Thursday, June 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ matthew-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Matthew 1:1.—A title, and might be appropriately rendered, genealogy of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham (Morison). Refers, strictly speaking, not to the whole Gospel of St. Matthew, but to the genealogical table in Matthew 1:2-17. The book of the generation.—An essentially Hebrew formula. See Genesis 5:1; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10. The LXX. translate Genesis 5:1 by the phrase used here, βίβλος γενέσεως. The pedigree extracted from the public archives, which were carefully preserved and placed under the special care of the Sanhedrin. The genealogy, an answer to the question which would be asked by every Jew of any one who claimed to be the Messiah, “Is he of the house of David?” for by no name was the Messiah more frequently spoken of by Jews and by foreigners, and designated in the Talmud, than by that of the son of David (Carr). See Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30; Matthew 21:9; Matthew 22:42. Son of David.—See above. Son of Abraham.—Not a specially Messianic title. A brother to all. See Genesis 22:18; Luke 19:9; Hebrews 2:16. Cf. also Galatians 3:16.
THE GENEALOGIES IN ST. MATTHEW’S AND ST. LUKE’S GOSPELS
1. Both trace Joseph’s descent. But see on Matthew 1:16.
2. St. Matthew proves that Jesus is the Son of David and of Abraham; St. Luke, true to the scope of his Gospel, traces the pedigree from the common father of Jew and Gentile.
3. St. Matthew traces the royal succession, St. Luke the family lineage. This accounts for many variations in names.
4. This genealogy descends from father to son, and is, therefore, probably the most exact transcript of the original document. St. Luke ascends from son to father.
5. St. Matthew also differs from St. Luke in naming women in the genealogy (Carr). THE OMISSIONS.—The true explanation appears to be, that all the individuals omitted by the Evangelist had, in one respect or another, no claim to be regarded as separate and distinct links in the theocratic chain (Lange).
Matthew 1:3. Thamar.—It was enough that the women were historically notable. It would appear, from the language of the Talmud, as if the Jews looked on Thamar’s strange and, to us, revolting history with quite other feelings. To them she was as one who, at the risk of shame and it might be death, bad preserved the line of Judah from destruction, and “therefore was counted worthy to be the mother of kings and prophets” (Plumptre).
Matthew 1:5. Salmon … Rachab (Rahab).—The Old Testament records are silent as to the marriage of Salmon with the “harlot” of Jericho. Hence Matthew must have had access to other genealogical records or sources of information.
Matthew 1:8. Joram begat Ozias (Uzziah).—Three omissions, viz. Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah. Motive apparently simply the desire to bring the names in each period into which the genealogy is divided to the arbitrary standard of fourteen. “A begat B” not to be taken literally, but simply as an expression of the fact of succession, with or without intermediate links (ibid.).
Matthew 1:11. Carried away.—Literally, “of their migration,” for the Jews avoided the word “captivity” as too bitter a recollection, and our Evangelist studiously respects the national feeling (Brown).
Matthew 1:12. Jechonias—Jechonias the Second, son of Jechonias the First. Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim (Morison) begat Salathiel (Shealtiel). Cf. Jeremiah 22:30 (Coniah = Jehoiachin), Luke 3:27; 1 Chronicles 3:17-19. A cluster of genealogical difficulties. Various solutions suggested. Dr. Plumptre says: “The most probable solution is that Assir was the only son of Jeconiah, and died without issue before his father; that the line of Solomon thus came to an end, and that the son of Neri, a descendant of Nathan, another son of David (2 Samuel 5:14; 1 Chronicles 3:5; Luke 3:27; Luke 3:31) took their place in the succession, and was reckoned, as by adoption, as the son of the last survivor of the other line. The practice is, it may be noted, analogous to that which prevails among Indian princes and in other Eastern nations.”
Matthew 1:13. Zorobabel begat Abiud.—None of the names that come after that of Zerubbabel are recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures. They were doubtless taken from the public or family registers, which the Jews carefully kept, and their accuracy was never challenged. The royal family had got sadly reduced and crushed, indeed, into the deepest poverty. The Messiah, when He appeared, was like a rod, or shoot, or sucker from a lowly “stump”—Isaiah 11:1 (Brown and Morison).
Matthew 1:16. Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary.—Joseph, the legal father, of our Lord. In Luke, Joseph is said to be the son of Heli, and from Heli the line of ancestry is traced upward to Nathan, son of David, instead of to Solomon. Thus an apparent discrepancy. Several methods of conciliation. Dr. Morison favours a view which commanded the suffrages of the great body of the Fathers. Set forth in a monograph by Julius Africanus (third century). He supposes that Jacob and Heli were half-brothers. Their respective fathers, Matthan and Melchi, married successively the same woman, named Estha. Matthan, having first married her, begat Jacob. Having died, his widow was married by Melchi, and Heli was born. Heli married, but died without issue; and his brother, Jacob, married the widow, and had by her a son, Joseph, who was truly his own son by nature, but also the son of Heli by law. Africanus says that this theory was in accordance with a tradition which was handed down in the line of the Saviour’s relatives, and that it was in all respects a satisfactory solution of the apparent difficulty. Dr. Morison adds, “We have no doubt, at the same time, that Mary was a near relative of Joseph, and a royal heiress, so that Joseph’s lineage was in reality, in its essential elements, her lineage.” Christ.—Here, as in Matthew 1:1, a proper name, not an appellative—the Christ (Morison).
Matthew 1:17. Fourteen generations.—In the arrangement and division of the genealogical tree Matthew was undoubtedly influenced by the Old Testament symbolism of numbers (Lange). Partitioned for facility of remembrance. There is a natural basis for the trichotomy. The first fourteen comprises the age of the patriarchs and judges, the spring-time of the Jewish people. The second comprises the age of the kings, the summer season and the autumn of the nation. The third comprises the period of Jewish decadence, the winter-time of their political existence (Morison). Dr. Morison gives the three fourteens as follows:
1. From Abraham to David.
2. From Solomon to Jechonias I.
3. From Jechonias II. to Jesus. Christ = the Christ.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 1:1-17
A distinguished lineage.—A leading characteristic of St. Matthew’s Gospel is that it presents Christ to us as a “sign.” The word “behold,” in fact, in one form or another, is constantly to be found in its pages; more often, in proportion, than in any of the others. These opening verses of the Gospel are found to conform to this rule. They set before us what we are first to “look” at in the story it tells us. From what lineage, from what family, did the Man it speaks about spring? From a lineage distinguished—
1. As being remarkably extended.
2. Singularly select.
3. Highly significant.
I. Remarkably extended.—Its mere length, to begin with, is obviously unusual. Not many men can go back through a list of progenitors containing some fifty names, and covering some fifteen hundred years. This length strikes us the more also in this case because it is given “at length,” as it were, name after name being reported to us nearly all the way through. Also, because it is broken up into three different groups. It is like having to clamber up three flights of stairs to the top of a tower. Alike, the mind and the limbs are impressed by the task. Also, the many vicissitudes thus pointed to are of a very unusual description. How many and great were those connected with the first of these groups—even all those of which we read between the call of Abraham and the going down into Egypt, and between the going down into Egypt and the settlement in Canaan, and between the settlement in Canaan and the final establishment of the kingdom! Also, how many those found in the long but much chequered splendours of the subsequent group! And how many, again, in the long and trying obscurity of the third! So long a genealogy of a clearly traceable kind is in any case a remarkable thing. It is still more remarkable in a line passing through such hazards as these.
II. Singularly select.—The names inserted in this genealogy are such as to teach us this, on the one hand. Many of them at once point to others set aside for their sakes. Thus it is, e.g., that the name of Isaac (Matthew 1:2) points us to Ishmael, and the name of Jacob (ibid.) to Esau, and the name of Judah (ibid.) to those of his brethren (Genesis 29:35), and the name of David (Matthew 1:6) to those of his brethren (1 Samuel 16:0), and the name of Solomon in like manner (1 Chronicles 28:5). This kind of principle, in fact, is almost pointed to all the way through. First one nation, then one tribe, then one family, then one branch of it only. With equal emphasis, on the other hand, even if with some obscurity also, the names omitted teach much the same thing. We cannot exactly say, e.g. why the names of three different kings of Judah, viz. those of Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, are left out of this list. But the fact that, though they were notoriously in the line which is here being traced, they were thus deliberately not reckoned as of it, points our thoughts the same way. It shows, evidently, that things were not taken here just as they came, but that there was a choice, rather, and that a very decided choice, though we may not know why. And it shows, therefore, that here also this genealogy of Jesus was a thing much by itself.
III. Highly significant.—Highly significant, in the first instance, because of its most prominent names. A comparison of Matthew 1:1; Matthew 1:6; Matthew 1:17, shows these names to be those of Abraham and David. The Old Testament story also shows us in what special way it was that both these men had surpassed all other men in the past, viz. in the degree of their promised intimacy with the coming Hope of the world. (See Genesis 22:18; Psalms 72:0; Psalms 89:0) We see, therefore, what this genealogy comes to on the question of names. It connects this “Jesus” with those two men who were to be the principal ancestors of the Christ. Hardly less significant is it, next, in the question of epochs. Two of these are seen prominent in the catalogue before us. The epoch of the setting up of the kingdom of Israel under “David the king” (Matthew 1:6) is one. The epoch of its overthrow but not total obliteration at the “carrying away to Babylon” (Matthew 1:11-12; Matthew 1:17) is the other. We see, therefore, on this point also to what this genealogy comes. It is a description, first, of the setting up of a particular kingdom or dynasty; of the way in which that kingdom was prepared for by one set of “fourteen generations”; and of the way in which it was preserved afterwards during another fourteen. It is a description, next, of the overthrow of that kingdom and yet of the preservation of the line of its kings for other “fourteen generations.” In other words, it shows of this “Jesus” that He belonged to the family which was still in possession of a claim to that throne. Lastly, this genealogy is hardly less significant as to the question of time. When time is measured, as the Evangelist measures it here, how critical and hopeful is the look of the time which closes this list. Fourteen generations from the first promise to Abraham to a repetition of it—to a closer repetition of it—to David. Fourteen generations from this to its restoration to life, as it were. Fourteen more, therefore, to a season of further hope and remembrance—perhaps of actual fulfilment! Just then it is that this “Jesus” appears.
Altogether, therefore, see how fit a “beginning” is the beginning in hand. How many significances it shows us, meeting together in the appearing of this Jesus! The line by which He has come, its changeful character, the description given of it, the chief names it speaks of, the principal epochs it points to, the season it ends with, all bid us fix our eyes upon Him as the probable Hope of the world. “Is not this the Christ?” So it is that what we read here, as it were, constrains us to ask! Could any beginning, if we think of it, have well attempted any more? Could any beginning, on the other hand, have accomplished it better?
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 1:1-17. The genealogy of our Lord.—I. Amongst those whom St. Matthew records as the ancestors of Christ according to the flesh, there are only four female names introduced, and they are precisely those four which a merely human historian, anxious to throw in everything which might seem to be to the honour of Christ and to omit everything which might seem to detract from that honour, would have been desirous to have passed over in silence. One thing is clear, that there was no thought in St. Matthew’s mind of throwing any false lights upon his Lord’s history and character; and another thought might have been in his mind, which led him to set down these names,—the wonderful manner in which God brings His own purposes about by means which seem at first sight to be as little conducive to them as possible.
II. Jesus is declared by St. Matthew to be the Son of David, and therefore a member of the royal tribe of Judah, not of the priestly tribe of Levi. Christ came as a priest, but more particularly He came as a king.
III. The genealogies both of St. Matthew and St. Luke trace the descent of our Lord, not through Mary His mother, but through Joseph His reputed father. It cannot but appear remarkable that the lineage of our Lord should be in fact no lineage at all, that, like His type Melchisedec, He should be without descent. The great fact in the lineage of Christ is not that He was the Son of David, but that He was the Son of man.—Bishop Harvey Goodwin.
The genealogy of Christ.—These chronicles have a mission. As no star is useless in the heavens, and as every atom has been created for a purpose, so God would not devote seventeen verses of His book to a pedigree, without a purpose. We learn from this genealogy:—
I. God’s fidelity to His promise.—God had promised Abraham that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed, and here we read of its fulfilment.
II. The eternal God never works hurriedly.—Scientists say that the earth existed ten millions of years before any life came into existence upon it. And God took two thousand years before He gave His Son to the world.
III. The human race is very closely inter-related.—Mankind is one family, and every war that occurs is a family strife.
IV. The universality of death.—Forty-two generations pass before us, and sink into the grave.
V. The all-inclusiveness of Christ’s mission.—Christ touched all sorts of people in this pedigree, in order that He might save all sorts of people.
VI. The marvellous way in which God overrules evil in order to give due prominence to Christ.—Who but God could have produced a perfect man out of such a pedigree?—J. Ossian Davies.
The genealogical table—its moral suggestions.—
I. The solemn succession of the race.—The representatives of forty generations appear before us and pass away. Men depart, man remains. The world can do without us. This fact serves—
1. To reprove worldliness.
2. To inculcate humility.
II. The physical connexion of the race.—Each of these generations springs from the preceding one as grain from grain. This unity—
1. Demands the spirit of brotherhood.
2. Helps to explain the transmission of moral character.
3. Enables each generation to help its successors.
III. The moral difference of the race.—In this list we recognise some men of distinguished goodness and some pre-eminent for wickedness. There is a power lodged in each man’s bosom to prevent the combined influence of all past generations from moulding his character.
IV. The partial history of the race.—Of these forty generations we have for the most but little more than the mention of the name of an individual of each. Who knows the history of one of a generation?
V. The common Redeemer of the race.—God redeems man by man.—D. Thomas, D.D.
Matthew 1:17. The Divine regulation of time.—
1. Though not one of us can be in the family line of Christ, yet all may be spiritually related to Him.
2. The tumultuous generations bring the peaceful Christ.—Joseph Parker, D.D.
Matthew 1:18. Espoused = betrothed.—Among the Jews the betrothal took place a year before marriage, and during the interval the betrothed maiden remained with her own family. But from the day of betrothal the pair were regarded as man and wife (Carr).
Matthew 1:19. A just man.—Two courses were open to him. He could either summon her before the law-courts to be judicially condemned and punished, or he could put her away by a bill of divorcement before witnesses, but without assigning cause. He resolved to take the more merciful course, which was also the more “just.” Dr. Brown says, “That some communication had passed between him and his betrothed, directly or indirectly, on the subject, after she returned from her three months’ visit to Elizabeth, can hardly be doubted. Nor does the purpose to divorce her necessarily imply disbelief on Joseph’s part of the explanation given him. Even supposing him to have yielded to it some reverential assent—and the Evangelist seems to convey as much by ascribing the proposal to screen her to the justice of his character—he might think it altogether unsuitable and incongruous in such circumstances to follow out the marriage.”
Matthew 1:22. Fulfilled.—The Evangelists frequently quote prophecies, the context of which must, at the time that they were first delivered, have been interpreted of things then present, and that, too, according to the Divine intention. But the same Divine intention, looking forward to remote futurity, so framed the language of prophecy that it should apply with greater specialty to the times of the Messiah (Bengel).
Matthew 1:23. A virgin.—R.V., the virgin, a particular virgin. The prophecy (Isaiah 7:0) is distinctly Messianic, but the sign in Isaiah is not concerned with the manner of the child’s birth, but with the name and the deliverance which should happen in his infancy. Therefore the weight of the reference is to the name “Emmanuel” and to the true Son of David, whose birth was the sign of His people’s deliverance (Carr).
Matthew 1:25. Firstborn.—The oldest MSS. omit “firstborn.” So R.V. Scripture supplies no data for any decision as to whether Mary had or had not children besides our blessed Lord, nor does any tradition that can really be called primitive (Plumptre).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 1:18-25
A mysterious birth.—After the lineage of Jesus we naturally come to His birth. Whence and when He came we have seen, viz. from just that direction and at just such a time as were fitting in the case of one who was spoken of as the Christ. What we ask next is as to the manner and circumstances of His appearance. Looked at from the same point of view, was there anything noteworthy about these? The answer is given us here. The “birth of Jesus Christ” was on such “wise” as to be well worthy of note. It was so, first, on account of the perplexities by which it was marked. It was so, next, on account of the light by which these perplexities were removed.
I. The perplexities of the case.—On these mysteries it does not become us to say very much; nor is it necessary, in fact. The Evangelist explains their origin and nature in a few serious words. A certain man named Joseph belonging to that “house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4) of which the preceding verses tell us so much, was betrothed to a maiden named Mary, of the same line with himself, but had not as yet formally taken her as his wife. Whilst thinking of doing so he hears that about her which fills him with doubt. Ought he to do what he was thinking of doing? In that doubt of his very much is implied. Much is implied about her. Had the report in question been about another than her, Joseph would probably not have doubted at all. In such a quarter he would never have thought of marriage again. But he cannot come all at once to this conclusion about her. Could such an one as he knew her to be have been guilty of evil? Could she be saying what she knew to be false? What is he to do? What is to be believed? Much also, in that same doubt, is implied about him. It shows how exceedingly anxious he is to do what is right! How equally anxious not to be harsh! How completely occupied by such thoughts! Before he can settle them sleep is upon him; even in his sleep he is thinking about them. Surely, if ever, that was in one sense “the sleep of the just.”
II. The light vouchsafed in this case.—Much is noticeable about this. How pertinent it was in the first place! How exactly meeting the case! What Joseph wanted was light on his path. What would God have him to do? The answer comes from the lips of one whom he recognises immediately as “an angel of the Lord.” The answer directs him as to the very thing he is thinking about with so much apprehension and doubt. “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not, take unto thee Mary thy wife.” What authority can be higher? What directions more clear? How ample, next, is this light! Referring, as we think (cf. Luke 1:34), to what Mary has said, the angel goes on to speak of things present. These really are as you have heard them to be. They are indeed due to the operation of the Spirit of God (end of Matthew 1:20). Also, next, of things future. In operating thus wonderfully God is providing for a corresponding result. The child thus to be born is to be a child by itself. The very name it is to bear proves that this is true of the work it shall do. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He it is who shall save His people from their sins.” Do not wonder, therefore, to hear of such an intervention with such an object in view. Lastly, see how well assured is all the information thus given. Do not hesitate to believe what I have been telling you (we suppose the angel in the next words to be still speaking to Joseph) as though it were something unheard of before. Because it is unexampled among men, do not suppose that it was unexpected by God. The very contrary is the case. A well-known scripture proves this to be so. In that scripture, on the one hand, you find the very marvel in question expressly foretold. “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son.” There, on the other hand, you read of just the same results as those of which I told you just now, even in regard to the very name of the child so to be born. For what is the name Emmanuel—that is, God with us, but another form of the name Jesus (= Jah-Oshea) or God our Saviour? And what is this difference in form but a stronger proof of the far foresight of God? Understand, therefore, how fully and truly you will be doing as God wills by doing as I have bid. Fear less than ever to take unto thee Mary thy wife.
In conclusion, how beautiful are the pictures we see here:—
1. Of the mercy of God to individuals.—How exceedingly trying in this case were the positions of both Joseph and Mary. How trying for him to have to suspect his betrothed. How trying for her to be suspected by him. How doubly trying for both of them, being such as they respectively were. Nothing, we may say, could well exceed this bitterness except the sympathy with which it was met. What full appreciation is manifested of its nature and course! What wise selection and adaptation of the means for its cure! And what mighty agencies we see set in motion for bringing this issue about. Is it not a sight to see this “angel of the Lord” flying to that one sleeping man’s room. Sooner than allow him and that other one to continue disquieted, sooner than allow those who sincerely desire to know God’s will to remain in ignorance about it, heaven itself opens its gates and sends its messenger down.
2. Of the mercy of God to mankind.—How gracious is this design of His of sending men a Saviour! How long ago resolved on! How constantly cherished! How carefully provided for! How marvellously begun! All this we see here in this brief interview between one angel and man! All this, therefore, we are to think of as existing even when it cannot be seen. This is the full advantage of having such a “door” opened to us in “heaven.” The light we thus see is not to be regarded by us as being merely lit for that time. Rather it is an evidence to us of what has been before. Rather, also, a prediction of what is to be afterwards. But for this, as things are in heaven, it would not have been there at all.
3. Of the consistency of God’s ways.—Most exceptional, no doubt, the intervention described here. Equally so the circumstances in which it took place. In connection with so great a perplexity, after so unusual a previous announcement, and with so direct a bearing on the chief feature in the whole history of our race. Granted the possibility of such interventions, there could be no fitter time for their use.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 1:18-25. The great exceptional birth.—
1. The great exceptional birth.
2. The whole life of Christ the great exception of being.
3. The direct contact of the human with the divine. Son of God. Son of man.
4. God has never ceased to take an interest in the human race, but only once has He inserted into it a new man—a personal, redeeming, transforming life.
5. The race had no power in itself to give birth to a Saviour.
6. Men often misinterpret their circumstances. Joy has often been threading its way to us through the entangled lines of our perplexity.
7. The marriage of Joseph and Mary was useful as showing that Mary was not superhuman. She was an ordinary member of the human family, and so far Jesus Christ was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.
8. Christ was the only man born with a special mission in relation to sins. Every other man since Adam was born in sin, but He descended, as it were, upon it to destroy its power.
9. This was all in fulfilment of prophecy.
(1) Time a great realising power;
(2) the announcements of one age are the men of another;
(3) all prophecy, good or bad, may safely be left to the determining power of time;
(4) great events may require preparation;
(5) wonderful connection between the prophecies and the facts.
10. Joseph’s being asleep when the announcement was made to him is suggestive.
(1) man’s life is not all comprised in the little bustle of his wakeful hours;
(2) some communications can be effectually made only when men are most dissociated from the external and material;
(3) in sleep man is as thoroughly alone as he possibly can be in this world, and in a certain sense is more entirely in the power of God than in any other condition.—Joseph Parker, D.D.
Christ’s wonderful incarnation.—We have five evidences of Christ’s wonderful incarnation.
1. The Virgin Mary is found with child of the Holy Ghost.
2. Joseph’s perplexity, who being certain of the real conception of the Virgin, and uncertain of the holy manner of it, is put to a perplexed deliberation what to do.
3. The testimony of the anger revealing the truth to Joseph.
4. The manifested accomplishment of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14.
5. The quiet faith and ready obedience of Joseph, after that he is now taught of God.—David Dickson.
Matthew 1:20. The disclosure to Joseph.—
1. No less than divine revelation can satisfy a soul in matters concerning Christ.
2. The Lord can turn the doubts and fears and perplexities of His own into an advantage unto themselves and others also, and into a clearer manifestation of His own glory.
3. The Lord useth to show Himself in a necessary nick of time.
4. As Christ is the Son of David by lineal descent through Mary, His mother, so also by law through Joseph, His supposed father. “Joseph, thou son of David.”
5. The Lord in due time cleareth the righteousness of such as suffer in their name and estimation for Christ.—David Dickson.
Matthew 1:19-20. Man’s extremity, God’s opportunity.—Was ever faith more tried than the Virgin’s, when for no fault of hers, but in consequence of an act of God Himself, her conjugal relation to Joseph was allowed to be all but snapped asunder by a legal divorce? Yet how glorious was the reward with which her constancy and patience were at length crowned! And is not this one of the great laws of God’s procedure towards His believing people? Abraham was allowed to do all but sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:0); the last year of the predicted Babylonish captivity had arrived ere any signs of deliverance appeared (Daniel 9:1-2); the massacre of all the Jews in Persia had all but taken place (Esther 7:0; Esther 8:0); Peter, under Herod Agrippa, was all but brought forth for execution (Acts 12:0); Paul was all but assassinated by a band of Jewish enemies (Acts 23:0); Luther all but fell a sacrifice to the machinations of his enemies (1521); and so in cases innumerable since, of all which it may be said, as in the song of Moses, “the Lord shall judge His people, and repent Himself for His servants, when, He seeth that their power is gone” (Deuteronomy 32:36).—D. Brown, D.D.
Matthew 1:21. Salvation from sin.—However absurd the statement may appear to one who has not yet discovered the fact for himself, the cause of every man’s discomfort is evil, moral evil; first of all, evil in himself, and then, evil in those he loves. With this latter I have not now to deal. The one cure for any organism, is to be set right—to have all its parts brought into harmony with each other; the one comfort is to know this cure in process.—
1. Rightness alone is cure. Man’s rightness is to be free from wrongness, that is, from sin. The evil is in him; he must be set free from it—from the sin he is, which makes him do the sin he does. The sin he dwells in, the sin he will not come out of, is the sole ruin of a man. “This is the condemnation, that light,” etc.
2. Do you desire me to say how the Lord will deliver you from your sins? Such a question springs from the passion for the fruit of the tree of knowledge, not the fruit of the tree of life. Men would understand—they do not care to obey—understand where it is impossible they should understand save by obeying.—Geo. Macdonald, LL.D.
Jesus, the Saviour from sin.—This name given by Divine direction. Jesus, a Son of man, yet not chosen by man or self-elected as “Saviour,” but the elect of God (Isaiah 42:1). He may, therefore, be received with the utmost confidence. Jesus the Saviour not merely from the consequences of sin, but from the corrupting, enthralling, damning evil itself. This “the central idea of Christianity.” To dream of salvation in sin is as absurd as to think of “saving a man from drowning by keeping him under the water which is destroying him;” or of “recovering a man from sickness by leaving him under the malady which constitutes the complaint” (W. Jay). How does Jesus save from sin?
I. He has performed a work by which God, the infinitely righteous One, can deal with men in grace.—Human salvation could only be accomplished consistently with the eternal law of righteousness. But see Romans 3:21-26. Jesus is the true mercy-seat; the meeting-place of God and man.
II. He has shown us the true character of sin.—Presenting it in such a light that we may well loathe ourselves on account of it, and wish to be saved from it. We are bound to believe that only by His incarnation and sacrifice could human salvation become possible. What a tremendous evil, then, sin must be!
III. He has set us an example of holy living, and made a demand of discipleship.—His was a perfect obedience, prompted by a perfect love. His heart was pure; His life in all respects right and good. We are to be His disciples. “Learn of Me.” “Follow Me.” Discipleship means a gradual approximation to His own perfect character.
IV. He gives us His Holy Spirit to work in us this great salvation.—(Titus 3:5.) The Spirit represented as “the Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9). Not only because He proceeds from Christ, but also because He works in us a resemblance to Christ. Christ liveth in us (Galatians 2:20), assimilating our characters to His own.—H. M. Booth.
“Jesus.”—There is more of power to sanctify, elevate, strengthen, and cheer in the word “Jesus” (Jehovah-Saviour) than in all the utterances of man since the world began.—C. Hodge, D.D.
The influence of holy character.—If to live with men diluted to the millionth degree with the virtue of the highest can exalt and purify the nature, what bounds can be set to the influence of Christ? To live with Socrates—with unveiled face—must have made one wise; with Aristides, just. Francis of Assisi must have made one gentle; Savonarola, strong. But to have lived with Christ must have made one like Christ, that is to say, a Christian.—Prof. H. Drummond.
Matthew 1:22-23. Emmanuel.—
1. The mystery of Christ’s wonderful conception was not altogether hid from the church under the Old Testament.
2. It was foretold that the child born should be God and man in one person, “Emmanuel.”
3. It was foretold that He should be believed in, and acknowledged to be God incarnate. “They shall call His name Emmanuel.”—David Dickson.
I. The reality of the Incarnation.—The uncontroverted mystery of “God manifested in the flesh.”
II. The purpose thereby contemplated—viz. the laying open a way for our re-union with God.
III. The actual accomplishment of this purpose consequent upon our reception of Christ.—Actual union with God, a communion with Him as our Friend, Father, and final Joy.—Henry Craik.
Matthew 1:23. “God with us.”—The great secret of our Christian joy lies in this fact, that we believe in a present, not in an absent Jesus; One who is Emmanuel—God with us. Try to get hold of that great fact of our Lord’s presence, and then you will see what results flow from it.
I. That fact should make us humble.—If the Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords, chose to come to this earth in the lowliest manner; if He chose a manger to be born in, a workman’s home to live in, the commonest of clothing and of food, surely we, who profess to be His followers, have no right to be proud.
II. The fact of our Lord’s abiding presence ought to make us brave.—If God be for us, and with us, who can be against us? No temptation need be too strong to be conquered, no difficulty need be too hard to be surmounted, by those who know that God is with them—Emmanuel.
III. The fact of our Lord’s abiding presence ought to make us good to each other.—Look on your fellow-men, and learn from the incarnation to respect man, every man, as wearing the flesh which Jesus wears.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton.
Matthew 1:24-25. Joseph’s obedience.—
1. From the time that a man is sure of God’s word and warrant, he should dispute no more, but stop his ears to all carnal reasoning.
2. A soul that knoweth the worth of Christ will be glad according to its power to do service to Him, or to any of those who belong unto Him.
3. When faith be holdeth the majesty of Jesus it breedeth fear and respect in the believer toward Him.—David Dickson.