Our family is anxiously awaiting the birth of our fourth grand daughter, who is due in Wake Forest at any minute. If you have ever participated in a birth, or held a newborn baby, you know that EVERY birth — even what people thoughtlessly might call a “natural” birth, is far from “natural” — it is miraculous. That a man and a woman could come together and produce a child, who would grow inside its mother, and be born as a living, breathing, thinking, person, is an amazing and miraculous thing. We shouldn’t take such things for granted. It is a miracle from God.
But there is ONE birth that is even more miraculous than any other: the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate during this Christmas season. Last week we looked briefly at the genealogy of Matthew 1:1-17, and we saw that among other things, it demonstrated that Jesus was not a “myth”; that He really lived as a real man, who had flesh and blood ancestors. But now, beginning in :18, we see another side of His nature: that as God, He had the most miraculous birth in all history. Let’s look together at what these verses teach us about His most miraculous birth, and most importantly, the REASON for it!
I. THE MOST MIRACULOUS BIRTH
:18 begins: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows …”. This is not a surprising beginning. Verses 1-17 have just outlined His ancestors, from Abraham to Joseph. And so now it comes to its main subject: the main subject of this genealogy, of this book, and of the whole New Testament: Jesus Christ. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ is 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.”
Now this is different. This passage had started off talking about His birth, a “natural” thing in the eyes off many; His mother was Mary; she had been betrothed to a man named Joseph (whom we will learn more about in a couple of weeks) — and all of the sudden, everything changes. Mary is found to be with child — not unusual in the history of the world for an unmarried person — but this pregnancy is different: “She was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”
This is a pregnancy, and a birth, which is absolutely unique, and different from every other birth in history. A woman is pregnant; she is with child. But there is no earthly father. Mary is with child “by the Holy Spirit.” And this passage mentions that more than once:
— :18 says “she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.’
— Then in :20 the angel re-emphasizes this to Joseph: “The Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
— And then helping to reinforce that is the fact that if you look back at the first 16 verses of this chapter, you will see that the formula for the genealogy is presented one way for everyone else who was born: “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.” It is worded that same way for every person UNTIL it gets to Joseph & Jesus. There it changes the wording, and instead of saying “Joseph was the father of Jesus” (which is how it was worded it for all of the others) it changes the formula to go out of way to say “Joseph was the HUSBAND of Mary, BY WHOM Jesus was born.” It specifically did NOT say that Joseph was the father of Jesus — because he was not. GOD was the Father of Jesus. This is the most miraculous birth of all time.
Last week a semi-trailer hit a car on a highway in Arkansas and sent a little 8-month-old baby who was inside the car in a baby seat that wasn’t installed correctly, flying 35 feet through the air. His panicked mother and others searched for him for 30 minutes before a firefighter who had been called to the scene finally found him, laying in a storm drain, totally unharmed. The local news station interviewed the mother, and she said, “This is my miracle baby.”
There are a number of “miracle baby” stories like that, but NONE can match the one found here in Matthew 1: a baby that was conceived by the Holy Spirit of God, inside an earthly mother, producing on earth the Son of God. The product of this miraculous union is Jesus Christ, the God/Man who became our Savior.
— He was fully Man: a baby that His mother could be “with child” with, and gave birth to like one would any other baby.
— but He was also fully God; conceived “by the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus Christ was 100% God & 100% Man. Fully God; fully Man.
This was absolutely unique — and He HAD to be absolutely unique, in order to bring about our salvation. As we have talked about before: it had to be a 100% Man who died on the cross in order to be our substitute, and pay for our sins. Hebrews 2:17 says: “Therefore, He HAD to be made like His brethren in all things … to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” It had to be a real, 100% man who died in our place on the cross.
But it also had to be more than just a “real” man on the cross. All men, descended from Adam, are sinners, with a sin nature passed down to them from Adam, like Romans 5 talks about. No “mere” human who died on the cross would suffice. People were executed on crosses by the Romans all the time, but it didn’t pay for anyone’s sins, because they were merely sinful, flawed, human beings.
But Jesus was different. He was absolutely unique. He WAS indeed 100% man; Hebrews 2:17 says He was made like His brethren in all things. Hebrews 4 says He was tempted in all things like we are — YET He was also without sin. He was not “just” a 100% man; He was also 100% GOD; conceived NOT by Joseph, but as this scripture says, “by the Holy Spirit.”
This is yet another reason why Christians proclaim that Jesus is the only way of salvation. No one else has ever fulfilled these qualifications of being fully God and fully man: not Buddha; not Muhammad; not any other religious leader at any time in the history of the world. No one else has ever been 100% God, and 100% man, and died in our place, bearing our sins. This is why when Jesus asked His Heavenly Father if there was any other way, that He would let the horrific fate of bearing the wrath for our sins pass from Him, God sent Him to the cross anyway — because there was no other way. There is no other Savior. There is no “Plan B.” If you want to be saved from your sins and have a home with God in heaven, there is only ONE way for you to have it, and that is through the Jesus that this “most miraculous birth” brought into the world.
And this passage goes on to make very clear the purpose of that birth:
II. THE MOST IMPORTANT PURPOSE
In :22-23 we see a Unique Fulfillment of prophecy: “Now all this took place to fulfill that which 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.”
What this teaches us that this very unique situation — this virgin bearing a Son, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit — didn’t just “pop up” out of nowhere. This was predicted over 700 years in advance. Last week we mentioned that one of the things the genealogy of Jesus shows us is the fulfillment of scripture promises that God made to Abraham and David thousands of years before Jesus was born. Scriptures all through the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, were fulfilled by Jesus when He came.
The prophecy Matthew refers to here comes from the Book of Isaiah. “The prophet” that Matthew mentions here in :22 is the prophet Isaiah. This verse that Matthew quotes here in :13 is Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son …”. So this “bizarre” scenario that Matthew describes here in Chapter 1 actually fulfills the prophecy that the prophet Isaiah had made 700 years before.
But what is the significance of the fulfillment of this prophecy? For one, it validates who Jesus was. Like we talked about last week, Jesus didn’t just “pop up” out of nowhere and claim to be the Messiah. He came at just the place that had been predicted in Micah 5:2, Bethlehem, and in an amazing virgin birth that had been prophesied, over 700 years in advance. So it validates who He claimed to be.
BUT LISTEN: THIS IS IMPORTANT: This fulfillment of scripture is not only academic. It not just God saying: “look what I predicted and then did.” It actually accomplished something very important. And what was that “something” that it accomplished? Matthew says here in :23 that what resulted was “GOD WITH US”; that GOD came down to earth in Jesus to be with us. It took the conception by the Holy Spirit; it took this virgin birth; it took the fulfillment of a prophecy like Isaiah 7:14, to bring about the Eternal God, the Second Person of the Godhead, God the Son, being able to come to earth in the form of a man, to be with us, and to save us.
John 1:14 says “And the Word (God) become flesh and dwelt among us.” God Himself came to be with us here on earth. And THIS is how that happened. This most miraculous birth accomplished the bringing of the Son of God into the world, who would be our Savior, and who would be “WITH US” for everyone who would trust Him as their Lord & Savior.
See, God created us to walk with Him, and to be “with Him” in His presence forever. But we sinned, and our sin separated us from God. If God hadn’t done something for us, then we would never have been able to make our way back to Him. But God DID do something for us: God the Son came to this world in the Person of Jesus Christ — the God/Man who was born of the Virgin Mary, fully God, and fully Man, so that He would be fully qualified to die on the cross and pay for our sins. And He rose again from the dead to prove that that is who He really was. And now He calls us to repent of our sins, and follow Him as our Lord & Savior. And if we will, He will forgive our sins, and send His Holy Spirit into our lives, so that “God will be with us” — with YOU — as long as you live — until He takes you to heaven to be with Him forever.
Those of us who know Jesus as our Savior know that it makes all the difference in your life, when you know that God is “with you” like that.
I think I mentioned one time before that our son Paul has a classmate from college who is going through something similar to what I did when I got sick several years ago. She is experiencing debilitating “cluster headaches” that have just decimated her ability to lead a normal life, and she is wrestling not only with the physical symptoms, but also with her faith, during this time. But from my perspective, even though she is struggling — and we all struggle somewhat in our times of trial — she is holding to her faith, and is walking with God through this — or more accurately, HE is with walking with her through it. And knowing that God is with us makes all the difference in times like that. Here’s what she wrote one day last week:
“Dark days … those days when God feels so far away. The days when just taking the next step takes all the strength you can muster. Those days when you wish you could rest instead of fighting a battle. The days when your body seems to just give up on you. The days that make you wonder if He is indeed good and if He even cares. Today is one of those days for me.
But it’s on those days that this word gains new meaning: Emmanuel. God with us. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, even when we wish we had a different path, even when we hate what He has chosen for us, even on the dark days … He is WITH US.”
Listen, THIS is what this miraculous birth is all about. It isn’t just about God fulfilling some prophecy. It isn’t just about believing in a the right doctrinal statement. What all this is about is that it brought about “Immanuel” — that from this time forward, God could be WITH US:
— “with us” as a man who would walk in our footsteps and experience everything that we do here on earth
— “with us” as a teacher who would show us what we would never have figured out for ourselves.
— “with us” dying on the cross for our sins, so that we could be totally forgiven for everything we have done
— “with us” in His Holy Spirit who will walk alongside us through whatever we go through here on earth: sickness, or trial, or even “the valley of the shadow of death”; who will “never leave us or forsake us”
It’s all about “God with us”. That’s what this is all about.
And God being with you is the most important thing you can know. If God is with you, you can handle anything else:
— If God is with you, then you can slay the giant that is facing you.
— If God is with you, then you can make it safely through the storm you are in.
— If God is with you, you win despite all odds.
— If God is with you, then even when you fail, you know you are forgiven.
— If God is with you, then nothing is too difficult for you — for nothing is too difficult for God — and God is with YOU!!
So the most important question of your life then becomes this: Do you know that God is with you? There is nothing that is more important than this.
— I’m not asking you if you “go to church.”
— I’m not asking you if you have “been baptized”
— I’m not asking you if you are religious, or a thousand other things.
I’m asking you: Do you know that God is with you? Do you know that your sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit of God is inside your life, and that no matter what you go through in life, that God is with you?
If you have that, then you have what it takes to get through anything that life throws at you. “God is with you”!
And if you don’t have that, then nothing else that you DO have, really matters. But I’m here to tell you today that you CAN have that. This is what this passage is all about. It’s what the gospel is all about. It’s what Christmas is all about; it’s what Jesus came for: the purpose of the most miraculous birth was to bring Jesus into this world to be your Savior, so that YOU could know, that “God is With You”!