THEY WILL CALL HIM IMMANUEL
Key Verse: 1:23
"'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and
they will call him Immanuel'--which means, 'God with us.'"
1. Read verses 18 and 19. How does romance and history come together in
the story of Jesus' birth? How did Joseph plan to resolve his
personal struggle? Why?
2. Read verse 20. What did the angel tell Joseph to do? Read verses
24-25. How did Joseph respond? How did he protect Mary and prepare
an environment for Jesus? What can you learn from him?
3. Read verses 20b-21. What does this verse teach us about who Jesus is
and about God's purpose in sending him? What does this mean to the
people of the world? To you?
4. Read verses 22-23. What did the prophet say? (Isa 7:14; 9:6,7) How
did Jesus' birth fulfill prophecy? Why is it important that he
5. What is Jesus' other name, and what does it mean? What does this
reveal about Jesus and his mission? What did "God with us" mean
personally to Matthew? What does it mean to you?
This passage is Matthew's Christmas message mainly for himself. In
this story we learn about Joseph, who made an environment for the birth
of Jesus. Especially we learn about the baby Jesus, who is the Immanuel
God. May the Immanuel God come to you and be with you.
I. Joseph, a son of David (18-20,24,25)
As history attests, romance is the starting point of history: Where
there is no romance, there is no history. Likewise, Matthew's Christmas
message begins with a beautiful romance between Joseph and Mary. Look
at verse 18a. "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His
mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph...." Joseph was a
country man who lived in the country town of Nazareth. Though Joseph
was a carpenter, he was born in the lineage of King David. No doubt
Joseph was very handsome and well-built, with a lofty and kingly
bearing. Joseph was the right person to be married to Mary, the mother
of Jesus. In God's providence, Joseph was engaged to her. According to
Jewish custom, engagement was tantamount to marriage, but the couple
had to spend one year of engagement time before the wedding. Obviously
Joseph worked harder and harder day by day in the hope of getting
together with Mary.
One day an unexpected thing happened to them. Look at verse 18b.
"...but before they came together, she was found to be with child
through the Holy Spirit." As God had promised, a Savior of the world
was to be born from the offspring of a woman (Ge 3:15). This Savior had
to be a perfect man (Heb 4:15), and at the same time he had to be the
perfect God. So Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit through the virgin
Mary. This great work of God demanded that Joseph and Mary sacrifice
their dream of happy marriage and a sweet home. Before marriage Mary
had to bear a son--the Savior of the world. For this, Mary had to be
pregnant by the Holy Spirit before she got together with Joseph.
What did Joseph do in this situation? Everybody knows that human
beings are made up of 90% of emotional feelings and 10% of earth, as
well as with the immortal soul of God. There is a story about a young
man. He misunderstood someone who talked about his daughter. Then he
became irrational and outrageous.
On the other hand, at the news of Mary's pregnancy, Joseph did not
give in to his emotional turmoil, nor was his love transmuted into
hatred. Joseph dealt with this problem in God. Verse 19 says, "Because
Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her
to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." It was the
custom of the time to expose a woman who became pregnant before
marriage to public disgrace, and then stone her to death. But Joseph
made a decision in God not to expose Mary to public disgrace. The
concept of Joseph in regard to God's righteousness is clear that love
of God is it's foundation. Thinking is one thing and acting is another.
How could he decide to help Mary? It was because he had personal faith
in the righteous God. At that time, to the Jewish people, tradition was
everything to them. But Joseph honored God's law more than tradition.
Joseph did not mind breaking the Jewish tradition because of Mary. He
was in for trouble. But he was not nervous. He did not look at the
situation. He only looked at God in prayer.
However, there was a problem: If she were exposed to public
disgrace, she might be stoned to death (Dt 22:20,21); if he were to
hide her pregnancy, he would turn out to be a violator of Moses' law.
Joseph was in a storm of life. It is certain that he knelt down and
prayed earnestly, asking God's mercy on him. Then God gave him the
power of faith to make a decision to save Mary at any cost. We learn
from Joseph the quality of being a Christian at a crucial moment. He
thought of God first, second of Mary, and lastly of himself. He did not
care about himself, if only he could save Mary. We see in him the
image of Jesus, who took up our infirmities and transgressions (Isa
What happened next? Look at verse 20. "But after he had considered
this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph
son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because
what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'" When he woke up, he
did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as
his wife. At that time, according to Jewish custom, it was beyond
imagination for Joseph to bring pregnant Mary to his home; it was shame
for his family; it was shame for his relatives; it was against the law
of Moses. But Joseph took Mary home. Probably Joseph's family members
pushed him out to sleep in the stable of an animal.
Look at verse 25. "But he had no union with her until she gave
birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." Joseph was pure in
heart. Even though he brought Mary home, he had no union with her until
she gave birth to a son. Humanly speaking, he was a carpenter.
Spiritually speaking, he was a man who could see God. Matthew 5:8 says,
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Thank God that
we can see God when our hearts are pure. Joseph also gave him the name
Jesus, as he was told by the angel of God. God was pleased with Joseph
and used him to make an environment for the birth of Jesus. We must
think about Joseph's pure heart seriously.
II. Jesus saves his people from their sins (21)
Look at verse 21. "She will give birth to a son, and you are to
give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their
sins." The name Jesus means, "the Lord saves." In this verse, "his
people" refers to the people of Israel. At that time, the people of
Israel were under the oppression of the Roman Empire. They lived in
constant fear and misery. All of them thought they were miserable
because of the Roman occupation. But they were miserable not because of
the Roman occupation but because of their sins.
Russian communists thought they were miserable because they could
not share bread equally. When they could share bread among themselves
equally, just as they had wanted they should be happy. But they were
still miserable, not because of human conditions, but because of their
sins. Sin also torments sinsick people. One young man looked good
outwardly, but he had a severe lust problem inwardly. He will get into
his 30's in several months, but he is still a freshman. He determined
to study well at the beginning of every semester. But in the middle of
the semester he was habitually carried away by lustful desire, which
is as strong as a locomotive.
We thank God that God saves us to overcome our carnal desire and
press on the upward way. As we studied, Joseph was nothing but a
country carpenter in Nazareth. But he had a loftiness and kingly
bearing, because he was not ruled by his sinful desire but by the word
of God. These days, in order to shape himself up, many a young man
makes himself very strange and smelly especially in his sheepdog
hairstyle. But it is not a fashionable style; it is the sign that he is
a helplessly corrupted man. We should not live by peer pressure; we
must live like Joseph. Even though we look very ordinary outwardly, we
must have a kingly bearing. We children of God must have the kingly
bearing of Jesus in our character.
III. Jesus, the Immanuel God (22,23)
Verses 22 and 23 tell us how Jesus, the Immanuel God, saves his
people from their sins. Look at verse 23. "'The virgin will be with
child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him
Immanuel'--which means, 'God with us.'" God saves us by being with us.
Even New Guineans cannot be with other New Guineans who speak different
dialects. "God with us" does not sound so impressive. But the Holy God
Almighty being with sinsick people is mystery and full of grace and
truth. God with us is like a mother being with her sick child, staying
up all night to take care of him, shedding many tears. Even today,
"God be with you" might be the best greeting to all helpless people. We
cannot say to a dying patient, "Take care." Our God is the Immanuel
God. What does "God with us" mean, and how was God with his people?
Let's think about why our God is the God of Immanuel.
Before talking about the God of Immanuel, it seems good to think
about how sinful human beings are. Sin has the connotation of
separation or cutting off. There is a beautiful girl. She is so pretty
like a tiger cub. But she is very sorrowful and her self-confidence is
less than nothing. She is bright. But her school records are below
average. It is because of her lifestyle. She cooked a boy with her
womanliness and enjoyed him, and then she deeply regretted it. Her
guilty conscience was tranquilized through Bible study. Then she
caught another boy and enjoyed her fleeting pleasure of sin. She thinks
that her lifestyle is normal. But she is not normal. She feels always
that her existence is crumbling moment by moment. She must know the
seriousness of sin. There are many young people like her. But God does
not abandon them. He wants to be with them.
First, God was with his people Israel. God chose Israel as his people
to raise them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. When God
brought them out of Egypt to the promised land flowing with milk and
honey, he wanted them to proclaim the knowledge of God to all Gentile
people. God wanted to overflow the world with the knowledge of God
through his people. Amen. But living in the promised land, his people
only liked milk and honey. As a result, they abandoned God. They also
abandoned God's holy mission for them. They became corrupt and useless
God was sorry. God sent them into exile to Babylon for divine
discipline. But God did not send them there by themselves; he was with
them (Isa 43:2). God suffered together with them in the Babylonian
captivity. God identified himself as a captive together with them. God
was with them until the 70 years of captivity was over. According to
Matthew 1:17, God was with his people for 42 generations, even though
they were too sinful for him to be with. God never gave up to save them
from their sins and to raise them as a nation of Bible teachers. God
was with them until Christ the Savior of the world was born (1:17). We
believe that God will be with us until this nation is raised as a
kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Second, Jesus was with Matthew. In the time of Jesus there was a man
named Levi. He was a tax collector. At that time, the people of Israel
hated tax collectors extremely, branding them as quislings and enemies
of the suffering people of Israel. The more the people of Israel were
oppressed, the more they hated the tax collectors. As a young man,
Matthew must have had a dream to be the greatest man who ever lived.
But like all other young men, he had to figure out how to survive in
this world. So he hardened his heart and chose to be realistic about
his future. He became a tax collector, thinking that money could make
him happy. His realistic idea made him very selfish. He did not care
about his suffering people, if only he could make money. He did not
mind losing his national identity, if only he could make money. Maybe
he frequently pretended to be a Roman. But his conscience made him feel
like a man with leprosy. There are two kinds of people in the world.
One is lovely people, to whom we want to give whatever we have. The
other is unconditionally hateful people. Levi was the hateful kind of
people because of his selfishness. It was hard for anyone to be with
him. As soon as he appeared on the street or in a restaurant, people
and even dogs pretended to be busy and scurried away one by one until
nobody was left.
One day Matthew was sitting in his tax collector's booth all by
himself. He was lonely--so lonely that he felt like dying. What was
worse, no one approached him; everyone ran away from him. But Jesus
came to him and said, "Follow me." It meant, "be my disciple." Matthew
could not believe his ears. But it was reality. At the moment, Matthew
could see God in Jesus. This is the reason he could follow Jesus
immediately. Matthew was a very difficult person to help because of his
blind selfishness. Matthew made Jesus sick and tired every day. But
Jesus was always with him, until he was healed of his blind
selfishness. Jesus was with him until his greatness in God was fully
restored. To Matthew, "God with us" was the good news of great joy for
all the people, especially for himself.
In the past, Matthew had no life direction. But since Jesus was
with him, he found true life direction. When Jesus saw him, he was an
able man despite his wretchedness. Filled with compassion, Jesus said
to him, "Follow me." It meant, "You must live a new life. And you must
grow slowly and steadily to be one of my disciples." In the past,
Matthew loved money. Yet money only gave him a huge potbelly until he
could not get into his expensive car. But since Jesus was with him, he
began to open his spiritual eyes. Since he met Jesus, he could see the
kingdom of God. He found his life mission. Obviously Matthew said again
and again, "You know, nobody wanted to be around me. I was lonely. I
was like a leper. But Jesus came to me and was with me until I was
changed into St. Matthew!" His life problem was a future security
problem. But he said in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and
his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Third, the Immanuel God came to this world as a child. It was
prophesied in Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is
given...." This verse is a vivid expression that God is love. This
verse means that God would send his one and only Son to this world as a
child to be born of Mary. Almighty God came down to this world as a
helpless child. Why did God do so? It was so that he might be with all
sorrowful people and save them from their sins. While on earth, Jesus
was always with sorrowful people. While on earth, Jesus was always with
helpless people. While on earth, Jesus was always with very fatalistic
people. It was to save them from their sins of fatalism and bring them
back to his glorious kingdom. All men are fatalistic because of the
sting of death. But in Jesus there is no death, because he came to this
world to save fatalistic sinners by being with us. Jesus is the God of
In a few years, the way of greeting has been changed. In the past,
people said "God be with you" when they departed from each other. Last
several years time people said to each other "Take care" instead of
saying "God be with you" (goodbye). Soon they began to say "Have fun."
These changes clearly show the power of ungodliness overpowering in
men's souls. We must say again "God be with you." May the God of
Immanuel be with us so that the God of Immanuel may be with our