If you were to tell the story of a great king, what would you tell about his beginning?
Most stories have the king born amidst splendor, with the great people of his day. Others may tell a great “rags to riches” story, how the great king emerged from such a humble start.
But for the King of Kings, the truth is greater than any fiction that we could imagine! Jesus Christ Himself came to earth, born of a poor village girl, in the middle of a terrible scandal.
His mother, Mary, became pregnant out of wedlock. She had had no relations with a man — there was no human father. The baby was a miracle from God Himself.
Mary was away for several months, visiting her cousin Elizabeth. She returned to her conservative, religious small town of Nazareth, showing that she was obviously pregnant. Nobody believed her.
Her own husband didn’t believe her. She was betrothed to Joseph, anticipating the great celebration where they would fulfill the ceremony and become man and wife. But all Joseph could see was that his wife was unfaithful to him. He cared enough for Mary to not make a public scene, but he could never marry her after what she had done. He opted for a quiet divorce.
This was the beginning of the life of the King of Kings. Born to a scandalized mother and a heartbroken father.
But Matthew’s account is not about Mary, nor is it really about Joseph. This was about the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit created the embryo in Mary’s womb. He also sent an angel to direct Joseph. There were things that Joseph needed to know about the child, and things Joseph needed to do.
Joseph needed to complete the marriage. Mary was not unfaithful and she was his wife.
The child was the work of the Holy Spirit. God was directly intervening with mankind, and the result was the baby who was growing in Mary’s womb.
Joseph was to name the child Jesus, meaning, “Jehovah is Savior”.
This baby has a special purpose. He will save his people from their sins. He will be the long awaited Messiah!
Matthew shared the beginning of the life of Jesus Christ on earth, showing a sharp contrast between what the world sees as opposed to but God sees.
The world saw Mary as an adulteress, who had a baby without a husband. God saw her as a pure woman who was willing to follow and obey Him regardless of the cost (see here).
The world saw Joseph as a poor carpenter who was either complicit or the cause of Mary’s adultery. God saw him as a man willing to follow Him in protecting and caring for the young Messiah.
The world saw Jesus as an illegitimate child. God knew that he was a miracle of the Holy Spirit, and the One who would be the Saviour of the world.
The apostle Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that the wisdom of God is seen as foolish to the world, yet the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God. It is so easy to see ourselves and others as what the world sees us. We need to look at people the way God sees them.
Finally, we should never go to Matthew’s gospel account without being challenged to renew our appreciation for Jesus Christ. He is the King of Kings; He is the long awaited Messiah to the Jews; He is the one who will save the world from the curse of sin!
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Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill 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). 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.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Both Matthew and Luke’s Gospel accounts provide details about the birth of Jesus Christ. Luke’s account focuses mainly on the perspective of Mary, while Matthew’s account focuses mainly on the perspective of Joseph.
Joseph and Mary were in the betrothal stage of the Jewish marriage process. The first stage, the engagement, was set by the parents when the the children were younger. The couple may not even meet until the second stage, or betrothal. The betrothal began with a formal ceremony where the bridegroom would pay the dowry to the bride’s father. They were then considered to be husband and wife, even though the couple did not live together, nor was there any physical relationship during this period. The betrothal could only be broken by death or divorce. 1
The year of betrothal would allow the bride and bridegroom to demonstrate their purity while preparing their home and themselves for their marriage. The final stage would be the marriage ceremony, where the entire town would celebrate for several days.
Matthew’s account shows the terrible scandal in the town of Nazareth. Before they came together, literally, before that marriage was consummated, Mary was discovered to be pregnant. Mary had visited her relative Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1:56) and was likely visibly pregnant when she returned. This would have been a terrible shame for Joseph and her family.
“Joseph will mirror the humility of incarnation and will embrace the sorrow. He will accept the shame of it all and willingly say, ‘Farewell to the bliss of a simple, peaceful life!’” – Stephen Davey 1
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill 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).
In one moment, Joseph’s world would never be the same. Mary was pregnant — she must have been unfaithful to him! If he continued with the marriage, he would be blamed and accused as an adulterer.
But the Scripture says that Joseph was a just man. He cared for God‘s law and he cared for Mary. He cared for God’s law too much to marry an adulteress. But he cared for Mary too much to subject her to a public accusation, which could lead to her being stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:13-24). Instead, Joseph opted to divorce her quietly.
While Joseph was determining what to do, an angel appeared to him in a dream. Mary had not been unfaithful to him. There was no other man. The child was a miracle of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, Joseph was given a name and a promise. The child would be named Jesus, and he would be the long-awaited Messiah who would save His people from their sins. The name “Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua”, meaning “Jehovah the Savior.” 2
Matthew also points out that the birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah‘s prophecy. In Isaiah 7, God promised that a virgin will conceive and bear a child who will be called, “God with us”. 4 The name, “Immanuel“ is one of many titles for God used by the prophet Isaiah (see Isaiah 9:6).
The angel called Joseph, “Son of David”. Joseph was a poor carpenter, but he was still a direct descendant of the great king of Israel. Joseph was commanded not to be afraid to complete the marriage to his wife (Mary was already his wife by virtue of the betrothal).
“The will of God would be inconvenient, uncomfortable, surprising, dangerous, tiring, confusing, demanding, and very, very public. Farewell to the bliss of a quiet life, Joseph.” – Stephen Davey 1
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.
Joseph’s world was turned upside down, but he woke and did as he was commanded. Joseph took on the scandal of a pregnant Mary and completed the marriage.
The text also says that they did not have any physical union until after Mary had given birth to a son. 6
“He married her notwithstanding her condition, that she might have the place in Israel of a wedded wife before she became a mother” – H.A. Ironside 2
 Stephen Davey, The Surrender of Bliss, Matthew 1:18-25, 12/17/2006
 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 1, The Genealogy and Birth of the King
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 1:18-2:23, Pages 12-15
 The Hebrew word for “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 can also be translated as “young woman”, so the passage from Isaiah itself does not require the mother to be a virgin. However, Matthew uses the specific Greek word for virgin when quoting Isaiah’s prophecy, thus making the issue clear. The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled by the virgin birth.
 John F. Walvoord, Matthew Thy Kingdom Come, 1. The Genealogy and Birth of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1
 The belief of “perpetual virginity” has arisen in some parts of church history, claiming that Mary was perpetually a virgin. However, this belief is not supported by Scripture. To the contrary, Matthew 1:25 states that Mary and Joseph did not have a physical relationship until after Jesus was born, thus also implying that they did have a physical relationship afterward. Matthew 13:55-56 also states that Jesus had brothers and sisters.