Do You See what I See? PT 2: Matthew 1.18-25

{The following was presented at Heritage Presbyterian Church, 8 December 2013. You can access the audio file here. Mike}
Do You See what I See? Pt 2: Matthew 1.18-25
The Impossibility of this seems pretty clear. It doesn’t even cross Joseph’s mind. It takes an act of God’s intervention to get him to conceive the thought. He knows how babies are made, for goodness sake. & then, even St. Matthew doesn’t offer any empirical, scientifically verifiable proofs. He only makes the assertion, to let it shock or stick where it will. You see, the idea that a virgin conceived a child is pretty outlandish. & yet, there is this other, impossible thing that happens at the far side of the story – resurrection. They are woven into the same narrative fabric. They stand or fall together. If you won’t have the one, you won’t be having the other.

But Matthew does offer one proof, for those who will be having it: The Prophecy.  Isaiah 7.10-17 (p.572) – Ahaz is destroying the Davidic line. Nevertheless, the prophecy is a specific affirmation from God that the line of promise will NOT be snuffed out. That the promised one will be sent; that a virgin (not just a young girl, or a young unmarried woman, but a virgin) will conceive, & her son will be God Himself drawn up-close, invasive & personal (7.14). He will be born into poverty (curds & honey - 7.15). He will suffer the shame, derision, privation and oppression of his own land (8.8 – in other words, he will be identified with his people and share their disgrace). He will topple & destroy all those who resist Him & harm His people (8.9-10). In other words, this child born of a virgin, Immanuel, is the end, aim, goal or set direction of – the Law, the Psalms and the prophets. He is the child born to ransom captive Israel, which mourns in lonely exile here – Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel (Trinity Hymnal 194). He is the fullness, personification of God’s covenant faithfulness, he is Yahweh saving his people from their sins (Matt. 1.21). Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart. // Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King, Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne (Trinity Hymnal 196, v.1 and 4). So there is the “proof” that Matthew refers to here & throughout the 1st four chapters of his Gospel report.

What does it mean for God to be “incarnate by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary”?  It means Intrusion! God himself – not His ambassador, not his angel, not his representative, not his proxy and not his lawyer, but God Himself has nudged His way into the very world we desired to keep closed to Him.

1. Truly God. He is autotheos, God in & of Himself. Not derived from God. Not some maverick god-cell that emanated, like dandruff, from God & then developed into god-ness. Nor is He another god, a second god, a Johnnie-come-lately god. He is unreservedly the one God. But then, so is the Father is also God, as is the Holy Spirit – One God who is simultaneously three persons. Kids let me ask you three questions: Is there more than one true God? [No. There is only one true God] In how many persons does this one God exist? [In three persons] Name these three persons? [The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.]

2. Truly Man. He pays us humans a deep complement by becoming fully man, in every way except for sin (just as fully human as Adam & Eve before their fall). He doesn’t come as a bear, a boar, a bug, or a blooming tree. He does come as full-fledged human. & He doesn’t come like the Hindu avatars – short-term human manifestations of one of the myriad of gods – a human manifestation that ends up being discarded at some convenient time in the future. He doesn’t wear our humanity like a garment or a mask or a spacesuit that he unzips later, folds up, shoves into a drawer. He is fully human, in all the essential aspects as our own humanity: embryo, fetus, infant, child, teenager, man. His body had the same nutritional & environmental needs as our own; the same chemistry, anatomy, & physiology. He became genuinely human, entering upon the possibility of all those experiences to which our own bodies are exposed – hunger, thirst, weariness, pain, seeing, hearing. & the enfleshment of God is permanent. It is not absorbed into a divine phantom state. Nor has He taken off His humanity, disembodied or disemboweled it – for that would mean His humanness is now dead, & the Scriptures are clear: “Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Romans 6.9). Westminster Shorter Catechism 21: Who is the Redeemer of God's elect? A. The only Redeemer of God's elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever.

1. If this fellow, Jesus, is really Immanuel (God with us) – then it means that we can’t hide behind the masks of our excuses. “Well, God just doesn’t understand my condition. It’s hard being 13, 33, 63.” Yet, if God is truly with us, has become one of us – then he really does understand what’s going on inside our skin. What it’s like to be the sad man, behind blue eyes. Here is the intrusion & eruption of the Eternal into our existence – and man-o-man, it can get hot at times! So, when you are grieved – or tempted to do something really nasty – don’t reason – “Well, God, You just don’t know what I’m going thru.”

2. In this place-in-space-and-moment-in-time action God comes & confirms the goodness of our humanness! He comes, God-with-us, & opens up our potential to become re-humanized in the face of our 21st century’s global dehumanization. Jesus is Yahweh saving His people – but not saving us from being human, but saving us to fulfill our humanity. As Ken Myers once put it once: “We are saved in order to fulfill our humanity, not to abandon it.” How does that work out?

a. He honors our sexuality by taking it seriously. He comes as distinctly male. Not a hermaphrodite all mixed up & such. Thus, He pays our maleness & the particularity of your femaleness, a great respect.

b. Because he comes and affirms the goodness of our humanness, we now no longer need virtual faces, airbrushed souls, made over with identities of our own devising, but we can finally let our hair down & BE. Be what? Be human, really, fully human. Maybe that doesn’t resonate with you, but set it up against the options laid out for you – the manufactured artificial humanity; the phony-baloney-1 minute macaroni kind of humanity. Which is better? No longer consumers & commodities, we can finally take the risk of being loved as we are. We can hazard a bit of realness with fellow travelers.

3. Apart from Christ, we remain estranged & alienated from God. He is the gateway back into the Garden of Eden, where we walk with God in the cool of the evening.  But without Him, we remain east of Eden, wandering, nomadic, looking for love in all the wrong places, finding friends in low places, still not finding what we’re looking for.

But in Christ the very terrifying & awful presence of Holy God, is tangibly displayed & we finally see – ah! There is no un-Christlikeness in God – even toward us! “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Col. 1.19-22). 

Let us close with Trinity Hymn 230 as our prayer:

1. Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour, All for love's sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender, Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour, All for love's sake becomes poor.

2. Thou who art God beyond all praising, All for love's sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising, All for love's sake becamest man.

3. Thou who art love beyond all telling, Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling, Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling, Saviour and King, we worship thee.

(These Lyrics accessed from: The Hymns and Carols of Christmas, 8 December 2013).


Larry Pearson said…

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