to begin by reading that aloud. So, you can follow along, please.
“Now, the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows; when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly 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 that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’ Now, all this took place, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which translated means “God with us”.’ And Joseph arose from his sleep and he did as the Angel of the Lord commanded him and he took her as his wife and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
We’re in our discussion of the first four chapters of the book of Matthew which we called “preparation for the King”. The way Jesus was prepared is exactly the way we’re going to be prepared. I won’t go through the whole outline of the book again. I’d like to look at these verses in chapter one by discussing four great facts which are suggested in these verses. Then as we tie it into the main message of Matthew, I think you’ll see why God put it first and why it appears where it appears in the gospel of Matthew. The four facts are these; #1 the virgin birth, #2 Joseph’s place in the history of redemption, #3 Mary’s place in the history of redemption and #4 the name Jesus, the meaning of the name. Those four things are expounded in this particular passage.
The virgin birth is first. Of course, the problem with such a passage as this is that it can become very academic very quickly. In other words, we’re dealing with the virgin birth and that’s a tremendous thing but we might handle it as a doctrine. If we just handle that as a doctrine, it’s going to send a chill through our spirit. It’s dead and cold and it’s detached. If you reject the virgin birth you are a liberal and if you accept the virgin birth, you are fundamental. Big deal! It’s more than that. It’s not just saying, “I accept it, therefore I’m a fundamentalist,” or, “I’m orthodox.” It’s possible to argue in favor of the virgin birth and miss the wonder of it and miss the tremendous miracle that God has done when He allowed Mary to conceive as a virgin. We don’t want to miss the awe and majesty of it. The virgin birth is important because it’s part of God’s great miracle of salvation and part of the whole miracle of salvation. We don’t want to just approach it like “la, la, la”. God did a wonderful thing in the virgin birth and He’ll never repeat it again on the earth. There’s great mystery in the virgin birth. Of course, there is great mystery in any doctrine of God. Sometimes I am puzzled why people have trouble accepting this particular miracle. There’s mystery in every birth.
I never saw any of my six children born but I’ve talked to some fathers who were there when their children were born and over and over again they repeat the same thing, that it is tremendous, “I wouldn’t have missed it. It’s an amazing thing and a miracle of God.” That’s just a natural birth and they are saying that it’s a great miracle to see a child born. We can’t comprehend what happens in a natural birth and when we come to something like this, we have to take off our shoes. It’s as easy for me to believe that a young virgin could conceive without a man as it was to read about Sarah, for example, ninety years old conceiving. That’s a miracle. It’s as easy for me to understand how Mary as a virgin could conceive as the fact that God could take Adam out of the mire and breath in him the breath of life and he could become a living soul.
I don’t think that the greatest miracle is that a virgin shall conceive. That’s a miracle and I don’t want to tone it down. I think the great miracle is this; that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. There is a big miracle! Luke calls it, “the holy thing”, which is the same Greek word for the Holy of Holies. He said, “That Holy of Holies which is formed in you…” The Holy of Holies is where God was and that’s the presence of God and Christ is called “the Holy of Holies” in Mary’s womb.
I read this statement by John Trapp and he can word it a lot better than I, so let me read what John Trapp said. “God is a mystery. He’s incomprehensible.” Now see if you can grasp this, “God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere, that He should be confined to a virgin’s womb.” There’s your miracle. That’s tremendous. God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere that He should be confined to a virgin’s womb.” There is your miracle. Then he adds, “It is to be believed and not discussed. It is to be admired and not pried into.” Amen, John Trapp. My heart responds to that.
We’ve got to come before this tremendous thing with great awe. It’s a miracle passage. Sometimes we scratch our head and say, “Oh, what a miracle – the trinity; three persons and one nature. That’s not half the miracle as the incarnation of two natures and one person and is God. He’s man and not fifty/fifty. He’s 100% God and 100% man; two natures in one person. It’s a miracle the virgin had a baby. It’s a miracle, who was that baby? There’s your miracle.
When you read Matthew’s account and Luke’s account there is no room for doubt. Pull out all the stops and believe it with all your heart. God did a miracle and it was a virgin. Mary was a virgin. The Holy Spirit was the Father of the Lord Jesus. It reminds me of that verse in John 4, “The well is deep and we have nothing with which to draw the water.” Oh, that’s deep! She was a virgin and His Father was the Holy Spirit. The well is deep and we’ve not able to tap its depths. We can’t begin to plummet it.
There are generally three reasons that the theologians give of why the virgin birth was necessary. The first is to fulfill prophecy; Matthew 1:23. Of course, when you are reading in Isaiah you’d never guess that was a prophecy but the Bible calls it a prophesy, so that’s one reason. The second reason we dealt with last time. It’s because it enabled Jesus to escape Jechoniah’s curse. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I encourage you to get the tape from last week.
The third reason is that the Lord Jesus might be born without sin, without the old sin nature. I don’t understand how the old sin nature passed through the man but I understand that’s how it comes into the person. So, Jesus was free from that. Whether or not I can explain it or not doesn’t matter. Jesus was perfect. So, those are the reason for the virgin birth.
Before we leave the point of the virgin birth… Of course, later when I get finished with the facts, I’ll tie it into the message. But let me clear up a couple of points that have caused confusion to the people of God. This is just information, not that you’ll be able to argue with anybody, but so that you’ll understand what is being said if someone mentions this to you.
The first is called “the immaculate conception”. Have you ever heard that expression? It sounds like, when someone says Immaculate Conception, is that what they mean is that Jesus was born immaculate and that means pure. But that’s not what that doctrine teaches. The doctrine teaches that Mary was born immaculate. The Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with the Lord Jesus. It’s the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that Mary was born without original sin. That started about the fifth century and they’ve been celebrating it ever since on December 8. They have a feast called the Immaculate Conception. I only call attention to that, not to debate it or refute it or to prove it wrong or right, but so that when you hear the word “Immaculate Conception”, don’t think Jesus. That’s not what they mean by that. They mean that Mary was born without sin.
The second thing I want to call attention to is the expression “the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary”. Have you ever heard of that? That teaching is that Mary was not only a virgin when she conceived, not only a virgin when she had the Lord Jesus, but until the day of her death she remained a virgin. She never had relationships with Joseph or any man. She was a perpetual virgin. In Matthew 1:23 we read that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” From this verse we learn that when she conceived she had to be a virgin. It says that a virgin shall bear a son. When she had the baby she had to be a virgin, nine months later. But what about after that? Well, there is the teaching called “perpetual virginity” and she remained a virgin forever.
The Protestant church has risen up against that and gone to the other extreme and said, “Not only did she not remain a virgin but she had a number of children after the birth of Christ. She had sons and she had daughters. Jesus had brothers and sisters.” They quote Matthew 12:46, “While he was speaking to the multitude, behold, his mother and his brethren were outside.” And they quote Matthew 1:25, that Joseph didn’t have relationships with Mary until she gave birth to a son. Then they quote Matthew 13:55&56, and say this is the dead ringer, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother, Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas and his sisters, are they not all with us?”
Let me encourage you, using this issue of perpetual virginity as my illustration, don’t get into debates and arguments with that which is not essential. It matters little what this or that church says. You’ve got to come back to this. Is there anything clear in the Bible? Is the Bible clear because we don’t want to be more dogmatic than the Bible is dogmatic. Many people are more dogmatic than the Bible. It’s amazing how God’s people have divided over silly things through the years.
I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the Bible is clear on this issue. The Bible does not come right out and say one way or the other that she was a virgin or that she wasn’t a perpetual virgin. The word “until” in Matthew 1 only proves for sure that Joseph didn’t have relationships with her before Jesus was born. It proves that. It might imply more but it doesn’t prove more. Then, to those who know the Greek language (I don’t and have to rely on Greek scholars), the word for brother and sister is exactly the same Greek word for cousin. So, when it says that these were His brethren, others on the other side will say that is a cousin and it can be interpreted that way. Even though this sounds farfetched, it’s possible that Joseph had other children by another marriage or it’s possible that his sister in law, according to the Old Testament law, did not produce with her husband and her first husband, Joseph’s brother died, and then he, according to the law, would have to give seed to that sister in law. There are many possibilities.
The question comes at the cross, if Mary had other children, then why did Jesus say to John, “Behold, thy mother.” Why didn’t her children take care of her, or something like that? The point is this. I’m not saying she did or didn’t. I’m saying that it’s not important. Don’t argue over such silly things. Stick with what is 100% clear. It makes no practical difference if she remained a virgin forever or not and it’s senseless to argue about these things.
It grieves me sometimes when the Bible is not clear on something and then someone stands up and dogmatically takes a rugged stand, “The Bible says so and so.” Be sure that the Bible says something before you take a stand on it because when you take a stand on a weak verse, a weak proof text, you automatically weaken all the strong texts and weaken all your other arguments. If they can’t trust you for the weak things, then they are never going to trust you for the strong things. Let’s not argue about that. I just want you to understand what that Immaculate Conception was and what perpetual virginity is, but it’s of no real importance.
So far, my comments are these. The virgin birth is a great mystery and a great miracle and it’s necessary to fulfill prophesy and necessary to escape the curse of Jeconiah and necessary to escape the old sin nature.
Let’s begin the second fact. What is Joseph’s place in the history of redemption? What is Joseph’s contribution? What part does Joseph play in the history of redemption? I hate to keep referring back to this but last week we answered that quite thoroughly. So, I don’t want to spend a lot of time. Let me just state it for you. As you know, the Bible is not a record of everything. It’s only a record of those things that tie into the history of redemption. We don’t know anything about the death of Joseph or death of Mary or the death of the apostle Paul. It’s not important. It might be interesting and I’d like to know what happened but He doesn’t tell us because it’s not important. The Holy Spirit intentionally selects that which ties into redemption. Joseph’s contribution is this; He provided Christ with the legal right to David’s throne. That was his whole contribution. He was in the line, so that the Lord Jesus could have a legal right to the throne of David. That was his great ministry; He was born in the right family.
In this regard, let me point out that things haven’t changed too much through the years. We have such exaggerated views of ourselves and such exaggerated views of Christian service. We think we’re really accomplishing something for the Lord and for His kingdom. Your real ministry, that is, the part your life plays in the history of redemption might only amount to about fifteen minutes out of your entire life, if that. Exactly so! It might be that one word you spoke to one person along the way. God might have used your whole life to prepare you to say one thing to one person and then He’ll take it from there and use that person. That’s your part in the history of redemption. You might have influenced somebody that you didn’t know you influenced and it’s for that reason that God brought you through the path He brought you and engineered your circumstances as He did. All of life is preparation. You will never know your part in the history of redemption. That’s the foolishness of making the will of God a vocation. Don’t go after the will of God. Go after God whose will it is and then in the history of redemption you’ll be there and available when God wants to use you for His purposes. That’s the great message that He wants us to have.
We’re all going to get it wrong. You are going to look at your life and say, “This is where God is going to use me and that is where God is going to use me and this is where God used me and these Bible studies are my great ministry.” It is not! We can’t begin to know how God is using them and it’s probably in some way that we wouldn’t guess in a million years. We’re going to be all very surprised, I think, at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Now we’re going to hand out gifts for missions.” Then all the missionaries are going to stand up. Then the Lord is going to say, “Sit down missionaries. I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about that wash woman and that mother and that husband and that person who labored in the mental institute. Come on, you get the missionary rewards.”
Then the Lord says, “Now the preacher rewards.” And then all the preachers stand up and He says, “Sit down, preachers.” We don’t know how God is using us in the history of redemption. Joseph’s place in God’s plan was that he was born in the right family at the right time. That blind man in John 9. What was his place in the history of redemption? God said to the disciples, “For the glory of God he was born blind.” He grew up all his life blind. One day he cried out, ‘Have mercy on me.’ ‘Once I was blind and now I see.’” He made his way into the Bible and thousands have come to Christ through him because he said, “Help.” And because he cried out, “Have mercy on me.” That was his place in the history of redemption and only eternity will reveal how many souls came to Christ because he cried “help”.
Look at that thief upon the cross. What was his place in the history of redemption? He trusted in the Lord. Coffer writes a song, “There is a fountain filled with blood.” He includes in that song the story of the thief and thousands sing the song, “You can’t begin to trace your part in the history of redemption.” I don’t know how full heaven is going to be because the thief said yes to Jesus. It’s an amazing thing! So, don’t try to be greatly used of God. You just enjoy the Lord and lay hold of the Lord and then when He is ready to put you in your place (everybody has a place in the history of redemption)…. Joseph’s place was to provide the legal right for the throne.
Have you ever noticed Eve’s words when she had her first baby? Genesis 4:1. What is Mary’s place in the history of redemption? “Now the man had relations with his wife, Eve. She conceived and gave birth to Cain and she said, ‘I have gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.’” In the margin it doesn’t say, “With the help of the Lord.” It says, “I have gotten a man, the Lord.” All through history women treasured the hope that they would mother the Messiah, that they would be the woman that would bring the seed into the world that would crush the serpent’s head. When Eve had Cain she said, “I’ve gotten a man, the Lord.” She thought she was mothering the Messiah. She thought Cain would be the Messiah. It didn’t take long to convince her otherwise. The character of Cain showed how deceived she was.
All through the record you see this Messianic hope. These women were just longing that they would be the ones that would bring Messiah into the world. J. Sidlow Baxter claims that God, through this, kept Satan constantly worried because he never knew… Every time a baby boy was born Satan had to sweat because he never knew which one would be the Christ. I don’t know if that is true or not but I know this; that privilege of mothering Messiah was reserved for one and her name was Mary. What was Mary’s place in the history of redemption?
I believe it can be summarized in these words, “Mary gave Christ to the world.” That was her place in the history of redemption, to give Christ to the world. Before I expound on that a little bit, let me just clear the air of one other misstatement. On one extreme Mary is exalted far beyond what the Bible warrants. She’s even worshipped by some. On the other extreme she’s ignored because the pendulum swings the other way. We don’t want to overdo it, so we under do it. She is minimized and her unique role in God’s redemptive purposes is watered down. We want to give Mary her place in the history of redemption but we don’t want to give her a place that God has not given her.
In this regard be careful of the expression “mother of God”. The Lord Jesus is without a father as a man and he’s without a mother as God. Mary is not the mother of God. Mary is the mother of Jesus, the man. She’s not the mother of God. To call Mary the mother of God goes far beyond the Bible record and it exalts her and diminishes Him.
To catch the wonder of Mary’s rightful place in the history of redemption, let me state it very clearly so that you know what I’m talking about and say it this way, Mary is a type of the church. Mary is a picture of the church. She is an illustration of the church. Mary brought Christ into the world the same way the church is to bring Christ into the world.
Let me make it as a statement and then break it down for you, in order to illustrate it. How did Mary fulfill her place in redemption? How did she give Christ to the world? Listen to this statement, every part has a meaning. It was by a unique relationship with God. The Holy Spirit formed Christ within her and then in the fullness of time she automatically produced Christ for others. Did you follow that? Listen again. By a unique relationship with God, the Holy Spirit formed Christ within her and in the fullness of time she automatically gave Christ for others.
I don’t believe I’m reading in a syllable of what the Holy Spirit has intended in the Bible. What she experienced in fact, we experience in principle. It’s exactly the same thing. By a unique relationship with God, the Holy Spirit forms Christ within us and in the fullness of time He is automatically produced for others. That’s exactly the way God does it now! This is a million light years removed from legal evangelism. Mary is God’s picture. It’s not an effort to give Christ to the world. It’s not a struggle to get the gospel out. It’s not a burden. People talk about a “burden for souls”. I want to see this “burden for souls” in the Bible. It’s not in there; this great responsibility to win our generation for Christ. We need to learn from Mary that God is looking for a people that will have a unique relationship with Him, in order that the Holy Spirit might produce Christ in us, so that in the fullness of time we naturally will produce Christ for others.
Today we’re so busy trying to work for Him, we really give Him very little quality time of enjoyment and no time to fellowship with Him and to experience the wedded bliss of intimacy with God. Who knows God personally these days? “I’ll serve Him. Let’s get active and let’s get involved in a program and let’s do this and that.” The church today is anemic. It’s not knowing God. The church is so busy trying to give Christ to the world that they’ve missed the method of how to give Christ to the world. “We’ve got to give Christ to the world. Let’s saturate the airwaves. We’ve got to get the gospel out. Let’s the flood the neighborhood with literature and let’s get the gospel out. Let’s weave Jesus into every conversation and let’s not lose any opportunity. Let’s finance heavily all the works of missions throughout the world,” and a million and one other programs. We crusade people to death. We mobilize and saturate and infiltrate and testify. We witness and preach and teach and sing and write and we hold prayer meetings and plays and parades and all kinds of conferences and breakfasts and councils and everything else and big strategy meetings, “We’ve got to give Christ to the world.”
Who is having a unique relationship with God? That’s how Mary gave Christ to the world and that is how the church is to give Christ to the world; by a unique relationship with God, the Holy Spirit forms Christ within us and within the fullness of time He is born and He is produced and the world sees Him. That was Paul’s great burden for the Christians when he wrote to the Galatian Christians, Galatians 4:19, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” That was his burden; “Why isn’t Christ being formed in you?” Paul saw the way to give Christ to the world, to have people in a relationship with God and the Spirit formed Christ in them.
As fundamental, evangelical, Bible believing (throw all the words together that you want), I say we need to get a good look at Mary. Does that sound off-centered? It’s not off-centered. We need to get a good look at Mary and see her place in the history of redemption. She’s God’s picture of the church, not to venerate or exalt her or, God forbid, to worship her. We need to look at Mary to see her contribution and to see how she gave Christ to the world, in order that we might learn from her. We need to get our eyes off the world and we need to get our eyes off soul winning and we need to get our eyes off of evangelism and we need to get our eyes off missions. You aren’t going to hear a lot of people say that without hemming and hawing and turning red in the face. But I’ll tell you that it’s the truth of God. We need to stop looking to by-products and begin looking to the Lord in order that we might have those by-products that our hearts long for. We’ve completely missed the boat as far as soul winning is concerned.
Even on the level of earth it’s true. All of my beautiful six children came as a result of a very personal and a very wonderful, very intimate and very private relationship with my wife. That’s how children are born on earth; through relationship. That’s God’s picture. You might say, “I want souls.” Then get into a relationship with God and you’ll be beating them off with a broom handle. Once you begin to live in that union, they are going to be attracted to that. They’ll want that. Children are a natural outworking of that relationship. If God’s people would get into a relationship with God and allow the Spirit of God to form Christ in them, in due time there would be fruit.
Before looking at fact #4, let me take those first three facts; the virgin birth, Joseph’s place in the history of redemption and Mary’s place in the history of redemption, and tie it into the message of Matthew. Why does God put it first? Why does God put it here? Why is it in Matthew? What is He trying to teach through these particular facts? I believe the message of Mary and Joseph is the message of Matthew; downward to the cross, upward to divine approval and forward to missions. Let me illustrate how that is so.
I’m going to speak to you very plainly but if you read this thing with an open mind, you know there is a brand of infamy in this whole story. This was a tremendous fix that Joseph was in. Just read it as you would read any story. He was betrothed to a young woman, which according to Deuteronomy 22 was a very, very precious relationship. It’s what we know as “engagement”. It’s was a lot stronger than engagement. We can break engagements easy, just by mutual agreement, “Just give me back my ring,” and it’s all over. That’s how we break engagements.
You couldn’t break the betrothal that way. That’s why Matthew 1:19 in the margin says, “Joseph was ready to write a divorce.” Once you got engaged, that was just as solid as our marriage is and to break an engagement in Bible times, you needed to have a divorce. It was a legal thing and it took a legal divorce to break an engagement. If a woman was unfaithful during the betrothal, according to Deuteronomy 13, she was to be stoned to death at the door of her own house.
Just be honest. What do you think was going through Joseph’s mind when his young wife to be showed up three months pregnant? She went to Elizabeth’s house and he didn’t see her for the three months after her conception. Then he “found her to be of child” three months later. I’ll tell you, he had an awful problem. He wrestled with the glory of God and I’m sure he wrestled with the peace in his own conscience and he wrestled with the credit of Mary because he loved the girl. Finally God broke in Matthew 1:20, “When he had considered this, behold, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. That which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.’”
Even after this it was a path of rejection. Look at Mary’s position. Who in the world would believe the story, “I’m carrying God’s baby.” Seriously, think about that. That had a stigma with it. It was a path of rejection. It could not be hidden. When Joseph married Mary, there was a big ceremony taking place. When you went from betrothal to marriage in those days, it was really something. A formal ratification of the betrothal had to take place and there had to be a public benediction by the priest. There was what was called “the wedding feast” which lasted several days. This was a public thing.
This was a public disgrace, that people could only think on the level of earth that one of two things was true; Mary and Joseph couldn’t wait until they were married to have relationships or else it was not Joseph’s baby, but Mary was carrying someone else’s baby. That stigma never left. It was a path of rejection. Right from the start it was a path of rejection. Even during the ministry of the Lord Jesus and now that he was grown up and he was teaching the Pharisees the need to be spiritual children of Abraham, and do you know what they said to Him? “We’re not born of fornication.” That’s the same as to say, “Look at your own background, Jesus.” That never left Him. All through His life they couldn’t shake that. He was accused of being born out of wedlock.
Look at it closely. They were innocent. They were right. Mary was a holy virgin and when the angel finally came, Luke 1:31, Gabriel came and he came with this word, “Mary, you have found favor with God. You have been approved by God. God is happy and God is satisfied.” And then he said, “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.” That’s this.
It’s true of Joseph, as well. Matthew 1:19 calls Joseph a “righteous man”. God was pleased. God was happy. Everything was very right. Mary’s heart was so submissive. When she heard of God’s plan and God’s purposes, she responded in Luke 1:38, “Behold, the bond slave of the Lord! Be it done unto me, even according to Your word.” They were both approved of God. But I’ll tell you, there wasn’t a way on earth they could explain that to men. There was no words on earth that could ever convince one human being that what they were saying was the truth. Whatever they said and whatever words they chose, however they tried to explain it, was absolutely useless and just dug the hole deeper. They were rejected on the earth. There’s absolutely no human explanation for what was happening.
That’s the great message of Matthew. They were approved of God and they were rejected by man but after a while they gave Christ to the world. That’s why he starts there. It’s the whole message of Matthew in a little picture, in a little symbol. The more you go on in the true message of God, the deeper you are going to enter in your own life into the message of Matthew, and the more God (now, see if you can understand what I’m saying) is going to put you in the shoes of Mary and Joseph. You’ll surrender to the Lord and you’ll say, “Be it done unto your bond servant, just as You’ve said. Do according to Your will, Lord.” You’ll be approved of God and God will be happy and there is no way that you can explain it on the earth. I don’t care what words you use or how you defend yourself or how you try to vindicate yourself, there’s no way they are going to understand it.
And I’m not only talking about the enemies on the earth. I’m talking about God’s people. They will not comprehend. You will be misunderstood and you will be misinterpreted and you will be misread and you’ll be called an enemy. The more you line up with Him, the more you are going to be held in suspicion. Your truest feelings, your purest directions, your most sincere heart, and everything you want to do for the Lord and in line with the Lord and because you are the Lord’s, is going to be misunderstood and there is no way you can defend it. Nothing you can say. You are going to be accused of being an enemy. They’ll say that you are against the local church and that you are against missions and that you don’t believe in soul winning, and your heart could be pounding with the true message of how to give Christ to the world. They will not be able to understand it.
When you say, “Don’t go out and beat your head against a stone and win the lost,” they’ll say, “You are an enemy.” No matter how right you are, you are wrong. And that’s the path that the King walked. The deeper you go on in the Lord, the more that is going to be true in your life. You are going to be accused of preaching a gospel that makes people lazy and passive and you are going to be accused of being negative and critical. And your heart can be as pure as the driven snow. It doesn’t make any difference. They are not going to accept it. You might as well try to say that the baby you are carrying is God’s baby. It’s the same kind of stigma and same kind of rejection and there is not a word you can say in your own defense.
What should we do? We’re pleasing God and they don’t understand it and they call us radical and way out and outside the camp and that we’re just weird and peculiar. What do you do? What did Mary and Joseph do? They just kept on having Jesus. That’s all they did. What else could they do? When all these things were being said about them, what did they do? They just kept pleasing God and by and by they gave Christ to the world.
The Spirit of God has put Mary and Joseph and every believer and every remnant in a very privileged place. While all of that rejection was going on out there, they were the most privileged people on the earth and something very wonderful was going on in their lives. They had a relationship with God that nobody else on the earth was enjoying. Have you ever sung “In the Garden”? “He walks with me and He talks with me and tells me I am His own. None other has ever known.” That’s what they were experiencing. They had that very secret place and God was forming Christ in them.
In your heart you know they are wrong but you can’t prove it. You can’t say a word to vindicate yourself. So, you just shut up and let them talk. “So and so said this about you…” “That’s alright. He’s pleased.” “Yeah, but they are plotting against you…” “It doesn’t matter. My will is to do the will of Him who sent me.” “They are going to throw stones…” “Let them throw them. It doesn’t matter.” When you get a person like that and people like that, not trying to fight back and not trying to defend themselves and not trying to prove that the “Holy Spirit came upon me etc. etc.”. You can’t explain it. It’s against the natural life and they aren’t going to understand it. Don’t try to explain it. You just go on in that union with God and let them reject you. Because the more you go on in this, the deeper this is going to be and the more certain this going to be. I suggest that in this, that Mary and Joseph pre-shadowed the church. Their program was to show how to give Christ to the world; innocent before God and guilty before men.
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