Matthew- Accepting Good News

Matthew 1:18-23

18This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!

She will give birth to a son,

and they will call him Immanuel,

which means ‘God is with us.’”

Intro

The birth of a baby is always good news. Isn’t it?

And the announcement of pregnancy is a good news to be shared? Isn’t it.

My wife and I chose not to have a baby the first few years. We met and got married in 8 months. We needed time to get to know each other. But when we did not produce grandparents for our parents they got worried.

My father asked, is it your fault?

My mother tried to cook all sorts of food to aid pregnancy.

But we told them this was all a plan. My conservative mother disagreed vehemently.

-God doesn’t like people messing with natural processes.

-But you are praying for miracles every day, for supernatural events.

-That’s different.

After four years, we decided it was time. And we were lucky, my wife got pregnant right away. And we know our parents would be happy. So after 8 weeks of pregnancy we made an announcement over dinner. My father and mother were dancing for joy because it would be their first grandparent.

My father said, - I am going to teach him golf, make him a pro, you have to give me a cut.

My mother cooked dishes for us every night.

My wife was treated as a princess. After all, she was pregnant.

Birth is a good thing. So news of pregnancy is a good thing, isn’t it?

What about you guys, how did you guys announce your pregnancy.

Now, not all pregnancy news is something you can share over a dinner. Not all pregnancy news is accepted as good news.

Especially if it is out of wedlock. Especially if it is just months before marriage. Especially, if the child is not of the man you are marrying.

Poor Mary. I get it. She is just a teenage girl. Now she is pregnant and how does she announce that? It took great courage for Mary to go through with this pregnancy. Luke tells Mary’s side, really well. So we sing Mary’s magnificat even today.

But Matthew tells Joseph’s side, and rightfully so because it was hard on Joseph too. It took a long time for Joseph to come to terms with the pregnancy. In fact, he needed supernatural help. Especially because Joseph had great love for Mary. This doesn’t seem like a business marriage, especially since peasants don’t have much business to worry about in marriage.

The image we have of Joseph is Joseph guiding the donkey that is carrying pregnant Mary. We don’t have such detail in the gospels but it is a truthful image because it reflects Josephs’ tender care for Mary.

When Mary tells Joseph about her pregnancy, Joseph planned to quietly dissolve the engagement. Joseph could have reacted angrily, take out his wrath on her by publicly declaring her whore, even have her stoned. Some men do that. It would also clear his name by making public the person at fault.

But choosing to dissolve quietly meant he was willing to be implicated for her sake. When she gives birth, people will gossip, that is Joseph’s son; he impregnated her and just left her. Joseph was willing to live with that gossip, take the fall with her. He really loved her.

But an angel visits him in a dream and mends his broken heart. The angel tells him that Mary is telling the truth. That must have relieved him greatly. Truth brought freedom and healing. That must have been good news, gospel for him, that Mary was faithful to him. There is no one in the world to whom virgin birth mattered more than it did to Joseph.

And then he gets even more great news.

You son is the promised messiah, who will take away the sins (and remember Joseph had no idea that it would take the cross). That his name is Immanuel, God With Us.

Did anyone have dreams during pregnancy. Many people do. Many people say there is prophetic power to such dreams. In Korea, we have an elaborate interpretation for it. Some animals signify the sex of the baby. Some images, there future.

Even at one years old birth we set up items for the baby to grab and what he grabs prophecies his future. Pencil is scholar. Cash is wealthy businessman. Bible is pastor. For Ian I removed the bible and put one pencil and around 20 dollar bills, to help him a bit.

But in a dream! He gets the sex of the boy, his name and his future, and it’s a bright one. Jesus! Immanuel!

That is great news!

So from here, Joseph’s life is sailing through calm waters, right?

Good news is not easy news.

Good news is never easy news

Because this good news shattered his whole life plan.

That’s the thing about good news. It’s not easy. It’s good for you, but it’s not easy. And unless you learn to accept the no-easy part, then the good news can’t be good news.

And Joseph learns this, and shows us what we have to do with good news that is never easy news. But he shows. We will see how Joseph’s life plan is turned upside down by this good news. But he goes with it. He accepts the good news. And when he accepts it, follows it where it goes, he goes to a place of blessing.

I think this is the reason why all of us at one point or another don’t fully accept the gospel, the good news, because we haven’t fully accepted the not-so-easy-part of it.

 

To Receive Good News is to have your plans changed.

And that is the first thing. The good news of Jesus is not an easy news. It is good news. Birth of a messiah! But it is not easy, because a baby changes your life plan completely.

We don’t even have to look at Joseph’s life to see this. This is true of every birth. So even in the most joyous announcement of a baby, there is ambivalence.

When friends and families who have congratulated us has left the apartment, and it is just the couple left in the apartment, the next thing they do is freak out.

We are having a baby, quickly becomes, we are having a baby.

Our changes

Once we made the announcement, our parents went back home and now it was up to us two, my wife and I, to thoroughly change our apartment, that is change our whole life.

Paint the walls, get a crib, safetly lock every window as we were living in a 9th floor apartment. Get foam mats that didn’t match our décor.

And redesign was the easiest. We had to redesign our lives. She would stay home. I would have to help. We can’t go out on a date for like years.

In fact, our first son, Ian started ruining our romance even before he was born.

It was the 36th week. We went in for regular check up, after which we chose to watch King King, which is a romance movie really, I convinced my wife, the ape and the woman.

And she said, so you are the ape.

But our change is nothing compared to Joseph’s changes of plans.

The first plan changed is his plan to enjoy the fruits of marriage.

Joseph saved himself for marriage where in the blessing of God a husband and wife can finally enjoy themselves, and Joseph cannot. This was not a simple thing to do. Let’s give him credit.

The second plan changed is his plan to raise children with family

Matthew 2:1-14

1Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

3King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

6‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,

are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,

for a ruler will come from you

who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

7Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

9After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

13After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

So they just had a major life change. A baby was born. Having raised three, I am convinced that a couple cannot raise children on their own. Lot of modern stress is the isolation created by the idolatry of the nuclear family. I do not think the nuclear family is main unit of community. Family for much of human history included all whom we call extended family.

In Korean language, we reflect this reality in our language. So I would call my uncles, “big dad” or “small dad” depending on whether they are older or younger than my dad.

There is also that African saying, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Yes, or the parents go insane.

Let’s do that in this community, help each other raise our children together, every child like my own, because they are.

But in that great need they had leave their family. Not just their family, but their village, Bethlehem. Not just their village but their country and language. They had to flee to Egypt.

Think about the stress of that move!

All because of the good news of Jesus, their baby.

But they go to a foreign land to a place they have don’t know a single soul when what they need most is community.

But this wasn’t the only move was it,

Matthew 2:19-23

19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20“Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”

21So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Back to Israel, plan to stay in Judea. But that doesn’t work out. But nothing’s worked out for Joseph the last three four years, nothing.

So he ends up going to Galilee. This is a historical fact that Galilee and Judea had 2 different administrations. It was wise of Joseph. But that is another difficult move. All by foot. Good news sure is difficult news. Is it worth it?

If one unwilling to change then good news becomes bad news

In contrast to Joseph is another man who hears the good news, pretends its good news but doesn’t change his plans and so the good news which is not easy news becomes bad news because this isn’t willing to change. He is Herod.

The central message of good news is that God is with us. And that is great. This is truly what we need. What would life be without God? But God with us means that we can no longer have other false gods in us. And for the man who is unwilling to change is the man who is unwilling to let go of the false gods.

People who love false gods hate good news. People who love the false gods of money, power, fame, control, security cannot accept the good news that they are not gods and the one living God is now here.

For Herod, his god was himself. He was the king. The only king. He could not concede. So he tries to end the good news by killing the source of good news.

But if you are willing to change then there are two blessings

First is that you accomplish your purpose. We think to fulfill our purose we need to stick with our plan. But God says if you want the fulfill the purposes of your life, you have to be willing to change.

At the end of every move we see that nothing was by accident, everything was purposeful, everything had the hand of God. So Matthew says, “this was to fulfill”

Now this is not just about God getting his things done. It is about getting things done for Joseph himself.

For in doing this, in changing his plans, in doing what God says, do you see what Joseph is doing. He is not just being a pushover. Actually he is doing the very opposite. He is standing up to King Herod. His obedience to God gives him courage to stand up against evils of King Herod. Joseph was challenging the false authority of Herod. Where everyone is whimpering, living in fear, Joseph in his own small but powerful way is standing up to the kings of this earth. He is not lifting a sword. But he is doing something even more powerful, risking his life to protect his weak and vulnerable baby and denying that the king has any right or power simply by not following it.

And at the end, who wins? Herod or Joseph? Who survives? Joseph. The peasant out wits and out does the king. The simple obedient Christian can undo a whole nation.

John Knows was born a Roman Catholic in the 1500s in Scotland. But the abuses of the church and the inspiring writing of courageous reformers in Europe like Calvin changed his heart. He was convinced he needed to protest against the abuse of religious power for political gain.

Like John the Baptist, he spoke against abuses of power.

First she tried to lure him. Told him to return to the Catholic church and he would have a position with a fat stipend and power to administer his reform piecemeal. He chose not to compromise but continued to preach, Christ alone, by grace alone.

Mary Queen of Scott then tried to capture him. But he always eluded her. Eventually Mary lost power when she was caught plotting against Queen Elizabeth.

In one of the pursuit of John Knox that failed she confessed to an aid, “I fear the prayers of John Know more than all the assembled armies of Europe.

In outwitting and winning Herod, Joseph fulfills his purpose, which is another way to say, he lived out his true identity. For he wasn’t just a a simple peasant, was he?

But the truth is, Joseph is not just a peasant. The world sees him as such and treats him as such. But he isn’t. This whole micro rebellion, this changing of plan, it is all rooted in Joseph remembering who he is. Do you remember what the angel said to Joseph?

“Joseph, son of David.”

Remember, you are from the line of kings anointed by God.

Her remembers it. So he stands up.

Good news is not easy news, but if you are willing to change, then you will see God fulfills God’s purpose, but more importantly, then you will be reminded, who you are. Child of king.

  

 

 

Reading

Matthew 1:18-23

18This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!

She will give birth to a son,

and they will call him Immanuel,

which means ‘God is with us.’”

Matthew 2:1-14

1Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

3King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

6‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,

are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,

for a ruler will come from you

who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

7Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

9After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

13After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Matthew 2:19-23

19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20“Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”

21So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Back to Israel, plan to stay in Judea. But that doesn’t work out. But nothing’s worked out for Joseph the last three four years, nothing.

So he ends up going to Galilee. This is a historical fact that Galilee and Judea had 2 different administrations. It was wise of Joseph. But that is another difficult move. All by foot. Good news sure is difficult news. Is it worth it?