Read Matthew 1:18-25
Christmas has ended and therefore many of us have moved on from the birth narratives of Jesus. But, if I may, I’d like to draw our attention back to the part of the narrative that focuses on the role of Joseph.
While there are several things we can learn about Jesus’ birth in the above passage, I’d like to focus on Joseph’s role and how it fit into God’s plan of redemption.
Today’s Truth Statement: Included in God’s sovereign plan of the adoption of men and women through His Son Jesus was the plan of His Son’s own adoption.
Let’s first give our passage some context.
In the book of Isaiah we find prophecies concerning the Messiah, Israel’s coming Savior. One of those prophecies is found in Isaiah 7:14, which says, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” We also learn that the Messiah will sit “on the throne of David.” (9:7) Jeremiah also prophesizes about the coming Messiah being a descendant of David (see Jer. 23:5).
But here’s the problem with these prophesies. At that time, someone’s lineage was traced through the father. A son of David would come through the father’s line. But if the Messiah is born of a virgin, and as Matthew tells us, of the Holy Spirit, then Jesus has no father to trace a lineage back to David. So how is it going to be possible for Jesus to come through an earthly father’s lineage when His father isn’t earthly?
The writer of Matthew wants us to know that Jesus IS the promised Messiah because he fulfills of both prophecies mentioned above. So Matthew begins with the genealogy of Joseph, demonstrating that Joseph is of the line of David. Then Matthew does something unusual. Instead of saying Joseph, the father of Jesus, he writes, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” But how, if Jesus is not the son of Joseph, can he be the descendant of David?
Matthew 1:18-25 answers this for us.
Jesus was born of a virgin.
The text tells us that Joseph learns his fiancé Mary was pregnant and not by him as “he resolved to divorce her quietly.” Being engaged at this time had legal ratifications. Engagements couldn’t be called off easily like today. A formal divorce would have to ensue in order to break off an engagement, and engagements could be broken if the girl to be married had been unfaithful. Joseph assumes she had been unfaithful until an angel from God tells him that it is by the Holy Spirit that she is pregnant. Thus, Jesus fulfills Scripture that he is born of a virgin.
Jesus was adopted.
By verse 21 we finally understand God’s plan and we see an answer to the dilemma mentioned above. Joseph must adopt Jesus thereby making him Joseph’s heir and a son of David. Jesus needed an earthly father in order for God’s plan of redemption to be fulfilled. God chose Joseph and Joseph obeyed. Adoptions in the Greco-Roman world were legalized when the father gave the child his or her name. By Joseph calling his name Jesus, Jesus’ adoption was made complete and Scripture was fulfilled.
The importance of Jesus’ adoption.
After the birth narratives of Jesus in the Gospels, Joseph isn’t mentioned again. But Joseph’s role and calling was very important to God’s plan. If Joseph (or any other man for that matter) had not obeyed God and adopted His Son, not only would Scripture not have been fulfilled but Jesus would have been seen as a illegitimate child. His adoption was a necessary part to God’s plan.
So what can we take away from this passage?
I am sure there are more than what I list here but here are a couple thoughts.
- We can be sure that Jesus is the Messiah, the One who God speaks about in the Old Testament. And we can be sure that Jesus’ own story is one that includes adoption!
- Like Jesus needed an earthly father to adopt him, even more so do we need a heavenly Father to adopt us! Only through adoption do we become descendants of Abraham and heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:15-17). God has done what is necessary to guarantee our adoption and to give us a new name, but it is not complete until we accept the righteousness of God through His Son Jesus. God has always had a heart for the orphans, and His plan has always been that of adoption. Jesus was willing to come to earth as an earthly orphan (so to speak) to be adopted so that we as orphans might be adopted by His Father. Praise God!