SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
This morning we are in the gospel of Matthew chapter 1 for our series on the life of Christ from all four Gospels. Today’s message is titled “SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK.” If there is one thing lacking in our culture today, it is sacrifice. We do what is expected of us and maybe a tad bit more but that’s it. Sadly, this is also true of many Christians. In today’s message we will see from the life of Joseph what true sacrifice looks like.
Matt. 1 18 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. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 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.
Overall Background: The passage we just read has been rejected and ridiculed by some people. They ask – “How can a virgin give birth? It is physically impossible. Miracles don’t happen.” Richard Dawkins, a self-proclaimed atheist, said, “The Virgin birth, the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.” In other words, miracles like the virgin birth are for the naïve and uninformed. A German NT scholar Gerd Lüdemann, who does not believe in miracles, put it in a witty and terse statement: “The tomb was full and the manger empty.”
How do you convince people like them that miracles are possible? The place to begin is by asking, “Do you believe in God?” If you can believe that there is a God who created nature, then you can also believe that nature is subjected to Him. Miracles are simply nature being subjected to its Creator. He can do whatever He wants to. Not only did God perform the miracle of the virgin birth but He is still in the miracle working business. Do you believe that? He is still healing the sick, answering prayers, making the impossible possible, and the greatest miracle of all – changing a sinner’s heart.
According to the Pew Research in 2013, 73% of Americans believe in the Virgin Birth.
But there is another issue in this passage that often gets overlooked – it is sacrifice. In this passage we come across Joseph – an unsuspecting spectator who became part of the greatest drama in history. Like Mary, he too had to sacrifice his reputation, comfort, and goals in life for the coming of Jesus. Sadly, we’re living in a time when people cut corners, do the minimum, play it safe, and bailout early. More sadly, it is even among Christians.
Application: Would you describe yourself as a selfish or as a sacrificial person? Even better, would others describe you? How will people describe you when you’re gone? “He always got his way.” “She always got what she wanted.” If someone compels you to go a mile, do you go two? If someone tried to take away your tunic, do you also let them have your cloak? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ? Are you willing to lay down your life so that someone else may find Jesus Christ? By the way, have you truly understood the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross? Until you do, your standards of sacrifice will be too low.
This morning as we look at the example of Joseph, let the Holy Spirit challenge you to sacrifice your life for others. If you do not know Jesus Christ, receive His sacrifice for your sins today.
1. HE SHOWED MERCY WHEN HE DIDN’T HAVE TO.
18 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. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
Background: Mary was pregnant and Joseph her fiancé was not the father. This was not good. The penalty for adultery according to the Old Testament was death by stoning but the Romans had abolished all Jewish capital punishments. The worst they could do was divorce, public humiliation, and shunning. Mary would probably never marry again. She could live in the community but as a pariah. Also keep in mind that she was Nazareth, a tiny community of 150-200 people at the time, mostly of priestly lineage, the holier than thou. Do you remember Nathaniel’s remark to Philip – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Even Jesus felt their hate when He came to teach in their synagogue. In Matthew 13 they said, 55 “Is this not the carpenter’s son? (They did not even deem it worthy to use Joseph’s name.) Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Mark 6:6 even adds, “And He (Jesus) marveled because of their unbelief.” Even God was shocked at their hateful and unbelieving spirit.
So you can only imagine what Mary was up against in Nazareth. They would have looked down on her, shunned her, called her names, and done every evil behavior imaginable to her. Joseph could give her a public divorce and cleared his name but he decided to put her away quietly. I can imagine his family and his friends telling him, “Joseph, she isn’t worth it. Why are you staking your reputation over her? People will think – you did it. Make it public. Let her suffer. Let her be an example.”
Application: If you were Joseph, what would you have done? Would you have listened to the crowd? Would you have publicly humiliated Mary? Or, would you have compassion on her? It is natural to look down on others and judge them. The first step to a life of sacrifice is to do what doesn’t come naturally. That’s what God did for us.
2. HE BELIEVED WHEN IT WAS HARD TO.
20 “But while he thought about these things…” What is Joseph thinking? I know I can leave this girl and move on with my life. No one is going to blame me but what will this do to her? How does God want me to handle this? Will He be pleased by my decision?
Application: Do you think about what God wants you to do? Do you think about the decisions you make? Do you think about how your decisions impact the lives of others?
As he was thinking – 20 “…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. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Now, let me clarify – by Virgin birth, we’re not talking about the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:
- Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
- Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
- Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.
By Virgin birth, we are referring to the virginal conception. It simply means that Mary became pregnant with the baby Jesus without any relationship with any man. It was a miracle of the Holy Spirit. Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah. Someone asked me – “Do you have to understand the virgin birth to be saved?” No – the thief didn’t know it. But if someone were to explain it to you as a Christian, you better believe it.
What was Joseph’s reaction? 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, Joseph could have dismissed the dream and gone about his life but he submitted himself to God’s plan. Many times we cannot understand God’s plan. We want to take the easy way out but there’s so much peace in trusting God’s plan. It is a sacrifice that is worth it.
Illustration: Dad refusing to go to the big church in order to take the small church in an obscure part of the country. Why? Because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
Application: How would you have responded to that vision? Would have taken God at His Word? Would you have taken the narrow road? There’s so much joy in saying – “not my will but Your’s be done.” The buck stops with the Word of God.
3. HE STAYED WHEN HE COULD HAVE BAILED OUT.
25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Background: We read that verse so quickly without thinking of it. The angel had commanded Joseph in verse 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you (Joseph) shall call His name JESUS (Yahweh is salvation)…” Joseph could have hung out until Mary had the baby and then slipped out. It’s too much. It’s not what I signed up for. He had to stick around and give this baby who was not His own, the birthright of being the first-born.
People like to say – “I’m just not going to promise anything. That way, if I don’t show up, you can’t blame me for it.”
Application: Do you sacrifice for your family, church family, lost, and others?
We can never sacrifice too much. Jesus did that!
Do you know Him? Have you received His sacrifice for your sins?