The men’s bible study I am a part of is currently looking at Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. Because the focus of the book is on finding the character of Jesus, it only makes sense to the leader and me, to find these characteristics in the gospels as we go. The leader of the group has a couple of week’s head start on me, and so I opted to jump straight into Matthew’s gospel. I suppose at this point it might help with your understanding if I told you that there was a time, when after spending most of my life in church, that I felt like I had heard every story or read it. For several years could not stand the thought of opening my bible; and why not, I had heard all the stories, and it was rare that anyone applied any life to what they were talking about. Fortunately, I have not experienced that for several years now, but I decided that, for me at least, I would not read any aspect of the bible without applying flesh and blood to what I was reading.
While the thrust of the book was to look at Jesus character, I am struck by this lead in to Jesus character that I see in the opening verses of Matthew’s gospel.
I do not know if meant for it to come off this way, but I love how this is stated in the ESV – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way“. This strikes me as firm and decisive, something that I can trust.
“When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph”
Betrothed; by definition, one who is, legally pledged to be married. At this point, she is barely a teenager at best, with evidence of womanhood.
“..betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”
Had things gone differently Joseph would have come to collect his bride when their home was completed. However, in the midst of all this preparation time, she is found to be with child (from the Holy Spirit). Work that out in your head for a moment. She is probably only a few months pregnant at the most, and not showing at all. Therefore, this finding to be with child would have to be the result of her going to her female family members and telling them that she missed her period. The female members of the family might have dismissed her with merely missing her first period, but wisdom cautiously watches for the next period to come or not. How could I, a man, come to that conclusion. History, a close community, tradition, and a close abidance to Jewish law would have helped to keep most in-line.
How would Mary have known about missing periods and what that could mean at such a young age? Someone had to tell her, and that would have opened the door so such horrific pressure and negativity. I tried to talk about these things with my girlfriend. Her response was, she knew because the angel told her. I am not so sure about that. Luke’s gospel gives us greater detail about that conversation, so let us explore there for a moment.
Luke 1:26-38, (ESV) In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Did anyone else notice Mary’s response to what the angel said? “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” I see no great understanding of life and anatomy in that response. Obviously further explanation is in order. Perhaps this is when Gabriel said, “Listen! You will become pregnant and will give birth to a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” She knew what pregnant was, but this was like speaking another language to her. Mary responds with, “How can this be, since I have no [intimacy with any man as a] husband?” (Luke 1:34 AMP)
Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man
Mary certainly had a backbone of steel to stand her ground, stating that the baby is of God. To most hearing this, it would have seemed so foolish, and typical of someone trying to cover up some sin.
Something we seem to forget; from Malachi to the announcement of Jesus birth was four hundred years of silence. Sure, you might be able to flash back to the old stories about the prophets and how angels interacted with people, but most did not, they thought about stoning a young girl that lied and the man who got her pregnant. You can rest assured that Joseph took some scathing glances.
The next few verses will speak toward Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, that says nothing about the kinsfolk and rumormongers about town.
This seems rather appropriate as we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I hope you have the life of Christ within you, as he is the greatest gift of all.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to you.
God’s love and peace abounds toward you.