Analysis of Matthew 1:18-25
Gospel of Matthew
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 gives the narrative of Joseph learning about Mary’s pregnancy and his reluctance and his eventual acceptance of Jesus as his son. The story begins with the background of Joseph and Mary’s engagement, which at the time was a fully binding agreement among a couple. During their engagement, following tradition, the two lived separately, as they were unmarried. Joesph soon learns that Mary had become pregnant. Fearing the worst, public humiliation among the Jewish community in Nazareth, Joseph planned on quietly divorcing her to keep his image well. After deciding to divorce Mary, he was approached by and angel that told him to accept Mary as his wife because she is virgin, and was impregnated through the power of God. The angle also instructed Joseph to name the child Jesus, which in Greek means “Lord Saves.” During an aside, Matthew explains that this was all to fulfill what had been predicted by the prophet, in reference to Isaiah. With the reassurance that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Joseph decided to remain engaged with Mary and took her as his wife officially and gave him the name of Jesus.
In Reading Matthew, the author David E. Garland makes the case for five theological themes that are highlighted through verses 18-25. First, Jesus has dual paternity; he is the son of the line of David and the son of God. Righteousness within the Jewish community of Nazareth and in the eyes of God is also a key theme in the story of Joseph’s acceptance of Jesus as his son. Thirdly, the name of Jesus, or Immanuel, is a name chosen by God because of his vocation that he will lead. Fourthly, the fulfillment of the Scripture, found in the Old Testament, prophesying Jesus’s birth is foundational in understanding the meaning of his conception, purpose, and lineage. Finally, the Holy Spirit is introduced to the readers of Matthew with the amazing power of the virginal conception of Mary. Garland is correct in discerning the five theological themes that Matthew 1:18-25 focuses on is the power of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of God’s plan, God acting through Jesus as the savior of humanity, the duality of Jesus’ paternity, and Joseph’s righteousness as a servant of God in compliance with St. Paul’s concept of dikaiosyne.