• Tony Birkhead

The Gift of Hope- Week 3



The Best Gift is the Presence not the Presents!

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.

Have you ever been surprised by something that changed your plans? How did you deal with the shock of the news or event?

How could such an occurrence shape our relationship with God?

Sometimes surprising circumstances can radically change our lives. Someone might get a dream job offer before they finish their degree, forcing them to choose between a job and their education. Others may have to deal with a sudden diagnosis of a disease, a break up in a relationship, or even meeting someone and falling in love. All of these things can re-orient our plans and possibly lead us into a time of confusion and stress. Even good news can cause anxiety!

How life-altering do you think it was for Mary to find out she was pregnant because of the Holy Spirit before she had ever known a man? How do you think Joseph felt about it? This news was certainly a life-altering event, and we can be certain they both wondered why this was happening to them. The only thing they could do with this happy news was buckle down and trust in the kindness of the Lord. After all, through their son, God was going to bring about the salvation of His people!

KEY SCRIPTURE

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

How do you think Joseph felt when he first learned that Mary was pregnant? Why do you think the Bible highlights that Joseph was “a righteous man”?

What do you think of Joseph’s impulse not to disgrace Mary publicly?

Joseph was certainly shocked and upset when he heard that Mary was pregnant. How else would a man react upon hearing that his fiancée was pregnant if they had never been intimate! Such news would be enough to devastate anyone, and it is safe to say that Joseph was no exception.

Joseph demonstrates his righteousness by not wishing to publicly humiliate Mary. One of the impulses after such news might be to get even. Joseph cared enough about Mary not to humiliate her even after he thought she had betrayed him. Despite his pain and confusion, he sought to show Mary mercy. One lesson we could all learn from Joseph is that when we have times where life doesn’t make sense and is painful, we could still have the character to show mercy to others.

Ask a Volunteer to read Matthew 1:20-21

Why do you think that the angel calls Joseph “son of David”? How do you think he felt about Mary after this visit by the angel?

How do you think Joseph felt about the upcoming birth of Jesus?

Joseph may have been more shocked by the angelic announcement than he was to find out about Mary’s pregnancy! After all, never before in the history of the world had such a pregnancy occurred. Needless to say, Joseph’s world was turned upside down by Mary’s pregnancy.

The angel probably called Joseph the Son of David to remind him of his ancestry. Joseph was a poor man making his living as a carpenter, and that is a long way from being King over all Israel! God had not forgotten His promise to David to send a son to sit on the throne forever, and now that was going to be fulfilled in the son of Joseph.

Even though Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, it is important to note that Joseph was, indeed, Jesus’ “real dad”. Adoptive parents are real parents, and so God chose Joseph to be the father of His only begotten son. Both Joseph and Mary would have the honor of raising Jesus as their own son. Joseph went from thinking he had lost his fiancée to realizing he was about to be a father for the first time. I’m sure that this caused not a little fear and anxiety in Joseph’s life, but he handled all of this upheaval with faith.

Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 1:22-25.

Do you think that Joseph’s life got any easier or more difficult after he found out the good news about Mary and her pregnancy? Why?

Why might God’s blessing lead us into a time of difficulty and confusion as it did to Mary and Joseph?

It’s probably easier for us to imagine why bad news might lead us into a time of confusion and thinking that life isn’t making sense. The truth is that good news can lead us into difficulty just as easily as bad news. Any time something changes our lives, it can lead us into fear and confusion.

Joseph and Mary received the good news about Jesus’ birth before anyone else. There is no greater news ever given than the news that the Messiah is coming to save His people from their sins! But this news turned Mary and Joseph’s world upside down. Soon, they would have to flee to Egypt for their lives.

Sometimes, the things that God allows into our lives causes us confusion and difficulty just as it happened to Joseph and Mary. But like them, we can trust in the Lord when life doesn’t seem to make sense. We need not be afraid if the Lord is with us.

MOVING FORWARD

  • How can Joseph’s example in this story help us to cope with fear and uncertainty in our own lives?

  • When our lives are turned upside down, what are some ways we can find comfort that, in the end, our perseverance will be worth it?

PRAY TOGETHER

During a time of group prayer, ask the Father to help those of us who are going through a time of difficulty. Pray that we will remain faithful and remember the promises that are ours through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

COMMENTARY

Matthew 1:18-25

1:18. As Matthew launched the account of Jesus’ birth, note that he was careful to highlight the title “Christ”—the title he used in the preceding passage that demonstrated Jesus had the right to claim deity. Watch for Matthew’s use of this title throughout his Gospel. His purpose in writing was to make the case for Jesus as the promised King.

To understand the significance of some statements in this passage, it is necessary to understand the Jewish marriage customs of the day. The bride and groom went through a period of betrothal or engagement. In that culture and time, betrothal was virtually as binding as marriage. In this waiting period, Mary was found to be pregnant. Matthew was careful to protect the virtue of Mary and the supernatural origin of Christ.

Why is it so important that the Christ, the promised king, be born to a virgin? The virgin birth is more than a miracle to draw attention to the unique nature of this child. Because Mary was a virgin, only God could have been the father of Jesus, making Jesus the one and only God-Man in all the universe. God’s plan would have been impossible if Jesus had been anything less.

1:19. A betrothed couple was as good as married, and breaking off the relationship was seen as divorce, even though the couple had not yet been married. It also helps us gain a better perspective of the emotional state of Mary and Joseph when we realize that she was probably in her teens at the time of these events. The minimum marriageable age in Israel was twelve for women and thirteen for men. To remain unmarried as late as one’s twenties may have been cause for social embarrassment.

1:20-21. Mary, initially fearful of being an unwed mother, accepted God’s revealed intentions for her. And Joseph, initially not all that sure himself about the “virgin birth,” was originally thinking divorce, albeit quietly and with no public scandal. But when Joseph was approached by God through the angel, he accepted his role and did precisely as he was instructed by God. He kept Mary a virgin until after Jesus was born, after which their normal marital relations produced other children who were the half-brothers of Jesus. And Joseph, as the legal heir to the throne, named their son “Jesus” as he was told. Mary and Joseph learned that the only way to follow God was to “trust and obey” His word. The character of these two young adults reminds us that God fulfills His purposes by using people of strong character and unquestioning obedience.

The name “Jesus” chosen by God for His Son (1:21) was, in that day and for centuries before, a common name with special meaning. Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua,” meaning “Yahweh is salvation.” Jewish boys for centuries had been given this name Jesus with the frequency of today’s John or Mike. This reflects, in part, the hope of Jewish parents for God’s salvation from centuries of oppression under a succession of world powers. God’s choice of such a common name, when He could have chosen something unique, also emphasized that Jesus came in a way that identified with “the average Joe.” He came in love to become one of us, that we might be drawn to Him and become one of His. Jesus was approachable and touchable. He was one of us. “We do not have a high Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus did everything to build bridges to us.

Yet, while the name Jesus was common, only this child was qualified as the God-Man to save His people from their sins (1:21). Jesus came at the strategically appointed time to seal the eternal salvation of all whom the Father had chosen.

1:22-23. In these verses Matthew provided the first of many direct quotes from the Old Testament, and the first of many Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by the earthly life of Jesus. These Old Testament quotes and prophecies show, in part, the linkage and unity between the Old and New Testaments, helping us understand how God was preparing the way for the Christ from centuries past. They also validate the identity of Jesus as the promised Messiah, strengthening our faith in Him. And their perfect fulfillment in Jesus gives us confidence that God is faithful and mighty to keep His word to us today.

Matthew is quick to support the doctrine of the virgin birth, and his quote in 1:23 is from Isaiah 7:14, originally written by the prophet Isaiah over seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth. This verse in its original Old Testament context seems to be referring to a child who was to be born in that setting of Isaiah’s day, rather than centuries later. However, Matthew’s inspired revelation fills the original statement out to its full intention. God is never so clearly present with His people as He is through His virgin-born Son, the Messiah of Israel. Jesus is Immanuel! The linguistic components of the name Immanuel and their individual translations—Im = “with,” anu = “us,” and el = “God”—make it clear that Isaiah’s original prophecy could refer in its fullest sense only to the promised Messiah. This name of Jesus is a strong argument for His deity.

1:24-25. The dream that had begun for Joseph in verse 20 ends in these verses with him waking and choosing to obey everything the angel had told him to do. This fine man had learned to “trust and obey.”

#Christmas #GiftofHope #Godwithus #Presence

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