After celebrating Christmas year after year, the wonder of the Christmas story can often be lost. However, the birth of Christ is deep and powerful! In this message on Matthew 1:18-25, Pastor David Platt highlights the mystery and majesty of Christ as seen in His birth and life. Three truths Jesus confirms through His work are emphasized.
- God is the Creator and Re-Creator of all things.
- God is always faithful to his Word.
- God is transcendent over us, yet he is present with us.
If you have His Word, a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to Matthew chapter 1. And pull out those notes that you received in your worship guide as we begin week number two in the book of Matthew. And today we tackle the most extraordinary miracle in all the Bible—the most remarkable mystery in all the universe. And it’s emphasized in eight short verses at the end of Matthew chapter 1. J.I. Packer said, “It is here. And the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of Christian revelation lie. The more you think about this, the more staggering it gets.”
You know some preachers complain that it’s hard to come up with something to preach at Christmas because it’s the same thing every single year. Brothers and sisters, it is a really, really good thing to think about this every single year. Because the more you consider the reality of what happened when Jesus, the Christ was born, the more your mind is awed and your emotions are excited and your life is challenged. And so that’s my prayer for today. I have prayed, knowing that there are some of you who are here who do not know Christ.
Maybe you’re not a follower of Christ. Maybe you are familiar at least at some level with cultural Christianity, but you’ve never come face-to-face with Who Jesus really is. And I’ve prayed that God would open your eyes to see Him in an entirely new way today—in a way that you see He is worthy of all of your worship and all of your life.
And I’ve prayed for many of you who maybe have grown up in church, or maybe you’ve been a follower of Christ for many, many years. I’ve prayed that today in these simple verses God would take a familiar story and just reveal like it’s altogether new—just fascinating glory to you in His Word.
I know that this story has new perspective even for me. A little over a week ago, we obviously got back from…Many of you know we got back from China with our new daughter. Just in case you weren’t able to follow along the journey, I brought a picture here to show you. There’s my precious wife and our new little girl. She is adjusting well to her new home, to her new family, to a new time zone. So we had one night this last week where she slept through the whole night (hopefully a harbinger of more to come in the days ahead). But I am learning for the first time how to be daddy for a daughter. And if I could be completely honest, she can do pretty much whatever she wants with me right now.
I am mesmerized by this little girl. And it is a fascinating dynamic. Obviously biologically I am not her father. There’s total mystery surrounding who her biological father is, but she is my daughter and I love her and I’m nurturing her and yeah, I’m pretty much just smitten by her as her daddy at every level. I spent the last month in China and back here filling out paperwork that said, “Father’s name—David Platt. Child’s name—Mara Ruth Platt.” And every time I filled that out, I was just reminded of the reality that she is fully a part of our family. And so I’m struck in a fresh way when we come to Matthew 1 because this is in and of itself a story of adoption. Let me show it to you. Matthew 1:18. We’re going to pause along the way in this short passage just to make sure everything’s soaking in. So listen to what Matthew writes. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ…” Jesus, the Christ. We talked about this last week. Christ is not His last name. This is Jesus the Messiah, the Promised One, the One we’ve waited for. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph…”
So pause there for just a second. Betrothed basically means engaged, although engagement or betrothal in the 1st century was a bit different than in the 21st century. When you were engaged or betrothed to be married, that was basically the equivalent of marriage. The only thing that was left to happen, and it could be up to a year later, the only thing that was left to happen was for the wife to be brought into her husband’s home and for the marriage to be physically consummated. And so otherwise, betrothal looked like marriage in such a way that if you were to break off a betrothal, break of an engagement, that was equivalent to divorce. This should help understand what’s going on later when we see one of the options on the table was for Joseph to divorce his wife. It was because, even though they were betrothed, that was virtually like being married. So Mary and Joseph committed to one another basically in a marriage commitment. The only thing that’s yet to happen is for them to live together, to physically consummate the marriage which is what Matthew communicates next. “Before they came together (before they entered into physical relationship with one another) she was found to be with child…”
Pause. That’s obviously a pretty glaring statement. Now Matthew adds “from the Holy Spirit” to clue us in to something supernatural that’s going on here. But as we’re about to see, Joseph doesn’t find out that it’s “from the Holy Spirit” part until a little bit later. And so you put yourself in Joseph’s shoes for a second. You’ve asked this woman to marry you.
She’s said, “Yes.” This marriage is contractually there. The only thing that’s left is for her to come into your home. And right before that’s about to happen, you find out that she is pregnant. Knowing that you have had no physical relationship with her, there is only one possible option for how she is pregnant in your mind. Clearly she has been involved with another man. So imagine the emotions in you as husband, about to bring your wife into your home, only to find out that for all you know she has been involved with another man and is now pregnant. So “she was found to be with child.” Then verse 19 gives us a glimpse into Joseph’s perspective. “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”
Basically, Joseph had two options. He could publicly disgrace her or privately divorce her. And in righteous compassion he chooses the latter. “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David…’” Notice that. Notice how Matthew reminds us as the readers that Joseph is in the line of King David. Not just “Joseph,” “Joseph, son of David,” tying things back to the genealogy we just read. “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.”
Okay. We are used to the story of a virgin birth, but if you’re in Joseph’s shoes this is altogether new and absolutely unheard of. You hear this. “…that which is conceived in (your wife) is from the Holy Spirit.” Things just went from baffling to bizarre. And the angel continues, “Mary will bear a son.” Keep in mind, “A son, Joseph, that you had nothing to do with bringing about.” “…and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” What an announcement! “Joseph, you’re going to have a son that you adopt into your family. And you will give Him a legal name, Jesus, which means, Yahweh, or the Lord saves! “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).”
So have you ever had a dream and when you wake up you think, “Did that actually happen or was I just dreaming that?” And if it’s a good dream, you’re kind of a little disappointed that it didn’t actually happen. Or if it’s a bad dream, if it’s a nightmare, you’re just overwhelmed—just relief. “Oh, I’m so glad that didn’t actually happen.” I’m not sure exactly what Joseph felt at that point. Did that actually happen? What did that mean? Because on one sense, he’s startled, and another sense he’s humbled and overwhelmed. What does all of this mean? This is why I love what Matthew does in giving us a portrait of Joseph’s response.“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did (exactly) as the angel of the Lord commanded him…” What a picture of obedience—no questions, no conditions, no “Let me get some more sleep tomorrow night and see what happens then.” No. He obeys. “…He took his wife, but knew her not…” In other words, he had no physical relationship with her. “…until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
Matthew 1:18–25, How Jesus Came
Father’s name, Joseph, son of David. Child’s name, Jesus. And thus the adoption was complete and the King of Creation entered into the world. So how Jesus came.
To a virgin mother.
A shocking pair or words. Virgin mother—naturally impossible. He came to a virgin mother so that physically Jesus is Mary’s Son—physically, biologically Mary’s Son. Not Joseph’s. Matthew never explicitly refers to Joseph as Jesus’ father. Here in the genealogy you have, “This person was the father of that person. This person was the father of that person.” Until you get to verse 16. Look back at what it says. It says, “And Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” So physically Jesus was the Son of Mary, a virgin mother. So to a virgin mother…
To an adoptive father
He came to an adoptive father. In naming Jesus and taking Jesus into his family, legally Jesus became Joseph’s Son. This is key, right? Based on what we talked about last week, this adoption ties Jesus to the line of Joseph, which is the line of David.
Amidst a fallen world
So Jesus came to a virgin mother, to an adoptive father amidst a fallen world—a world of sin in need of salvation. And in this way, ultimately, see that Jesus is God’s Son. Ultimately Jesus is God’s Son. Don’t miss why this is important. Part of the purpose of the virgin birth of Jesus is to show us beyond the shadow of a doubt that salvation does not come from man but from God. Salvation is clearly not the natural work of man. There is nothing you and I can do to save ourselves from our sins. Salvation is not the natural work of man; salvation is totally the supernatural work of God. And this is evident from the very way that Jesus enters into the world as the Son of God.
Matthew 1:18–25 Establishes Who Jesus Is…
So here we have the perplexing identity of Jesus the Christ. What makes Him far and above everyone else the center of all history? You think about who Jesus is, particularly based on this story of the virgin birth. Realize this: the verses we just read lay the foundation for everything we know and understand about who Jesus is. These verses lay the foundation for why we worship Jesus, and why we follow Jesus, and why we proclaim Jesus to the nations, all contained in these verses.
As the Son of Man, Jesus is fully human
You think about it. Who is Jesus? Well, as the Son of Man, Jesus is fully human. He is born of a woman as a child, a crying, bed-wetting baby boy. Do not let yourself picture Jesus without true humanity. Silent night, holy night is a farce. It’s a lie. Holy? Yes. Silent? No way! Whoever has had a child that came out of the womb silent? “Screaming night, holy night.” It just doesn’t have the same ring. This was a baby!
Heather and I have stood countless hours in the middle of the night over the last few weeks holding a crying child, walking back and forth, rocking here and there, bouncing up and down, trying to settle her down. Forgive me, but I am just not buying the idea that everybody slept well that night. You know that whole routine. Any mom or dad of a young child has been there. Whenever they finally fall asleep, whether it’s on your shoulders or they’re in their bed, and you’re kind of trying to sneak out of the room… And it’s the slightest creek or noise and their eyes pop open, and you’ve got to start all over again.
So imagine trying to get the baby to go to sleep when you’ve got cows mooing and horses neighing right next to you. This is not a peaceful night. Jesus was not born with a glowing halo around His head and a smile on His face. Don’t rob Him of His humanity! He was born like us! He possessed the full range of human characteristics like us. Physically, a human body, a child’s body that needed to be fed, and nursed, and nurtured. I’m not all that excited about being back in the diaper-changing stage, but we are there. And the reality is that Jesus, the baby, needed to be fed, and nurtured, and cared for in the same way a baby does now. A body that grew just like our bodies grow. A body that was dependent on sleep. To think, this is the Sovereign of the universe stooping to be dependent on sleep physically.
Mentally, He possessed a human mind. Luke 2 says, “His mind grew in wisdom.” He learned in the same way that other children do. I think sometimes we have this idea that Jesus just came out speaking words like kingdom, and redemption, and forgiveness, and propitiation. No. He had to learn to say “Mama,” or “Dada,” or whatever the 1st century Jewish equivalent was. He was learning, growing in wisdom. Possessed a human mind.
Emotionally. Matthew will show us He possessed a full range of human emotions. Troubled in spirit. Sorrowful. He wept loud cries and tears. From all implications, He actually smiled. He was a joy to be around. This is not a boring Man. See His humanity with a full range of physical, mental, and emotional faculties. Obviously human. Obviously.
I put “obviously” here because I want you to see that people recognized Him as a man. There’s a telling passage later in Matthew 13 when Jesus goes back to Nazareth as we’re going to see. It’s His home town and He taught the people in the synagogue. And they were amazed. And this was their response. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” The point is people who knew Jesus best early in His life, who were closest to Him, His brothers, those in His own hometown, recognized Him as merely a man just like everyone else. And this is all important so that it is absolutely clear to us Jesus is fully able to identify with us.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus is not unlike us, trying to do something for us. Jesus is truly a representative of us. You have a Savior who is familiar with your struggles, physically, mentally, and emotionally. You have a Savior who is familiar with your sorrow. You have a Savior who is familiar with suffering. Jesus is fully able to identify with you and me—us.
Born of a woman, as the Son of Man, Jesus is fully human.
As the Son of God, Jesus is fully divine.
And at the same time, as the Son of God, Jesus is fully divine. See His humanity and His deity. Just as Jesus possessed the full range of human characteristics, He also possesses the full range of divine characteristics. As Matthew will show us, He has power over disease— able to cleanse lepers, give sight to the blind, cause the lame to walk—all by simply speaking healing into reality. We’re going to see in Matthew 4, they’re bringing Him all these sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, oppressed by demons, epileptics, paralytics, and He heals them all. He has power over disease.
He has command over nature. He rebukes the wind and the sea and they immediately obey Him. The disciples respond, “Who is this man that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” He has authority over sin to forgive sin. And He has control over death, evident not only in His bringing others from death to life, but in bringing Himself from death to life. These are extravagant claims, aren’t they? And this is the portrait of Jesus that Matthew gives us. He is fully able to identify with us and at the same time, He is fully able to identify as God.
Matthew 1:18–25, The incarnation, is the most extraordinary miracle in all the Bible
As the Son of Man, fully human. As the Son of God, fully God. You put this together and you realize indeed, the incarnation, the doctrine of Jesus’ full humanity and full deity is the most extraordinary miracle in all the Bible. In all the Bible. You think about it. If this is true, if Jesus is fully man and fully God, all of the other miracles in the Gospel of Matthew make total sense. I mean really, is it that strange to believe…Is it that far-fetched to believe that He is walking on water when you realize He created the water? Is it that strange to believe that He’s able to feed over 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish when you realize He created the stomachs of every single person that He is feeding? Is it really that outlandish to believe that He rose from the dead? He is God. What’s really hard to believe is that He died in the first place! That’s what’s overwhelming!
Once we accept the reality of incarnation, everything else begins to make sense. This is why…This is why Packer says, “This is the most extraordinary miracle in all of the Bible.” And it is why it’s the stumbling block upon which people divert from Christianity. You talk to Muslims, Jewish men and women, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and scores of others, it is this point fundamentally where people diverge from Christianity and say, “No.” It’s mysterious! When you think about it, how are we supposed to understand this? Fully human, fully divine, fully man, fully God in one Person? You think about it. Clearly, (you’ve got this in your notes) Jesus’ human nature and divine nature are different. There are clearly differences we see between Jesus’ humanity and His deity that we see in for example the Gospel of Matthew. On one hand, He was born a baby. On another hand, He sustains the universe. Fully human, fully God. He was 30 years old and He exists eternally. Human nature, divine nature. He was tired and omnipotent.
We’ll see this in Matthew 8. He is on a boat with the disciples in the middle of the Sea of Galilee and He’s sleeping. He’s tired. He’s sleeping. There’s a storm that’s raging around the boat. The disciples wake Him up. They have to wake Him up! He rubs His eyes, yawns, stretches His hands and then lifts them up and says to the wind and the waves and says, “Be still.” And they obey. He was sleeping! Tired and omnipotent—same time. Tired yet omnipotent. He died and He conquered death. Did He die? Yes, He fully stopped breathing— His human nature dead. Did He conquer death? Absolutely. Just as He laid down His life, He picked it back up again.
He has returned to Heaven and He is present with us. Human nature —Jesus ascended to Heaven. Divine nature—Jesus is with us always. So in all these ways, we see that Jesus’ human nature and divine nature are different. At the same time, Jesus’ human nature and divine nature are unified. Meaning that the Bible, Gospel writers like Matthew, they don’t say, “Well, He was born in His human nature,” or “His human nature died,” or “In His human nature He was sleeping, but in His divine nature He calmed the wind and the waves.” Instead, “Jesus did all of these things.” Unified. Jesus was born. Jesus died. Jesus was asleep. Jesus calmed the wind and the waves. There’s no distinction.
It’s kind of like if I were going to write a letter…If I were going to write a letter, even if my toes had nothing to do with writing a letter, I would not say, “Well my fingers wrote the letter and my toes had nothing to do with it.” I would say, “I wrote the letter.” There would be no distinction between the two. I’d say, “It was done by me.” So in everything that Jesus does, whether it is revealed in His humanity or His deity, they are unified in such a way that we don’t see a distinction between the two. This is mind boggling, isn’t it? If it’s not, then you are not thinking about it.
I was reading one writer, Arthur Pink, trying to get my own mind a heart around how these natures, human and divine, come together in the One Person of Christ. Listen to what Arthur Pink says. See if it will clear it up for you, describing the nature and the Person of Christ. Arthur Pink says, “This important distinction calls for careful consideration by a person, as being an intelligent being subsisting by Himself. The second Person of the Trinity assumed a human nature, and gave a subsistence by union with the divine personality. It would have been a human person if it had not been united with the Son of God, but being united to Him, it cannot be called a person because it never subsisted by itself as other men do. It is not possible for a divine Person to assume another person subsisting of itself and to union with Himself. For two persons remaining two to become one person is a contradiction.”
The Incarnation is the most profound mystery in all the universe.
Thanks for clearing that up for us, Arthur. It all makes sense now. No. The incarnation is not only the most extraordinary miracle in all the Bible, it is the most profound mystery in all of the universe. And it’s this mystery that is encapsulated in what we just read about the virgin birth of Jesus. You think about it. You think about ways that maybe Jesus…Other ways Jesus could have come into the world. On one hand, maybe Jesus could have come without any human parent at all. But if that were the case, it would be hard for us to imagine, to believe, that He really identifies with us if He had no human parent, not a descendent from any line. On the other hand, what if Jesus had come through two human parents—a biological father and a biological mother? Then it would probably be hard to imagine that He is fully God since His origin was exactly the same as yours and mine. See how God, in His perfect wisdom and His creative sovereignty, ordained a virgin birth to be the avenue through which Jesus would come, born fully man from a woman, fully God from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18–25 Confirms Prophecy
And in all of this, we see what Jesus confirms on three levels. These are just three takeaways from what we’ve just read and what we consider in the reality in the virgin birth.
God is the Creator and the Re-Creator of all things
One: God is the Creator and the Re-Creator of all things. It’s really interesting. You go to verse 18. When it says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place…” You might circle that word, “birth” and make a little note out to the side, because in the original language of the New Testament, that word, “birth” is literally “genesis.” Origin. Now the birth, the genesis, the origin of Jesus Christ is this. And you can’t help in this first book of the New Testament, first chapter of the New Testament, to go all the way back in your mind to the first chapter and book in the Old Testament, Genesis, and see similarities.
In Genesis, the Spirit brings life to men. Remember Genesis 1:1–2, first two verses of the Bible. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” From the very beginning of Scripture, we see the Spirit active in creation. In Genesis 1 and 2 it is the Spirit who is breathing life into man.
And now here in Matthew, it’s the Spirit who is giving life to the Messiah. There were pagan stories of mythological gods who physically procreated with mortal humans, but there is nothing of that kind here. This is a picture of the Spirit doing just what He did in Genesis 1 for man—breathing life into the Messiah in Matthew 1.
And in Genesis, God promises a seed from a woman. You remember Genesis 3:15, God promises to raise up a seed, a singular offspring who would crush the head of the serpent, Satan. And now here in Matthew, God delivers that seed through a woman. What an amazing picture! The seed of a child in pregnancy comes from man. But here, in the only instance in human history where that is not the case, the seed comes from God through a woman in fulfillment of His promise.
Finally, in Genesis a man is born who would succumb to sin. The first man, Adam, who just one chapter after we see him in unhindered communion with God, is rebelling against the glory of God and he falls into sin. The Bible teaches us (Romans 5) that from that one sin came condemnation for all men. From one man all of us, every single one of us in this room, has inherited a sinful nature. We are born with it. We are all born with a propensity to sin, as men and women who succumb to sin. But here the story is different. In a physical, technical sense, Jesus does not come from the line from Adam. He does not come with an inherited sinful nature. Now this doesn’t mean that Mary was perfectly sinless as the Roman Catholic Church has historically taught. Scripture nowhere teaches Mary’s sinlessness.
Instead, this is a clear picture of a partial interruption in the line that came from Adam. And a new Adam has come on the scene.
An Adam, a Man, who does not have an inherently sinful nature, a Man who will not succumb to sin. Here in Matthew, a Man is born who will save from sin. So see it. The God who is creating in Genesis 1, is re-creating in Matthew 1. He’s making a way through the virgin birth of Christ for humanity to be rescued from sin and reconciled to God. The whole, the beauty of your God… He is the God who takes the hurt in our lives and He turns them into joys. He is the God who takes suffering in your life and He turns it into satisfaction. He is the God who takes pain in our lives and He turns it into eventual pleasure. He’s the God who takes rebellion in every one of our lives and turns it into righteousness. He’s the God who takes sin in our lives and turns it into salvation. Behold, the God who creates and re creates. He redeems, evident in this picture in Matthew 1.
God is always faithful to His Word.
Second, God is the Creator and Re-Creator of all things, and God is always faithful to His Word. Notice carefully verse 22 when Matthew says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” And then he quotes from Isaiah 7:14. Now what I want you to do, is I want you to see this morning how this is the first of 10 different times in the book of Matthew where we will see Matthew make this kind of notation. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” I want you to underline them with me. I just wanted to give you a little foretaste of where this is going to be going over the next 28 chapters. So underline it here in verse 22. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” That’s the first time we see Matthew draw our attention to this.
Then look to the next chapter, chapter 2, which we’ll be in next week. Starting in verse 15, we’re going to see it three times in this one chapter. Matthew 2:15, talking about how Joseph took his family to Egypt. “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” So underline it there. “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” Then he quotes from the Old Testament.
Then you get down to verse 17 and we see what Herod does—killing children. “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah.” And he quotes Jeremiah. So underline verse 17. “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah.” Then you get to the very end of the chapter—verse 23. “And (the family) went and lived in a city called Nazareth, (here it is) so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled.” And he quotes from the Old Testament. So we’ve got three times in one chapter, four times already in the book of Matthew. This was done to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet.
Now keep going—Matthew 4:14. Let me show you the others. Just underline them as a clue when you’re reading through this. “Hey, this is Matthew pointing us again to the Old Testament.” Verse 14. “So that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.” This is when Jesus is beginning His ministry. So underline verse 14. Then keep going to the right and you come to Matthew 8:17. Jesus is healing many different people of their diseases and their sicknesses. And you get to Matthew 8:17 and Matthew says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah. ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’”
So there it is. “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah.”
Keep going to the right. Come to Matthew 12:17. Matthew 12:17. You had Matthew 8:17 now Matthew 12:17. Talking about Jesus, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah.” And then he does a long quotation from Isaiah. Matthew 12:17. So that’s seven of them. Three more. Next chapter, Matthew 13:35. Jesus is, in Matthew 13, He’s teaching in all these different parables and so Matthew draws our attention to this. Verse 34, “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.” Verse 35, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet.” And he quotes from the Old Testament, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”
Keep going to the right. Two more. Matthew 21:4. As Jesus enters into Jerusalem, triumphal entry, preparing to go to the cross. As He enters in, Matthew gives us this remark. Verse 4, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying.” He quotes from the Old Testament in verse 5. And then one more time. Matthew 27:9. Matthew 27:9. When we see Matthew telling us about Judas and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, he says in verse 9, “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying…” And he quotes from Jeremiah. So do you get the point? Matthew is making clear to us, don’t miss it, that whenever God makes a promise in His Word, He fulfills it in the world. Whenever God makes a promise in His Word, He fulfills it in the world. And you come back to Matthew 1 and you see this picture, this prophecy fulfilled from Isaiah 7:14. And there’s a question here, I’ve got it in your notes. What we don’t know is whether or not Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy with single or double fulfillment.
So is Isaiah 7:14 a prophecy with single or double fulfillment? Let me explain here. We don’t have time to turn there but Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” And the prophecy goes on to talk about the child. And this prophecy was given at a significant point in Israel’s history—more specifically Judah’s history (the Southern Kingdom people of God)—who at that point were led by King Ahaz. Ahaz was mentioned in the genealogy in Matthew 1. King Ahaz was an evil, wicked king. And the people of God were being threatened by a couple of opposing kings threatening to overtake the people of God.
And so King Ahaz was worried that they were going to be overtaken, the kingly line destroyed, the people of God destroyed. So Isaiah comes to him with a word from God and says, “Don’t worry. The Lord will protect. Trust in God.” But Ahaz doesn’t listen. Instead he turns and seeks help from the Assyrian king. And he’s not listening to God. Isaiah gives him this word. “There will be a sign.” And he begins to talk about a child. Isaiah 7:14.
Now, what I mean by single or double fulfillment. For years, Biblical scholars have debated whether or not that promise in Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled partially in some way in that day in the 7th century B.C. when it was given, and then ultimately in Christ. So that would be double fulfillment. Partially fulfilled in a child. And there’s discussion about who that child would have been in 7th century. And then full total fulfillment there in Jesus’ coming in Matthew 1. So that would be double fulfillment. Others say, “No, this is a prophecy that was given with singular focus on Christ.” Now I’m not going to claim to come on the scene this morning and solve this for all the Biblical scholars who are out there. But it is absolutely clear what we do know is Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy—the certain fulfillment in Christ; that 700 years before Christ came, God was giving this promise of a virgin who would have a Son whose name would be Immanuel, which means, God with us. And this is the reality that I want to bring home to us—to you.
I want us, you, to realize that the God we worship in this room was speaking of a promise in 7th century B.C., and 700 years later would be fulfilled in Christ. And based upon that picture I want you to know, right where you are sitting, that the God who gives you promises in this Word will always prove faithful to those promises. Always. The God who says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” will absolutely prove faithful to that promise in your life. The God who says, “I will supply all your needs according to the glorious riches of Christ Jesus,” will prove faithful to that promise in your life. The God who says, “Neither death, nor life, neither angels, nor demons, or the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will ever be able to separate you from His love,” will absolutely be faithful to that promise. And the God who has promised that there is coming a day when He will wipe every tear from your eyes and there will be no more mourning, and no more crying, and no more pain, and no more sickness, and no more sin, old gone, new will have come. The God who promised that will prove faithful to that promise. You can bank your life for all of eternity on the reality that God will always be faithful to His Word. He’s the Creator and Re-Creator. He is faithful to His Word.
God is transcendent over us, yet He is present with us.
Finally, see in Matthew 1:18–25 that God is transcendent over us, yet He is present with us. Meaning in His glory God is far above us, but in His grace God is near to us. His glory, far above. Grace, very close. Transcendent and present at the same time. Think of it. The God who spoke and the world came into being, the God who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. You saw that picture of the Himalayas earlier. The God who formed every one of those mountain peaks, who said, “Mountain peaks, you stop there.
And valley, you go this low and then rise again. You go there.” The God who brought every single bit of snow on those mountain peaks. The God who formed oceans and the deserts. The God who is sovereign over every blade of grass outside and every dust of creation. The God who is sovereign over all nature and all nations, this God is with you.
What do you do with that? It just knocks you off your feet! It’s like you’re just sitting there, “Wait! God with me! With us!” This is what is most baffling. Us! In our sinfulness, having inherited a sinful nature, all of us coming to sin and rebelling against Him and He has come to be with us. He’s entered into a sin-stained world, identified with us in our sorrow, and our sickness, struggles, and suffering, and ultimately in our sin. Not by sinning Himself, but by taking the stains of your sin and my sin upon Himself. This is absolutely the stumbling block of Christianity.
I’ve told a story before that I think bears repeating here about a time when I was sitting across from a group of Muslim men in the Middle East in Ramadan amidst the Muslim holy month. They were eating dinner late one night. They had just broken their fast and they asked me to share with them what I believed about God. And I began to share with them about Jesus and who Jesus is, knowing full well that the Incarnation is an absolutely blasphemous doctrine according to Islam. It is blasphemy to say that Jesus, a human, is God in the flesh. And so I began to share with them about how Jesus is God in the flesh.
And they began to say, “There’s no way.”
I said, “Let me ask you a question. When I was preparing to marry my wife and I was going to ask her to marry me, what do you think would be better? For me to send some other guy to go ask her to marry me or for me to go myself?” They said, “Of course you would go yourself.” I said, “Why?” They said, “Of course you would go. This is your relationship with her.” Absolutely, because in matters of love, one must go himself. And the beauty of the message of Jesus, the Christ is that God has not sent this prophet or that prophet, this messenger or that message. God has come Himself, because in matters of love, one must go himself.
This is the deafening reality of the gospel that seems to so many, incomprehensible. But to those who believe, it is irresistible—that the infinitely great God, mighty in power, out of love for us has come to us. God has come to heal sick (Matthew 4, Matthew 8). God has come Himself to feed the hungry (Matthew 14, Matthew 15). God has come to bless the poor, particularly the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:1–12). God has come to bind the broken heart (Matthew 6, Matthew 11). “Come unto Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” God has come. God has come to deliver the demon-possessed to free them from captivity.
God, in Christ, has come to do all of these things. But as great as all of these things are, none of them are ultimate, because ultimately, God has come to rescue the lost. He has come to a sin-stained world for sin-stained men and women, to take the penalty of sin in the place of sinners. Think of it. You and I, with a sinful nature, separated from God, condemned before God, cut off from God, deserving of death—eternal death—and God has come through the virgin birth of Christ. He’s come among us—with us. Lived the life we could not live. Died the death we deserved to die. And then rose from the grave, conquering the enemy we could not conquer. There is no greater story and reality in all the world than this. And this is the magnitude of what is celebrated in the birth of Jesus, the Christ.