Matthew 1:18–25: “They Shall Call His Name Immanuel”
For Matthew, the preceding genealogy was not a begrudging preamble to his Gospel. Rather, what Matthew wrote in the first 17 verses of this Gospel are a critical introduction to the story he intends to relate. Matthew has a story to tell that can only be understood in the context of Israel’s history, since the story of Jesus is the climax and culmination of that history. Now that Matthew has given the backstory leading up to Jesus, he is ready to tell the story of the birth of Jesus in its proper context. Jesus, as we will see, is not just one more link in the genealogical chain descending from Abraham. Jesus certainly is the offspring of Abraham, but he is much more. In this section, Matthew relates to us a critical truth for understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ: Jesus is God with us.
1. What did the Jewish custom of betrothal entail, and how does it differ from a modern engagement (v. 18)? What all does Matthew relate to us about Joseph’s conflicted state of mind as he grapples with Mary’s pregnancy (v. 19)? Was Joseph right to decide to divorce Mary? Why or why not? How does Matthew present Jesus as a stumbling block to his people right out of the gate? How does this shape how we should understand Jesus’ opposition in the rest of the Gospel?
2. Why does the angel address Joseph as “son of David” (v. 20)? What rationale does the angel give to soothe Joseph’s fears about taking Mary as his wife (v. 20)? What does the name “Jesus” mean (v. 21)? How does the angel confirm this New Testament revelation with prophetic revelation from the Old Testament (v. 22–23)? What is the significance of the title “Immanuel” (“God with us”) in relation to Jesus?
3. How does Joseph respond to God’s revelation to him in relation to Mary (v. 24–25a)? How does Joseph respond to God’s revelation in relation to Jesus (v. 25b)? What is the significance of Joseph’s naming Jesus? Why is it important theologically for Joseph, the son of David, to adopt Jesus (cf. Matt. 1:1)? If Luke presents the exemplary faith of Mary, how does Matthew present the exemplary faith of Matthew?
4. Why is Jesus a stumbling block to faith still today? Can human wisdom come to understand who Jesus is, and what he came to accomplish, on its own? Why does God appoint his word as the critical means of revealing saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Why do people persist in unbelief against God’s word? What does it mean for you personally that Jesus came to save his people from their sins? What does it mean for you personally that Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us”?