The Gospel of Matthew, Part 2

Fr. John offers the second class in the series. He focuses on the narrative of Jesus’ birth.

“The Nativity is best understood in relation to the coming salvation and its prophetic expectation, which had been already promised by the Lord speaking through Isaiah.” St. John Chrysostom

STUDY GUIDE

The Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 1:18 – 25

The Birth of Jesus Christ

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘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, for He will save His people from their sins.’  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’’ Then Joseph, being aroused form sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know here till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.  And he called His name Jesus.”  Matt 1:18-25

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

The Nativity is best understood in relation to the coming salvation and its prophetic expectation, which had been already promised by the Lord speaking through Isaiah (Chrysostom).

Born of the Holy Spirit – The significance of the Role of the Holy Spirit in the birth Narrative.

This passage tells us how Jesus was born by the action of the Holy Spirit.  It tells us of what we call and understand as the Virgin Birth.

If we come to this passage as if it were the first time we were reading it, then we will find that what it stresses is not so much that Jesus was born of a woman who was a virgin, as that the birth of Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The role of the Holy Spirit in according to the Jewish idea is, the Holy Spirit was the person who brought God’s truth to men and also to enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it.

Thus, through this understanding and interpretation we can now more clearly comprehend the significance of the Holy Spirit and how Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, also understood “that which was conceived in her,” was nothing to be overlooked as the Angel of the Lord suggests.

Marriage and Mercy  – Betrothal of Mary and Joseph and the Mercy of Joseph.

Betrothal in those days was a legal reality, making the couple actually husband and wife, and such a union could only be broken by actual divorce.

There are three steps in the normal Jewish marriage procedure:

  1. The engagement – This was often done when the couple were only children.
  2. The betrothal – This is the step in what we might call the ratification of the engagement into which the couple had previously entered.  (It was at this stage that Joseph and Mary were.
  3. The marriage proper – which took place at the end of the year of betrothal.

So how are we to better understand the mercy of Joseph in the context of the Jewish understanding of the Holy Spirit and the betrothal?

The righteousness of Joseph consisted of a mercy that transcends the law Hosea 6:6 – “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God More than whole burnt offerings.”

Conclusion

The birth of Christ is best understood in relation to the coming salvation and its prophetic expectation, which had been already promised by the Lord speaking through Isaiah.  The role and interpretation of the Holy Spirit that it is the Holy Spirit who brings God’s Truth to men, and enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it. Finally understanding that God desires mercy and not sacrifice, through the context of the betrothal of Mary to Joseph.  We as the inheritors of this faith, the ones who Christ came into the world for, must understand “through the Holy Spirit Joy has come to all the world.  Forever praising His resurrection He destroyed death by death.”

This is the second class in a  series. You can enjoy additional classes here.

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

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Father John was born in Southampton N.Y. He served as…
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