Matthew: The Messianic Hope
Three Portraits of the Birth of the Messiah Lesson #01
2016 Christmas Special
December 11, 2016
“Father, today we come to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior, the Messiah, the One Who was promised from almost the beginning of creation, from the fall of man, the One Who was prophesied again and again, more and more information being given that when He would arrive, we would be able to recognize Him for Who He was, that His birth was not an accident, that His birth was not something that was decided afterward, but as the Scripture says, it was determined before the foundation of the earth.
Father, we come today to remember and to worship because You have executed such a remarkable plan of salvation and because there’s so much that is involved in providing us with the Savior, and so much revealed, and that we want to come to understand more fully Who our Lord Jesus Christ is, and what He has done for us, and to examine these portraits of His birth that are provided for us in three of the Gospels.
Father, we pray that during this time, we can focus and concentrate, and that God the Holy Spirit will enable us to learn and understand and comprehend not only the realities and the facts surrounding the birth of our Lord, but also the implications that has for each one of us—that He has died for us, we are no longer our own, but have been bought with a price, and we are to live for You in our lives to glorify You. If we are not believers in Jesus Christ, understand who He is, that we might come to respond in faith trusting Him for our eternal life.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 1. We’re going to do a short series this Christmas season on three portraits of the birth of Jesus—the birth of the Messiah. These are going to be covered in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John.
Mark does not give us any information regarding the Nativity of our Lord. But each one of these Gospels provides us with a unique perspective.
Matthew tells us about the birth of Jesus from the perspective of His father, from the perspective of Joseph. So it begins with a genealogy that ends with Joseph, who is His adopted father.
When we look at the Gospel of Luke, Luke tells us the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of his mother Mary, the mother of His humanity.
John tells us the story from the perspective of the Divine Father. So each of these gives us different parts of what we need to understand about who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the Cross.
Matthew is a Gospel that we have studied in much detail. For those of you who are visitors, we are on around our 147th lesson in the Gospel of Matthew, going verse by verse. We’ve just completed the Matthew 23, and put that on hold for this three-lesson series on portraits of the birth of the Messiah. As such, we have learned several things about Matthew that are important when we come to look at how and why Matthew writes and provides us with this information about Jesus.
First of all, we see that Matthew was written to Jewish-background believers, those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and believe in Him and trusted in Him. One of the things that we should think about when we read the Gospel of Matthew is that we should think about reading this as a first century Jew, bringing to what Matthew says “a rich understanding of the Old Testament background.”
The Jews of the first century were exceptionally knowledgeable about the Torah and about the Old Testament. There were many who had memorized much of the Old Testament because that was part of the education, especially if you were an observant Jew, if you are a part of the pharisaical party, which was the most popular.
Although, there were others who would be, as in any cultures, somewhat scripturally impoverished, but there was a rich heritage within the culture.
It would be much like what you might find in the American colonies of the 17th or 18th centuries, where the entire culture was so ritually informed by Scripture that you had people who named their children biblical names, and they understood what they meant, and who those individuals were, and why they were significant. We had a biblically literate culture that was such that when you said anything about the Bible, it would not only bring to mind the story, the episode that you were talking about, but also many of the details that went with it.
That was true in the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many times when we have statements in Scripture that are just simple quotations, the reader at that time would not only remember the familiar quote or verse, but would also remember the entire context surrounding it and what the significance of that was.
Much like today, if you are historically literate and remember the history of the 20th century, and you hear a quote from Franklin Roosevelt that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, you not only remember that quote, but the speech that surrounded it, and the events that surrounded it, and it would take you back, as we remembered this last week, the events of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the Second World War, and all that went with that.
The same is true in the Scripture. When we see these, and will see several of them—five of them this morning in Matthew 1 and 2, that when they read this or heard it, what would come to their mind was a whole lot more than comes to the mind of the average 21st-century Christian. They’re not even sure that it came from the Old Testament or what the Old Testament is or why we should read it. And yet at that first century, they were quite knowledgeable, so it meant much more to them.
Another question that comes up is that if you’re reading this as a first century Jew, you might question the claims of Jesus as the Messiah because this was written some 15 to 20 years after the death of Jesus on the Cross, and the kingdom that Jesus had proclaimed had not come. So you would be raising questions as to what happened—why hasn’t the kingdom come? When is Jesus coming back? Can we be sure that Jesus really is the Messiah?
By then the pharisaical propaganda machine was putting out information that Jesus really wasn’t born of a virgin. He was born of an affair between a Roman soldier and this young Jewish girl. How would you answer that?
So Matthew was written in part to counter false claims and false perceptions such as that, and to set forth the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the promised and prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament. In order to do that, Matthew will quote from the Old Testament, explicit quotes, and explicit verses from the Old Testament 42 times.
Mark and Luke only explicitly cite the Old Testament 19 times and John 14 times. So that tells us that that Matthew is writing to what he assumes to be an Old-Testament-literate audience.
Matthew was probably the first Gospel written, although most scholars influenced by 19th century religious liberalism, in a number of those assumptions, think that Mark was the first one written.
The principle laid down in Scripture is to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Matthew was specifically written to Jews, and in fact, the oldest tradition is that Matthew was the first Gospel, and it was written to a primarily Jewish audience. He wrote to them in order to confirm that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, and to confirm their faith, and to answer some of their questions.
So this morning were going to look at Matthew’s portrayal of the birth of Jesus, and the emphasis that we see for the focal point in his presentation of the birth is on the birth of Jesus, who is the Messianic hope. If you understand, and we will by the end of this morning’s message, the significance of all of these Old Testament quotations, we will understand that the message of Matthew 1 and 2 is a message of hope again and again and again.
We are going to look at these two chapters. Matthew organizes his material around two things:
- He organizes them, first of all, around five dreams. There are five dreams in these two chapters.
- In Matthew 1:20 an angel appears to Joseph.
- Then there is a dream given to the magi in Matthew 2:12 to warn them of the danger of Herod and to go back another way.
- In Matthew 2:13, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream, warning him to escape and to flee to Egypt.
- In Matthew 2:19, an angel appears to Joseph again to tell him that it’s safe to go home.
- And then in Matthew 2:22, an angel appears (or God reveals to him) in a dream not to stay in Judea, but to go north to Galilee.
- And there are also five fulfillments that are mentioned in these two chapters, five fulfillments of prophecy. So there are these citations, these quotations, from the Old Testament:
- Isaiah 7:14 is quoted in Matthew 1:22–23 as being fulfilled.
- Micah 5:2 is fulfilled in Matthew 2:6.
- Hosea 11:1 is fulfilled in Matthew 2:15.
- Jeremiah 3:15 is fulfilled in Matthew 2:18.
- And then there is a summary of statements in the Old Testament that is fulfilled in Matthew 2:23.
So we have five dreams and five fulfillments, so 5+5 = 6. Remember, I’m mathematically challenged. We have 10 events, and so we’re going to look at 10 points briefly this morning to get an understanding of the thrust of what Matthew is getting across in these first two chapters.
The first dream is in Matthew 1:20. I would suspect that this was quite a surprise to Joseph. Joseph is not the physical, biological father of Jesus. He would become the adopted father of Jesus. That’s part of the reason that the genealogy is given at the beginning of Matthew 1.
That takes us back to Abraham, showing the lineage of Joseph, the genealogy of Joseph, and ending with him. In that genealogy, it shows that he is the descendent of one of Judah’s most evil kings, Jeconiah. There was a curse placed on Jeconiah that a descendent of him would not sit on the throne forever, which meant that Joseph could not be the physical father of the Messiah because of that Jeconiah curse.
Also it is giving the fact that Joseph as a descendant of David is in the royal house, and therefore, as the adopted father of Jesus, he is also royalty.
But what happens as we go into the episode here is that Matthew tells us about how Joseph came to learn about the events that would take place in his life.
In verse 20 we read, “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David’ ”—note the emphasis there, emphasis on his royal heritage—“ ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus’ ”—or Yeshuah in Hebrew—“ ‘for He will save His people from their sins.’ ”
The Hebrew word for save is yasha from which we get the word name Yeshuah, and so that emphasizes that He is the One who would be the Savior.
What we see here is an announcement to Joseph, which must be quite a surprise that his intended bride, his fiancée Mary, who was quite young at the time, maybe 15 or 16, that she was already pregnant. It would be typical of any man in that situation to put off his wife or to end the betrothal. But he is being told by Gabriel that something remarkable, something significant, something that has never happened in all of human history has taken place, and that is that a virgin has conceived.
This is the first fulfillment. So the second point relates to the first fulfillment, which is then given in Matthew 1:22 and 23. And following this, Matthew says, “So all of this was done that it might be fulfilled.”
So we have this kind of language five times in Matthew 1 through Matthew 2 to show that Jesus of Nazareth’s birth was not just some accident, it wasn’t something that people looked at and said, “Oh, he’s got all these kinds of things going on there. Let’s make Him the Messiah.” This was intended. It was purposeful, that God had a plan and a purpose and had brought history together for this particular moment, as Paul says in Galatians 4:4, “in the fullness of time, God brought forth a Savior.”
This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet. There was a specific prophecy given in the 7th century BC by Isaiah. Matthew 1:23 quotes it, “Behold, the virgin”—there’s an article there, indicating a specific individual, indicating a specific prophecy that a woman, a specific woman, a kind of woman, a virgin would give birth. This takes us back to Genesis 3:15 when God said that the Seed of the woman would defeat the seed of the serpent or the seed of Satan, that—“the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is translated, God with us.” The Hebrew word “Immanuel” means that God is with us.
This comes from Isaiah 7:14. It’s important to understand a little bit about the context. I’ve taught this in detail, so I’ll summarize it a little bit this morning.
The context of Isaiah 7 is that Ahaz, king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah and Israel, is under threat. The king of Israel in the North has allied himself with the king of Syria in order to attack and destroy Ahaz, to kill him personally, which will wipe out the house of David. It was through David’s line that the Messiah would come, and so this is an evil plot to destroy.
Ultimately, it’s a spiritually evil plot to destroy the line of David, and thus to prevent the coming of the Messiah. So this threat is against both Ahaz personally, and second, against the house of David, which he represents.
In this prophecy, what we find is that the Hebrew will switch between plural pronouns and singular pronouns. The singular pronouns tell us that there is a prophecy related to Ahaz personally to confirm that he will survive. The plural pronouns are addressed to the house of David, that there is a sign for the house of David, that the house of David will survive. God will be faithful to His covenant with David, and the Savior will come through the descendants of David. That is a message of hope.
In Isaiah 7:14, the pronouns are plural. Therefore, God is not speaking specifically to Ahaz, and there is no such thing as a near fulfillment. There is only a distant fulfillment that will provide salvation and an eternal dynasty for the house of David. God is giving a sign to the house of David that they will survive through this miraculous virgin birth. This is their future hope in the midst of a military crisis. They have a future hope.
There is a lot of debate over the meaning of the word “virgin.” There are those who claim that there is no specific word for virgin in Hebrew, but there are two words that are close. One of them is a word that, with about one exception, refers to a virgin, but it can be an older woman, a woman who is advanced in age in some uses.
This particular word, Alma, is chosen because it refers to a very young woman, she is of marriageable age, but she is not married. There only five uses of the word in the Old Testament, and what is significant about it is that in each context, it must refer to someone who is a virgin.
This is given as a sign. A sign is something that is significant because it is unusual. It is miraculous. It is completely out of the ordinary. So you have two choices here. One is that this woman is going to conceive and bear a son the normal way, in which case she is giving birth to an illegitimate child, and that’s not abnormal. There’s nothing significant about that. There are unmarried 15-, 16-, 17-year-old girls getting pregnant and giving birth all the time. There’s nothing sign-worthy of that. So this is going to be assigned something unique and distinct. So the context indicates that this is a virgin.
It was understood that way in the second century BC when the Jewish rabbis translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, into the version known as the Septuagint. They used the Greek word PARTHENOS, which means virgin. So they understood that this was a Messianic prophecy related to a virgin.
The conclusion of this is that he would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” It tells us that the Messiah is going to be born through a normal human process, so He’s human, but because He is “God with us,” He is also fully divine.
The third thing we see is the second prophetic fulfillment mentioned in the context. We are told at the end of Matthew 1:25 that after the announcement to Joseph, that he did not have intimate relations with his wife until she gave birth to her firstborn Son, who is called Yeshua, the Savior.
Then we shift gears at the beginning of Matthew 2, and we’re introduced to a group of men, magi, who are on a lengthy journey looking for the Messiah. They’ve seen His star in the heavens.
There’s a lot of debate over what that star is. I do not believe that there was anything astronomical about it. I believe that it was a unique representation of the Shekinah glory of God. For no star can point out anybody’s individual home and house, and that is what this star did. It hovered over the house where the Savior was born, so the magi could find the house. So all this talk about trying to identify some astronomical sign through the confluence of Jupiter and Mars is just speculation and has nothing to do with what the Bible says.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, they came to Herod. These magi were Parthian kingmakers. They arrived in Jerusalem and asking Herod the Great, where is the King of the Jews?
Herod was deeply and profoundly paranoid, especially with the Parthians, because they’d already run him out of Judea once. He is quite scared to death because these Parthian kingmakers have shown up, and they’re looking for the King of the Jews, and it’s not him!
He gets his scribes and priests together and asks them where the Messiah is to be born, and they tell him that He is to be born in Bethlehem because that is what is stated in in the Old Testament.
This is a quote from Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.”
Here’s a quote in the original context in Micah 5:2, “Bethlehem Ephrathah”—because of the founder of that village. Originally it was named Bethlehem—“though you are little among the thousands of Judah”—it’s just a small, insignificant, little place—about like Swift, Texas. You’ve never heard of Swift Texas? It’s a white spot on the road. That’s what Bethlehem was at the time. The only significance of Bethlehem was it was the birthplace of King David, who was the progenitor of the Lord Jesus Christ, the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophecy says—“yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
The only One Who was going forth from everlasting is Who? God. So this prophecy clearly indicates that this King, who will be born, this Ruler in Israel, is also eternal. He’s born indicating humanity, and He is from eternity.
Now a couple things we ought a note about the context of the Micah quote. Micah is one of the smaller prophets in the Old Testament, part of what’s called the Minor Prophets. Minor not because they’re less significant, but minor because they’re short. It is about seven chapters, and in it he writes a message of judgment for Israel, but also a message of hope. He wrote about the same time as Isaiah.
When you read through Micah 4, as you come to the last half of Micah 4, Micah foretells of a future time of judgment on Israel, that they will be removed from the land of Israel and put into exile. And Babylon, which came about—that’s mentioned in Micah 4:10. And then in Micah 4:11, he speaks of their return.
Then he speaks of a future time when the nations will come against Israel, and they will besiege Jerusalem, and it is a time when they do not have a leader, a time when they are looking for a king. And the answer to their problem of leadership comes in Micah 5:2, where they are told that this One Who will lead them, Who will Rule over them will be born in Bethlehem.
Again, the context is the restoration of the house of David. It is an emphasis on future hope, the certainty of future deliverance. So again, the drumbeat of these quotations in their original context is to provide hope for Israel and hope for the world.
There’s a second dream in Matthew 2:12 after the magi had come, and they had spoken to Herod, and then they had made their way to Bethlehem, where they had given gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (indicating royalty) to the Child.
Then they are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, for Herod had said somewhat craftily, cunningly, “Well, when you find the baby, come and tell me so that I can go and worship Him”. Of course, his intent was to kill the baby. So they are warned not to return by way of Herod, and they depart for their own country.
What we learn here is that the Messianic hope is connected with God’s divine protection. He is overseeing the circumstances, and He is providing protection to the magi and also for the Infant Jesus.
We see this in the third dream that is then described in Matthew 2:13, “Now when they—that is, the magi—had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph—again—in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ ”
So Joseph was obedient to the dream, and he took his wife and new Baby, and they left to go to Egypt.
Again in this third dream we are reminded of the message of the Messianic hope, and that it speaks of divine protection, God’s deliverance, and a future realization of hope. So Joseph is told to flee to Egypt. There, God will protect them and will eventually bring them back.
Next we see the third fulfillment. This is given in Matthew 2:14–15 immediately following this warning to flee.
In verse 14 were told, “When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt.” He did not wait at all. He left immediately. And we’re told he remained there until the death of Herod.
This wasn’t a long period of time. It might have been six months or a year, but they are there, God provided for them. The gifts that they been given, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, could have been sold to provide them with the finances they needed to survive—God’s provision.
Then we are told that he was there in Egypt “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son.’ ”
Now this is a fascinating prophecy, and just as I stated, this is just one short phrase that comes out of the second half of Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child, I loved him—God is the Speaker there—When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my Son.”
There’s a lot to this particular line “out of Egypt I called My Son” because Israel is called “the firstborn of God” in Exodus. “The firstborn of God.” This was an historical event. This is not a prophecy per se, but it was an historical event. Just as Israel was taken out of Egypt and brought to the Promised Land, they were given a promise by God of their deliverance in Egypt, and the promise of inheriting the land, which was a promise of hope. We learn from an overview of all of Hosea, that Hosea is not only a message of judgment, just as Micah was and just as Isaiah was, but it is also a message of hope.
Hosea wrote not long before the destruction of the Temple and destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote in the seventh century BC, towards the end of it as well.
In the context and it’s important to understand the whole context of Hosea because it all informs this one line “out of Egypt I called My Son.” In that context Hosea reminds his readers of how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt in the past. He reminds them of that past deliverance in order to make a point that there will be a similar future deliverance. And that message of a similar future deliverance is a message of hope.
In Hosea he focuses on the coming judgment of God, the exile in Babylon, but also on future deliverance. When he talks in Hosea about that future deliverance, he tells them that in the future they will have a single leader, just as they had had a single leader, Moses, in the past.
This is in Hosea 1:11, “Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together—unifying the tribes—and appoint for themselves one head—there will be one leader in the future to deliver them—and they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel!” This is a term that relates to the day of the Lord.
So Hosea makes the point they will have a single leader in the future like Moses. But he also tells them that this future leader will be identified as a new David, as a second David, as the future Messiah.
This is in Hosea 3:5, “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.”
When Matthew quotes from Hosea 11:1, he is not just making a simple typological reference, but he is using a typological reference of Egypt, and he is applying it in the same way that Hosea applies it in the Book of Hosea, and in his message. So he is reminding again, by this quote, he is reminding his readers that God is a God of deliverance and the God of hope, and He will ultimately deliver His people.
There is a fourth fulfillment statement in Matthew 2:17–18. After Herod had committed the slaughter of the innocents, the death of all the male babies under the age of two, we are told in verse 17, “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’ ”
Jeremiah wrote this, and this is a quote from Jeremiah 31:15, just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem the first time and the destruction of the first Temple somewhere close to 600 BC. Here we have the quote. It takes place in Jeremiah 31, and it’s talking about Ramah.
Now Ramallah (Ramah), as those of you who have been studying with me on Tuesday night know, this is the home of Samuel in the Old Testament. It’s about 5 or 6 miles north of Jerusalem; whereas Bethlehem was about 5 or 6 miles south of Jerusalem. There is a reference here that there is this weeping in Ramah, and it is a weeping of grief and sorrow and lamentation. And then it says Rachel is weeping for her children.
Rachel is a historical reference to Rachel, the wife of Jacob, his favorite wife, the one whom he had desired to marry but his father-in-law tricked him and snuck in the sister Leah under the veil. So he had to work another seven years to get Rachel, whom he loved. Rachel gave him two sons—Joseph, the one who had the coat of many colors—and then Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin.
In Genesis 35 it tells the story of what happened on the way to Bethlehem. Her days come to fulfillment, and she is giving birth to a son, and this will also lead to her death. So in Genesis 35:16–20 we’re told of this situation:
“Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth and she had a hard labor. Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said, ‘Do not fear; you will have this son also.’ ” So as the birth is in process, she identifies that this is a son—“And so it was, as her soul—that is as Rachel’s soul—was departing that she called his name Ben-Oni—in the Hebrew that means ‘son of my sorrow’—but his father called him Benjamin”—which is “son of my right hand.”
So she is weeping, her sorrow, that is the name that she calls him, Ben-Oni, but his father renames him, and that is a name that focuses on hope.
Rachel died, and she’s buried there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem, and Jacob we’re told, set up a pillar on her grave marking her gravesite. This is what Jeremiah is describing here. Rachel, as one of the matriarchs of Israel, becomes a figure representing all the mothers of Israel. So as we look at the Genesis account, there is an account of sorrow, but also hope through the birth of Benjamin.
Jeremiah picks up on this in Jeremiah 31, and he is speaking about Rachel, signifying all the mothers of Israel weeping because her sons and daughters are being taken off into captivity to Babylon, and this is an historical event. But the language, the verbs, that are used here are participles indicating ongoing weeping. If we were to take the time to read through the rest of the chapter, we would discover that what contextually stops the weeping is a message of hope.
Jeremiah 31:31 is the giving of the New Covenant. We just had the Lord’s Table. Jesus took the cup said, “This is the new covenant of My blood.” So Jesus is the One who will bring the New Covenant. He is the One who will stop the weeping of the mothers of Jerusalem.
This quotation from Jeremiah 31:15 is one that brings to mind not only the sorrow that is in this world because of sin and because of judgment, but also it brings to mind that there is hope and that hope is based on the One Who will bring the New Covenant. And Matthew is saying Jesus is the One Who will bring in the New Covenant.
Then in item 8 we have the fourth dream that when Herod was dead, an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus, in Egypt and said, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” That’s in Matthew 2:20.
In verse 20 you have the phrase “land of Israel;” and in verse 21, the phrase the “land of Israel.” These are the only two places in the Gospel that speak of the land of Israel. This is a message of hope. As the Jews were coming out of Egypt, they were being taken to the Promised Land. That was their hope. Jesus personifies that, as He is taken as an infant from Egypt to the land of Israel. It too is a message of hope in that fourth dream.
Then in item 9 there is fifth dream. As Joseph is approaching southern Judea, he hears that Archelaus has been made king over Judea, after the death of Herod. He was an evil king himself, and so Joseph was afraid to go there. Then he is warned by God in a dream to go to Nazareth instead, and so he goes to the north to Galilee, and they make their home in Nazareth.
This, too, is part of the fulfillment of a prophecy, the fifth fulfillment, the 10th point, Matthew 2:23 we’re told that Joseph “came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth—which was just another wide spot on the road and didn’t have a very good reputation—that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’ ”
Now there’s no specific passage that says Jesus will be called a Nazarene. What you have instead is a collection of statements that say that He’s not going to be accepted, He’s not going to be the Hollywood picture of a leading man. In fact, He’s not very attractive.
Isaiah 53:2 says, “He shall grow up before Him—before God—as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness”—that means He’s not 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. He’s just a normal average-looking individual without anything physical that would attract people to Him.
Isaiah says, “and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men.”
I often make the point when I teach this, that every place in the world has some place nearby that they think the people there aren’t attractive, and they’re not real bright, and their family tree doesn’t fork, and they don’t have a very high IQ.
When I moved up to Connecticut. I heard a saying in New England that if you crossed the state line into Maine that your IQ would drop 50 points. In Texas in the Houston area, we don’t think very highly of folks who live in Pasadena. My apologies to you if you live in Pasadena. Other times we think about people who live in Arkansas or Okies from Oklahoma, and we say, “Well, you know, we’re not so sure about their family trees.”
Nazareth was that kind of town. There was no belief that people in Nazareth had very many talents. In fact, one of Jesus’ followers said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” This last prophecy is really a summation of what is said in the Old Testament, that being called a Nazarene was sort of an insult, and that Jesus would not be thought highly of. He would be called a Nazarene. That last statement said He goes to Nazareth, where He will be called a Nazarene.
But the Isaiah passage goes on to say that He is the One, this servant Messiah is the One, who will bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, “yet we esteemed Him stricken”—we thought God had just forgotten about it. But nevertheless, Isaiah 53:5, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was laid upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
He is the One Who would be our substitute. He was wounded for our transgressions in our place. That is the purpose, ultimately, of the incarnation.
Finally, in Isaiah 53:10 Isaiah says, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; to put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin”—Jesus the Messiah was to be our sin offering.
Then in Isaiah 53:11, “He shall see the labor of His soul”—the work of Christ on the Cross, God—“would be satisfied. By His knowledge—that is, by the knowledge of the Savior, of Jesus, the Scripture says—“My righteous Servant—that is, Jesus—will justify many.”
How are you justified before God? By believing on Him. Paul says that we are justified by faith and by faith alone, that we are not justified by works, but we are justified by the Lord Jesus Christ. So the message of the Gospel of Matthew is that Jesus brings hope, He brings a future certainty and eternal life because He is the One Who fulfills the prophecies and is the One Who will die on the Cross for our sins.
“Father, we’re thankful for this time that we’ve had to reflect upon the portrait of the birth of the Messiah given in Matthew, a message of hope, a message of certainty that He is the One Who is the promised and prophesied Messiah, the One Who would die on the Cross for our sins, Who would pay the penalty for our sins, that we would not be expected or required to work for salvation, but that it is a free gift. It is only by accepting it as a free gift that we have eternal life. Scripture says it’s “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saves us.”
Father, we pray that anyone listening to this message this morning would respond in faith, believing in Jesus as the Messiah, the One Who was born of a virgin, the one Who fulfilled almost 100 different specific prophecies in the Old Testament, pointing to His redemptive suffering work, the Cross; but there are many more that relate to His future rule, the crown, and these will remain to be fulfilled at His future coming.
Now Father, we pray that you would challenge each of us with the claims of the Gospel, not only to trust in Jesus for salvation, but to live for Him in terms of our ongoing spiritual life.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”