Jesus’ Birth (1:18-24)
God’s unfolding plan for the salvation of humanity – “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:18-19).
There were no sexual relations during a Jewish betrothal period, but it was a much more binding relationship than a modern engagement and could be broken only by divorce (see verse 19). In Deuteronomy 22:24 a betrothed woman is called a “wife,” though the preceding verse speaks of her as being “pledged to be married.” Matthew uses the terms “husband” (v.19) and “wife” (v. 24) of Joseph and Mary before they were married.
The Messianic Connection: “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. 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” (Matthew 1:20-21).
The phrase “in a dream” occurs five times in the first two chapters of Matthew (here; 2:12-13, 19, 22) and indicates the means the Lord used for speaking to Joseph. “Son of David” – perhaps a hint that the message of the angel related to the expected Messiah.
The Fulfillment of the Prophecy: “ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”). Twelve times (here; 2:15,23; 3:15; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14,35; 21:4; 27:9). Matthew speaks of the OT being fulfilled, i.e., of events in New Testament times that were prophesied in the OT. This is a powerful testimony to the divine origin of Scripture and its accuracy even in small details. In the fulfillments, we also see the writer’s concern for linking the Gospel with the Old Testament (OT).
Verse 23 is the first of at least 47 quotations, most of them Messianic, that Matthew takes from the Old Testament.
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (v. 24-25)
Notes: Messiah – “The Christ” (Greek) and “the Messiah” (Hebrew) both mean “the Anointed One” (v.17). Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves (v. 23).