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Sermon 2
Matthew 1:18-25

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Sermon 2: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
November 5, 2023

 

Hi, my name is Philip from Beggars Breaking Bread, and I will be reading and preaching from Matthew 1:18-25.


Scripture (Matthew 1:18-25, NLT)
Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born.

His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph.
But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly.
As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All of this happened to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded.
He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born.
And Joseph named him Jesus.

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Can I ask you a personal question?

 

What is one of your favorite movies?

Go ahead. Tell me. I’m listening. 
 

Now, why is that particular movie one of your favorites?

 

If I asked a hundred people why they liked a particular movie as their favorite, oftentimes, I’ll hear of the person’s favorite actor or favorite actress that played the leading man (or woman) of the movie. The man or woman who headlines a movie…that is what often brings us to the movie theater or helps us decide to rent and stream a movie from the comforts of our home.  The leading actor or actress is the main protagonist of the movie, and the plot revolves around him or her. He or she can make or break a movie in how well it does in the box office, both in reviews and in ticket sales.
 

At the same time, as much as the award shows bring great attention to the best leading actors or actresses, of which the best movies often revolve around, there is another category that merits attention. They also give out awards to the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. While he or she may not be in the lead role, that brings people to the theaters, these people may not be in the spotlight but play a critical role behind the scenes, of which the plot holds itself together and sets up the scene for the big moments delivered by the leading actor or the leading actress.
 

In this passage, I want to shine some spotlight on someone deserving accolades for Best Supporting Actor. Along with Thanksgiving, Christmas is my favorite holiday. And while the attention on Christmas justifiably centers on the birth of Jesus from His mother Mary, we are going to focus our time on a man named Joseph, who played a critical role in carrying out God’s plan to redeem the world from sin.

 

What we will find out is that if Joseph did not make a key decision, despite his likely feelings and emotions around his unbelievable circumstances, the story of Jesus Christ and His birth may have suffered a very critical plot twist.

If there is one main takeaway we can learn from Joseph in this passage, I will submit to you that that main takeaway would be...

When you trust God, obedience and submission are not bad words.
 

I can relate with Joseph, where sometimes in the midst of circumstances in your life not appearing the way you would have hoped for originally, you often have a decision to make on how you will respond. Every one of us makes decisions every day on how we will respond to the circumstances that surround us over time, or suddenly, in Joseph’s case.
 

Yet, Joseph demonstrates to us in this passage a three-step process where we can go through life not just leaning into our own understanding and wisdom but to invite God in to help us make the best decision for ourselves and for the people beyond us. Let’s dig deep and learn from this case study as we explore how:


1.    Joseph acknowledged his circumstances and came up with his initial plan
2.    Joseph opened himself up to God and what He wants him to do in his circumstances
3.    Joseph trusted God to submit his plan under God’s plan and obeyed God to do His will

Let’s jump right into the dilemma that Joseph was facing, as Joseph acknowledged his circumstances and came up with his initial plan (Matthew 1:18-19).

 

Verses 18 and 19: “Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly.”
 

Men: if you were engaged to the woman you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, and during that engagement, you found out that she was pregnant with someone else’s child, how would you feel once you found out?
 

Women: if you were engaged to your future husband and had to share with him that not only are you pregnant with a child that is not his, but you were pregnant from the “Holy Spirit”, how would you feel before sharing this news to him?
 

This would clearly be a situation where feelings of worry, anxiety, shame, anger, unbelief, confusion, and fear would captivate the minds of us, let alone Joseph and Mary. Not only were they together with a baby before getting married, but the child was not his, and it actually was not from another man. It was from “the Holy Spirit”.
 

How should Joseph respond to Mary and their relationship together?
 

What should Joseph say to Mary on what to do with her baby?
 

What would other people in their family and community say once they find out about this?
 

Whatever Joseph and Mary decided at this moment, it would not be as easy as removing their “engaged” relationship status on Facebook, unfollowing the person on Instagram, or “ghosting” her on text messages as may be the case today.
 

Back then, in Jewish culture, the engagement was a crucial step, where the couple makes a public announcement after their families agree to the union. The only way this engagement could legitimately be broken off was either through death or divorce.
 

Because Joseph had not been intimate with Mary at the time, Mary could have been seen publicly as unfaithful to Joseph, which would have carried a significant social stigma against her that could have led to her being stoned to death as told in Deuteronomy 22:23-24 (“If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death – the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.”)
 

As I read this, I cannot help but think about many years later after Jesus’ birth, where Jesus encountered the adulterous woman (John 8:3-11). Interestingly, the Pharisees and scribes only brought out the woman, not the man, since it takes two to commit adultery. Here, the woman is brought before Jesus to be judged, condemned and stoned. Yet, as we read, Jesus had a much more compassionate response to that situation, different from what others had hoped for. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself there, let’s get back to the main story at hand…
 

According to Jewish law from the Old Testament, Mary could have been stoned to death by her community, for bearing someone else’s child other than that of her and Joseph. Think about that. Mother with child (Jesus Christ) stoned until both died.

 

How would our world look if this would have taken place?
 

Joseph had a very difficult choice to make. And as the Bible shares with us, he initially decided to have compassion and to cover his soon-to-be wife from such undeserved punishment. Verse 19: “Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly.”
 

Even though the child was not his, he cared enough about his fiancée to try what he thought was best to spare her from embarrassment and harsh judgment. I just want to pause for a second and acknowledge that, in a world today where we easily throw others under the bus (figuratively), leave the vulnerable exposed to fend for themselves, and tear other people down, just so we can look better ourselves, it is a refreshing teachable moment to see how a just (some versions of the Bible would say “righteous”) man in biblical times would have conducted himself in relation to his woman during a state of vulnerability.


So, after Joseph came to this decision, what did he do next?

 

He did what most people should do before making a major life decision: he slept on it. And while he slept on this decision, he received a divine visitor in his dreams that leads us to the second point of Joseph’s three-step process: Joseph opened himself up to God and what He wants him to do in his circumstances (Matthew 1:20-23).
 

Verses 20-23 read: “As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All of this happened to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).”
 

Joseph encounters an angel of the Lord in his sleep. Now, it’s important to recognize that this was an angel of the Lord. Of God Almighty. This descriptor of what type of angel came to visit Joseph in his dream is important because we must understand that there are both good angels and bad angels. Good angels come from the Lord. Bad angels are better known as demons, and work alongside the Devil, Satan himself. The Bible shares multiple occasions where people encounter angels for different reasons. This angel came with a purpose to help alleviate Joseph of his fear.
 

As discussed earlier, this is a huge decision on Joseph’s plate. It would impact him as well as Mary, as well as the unborn within Mary’s belly. He wanted to make the best decision for everyone involved. At that point, he was deciding whether to divorce Mary quietly from their engagement or risk her being stoned to death according to Jewish law.

 

The angel, however, presented Joseph with a radical third alternative: marry Mary. 
 

Why marry Mary?

 

Because Joseph had a pivotal role to play in God’s plan. Joseph is a descendant of King David. With Joseph serving as the earthly father of Jesus Christ, it fulfills the Old Testament prophecy we discussed last week of Jesus being the Messiah that comes from King David’s bloodline, as well as Abraham’s. If Joseph divorced Mary, the genealogy would not stay intact to fulfill that prophecy.
 

If Joseph allowed Mary to be stoned to death, both she and the unborn would die, robbing the world of arguably the greatest miracle history has ever witnessed, where Mary, a virgin, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, would give birth to the only person that would become fully God and fully human. Fully human because Jesus was born from a woman. Fully God because he was born from Mary being conceived by the Holy Spirit. Why is that significant? Every one of us, as human beings, inherited the sinful nature of Adam as our mothers and fathers came together to have us. Jesus would have this sinful nature as well if Joseph and Mary were intimate to produce him. 
 

The angel shared with Joseph that he would name the baby Jesus, which means “the Lord saves”.

 

The Lord saves who and from what?

 

For God loved the world – including you and me – so much, despite our sinful nature, that the only way He could save us from our sins, that warranted death and eternal separation from God, was to have God come down to Earth Himself, take on the limitations of humanity, walk among us as Immanuel (“God with us”), and sacrifice His life crucified on an old, rugged cross bearing our sins, and three days later rise again, defeating death, so that those who believe in Him can be forgiven of our sins and have our relationship restored with our Heavenly Father for eternity.
 

I don’t care how good you may think you are.

 

Outside of Jesus, we are all sinners.

And it doesn’t matter if you sinned only once in your life (highly unlikely) or seventy times seventy (at least), we cannot save ourselves by our service projects, church attendance, photoshopped Instagram posts, or acts of kindness.

 

Since the very beginning with Adam and Eve, forgiveness of our sins required a sacrifice. A bloody sacrifice. Jesus came so that we no longer had to continue slaughtering lambs, pigeons and other animals, making them the scapegoats, in order to make us right with God again. 
 

That is why Christmas is arguably my favorite holiday. Even if you did away with Santa Claus (milk and cookies included), the Christmas decorations, and even the gifts under the tree, I would love Christmas just as much because it is a time to remember the reason for the season.

 

As Dr. Tony Evans, one of my spiritual mentors, would say regarding the “essence” of Christmas: “That is the essence of Christmas.  All the problems in this world can be traced back to sin, and Jesus Christ entered the world to forgive us for our sins, give us victory over our sins, and give us an eternal home free from sin. That truth is what Christmas is all about. If you miss that, you’ve missed the point.
 

Jesus paid it all for us.

 

Jesus.

 

The only perfect man who walked this Earth who is human enough to understand our human experiences, struggles and temptations while also God enough to save us from our sins, forgive us and welcome us back into God’s family. And His plan for our salvation would have been compromised if something tragic happened to him and Mary. 
 

Now, Joseph had ANOTHER major decision to make.

 

Trust God to marry Mary or be wise in his own eyes and follow through on divorcing Mary quietly?

 

The consequences of his decision are huge.
 

Let me ask you.

 

Have you ever had a major decision to make in your life?

How did you go about making that decision?

Did you rely solely on your own knowledge?

Did you reach out to a friend or a family member?

Did you include God in the process?
 

Whether the decision involves where to go to school, what job offer to take, whom to marry, where to live, or whether to have the baby or not, God wants us to include Him in our decision-making process. Not after the decision is already made by you and you’re frantically asking Him to fix your mistake. He wants us to come to Him humbly – through prayer or reading His Word – and ask Him for direction and guidance to make the best decision possible. 
 

Is there a major decision you’re facing right now?

 

Are you looking for advice on what to do next?

Like Joseph, we have to at least be open to what God has to say to us and to invite Him in our decisions. Then, He can show us what to do next.

So, speaking of which, what did Joseph do next?

 

This brings us to the last step in Joseph’s three-step process: Joseph trusted God to submit his plan under God’s plan and obeyed God to do His will (Matthew 1:24-25)
 

And the Bible says in verses 24-25: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
 

In spite of him feeling like he had the right idea to divorce Mary quietly, he chose not his will to be done, but for God’s will to be done. Joseph trusted God that He knows what is best in this situation and obeyed God’s command.


Now, notice it says what the angel of the Lord “commanded”.  This was not a humble request by God. Sometimes, we treat what God says to us as requests, even though He actually has commanded us to follow through and do what He says. Something that is important for us to note: sin can be committed by either commission or omission.

 

What does that mean?

 

It means that we can sin against God by what we do – commission – or by what we do NOT do – omission. 
 

Oftentimes, we may think that we are doing the right thing because we did not do the wrong thing. However, has God put something in your heart to do, and for some reason, you decided not to do it? Maybe because you were nervous on how it might be received by someone else. Maybe you did not feel adequate or that you had what was needed to do the task properly. Maybe you even doubted that the idea came from God Himself?
 

Family: when we make the decision to not do what God is asking us to do, to pray for a co-worker, to wash the dishes to help your wife out, to pause the TV and call your “strong” friend and check on him, to spend time with God in the morning before rushing to work, we are disobeying God and rebelling against our Heavenly Father.
 

While we may give ourselves credit that we didn’t commit a “big” sin like lying on our taxes, having an affair with your “work spouse”, or committing a crime against your annoying neighbor, God cares about the little sins too. He wants us to trust that His way is better than our way. He wants us to trust Him enough to submit our mission to His and to obey His Word.
 

Now, I know some people may be cringing when they hear the words “obedience” or “submission”. We live in a society now where such words sound more like four-letter words, even though we often spew out such four-letter words to each other or listen to them while watching TV, talking on the phone, or hanging out around the water cooler at work. 
 

Just as a parent asks her child to obey her mother by brushing her teeth before bedtime, our Heavenly Father wants us to obey Him to do what is right. He has a plan for each of us, and that often means submitting our hopes and dreams to His mission.

 

Submission.

 

Sub. Mission.

 

Submission.

We submit our mission under God’s greater mission.
 

That’s what Jesus – the only perfect man on Earth who is also fully God – did at the Garden of Gethsemane. When He prayed with much anguish and sorrow, to the point of sweating drops of blood, and asked God, our Heavenly Father, for another way to save us outside of dying on the Cross, He concluded “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

 

Jesus, with divine power to get Himself off the Cross and do away with all those who mocked and opposed Him, Jesus, “and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)

 

If Jesus, of all people, can submit His thoughts, feelings and ways as a human to God’s plan, how much more should we take example from Him and do the same to submit to God’s mission for us and to trust Him enough to obey Him.
 

Jesus trusted God to submit His ways and obey God. Joseph did the same thing too. He followed through and brought the faithful Mary home to be his wife and honored her by keeping her a virgin until Jesus was born. He chose God over his own thoughts and feelings, as well as the potential disapproval and backlash from others in his community.

 

And it’s because of Joseph trusting God enough to submit what he thought was right towards Mary to God and to obey what the angel of the Lord had commanded him, we all have the opportunity to be a slave to sin no more and to be forgiven and reconciled to God as His children forever through Jesus Christ.

Can I ask you another personal question?

 

Do you trust God enough to obey Him in what He calls you to do?

 

Even if it’s hard?

 

Even if it means submitting what you think is right and choosing His way of living over yours?
 

What’s stopping you from choosing His way?

 

Concern on what people would say about you?

 

Worry on how it may impact your work, your identity or your relationships with family and friends?
 

I understand that it can be hard.

 

In fact, I’m living that out right now recording this sermon with you. You see, God had given me a vision for my life after seminary that I thought was big and, quite honestly, frightening.

 

God prompted me to not wait to be ordained to preach. He wanted me to just start preaching now. To use what He already gave me, what was already in my hand (like Moses) and be faithful in spreading His Word to strengthen His people and to expand His Kingdom to bring the lost back into His family before Jesus comes back.
 

To be honest with you, I initially did not want to do this.

 

We live in a society now, especially in America, where depending on where you reside, you can get persecuted, slandered and ridiculed publicly just for aligning with God and boldly claiming that the way you view the world is based on the Bible, and that the Bible is the infallible standard, without error, of which to live your life. I see many fellow Bible-believing Christians publicly outcasted as “extreme” and get called all sorts of names outside of a child of God in the newspapers, talk shows and social media.  

 

Following Jesus is not a trouble-free guarantee. 
 

As Jesus Himself said: “When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you?  A servant is not greater than the master. Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you! The people of the world will hate you because you belong to me, for they don’t know God who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.”  (John 15:18-23)  
 

What made me follow through and obey God to start sharing His Word to believers and unbelievers online?

 

The same reason as with Joseph.

 

I trust God enough to submit my fears, feelings and insecurities in favor of God’s higher mission for me to be a part of His overall plan to save more people into His family and to expand His Kingdom to the ends of the earth before Jesus comes back.

 

I trust God enough to obey what He commanded me to do.
 

So let me ask you this: what is God asking you to do right now?


Is God calling you back home to Him?

 

If so, it’s not too late.

 

God loved you and me enough to send His Son Jesus into earth, through a virgin Mary, so that, thanks to Joseph obeying God’s command, Jesus would live and die for our sins to be forgiven, so that when we repent of our sins, turn from our wicked ways and follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will be a new creation part of our new family with God forever now and in eternity, reconciled back to Him.


If you are feeling called to Jesus, following Him is the best decision I ever made.

 

And I want you to make the best decision in your life too.


All we have to do is ask Jesus into our hearts and make Him the Lord and Savior of our lives.


If you’re ready to take that step, would you pray this prayer with me:

 

Dear Jesus, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe that you came from Heaven to Earth to live, die and rise again just for me, so that my sins may be forgiven. I trust you with my life. By faith, I make you my Lord and Savior. Thank you for your love and sacrifice. In Jesus name, Amen.


If you prayed that prayer, let me be the first to congratulate you on the best decision you could make in your life. Let me also welcome you to the family, as the angels in Heaven are rejoicing on your arrival. I encourage you to find a local, Bible-based church to connect with and join its community as you do life together with other believers.


If you already are a believer, and you feel prompted (or commanded) by God to share this message with someone who does not yet know Jesus, please trust God, obey Him and share this message with him or her. God has a great plan for you, and it involves bringing the spiritually lost back to God through Jesus Christ. 


Let us continue the good work ahead of us to globally spread the Good News about Jesus Christ and to welcome more into His family.

 

God bless you for watching, listening to or reading this sermon. Thank you and take care.

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