The Best Gift Ever: Jesus Fulfills Us Matthew 1:18-25
The Best Gift Ever: Jesus Fulfills Us
The Christmas shopping season has begun. The reports are that Americans have already spent billions of dollars so far on their Christmas shopping in search of the perfect gift for Christmas. We’ll turn to the scriptures this morning for our search for the perfect gift. Matthew 1:18 “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” I know we are familiar with this part of the story, but we need to pause for a moment and think about the first century listeners hearing this story for the first time. We need to remember how shocking it must have been for the first listeners, especially Jewish listeners of the Jesus story to hear this claim that was so radical. A young girl and virgin was carrying a baby! Even if you’re like some theologians and Christians who believe the word virgin means young girl, but not necessarily a woman that had never been sexually active, still, the story of a woman conceiving a child out of wedlock was a very risky and shaky story. I came across an observation that was made of how part of the problem with the church as a whole can be that at times, we sanitize Jesus and his story. Meaning we tone down the rough and radical edges to his life. We stay away from stories such as John chapter two of how Jesus went into the temple angry and over-turned tables because of how the Temple was used by corrupt religious leaders for self-serving purposes at the expense of others. Application: So, if you’re here today and there is something going on in your life or someone, you’re praying for that is risky, awkward, maybe an embarrassing situation, remember God has seen it before and God can deal with yours or theirs. Let’s continue. Matthew 1:19 “Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” Joseph was like you and me. He took a look at the situation and decided to use his own best judgement. Joseph decided to end the engagement discretely and quietly. Often preachers at this point will spend time talking about what the religious law of that time provided Joseph with the right to do with Mary. I am not going to do that today. APPLICATION: I think what this point of the story lends itself to realizing is how often our best judgement can still miss the mark for what God has planned. • Joseph’s response reminds us, we need to maintain a healthy appreciation for an openness to direction from God we aren’t anticipating. • We need a watchfulness over our hearts for never being too confident that God always agrees with us. Matthew 1:20-21 Matthew writes, “But just when he had resolved to do this, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. “ I have to wonder not just what was going through the mind of Joseph, but what was going through the mind of Matthew, the writer of this story? Matthew was writing this account about the life of Jesus because Matthew was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. Remember, before Matthew was a disciple of Jesus, Matthew was a Jewish man collecting taxes for the Roman government. We touched on this a couple weeks ago. The tax collectors were usually Jews who paid money to the Roman government to obtain the job of collecting taxes from the Jewish people for Rome. Tax collectors had a bad reputation of taxing more money than what was necessary. They made sure Rome got its cut, and then the tax collectors got their cut. Tax collectors exploited their own people of honest income. Needless to say, this left a bad taste in the mouths of the Jewish people. They as a community despised how the tax collectors treated them. So, the story of Jesus was a story Matthew would write with a radical, embarrassing beginning with a virgin, pregnant before married and then includes people like Matthew to be a follower of Jesus. Don’t you think there had to be a moment when Matthew wondered who was going to believe this story? Jesus born to a virgin and included people like tax collectors to become his friends and followers. When people say the Bible is just made up stories, no one would write a story like this and hope people would take them seriously unless it was true. In other words, if you we’re going to go out later today to knock on doors, just imagine if each one of us who was planning on going had a prisoner from Shelby county jail with us in an orange jump suit? You knock on a door and imagine the look on someone’s face when they see a prisoner standing with you and has “Shelby County Jail” written across their jump-suit? Some people were just as shocked and disgusted to see who Jesus considered as friends - tax collectors, prostitutes, and touched people with diseases. Some people saw Jesus that way; but not all people. Pastor, Andy Stanley writes, “People who weren’t like Jesus, liked Jesus.” Which included people like Matthew. Jesus was the gift from God for which they had been waiting. Let me also say quickly, let’s not forget what must have been going through Matthew’s mind as the Holy Spirit had him begin the story of Jesus with the genealogy or family-tree that contains the descendants of Jesus with a very risky, troublesome lifestyles. APPLICATION: • Jesus is the perfect gift because he came to love anyone and everyone. • Matthew said, Jesus came to rescue or save people from their sins/ = “Hamartia,” which means – missing the mark of God’s will. • He came to rescue you and me and the people we might look at as our modern-day tax collectors, our Matthews. Then Matthew writes, “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, God is with us.’ I actually want to take the last part of this passage first and then come back to the word “fulfil.” Matthew said, the birth of Jesus was spoken of “by the Lord through the prophet.” But which prophet? The words about a virgin conceiving a child are found in Isaiah 7:14. After reading a passage like this many will say that the life of Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Some will say there are numerous Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfills. But one thing we ought to remember, when prophets like Isaiah prophesized, God was using then to bring a message from God for their people of that time and circumstances. If everything the prophets described was for way off in the distant future, then the people at that time had no real hope or help from God. So, a fair question and a question the skeptic might rightly ask is this, was Isaiah’s prophecy about a virgin/young woman for the time Isaiah or for the distant future/Jesus? Isaiah’s prophecy came 735 BC. It was given to King Ahaz because he was being threatened by two different armies. God spoke through Isaiah to give assurance to Ahaz that God would protect his people. He gave Ahaz a sign that God would do what he said. The sign was that a virgin will have a child and by the time that child is ready to choose good over evil (age 13) the threatening kingdoms will be gone. The young woman, who might have been a wife of Ahaz or someone else would conceive a child. By 722, we do know that the two kingdoms that threaten Ahaz were gone. So, if that prophecy was fulfilled for Ahaz, can we or should we still use it for Jesus? Pastor Adam Hamilton offers this helpful reminder. “When Matthew quotes an Old Testament passage and concludes, ‘This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet’, it is helpful to know that the Greek word translated “fulfill” can also mean complete. Many Old Testament scriptures quoted in the New Testament had an initial fulfillment nearer the time of the prophet. Other prophecies were not predictive at all. The New Testament authors saw in these statements a foreshadowing of the life of Jesus…” (Making Sense of the Bible, Hamilton, p.60) Meaning, prophecy in O.T. can have a dual application. Now that brings us to the word fulfill. Since the word Fulfill can also mean complete. Matthew and other N.T. writers saw Jesus on a spiritual level, fulfilling to the fullest, completing once and for all on a deeper level of meaning, everything written in the Old Testament writings that we know as the Law of Moses and the prophets. This why you can use a Bible concordance and find in various stories of Jesus that we know as the gospels, and in letters by people like the apostle Paul, you will find similar statements, “this was to fulfill.” Jesus is the perfect gift because he completes and fulfills all that God had promised. We also know life is filled with gaps and incompleteness. • We see how even though we strive to do right in a flash, our motives and actions can go against our own better judgment. • We see it in the news about our community and abroad the stories of suffering and life is anything but complete and whole. • We know deep down we can’t complete or totally fulfill ourselves. Maybe that is why some people even though they aren’t Christians and have no plans to become a Christian will attend services during holidays because they are seeking something that can complete them, fill the void, fulfill them in ways that other experiences haven’t or cannot. Finding fulfillment in God to many people seems impossible. Maybe our condition is as one person described in that, we miss the impossible that God can do and fulfill, because we’re only noticing what we think is important. • God’s goal or aim is not necessarily what we think is important; God’s goal or aim is that we know him. • This is why I still celebrate Christmas and you celebrate Christmas because connection to God and knowing God is what fulfills us. Matthew 1:24-25 Matthew concludes by saying, “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife but had no martial relations with her until she had borne a son; and named him Jesus.” Just think, when Joseph awoke from his dream that God used to communicate to Joseph, Joseph followed God’s instructions. As crazy as it might have seemed, Joseph followed the directions he received in his dream. He married, Mary, and gave the child the name, Jesus, which means one who saves/recues. Joseph was able to live with all of the mystery, uncertainty and very unusual circumstances because he trusted God had the means to fulfill. • Jesus is the perfect gift because his love and presence makes us able to walk through life situations that are anything but fulfilling. • His presence fills the gaps despite what we encounter and face. • Although we don’t always see the way forward, God doesn’t give up on leading us forward. • The birth of Jesus reminds us God gives us the gift of himself so we can know God. He is the best gift ever because he has the power to fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts; not always with what we long for; but with himself that is eternal. Next Sunday we’ll look at two key elements that Jesus gives us to find peace in Him.