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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:Mary, The Mother Of Our Lord
Text:Matthew 1:16 (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs - Ps. 89:1,2,7; Hy. 12:5; Hy. 13:1,2,3; Hy. 16; Ps. 89:15; Hy. 17

Reading - Matthew 1:18-2:12

Text - Matthew 1:16 - "... Joseph [was] the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of the true King of Israel. The One whom God had promised to his people-to David, to Judah, to Abraham. We can go even farther back to the beginning of time. We celebrate the birth of the one God had promised to Adam and Eve. This special child was born. The true King of Israel who would crush the head of the oppressor-who would save His people from their sins; who would rule over them like a gentle shepherd-was born of a woman called Mary.

During the past weeks we have heard something about the mothers of the Messiah-the mothers mentioned in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 1. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba. Today, Mary, the mother of Christ.

I proclaim to you the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ under this theme:


1. Joseph is the representative of the house of David; 2. God makes Mary the mother of the seed of David; 3. Jesus is born to be the King, the true son of David.

1. First something about Joseph, Mary's husband.

Joseph appears only in the beginning of the gospel according to Matthew and the gospel according to Luke. We do not hear anything more about Joseph beyond Matthew 2 and Luke 2. We hear about Mary, the mother of Jesus, in various places in the gospels. We even read about Mary in the beginning of Acts. We know that she was a believer and that she gathered with the Church right from the beginning. But we don't read much about Joseph. We know from Luke 2 that he was still alive when the Lord Jesus was 12 years old. But after that he disappears from view. Most likely he died before Jesus began his public ministry.

What do we know about Joseph? From Matthew 1 and 2 and Luke 1 and 2 we know that he was a righteous man. Matt. 1:19 says so. He was a believing man. Three times an angel appeared to him in a dream and instructed him as to what he was to do. He believed the message the angel brought from God, and acted accordingly. From Luke 2 we know that he was an obedient man. Together with Mary, he brought the necessary sacrifices to the temple, in obedience to the law of God-the law concerning the sacrifices which had to be brought after the birth of a firstborn son. We also know that he was a carpenter. That was his trade. That's how he made his living. And it was a trade that he passed on to his son, Jesus.

And so, from the gospels, we can sketch a profile of Joseph. He was a righteous, believing, obedient man who worked as a carpenter.

However, Joseph was not important because of these things. He was a VIP in the history of God's redemption. But not because of his personal characteristics or because of his profession-his trade. He was a very important person because he was the legitimate representative of the house of David. At the time that he lived, he was the legal heir of the throne of David.

The genealogy of Jesus Christ makes that clear. It starts with Abraham. The fourth name is Judah. Judah was the father of the royal tribe. When father Jacob blessed each of his sons before he died, then of Judah he said (in Gen. 49:10), "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the rulers staff from between his feet." Judah was designated as the royal tribe. The kings would come from Judah.

David was from the tribe of Judah. The list of kings mentioned in Matt. 1:6-11 were all descendants of David. The royal line from Judah passed through David and his seed-through David and the generations that followed him. We can read about all those kings mentioned in these verses in the books of the Kings and of the Chronicles.

Matt. 1:11 speaks about that sad event-the exile to Babylon. In the year 586 BC the people of God went into exile because of their disobedience to God. The glory of the house of David ended in the shame of exile in a foreign country. However, the line of David continued. We read in the verses 12 and following about the line of David continuing in Babylon. Matthew mentions Shealtiel and Zerubbabel.

After the 70 years of exile were over, Zerubbabel was one of the leaders who led the people of God back to Jerusalem. (We came across Zerubbabel earlier this year in sermons on Haggai.) The line of David continued. Through Zerubbabel, through his son Abiud and on to Joseph. During the time between the OT and the NT the line of David continued. They never sat on the throne in Jerusalem. They were under foreign powers all that time. The glory was gone, but yet the line continued.

The glory of the house of David was gone. Nothing was left. In Acts 15 James, the brother of our Lord, spoke about how the house of David had fallen. He says that it was in ruins.

That's how it had become. Ever since the exile into Babylon, the house of David was nothing but a heap of rubble. That's what it was like at the time of Joseph. That Joseph had taken on the humble trade of a carpenter and the fact that Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary brought the sacrifice of the poorest to the temple tells us that the dynasty of David had nothing of its former glory left.

But, it was still there. As caved in as it was, the house of David still existed. And Joseph was the heir. If the house of David had yet possessed the throne or if it were to ascend to the throne again, Joseph would have been the king. He was the crown prince. The succession in the genealogy from Judah through David all the way to Joseph shows that. That's Matthew's point in recording here the genealogy of Jesus Christ. He was showing how the legitimate royal line extended all the way to Joseph, and on to Jesus. Joseph was the rightful representative of the house of David. And his firstborn son would be the one to succeed him to David's throne.

Joseph knew this. That he was the bearer of the promise God had spoken first to Judah and then to David. That he was the bearer of the promise that God would establish David's throne forever. And he had already chosen who his wife would be. He had chosen the woman who would be the mother of the seed of David. A young woman called Mary was going to be the mother through whom the legitimate line of David would continue. They were engaged. They were pledged to one another-betrothed. A betrothal at this time was more than our engagements. A betrothal was a contractual arrangement. That meant that they were as good as married, except that they did not yet live together. During the betrothal period, the man and woman were already called one another's husband and wife even though they were not yet living like husband and wife.

Once the they were fully married and began living together as husband and wife, perhaps they would have a son through whom God would fulfill the promise he made to David. Maybe, once he and Mary were married, just maybe they would receive the promised son who would restore the throne of David and the glory of the kingship in Israel.

These were the hopes and dreams of the house of David. These were the hopes and dreams of Joseph, as the legal heir to the throne of David.

Joseph's hopes and dreams were fulfilled. But not in the way he expected.

2. God makes Mary the mother of the seed of David.

While Joseph and Mary were still betrothed, in that period before the actual marriage when they would begin living together as husband and wife, Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Mary is expecting a child. That means that Joseph is expecting a child. The House of David is expecting the birth of a child. However, the expectation of this child was so unexpected. They were not yet married. They had not yet come together.

Many commentators suppose, at this point, that Joseph must have thought that Mary had been unfaithful to him. That Joseph must have assumed that Mary had committed adultery. But is that a good assumption? V. 18 already says that Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. There is no reason to suppose that Matthew added this information later. This is what was found out, discovered. Joseph learned that his wife Mary was with child by the Holy Spirit.

We know from Luke that Gabriel had told Mary that she would bear a son conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary would have told Joseph about this. Mary would not have let Joseph labour under the mistaken notion that she had been unfaithful, had committed adultery, had done something which, according to OT law, was worthy of death.

So Joseph learned that his wife was with child by the Holy Spirit. What to do? It's clear to Joseph that God had chosen Mary for a special task. Obviously he's got to get out of the way. He's got to give his wife up to God. In his mind he can no longer take Mary to be his wife. That much is clear. His choice of a woman to continue the house of David was the wrong choice. God had greater things in store for Mary. V. 19 calls Joseph a righteous (just) man. He was not sure what the Holy Spirit was doing, but he realized that the Holy Spirit was sure doing something. And so he, a righteous man, filled with the fear of God, stepped aside. The House of David, concentrated in Joseph, stepped aside for the great thing God was doing.

Since the betrothal was a legally binding relationship, it had to be legally dissolved. Joseph, realizing that Mary had done nothing worthy of shame, and so unwilling to see her bear any shame, had resolved to divorce her quietly. A letter of divorce from him would dissolve the betrothal.

All of this shows that Joseph did not suspect adultery. A righteous man who lived by the word of God would have dealt with his betrothed according to the law. Num. 5 says what a man was to do if he suspected his wife of having committed adultery. He was to take her to the priest at the temple. The priest would make her drink, what was called, "the water of bitterness." (Holy water mixed with dust from the temple floor.) If the woman was guilty she would experience terrible pain and would get sick. If she was innocent, there would be no ill effect.

If righteous Joseph had suspected adultery, he would have cleared the matter up this way. But we read nothing of this. Rather, righteous Joseph realized that the Holy Spirit was at work with Mary. And so he thought it best to dissolve the betrothal. God had, apparently, drawn a line through their marriage.

But then an angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel addressed him by his official title: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife." He addressed Joseph as the one who had the right to beget the crown prince, the legal heir, of the house of David." "Do not be afraid to take Mary." (He was afraid to take Mary because of what the Holy Spirit was doing. If he had suspected adultery, he would not have been filled with fear; he would have been filled with jealousy and indignation.) "Take the one you have chosen as your wife. She will be the legitimate mother of the seed of David. Don't pull back in fear, in dread, Joseph. Don't pull back because of what you have found the Holy Spirit to have done."

Then the angel confirmed that it was indeed the Holy Spirit at work. God was using Joseph's choice. God was using Mary. But in an unexpected way.

In these sermons about the mothers in the family line of Jesus, we've seen every time that God acts in such surprising ways as he brings about his plan for a Saviour. He used Tamar, a Canaanite woman. She tricked Judah, her father-in-law. Judah wouldn't give his youngest son to her so that he could perform the duty of a brother-in-law. Tamar tricked Judah so that she conceived by him. God used that to carry on the line of Judah, the line Judah had brought to a dead end.

God surprised us again by using Rahab, the harlot of Jericho to further the line of David. And then again by bringing Ruth, a Moabite woman, into the church so that she could become the great-grandmother of king David.

We heard about how God brought something good out of the sins of David and Bathsheba. He brought forth Solomon, the prince of peace.

Now again God acts in a surprising way. He continues the royal line through Joseph. Joseph is the legal heir to the throne. His wife will be the legitimate mother of the seed of David. But then, as Joseph and Mary are about to be married so that the line of David can continue until the promised one is born, God set Joseph aside. The house of David is set aside. God will repair the caved-in house of David. He will bring a glorious throne out of the rubble. He will do it through Mary. God will raise the throne out of the rubble. But without Joseph, the legal heir.

By all human reasoning, Joseph had to be the one to father Jesus. But right at this decisive moment in history, Joseph, David, even Abraham, are ignored. The child is conceived by the Holy Spirit. In the full sense of the word, the child is given-given from above. He is implanted into the line of David. Grafted into the royal house. It is completely an act of God, and not of man. The holy conception of Jesus in Mary is proof that redemption is entirely God's work, and not that of man.

Joseph, as righteous, believing and obedient as he was, could not have been the father of this child. Jesus Christ could not have been conceived in the normal way. Otherwise the darkness of sin would have continued. And the rubble of the house of David would not have been cleared away. No throne could have arise out of the bleak desolation of the caved-in house. His conception had to be a miracle. It had to be a divine act of God alone. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

We have to face up to that fact, beloved. Our natural state is so bad that if Christ had been conceived in the normal way our salvation would have been impossible. Because then he would have been a sinner as well. And a sinner cannot save sinners.

Let us thank God that he acted in this mysterious and surprising way. That he chose Joseph's choice in whom to conceive the Saviour. And that the one whom he conceived, and the one to whom the Virgin Mary gave birth, was perfect, sinless, and able to save sinners.

3. Jesus is born to be the King, the true son of David.

The child was born. He was born of Mary, the wife of Joseph. Joseph had to name him. It was his task. The official representative of the House of David had to name this new king. The House of David had to receive this son, this King, from God's hand. The House of David had to acknowledge that the promised king, when he finally came, would be the gift of God from above.

The angel told Joseph what to name the given son: "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." That's what the name "Jesus" means-"The LORD is salvation".

Our text also says that He is called "Christ". Christ means "the anointed one". The Lord Jesus Christ was appointed by the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the Prophet who would reveal to us the Word of God. He was anointed to be the Priest who would bring the sacrifice which takes away our sins, which saves us. He was anointed to be the King. He is King Jesus, the one who raised up the house of David. Who brought the throne of his Father David out of the rubble.

He was born to be a King. He is the true Son of David.

Throughout the gospel according to Matthew we read about how Jesus was a King. The wise men who came from the east asked, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" A number of times people call him "the Son of David". They knew who he was. That he was the seed of David-the Promised one. Not many perceived that, but some did.

When he entered Jerusalem in order to suffer and die for the sins of his people, then he entered, riding a colt. Matthew wrote that this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." The crowds recognized him. They ushered him in shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David." He entered the temple and healed the blind and lame who came to him. And the children cried out, "Hosanna to the Son of David." They knew who he was.

Jesus Christ is King, beloved. He is the mighty king who crushes the head of Satan. He is the one through whom Abraham would become a blessing to all nations. He is the shoot which sprang out of the stump of Jesse, David's father, and who grows into a mighty tree which gives shade to his people.

What kind of a king is he? What kind of king was born of Mary? A gentle king. He is a king who, like David his father, is a shepherd. There's a difference, however. David left the pastures, he left his sheep to become the king. The Lord Jesus is the mighty king who becomes a shepherd. He is not an oriental despot like Herod who, in fit of furious rage, murdered all the baby boys of Bethlehem in a desperate attempt to kill the one born king of the Jews. He cares for his flock. He leads us rather than lords it over us. He takes pity on us. He helps us.

That's the kind of king he is. That's the kind of king Mary gave birth to. And he sits on the everlasting throne of David. He restored it to an even greater glory than it ever had. He sits on it today. He rules heaven and earth. And soon he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

That's the king whom God has given us. Given us as a free gift. Given to save us from our sins.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. George van Popta

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