God Is Here
Shaun LePage, December 18, 2005
A. Children’s Sermon:
1. Invite children to come up front.
2. Ask several children: “What’s your name?”
3. Then ask, “Does anyone know what a ‘nickname’ is?” “Does anyone have a nickname?” [Note: a “nickname” isn’t your real name, but a name that describes who you are.]
4. Well, I want to read a few verses from the Bible about a little baby. You listen closely, then tell me that baby’s name and nickname. Don’t shout out the answers—raise your hand and I’ll try to pick the first two to raise their hands.
5. Read Matthew 1:18-25. Name: Jesus. Nickname: Immanuel.
6. Do you know what the name “Jesus” means? It means “God is salvation.” In other words, God saves us. So, the angel told Joseph to name this special baby “Jesus” because He is the Savior. The One—the only One—who can save us from our sins. Have any of you memorized John 3:16?
7. Do you know what the nickname “Immanuel” means? “God with us.” In other words, God didn’t just send us a Savior. God is our Savior. Jesus is God. God Himself somehow squeezed down into the body of a little baby and came to be “with us.” Do you understand all that? Know what? I don’t understand it all either. But I do know that’s what the Bible says.
8. At the end of his life on earth, Jesus “ascended” into heaven. He literally flew up into the sky and disappeared. Does that mean Jesus is not “with us” anymore? No. Before He left, Jesus promised He would be with us always. He’s with you when you’re in your bed and it’s dark. He’s with you when your parents aren’t around. He’s with you—and me—right now.
9. When we needed God the most, He came as a perfect little baby in Bethlehem. And any time you need Him right now, He’s always right here with you. You can’t see Him, but He promised He would never leave you.
10. Let’s pray and thank God for being with us.
B. Robert J. Morgan tells the story about a young boy named Doug who was looking at a full moon with his mother. He asked, “Mom, is God in the moon?” She explained that God is everywhere. “Is he in my tummy?” Doug wanted to know. “Well, sort of,” his mother responded, not sure where these questions were leading. Then Doug declared, “God wants a banana.” (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes, p.381)
C. Several years ago, singer Joan Osborne came out with a strange song that got a lot of attention. It was called, “What if God was one of us?”
1. I won’t sing it, but let me read some of the lyrics: “If God had a name what would it be? And would you call it to his face? If you were faced with Him in all His glory What would you ask if you had just one question? And yeah, yeah, God is great, Yeah, yeah, God is good, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah. What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus? Tryin’ to make his way home? If God had a face what would it look like? And would you want to see if, seeing meant That you would have to believe in things like heaven And in Jesus and the saints, and all the prophets? What if God was one of us?”
2. Osborne’s questions may seem offensive—in a way—to our Christian ears, but as I reread them, I realized these are legitimate. These are the questions of the people around us: Does God have name? Does God have a face? If you saw His face, would you believe?
3. As I study the book of Matthew, I realize these are the questions Matthew is answering. Worded differently. Maybe a little more sophisticated, but the same questions. Matthew’s answers are: Yes, God does have a name. Yes, God does have a face. And, Matthew reports an astonishing fact of history: God was one of us. Oh, He’s completely different than every other “slob” (as Osborne put it), but He chose to become one of us. That’s the point of Matthew 1.
4. As we ask God to use us to introduce people to Christ and reintroduce others to the Christ of Scripture, we need to remember the shocking claim of our faith: God became a man. His name is Jesus—the God-man. His face is the face of the Child in Bethlehem. The angry Rabbi turning over money tables in the temple courts. The amazing Teacher who taught multitudes in Galilee. The Suffering Servant hanging on the cross. The Risen Lord receiving the worship of His followers. The face of God is the Jesus of Scripture.
II. Body—Matthew 1:18-25 gives us a more complete picture of the identity of Jesus.
A. “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. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send 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 the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”
B. 18: “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.”
1. Matthew is now explaining the vague comment in v.16 where he told us, “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” On the surface, Matthew seems to be saying, “Jesus was illegitimate.” But in this passage, he’s saying, “No, His birth was not out of wedlock, His birth was out of this world.”
2. “Before they came together” is another way of saying, “Before Mary and Joseph had sexual intercourse.” Before they did that which results in babies, Mary was having a baby!
a) Don’t read the last phrase of this verse too quickly. Mary was “with child by the Holy Spirit.” That’s an amazing truth.
b) This is the doctrine of the Virgin Birth (Virgin Conception). This is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. We’ll come back to this in a moment.
C. 19: “And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.”
1. Joseph was a righteous man.
2. Joseph was a kind man. A man of grace. He did not want to “disgrace” Mary. We’ll come back to Joseph.
D. 20: “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 the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
1. The backdrop on the powerpoint this morning is Rembrandt’s painting entitled “St. Joseph’s Dream.” This dream changed Joseph’s life forever.
2. The angel almost certainly startled Joseph by calling him “Son of David.” Not, “son of Jacob” as he is described in the genealogy in v.16. Why the angel called him “Son of David” was probably not clear to Joseph at the time, but no doubt it helped him figure out what was going on. Why was he chosen for this role? Partly because he was a righteous man and partly because he was a kind man, but mainly because he was a “Son of David”—a descendant of King David.
3. Did you notice the first thing the angel said to Joseph in the dream? “Do not be afraid.” I read somewhere that this is the most commonly repeated command of the Bible. Isn’t this a beautiful way to start this communication to Joseph? Do you think Joseph had already considered just taking Mary as his wife and enduring the shame and gossip and social consequences of the situation? Perhaps he had, but he was afraid. Afraid of how it might affect his standing in the community. His ability to do business with the people who would think he had disgraced Mary by getting her pregnant before the right time. Perhaps he was afraid that Mary loved another man and could never be happy with him. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”
4. Why not? Because Mary did not betray you. Mary did not sleep with another man. Imagine the swing of emotion for this kind man. His heart break was instantly wiped away by the joy of knowing that Mary did not disgrace him. How could he take it all in? Not only did he get the great news that Mary had been faithful to him, but that Mary had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah! Not only that, but he would get to serve as the earthly father of the one Isaiah had called “The Everlasting Father.” Don’t be afraid? He must have been stunned.
5. The Child—Joseph was told—“has been conceived by the Holy Spirit.” We’re not told exactly how that happened. But unlike Greek mythology, we do not have a god mating with a human as some skeptics have claimed.
a) C.S. Lewis: “There is a vulgar, anti-God paper which some anonymous donor sends me every week. In it recently I saw the taunt that we Christians believe in a God who committed adultery with the wife of a Jewish carpenter. The answer to that is that if you describe the action of God in fertilizing Mary as ‘adultery’ then, in that sense, God would have committed adultery with every woman who ever had a baby. For what He did once without a human father, He does always even when He uses a human father as His instrument. For the human father in ordinary generation is only a carrier, sometimes an unwilling carrier, always the last in a long line of carriers, of life that comes from the supreme life. Thus the filth that our poor, muddled, sincere, resentful enemies fling at the Holy One, either does not stick, or, sticking, turns into glory.” (God In The Dock, p.32)
b) Psalm 139 tells us that God “knits together” every child in the womb. Conception is always a supernatural work of God and this conception was no stretch for the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God described in Psalm 139.
6. Many in our day consider the Virgin Birth doctrine optional. Let me give you five reasons why the Virgin Birth doctrine is so important:
a) The Virgin Birth supports The word of Jesus. The Bible clearly teaches the virgin birth (Matthew 1:16,18-25; Luke 1:26-35; 3:23; Galatians 4:4). If the Bible is wrong about this, why believe Jesus’ claim to be God, or any other miracle—especially the Resurrection?
b) The Virgin Birth supports The Messiahship of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah—specifically that He would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15) who was a virgin (Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23).
c) The Virgin Birth supports The Deity of Jesus. God could have entered the world any way He wanted, but He chose the virgin birth as a supernatural sign which demonstrates that He is far more than the son of a man and woman—He is the Son of God which is exactly the same as saying He is God (Matthew 16:13-17; Hebrews 1:3a).
d) The Virgin Birth supports The Humanity of Jesus. Jesus really was born and because He really was born, He was one of us (Adam’s race) and now serves as the Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15). Because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (God) within the womb of Mary (human), Jesus was fully God and fully human.
e) The Virgin Birth supports The sinlessness of Jesus. By being born of a woman and not a man, Jesus demonstrated that He was not sinful. He did not have the sinful nature passed on to all other humans through Adam (Romans 5:12). Therefore, Jesus was worthy to be the spotless Lamb of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Think about it: The only man since Adam who did not have a human father. Jesus is called the “Second Adam” in the Book of Romans. The “Second Adam” came to fix what the first Adam had ruined. In other words, the Virgin Birth stands as a “sign” of the sinlessness of Christ—not that it was mandatory in order to make sure Jesus was born without sin.
E. 21: “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
1. The name “Jesus” is Yeshua in Hebrew. It’s the same as “Joshua”. Literally the name means “Yahweh is salvation” or “God is salvation.” It was a very common name.
2. But this was no common “Jesus.” A fitting name for a little boy who “will save His people from their sins.” As we will see as we march through Matthew, “His people” changes from the Jewish nation only to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
F. 22: “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:”
1. “Fulfilled” is used repeatedly in Matthew. As I’ve said, Matthew quotes or alludes to the Old Testament far more than the other three gospel writers.
2. One of his major goals is to show how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Again, the Old Testament tells us “Messiah is coming!” Matthew tells us, “He has come!”
3. In his book, Science Speaks, Peter Stoner applies the modern science of probability to just eight prophecies regarding Christ. He says, “The chance that any man might have ...fulfilled all eight prophecies is one in 10 to the 17th. That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.” (one hundred quadrillion). Stoner illustrates the size of this number by saying that if “we take 10 to the 17th silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state 2 feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly... Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up [that one marked silver dollar.] What chance would he have of getting the right one?” Stoner concludes, “Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing those eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man ... providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.”
4. And remember, Jesus fulfilled far more than eight prophecies. In his classic book, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh McDowell shows how Christ fulfilled at least 61 Old Testament prophecies. Some scholars claim He fulfilled many more than that.
5. Verse 23 gives us the specific prophecy which Jesus fulfilled.
G. 23: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
1. The “prophet” of v.22 is Isaiah. Matthew quoted Isaiah 7:14 in v.23.
a) In Isaiah, chapter 7, King Ahaz—the 11th king of Judah—was in a tight spot. He was being threatened by two enemy kings. Isaiah told him to trust God, but Ahaz wanted to trust his own trickery to get out of the jam.
b) Isaiah told him to ask God for a sign that would prove God’s intentions to protect Ahaz and Judah. But Ahaz refused. He knew that if he asked God for a sign, it would come true and he would have to believe. So, God—through Isaiah—gave him a sign anyway which was to the entire “house of David”. The promise was this very one Matthew quoted in v.23. Ahaz, due to his lack of faith, would not see this “sign” himself and enjoy the blessings.
c) The greater context of Isaiah 7-9 shows this virgin-born child was not immediate, but future. Chapter 9:6-7 for example is a further explanation of who this virgin-born Child would be: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” No child in Ahaz’s time would fulfill such a prophecy. It would be 700 years before this prophecy would be fulfilled in Jesus—and the entire prophecy has yet to be fulfilled in the future. But, that’s a subject we’ll save for another day.
d) Matthew’s use confirms the meaning of Isaiah 7:14 and probably communicates the first-century Jewish interpretation of this prophecy.
2. “Immanuel” is not Jesus’ name or middle name. This, like Messiah, is more of a title or a description—a nickname if that’s a helpful way of thinking of it. Its meaning is profound and Matthew translates it for us so we won’t miss his point: “Which translated means, ‘God with us.’” Matthew is telling us that not only is Jesus the “son of David” and the “son of Abraham” but He is also the “son of God.” He is God in the flesh.
a) John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
b) Hebrews 1:3 (NLT): “The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command.”
H. 24-25: “And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”
1. Joseph obeyed the angel. Notice that little word “did.” That’s obedience! What did he “did”? “As the angel of the Lord commanded him.” He followed his instructions—a righteous man!
a) “Took Mary as his wife.” His prerogative as the “betrothed” of Mary was to go get her when He was ready. He wasted no time in obeying the angel’s command. No doubt, he could not wait to tell Mary about his dream and that he now knew what—up until that time—only she had known: “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Imagine Joseph waking Mary and telling her that he knew. Imagine the great relief Mary must have felt as God confirmed through Joseph what an angel had told her (Luke).
b) “Kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son.” We’re not told that the angel instructed him to do this, but apparently he and Mary came to the conclusion themselves that they should wait. Perhaps it only seemed right that the “Virgin Conception” should be followed by the “Virgin Birth.”
(i) “Until” is an important word, by the way. The implication is that after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage. In chapters 12 and 13, Matthew tells us that Jesus had “brothers and sisters”—siblings who were the offspring of Mary. After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage.
(ii) In fact, the New Testament letter of “Jude” was written by one of Jesus’ brothers who became a follower after Jesus’ resurrection. Some have taught that Mary was a perpetual virgin, but this is not the testimony of the New Testament.
c) “He called His name Jesus.” It’s a simple thing, but another act of obedience. The angel told him to name the boy Jesus. So He did.
d) Matthew repeated the main point of the supernatural nature of Jesus’ birth. Repetition is always a clue to the main point of a passage. In verses 18 and 20, Matthew announced that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. In verses 18, 23 and here in 25 Matthew reemphasizes the point by telling us that Mary was a virgin at the time Jesus was conceived. All of this is designed to explain his statement in v.16: “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.”
A. The Joseph Lessons—Of course, Matthew is primarily wanting us to see Jesus. He wants us to understand who Jesus really is. But at the same time, the way he highlights Joseph is a way of telling us to learn from his example as a fellow servant of God.
1. Love is kind.
a) Mary was “found to be with child”. Joseph didn’t understand everything yet. When he found out Mary was pregnant, he must have assumed the betrothal period had worked—Mary was found to be pregnant before the wedding (v.18). Of course this is what he would have thought. Put yourself in his shoes. Read between the lines here. Matthew doesn’t describe for us what was surely there: The pain and heartache of Joseph. At this point, he didn’t know about the miraculous nature of Mary’s pregnancy. As far as he knew, he had simply been betrayed.
b) Old Testament law actually allowed for the death penalty in this case. If a betrothed woman was found to be pregnant and her husband-to-be claimed the child was not his, she could legally be executed by stoning.
c) Some surely said, “Disgrace her publicly!” Maybe stoning was no longer the practice, but at least he could disgrace her as she had disgraced him. Wasn’t that the right thing to do?
d) But Joseph knew real love for Mary—he chose not to disgrace her though he apparently had every right to (v.19). Joseph knew the kind of love Paul would later describe in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
e) Remember what the genealogy of Jesus taught us? Jesus is the God of grace. When He chose a step-father, He chose a man of grace. Our greatest opportunity to show people the grace of our God is that moment when they’ve hurt us the most. Let us down. Disgraced us.
f)Love is kind. Whereas the world tells us to strike back when we’ve been hurt, the Bible—the example of Joseph—tells us to give grace. To give forgiveness. To give kindness to those who don’t deserve it.
2. Love is obedient.
a) Joseph was given two commands by the angel (v.20.21): Take Mary as your wife and name the baby Jesus. What did Joseph do when he “woke up” (v.24.25)? He obeyed.
b) John 15:9-11: “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
c) John 5:1-4: “…By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
d) How do we know if someone loves God? Obedience! We know that we—or someone else—loves God by whether or not we obey God. We know that someone loves God’s children by whether or not they love God. Love for God or His children is proven by obedience of God’s commands. Obey God’s commands. Joseph expressed his love for God and Mary by obeying God’s commands exactly.
(i) It’s a minor point here, but Joseph and Mary are a good example of saving sex for marriage (v.18). If they had not waited, they would not have been chosen by God for the great honor of serving as parents of the Messiah.
(ii) The marriage process in their time involved parental approval, if not arranged marriage), then a one-year betrothal period in which the couple were called husband and wife but did not live together or sleep together, then the bride would wait for the groom to come and get her. The parental approval—though completely foreign to us and seemingly unromantic—probably worked better than our own system in many ways.
(iii) In the not-so-distant past in this country, a man who wanted to marry a woman would go to her father for permission. Parents (generally) are wiser and their experience was very valuable in helping their children choose good marriage partners. Ironically, most of us would be quick to ask our parents’ advice in picking a college or a career or a car, but we wouldn’t want their opinion about who we marry.
B. The Jesus Lessons. But, of course, Jesus is focus here. Matthew builds his case for Christ by telling us the two names given to this miracle baby: “Jesus” and “Immanuel.” Both of these names teach us a great lesson about who Jesus is and why we should trust Him with our eternal destinies.
1. “Jesus” invites sinners to be saved.
a) Again, the name “Jesus” means “Yahweh (God) is salvation.”
b) Read: Mark 2:13-17. Though the Bible calls some people righteous (like Joseph), no one is completely righteous (Romans 3:23). All of us are sinners. So, Jesus was saying that He came to call those who would admit they were sinners and let Him save them from their sins. The baby of Christmas had a mission: to save His people from their sins. If you have never put your faith (trust) in Jesus, do it now!
2. “Immanuel” invites sinners to be with Him.
a) One of the greatest and most amazing things about God is that He is not lounging around in some distant galaxy taking a nap. He is with us. As you and I read the Bible we will begin to notice that one of the things God most wants you to know is that He is with us—with you. His presence is near.
(i) In the beginning (Genesis 3:8) God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
(ii) When Moses was afraid (Exodus 33:12-14) God comforted him by saying He would be with him.
(iii) In Psalm 23 the writer said “I will not fear because You (the Shepherd) are with me”.
(iv) In 1 Kings 43:2 and Jeremiah 15:1 God’s presence was the most wonderful thing imaginable, and to be deprived of it was the worst.
(v) When you come to the New Testament you have “Immanuel” who promises to always be with us (Matthew 28:29).
(vi) The ultimate reward will be to dwell in the presence of God forever (Revelation 21:3) and the ultimate punishment will be banishment from the presence of God forever (Revelation 21:22-27).
b) God is with us and He desires that we understand that and enjoy His presence.
c) A.W. Tozer in his magnificent little book, The Pursuit of God, wrote: “Why do some persons ‘find’ God in a way that others do not? Why does God manifest His presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience? Of course, the will of God is the same for all. He has no favorites within His household. All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us…God is here. The whole universe is alive with His life. And He is no strange or foreign God, but the familiar Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love has for these thousands of years enfolded the sinful race of men. And always He is trying to get our attention, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate with us. We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures. (And this we call pursuing God!) We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice. (The Pursuit of God, pgs.62,67)
C. What if God was one of us? To the honest inquirer who is truly seeking an answer to that question, Matthew says, “Look at Jesus.” He became a man—like one of us—so that He could be “with us”. So that He could “save us from our sins” and arrange for us to always be with Him.
1. Paul says it well in Colossians 1:15 (TM): “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.”
2. John 1:18 tells us, “No one has ever seen God. But his only Son, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart; he has told us about him.”
D. If God has gone to such lengths to be “with us” so that we could know Him, what should be our response? Psalm 27:8,9—David’s response should be ours: “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.’”
E. Do you know anyone who wants to know God? Introduce them to Jesus. Reintroduce them to the Jesus Matthew knew—the Jesus of Scripture and He will save them from their sins.
F. Do you want to know God—really know Him? Seek His face. That’s what He wants. Seek His face.
 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.