Matthew 1.18-25

Title: Proclaimed Unexpectedly

Text: Matthew 1.18-25

Introduction: Let’s gain some context here of the overall Christmas Sermon Series.

I’m breaking it down like this:

  • Promised from the Beginning – His Story in Ancient History. Gen 3.1-24
  • Prepared Throughout History – His Story in the Old Testament. Matthew 1.1-17
  • Proclaimed Unexpectedly – His Story Announced. Matthew 1.18-25
  • Arrived at the Right TimeHis Story in our Time. Matthew 2.1-12

We began with the Fall. We continued through history as we looked at the lineage of Christ. What a storied lineage! We saw Real People, with Real Struggles. We saw sinful people used of God to accomplish his plan. Last week we saw undeserving people be used of God in glorious ways. I think of Bathsheba being chosen over Abigail. And, why Judah and not Joseph? The List goes on… We learned last week that God was working throughout Old Testament History to fulfill his promises and his plans. The continuance of family lines listed for priestly heritage and royal lineage in Matthew and Luke are due to God’s miraculous, gracious intervention. The story continues this morning with the interruption of the normal. Life is moving along just fine. Real people have dreams, plans, and expectations…

And then you have this unexpected proclamation: rd v 18; 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. In this way is the Gk word οὕτως. I’m sure you’re familiar with this word, οὕτως. It appears in John 3.16, It’s the 1st word in the Gk text, the 3rd word in the English text. For God… so loved the world. That is, most literally, if we use these words here Matthew 1.18, In this way, God loved the world, he gave his One and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

In this way… this is the manner… in which Jesus, the Messiah was born. And then, Matthew gives us a timeline. We read When in the English. The Gk is one word: Lit.: having been betrothed. This one word tells us so much. It’s an Aor. Pass. Ptc. Passive, meaning she didn’t do this – someone promised her to someone else. Someone gave her to this man, our text says, to Joseph. My guess is that Joseph and Mary’s father had already worked out the details for this marriage. The Jewish Custom and practice would have brought these men together to discuss this matter of marriage. I’m fairly confident that Mary’s dad shared the information with Mary’s mom. This arrangement would not be entered into lightly. There would be discussions, meetings, and bargaining. Both sides of the deal would be ok with the arrangement.

Everyone loves a wedding. Not everyone loves the planning, the work, the detail – ugh! But, that one hour or so for the ceremony, when a man and a woman join themselves together in holy matrimony… priceless. In Israel, according to their Jewish custom, all I’ve mentioned would have taken place: meetings and discussions and an agreement and a public announcement. For one year this couple would be pledged or betrothed to each other. They would enjoy the privileges of marriage, except for one last final step – the actual marriage ceremony. The Jewish words describing these ceremonies would be:

  1. The Kidushin – betrothal (pledge) to be betrothed means that one has pledged their ‘troth’ to another; their truth or fidelity;
  2. The Huppa (Wedding ceremony – one year later); this is the ceremony we read about in Cana of Galilee.

t.s.: It is in between these two times that tragedy strikes with an unexpected discovery.

I.    An Unexpected Discovery (18)

exp.: rd 18b;

  1. The Timing – note the words: before they came together, she was found to be with child. : Before their coming together – I think this is the huppa ceremony. I don’t think this is specifically referring to the consummation of the marriage. I think this is a statement that includes everything about the Huppa. Yes, it would intimate there has been no consummation of the marriage, but it is more than that. Before their coming together – found in the belly having.
  2. It was discovered that she was pregnant! γαστρὶ; γαστήρός, belly – a medical term today. This word ‘found’ is used to describe the adultery or fornication. Found is used in others way, too. But, when in this context – its bad. Like Sleep is a normal word in our vocabulary, but sometimes its used in ugly ways to describe… just what we’re talking about here. Of this word found, look at

Deut. 22.20ff: 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

  1. There is humiliation:
    1. For the family. Both mom and dad are humiliated. They have to face Joseph. They have to face the community! Remember, Mary still lives at home. The family will suffer tremendously from external pressure.

You know of the arranged marriages in that culture; these exist today; ill.: our missionaries serve in a country where there are arranged marriages; one of the struggles is that these young ladies surrender their lives to Christ and are then married to men who don’t know Christ;

2.  For Joseph. His arrangement is moving along as expected, except for one small detail – before they came together she was found to be with child; “oh yeah, and by the way, Mary’s pregnant.” He’d have to be told. Maybe he was suspected of being the Father. That would be an accusation against his character – against his integrity. Can you imagine the tough conversations in their home with Mary? The parents trying to get information out of her: Who is the father? What is this you’ve done? What were you thinking? Joseph has to feel this, too.

app.: So, it is during this one year period that it is discovered she is pregnant – and that, not by Joseph, but by others: probably her family and those closest to her. And Joseph doesn’t know the last part of that verse yet…by the Holy Spirit. Listen, there are some secrets you can hide. Others you can’t…

t.s.: So, 1st we see a discovery that will change their lives; and her unexpected discovery will lead to an unexpected divorce.

II.    An Unexpected Divorce (19-20a)

Ill.: Really, who plans for a divorce before one gets married? Do you remember It’s a Wonderful Life. At the end of the movie, when all of George Bailey’s friends are bringing him money and dumping it all in a giant punch bowl. There is a woman…her name is Annie. She worked for Baileys’ in the early part of the movie. At the end, she comes running in with all of George’s friends and dumps her money in the giant bowl. She says: I’ve been saving this money for a divorce, ifn I ever find a man.

#2: more real to life, I remember back in the Army we had rushed to some place to stand in line. That’s one thing I remember about the army… hurry up and wait. Any, this once, we were all lined up and just talking amongst ourselves. The soldier in front of me was talking about this wedding he had planned where he and his girl were going to the JOP. I was like: why don’t you get married in a church? He said: next time I’ll get married in a church. What? He tried clarifying, but the rest of us were in stitches that this guy was already planning for this marriage to fail. Then, the next time he got married would be in a church. Eventually he convinced us that wasn’t what he meant.

exp.: I’m sure divorce never crossed Joseph’s mind. That is, until the unexpected occurred; The main part of the sentence, that is, the subject and the verb we read: Lit.: Joseph, her man, resolved to divorce her. rd v 19a; Now, there is so much more in this sentence; however, this is the message – he is going to take legal action against her and her family. Let that sink in for a moment.

Can you go there? Can you imagine the pain that seared his soul? The Bible records here that he was a righteous man. δίκαιος; What happened to good things come to good people? It doesn’t appear that he dwells on this for too long. A decision has to be made – a baby is coming – and this baby is not his. Here are his options:

  1. Complete the Marriage Vows and seal the deal. He can marry a girl who obviously loves someone else.
  2. Divorce her in the midst of this engagement and break the deal.

He chooses what’s behind door #2 – Divorce. It really is divorce – for this culture, this time, this practice. Today, people just break off the engagement. And in today’s society, statistics show us that the couple is probably already cohabitating and has already consummated the relationship. These two, Mary & Jospeh, they’re married w/ two main exceptions:

  • They’ve not consummated the relationship
  • She still lives w/ her parents – she doesn’t live with him.

So divorce it is and aren’t too many options available for him in obtaining this Divorce:

  1. His Rights: The Law said that such a crime deserved death – but that probably wasn’t going to happen.

Deut. 22.20ff: 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

The penalty was higher for the daughter of a priest; Lev 21.9; And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire. Any daughter of a priest should be burned to death; so, he could have put her to death…but not really. The laws in that day had been changed and altered and explained in a way that it wasn’t really that common. You remember the crucifixion? The Jews couldn’t just execute someone according to their laws – They had to have the approval of the Roman Court. My guess is that the divorce at this time would be putting her to public shame and humiliation – and not just her, but her whole family.

  1. His Heart: But here’s the thing with Joseph; rd v 19b – he is unwilling to put her to shame; Gk word 2x’s; Col 2.15: 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. So, death isn’t a reality and a public trial is out of the question; but he could have really broken her spirit; this little comment says so much about his character, his kindness – even toward one who has hurt him! So, He is resolved in his heart to divorce her quietly;

Ill.: The father probably received a dowry for her; (they lose a worker, the other family gains one); if the marriage were to be dissolved, there needed to be a returning of the dowry; λάθρᾳ (lathra); lathroscopic; privately or quietly; Acts 16.37; But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? Why? Because of the 1st statement…he is just, righteous; Acting in righteousness, he is acting just like Jesus; Isaiah gives a picture of Christ in the Suffering Servant; one of those – ch. 42.1ff reads…

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations.

        He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

        a bruised reed he will not break,

and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice.

        He will not grow faint or be discouraged

till he has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for his law.

Joseph looked beyond the punitive measures of the law to meet the needs of a young teen whose life had been radically changed. She was bruised and burnt out, but he didn’t break her or snuff her spirit out.

Joseph is going to divorce her, but he doesn’t want to expose her to public shame and humiliation. So, he’s going to divorce her quietly. Here’s what’s so interesting for me: He chooses to do this when he’s hurting so bad. I think his pain has been implied in the fact that he wants to get a divorce. But there is more here.

  1. His Pain. I think that Matthew wants us to see this here in the next verse (20a); this word, is only used one other time: here and it is also in
    1. Matthew (9.4); But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? their thoughts were evil. Thoughts lead to actions. Joseph’s thoughts are leading to divorce.
    2. Gen 6.6 (LXX; regret); And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
    3. Now, one more comment about this word. It’s a compound word, and part of this word is used by Matthew just a few sentences down in Matt 2, as he describes Herod and ‘all of Jerusalem’ (troubled, disturbed, angry, most lit.: stirred); I think as he considered these things; literally means, he’s in turmoil; there is sorrowful regret that he ever entered into this agreement, engagement. But most important, note is the timing – lit.: while he is in turmoil…behold, an angel of the Lord…rd v 20b-23;

t.s.: So, Matthew shows us 1st, this unexpected discovery – her pregnancy, leads to plans of an unexpected divorce. It would appear the decision had been made – He resolved in his heart…, but once again, we’re surprised with

III.   An Unexpected Decision

exp.: Instead of divorce proceedings, he follows through in obedience to the angel of the Lord’s commands. Note: four specific details show us his obedience and submission to God’s will:

  • He did
  • He took
  • He knew her not
  • He named

Conclusion: We read in Luke about a census for taxation purposes. More than one commentary stated that Women didn’t have to go along on these journeys to handle the legal matter of registering for the census. So, why did Joseph bring Mary along? Maybe he was concerned for her back home with what the people knew (or assumed they knew). Maybe he didn’t want to leave her to have the baby alone; Maybe, he wanted to bring her along because he knew the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem; Whatever his reason, even in her state, he brought her along which demonstrates a deep kindness and just how much he cares for Mary.




Transition: Thinking of their story has me pondering life. You know, if we lived up further north, we might be getting snow. But you never know. The sports channel reported rain for Green Bay today. you’d think the Cowboys would be in snow. The thing is, you just never know. The Truth is we plan. We work. We hope. We dream. But we’re really not in control of this thing, are we?

John 4.35: 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. I think the teaching of Jesus in this verse is applicable to this story and your story today. You see, really, it’s His Story. When you say 4 more months, you’re thinking in the physical. And, yeah, they’ll probably be a harvest of wheat or apples or something then. But Jesus is speaking of the Spiritual.


  1. Maybe your story of struggle this morning seems physical, but really it is more spiritual in nature.
    1. Maybe God’s using your trial to teach you something
    2. Maybe God is wanting to bring something about – and it’s not about you.
    3. If you think your struggle is all about you, you’ll miss some great opportunities to share the love of Christ.
  2. Your life touches others. The decisions, the actions, the reactions, the obedience – it all touches others around you.
    1. Don’t you find it interesting that God didn’t say, no, we can’t do it this way, it’ll be too embarrassing for the family. We don’t want to do that because it’s gonna hurt someone’s feelings.
  3. God is at work in it all. You might not see it – more than likely you can’t. But maybe, just maybe, God is at work in your discussions, your embarrassment, your humiliation, your pain, your struggle.

I like to think of Peter and his weeping in a dark corner. I picture him struggling with what he thought would be and what was happening: Christ crucified. He was in pain. His plans were all dashed. Everything he’d worked for over the last 3 years or more had dissipated before his eyes. But God’s plans were greater! Will you trust that God is at work this morning?





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