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Lesson for Dec. 13, 2020: Fulfilled through Love (Matthew 1:18-25; 22:34-40)

by | 7 December, 2020 | 0 comments

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the December 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)


“The Second Choice” by David Faust (Lesson Application)

Discovery Questions for Dec. 13, 2020


Lesson Aim: Let the birth of Jesus lead you to live by love.


By Mark Scott

How does Christmas affect your love life? The question is not about how Christmas affects the present you buy for the love of your life. Rather, how does the coming of God in Christ affect loving him and others? “Joseph Davidson” (Joseph, son of David, earthly father of Jesus—Haddon Robinson called him the “forgotten man of Christmas”) had some love lessons to learn. But so did an unnamed Pharisee who was an expert in the law.

Joseph’s Love for Mary
Matthew 1:18-25

Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus (technically only one verse is devoted to the birth of Jesus—most of the text is devoted to the conception of Jesus) followed the genealogy of Jesus. The text begins, “This is how the birth (genesis) of Jesus the Messiah came about.” It started with a problem. Mary is pregnant, and the baby is not Joseph’s (they had not yet come together). Mary and Joseph were only pledged (betrothed—think “seriously engaged”—notice that Joseph is referred to as her husband in v. 19).

Joseph was a very good man. He might not have been “an expert in the law,” as the Pharisee mentioned later was, but he was faithful to the law (that is, he was just). Maybe obedience “to” God trumps knowledge “of” God. Joseph knew what the law required about Mary’s unfaithfulness (Deuteronomy 24:1). But he loved Mary and decided to divorce her quietly. Joseph faced a dilemma. His justice demanded one thing, but his mercy called him to do another (cf. James 2:13).

Joseph could “consider” nothing else. He was wrecked by the news of Mary’s pregnancy. But God showed his tender love for Joseph by giving him a dream (Joseph’s Old Testament namesake was also a dreamer). Joseph was to be brought up to speed with Mary (Luke 1:26-38). The unnamed angel (Gabriel?) said what angels typically say: “Do not be afraid.” Joseph was to take Mary home as his wife. She really was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her story was true. When the baby was born he was to be named Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. In his name was his mission.

Matthew interrupted his narrative by inserting the first of 62 Old Testament citations and the first of 15 specific fulfillments. Mary’s pregnancy by the Holy Spirit was actually a fulfillment of a prophecy from Isaiah 7:14. While this passage had a meaning in its original context of King Ahaz’s court, its ultimate (maybe layered or typological) meaning was fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus was to come from a virgin. The virgin birth is not discussed much in the Bible. But the church has fought tooth and nail to maintain it as one of its dearest-held doctrines. It would seem that to lose the virgin birth is to lose a unique aspect of Jesus’ divinity. And not only would he be called Jesus, but he would also be called Immanuel (i.e., God with us). So the Gospel began and so it ended (Matthew 28:20).

Joseph was perfectly obedient to the angel. He married Mary. But he did not consummate their marriage (“know” her). There was no commandment for Joseph not to be intimate with his wife. This was a chosen posture on his part to ensure that all would know that Jesus was biologically Mary’s son, legally Joseph’s son, but fundamentally God’s Son (Warren Wiersbe). Joseph loved Mary with a most noble love.

The Pharisee’s Lack of Love for Jesus
Matthew 22:34-40

Christmas calls us to love Jesus more. The Pharisee in our text was yet to learn that truth. Following the three events (triumphal entry, cleansing the temple, and the cursing of the fig tree—Matthew 21:1-22) and the three parables (sons, servants, and wedding banquet—Matthew 21:28–22:14), Jesus encountered three questions (Matthew 22:15-40). First there was the question of taxes, then the marriage question, and finally the greatest commandment question.

An unnamed Pharisee saw how Jesus had put both the Pharisees and Sadducees to shame. So he tested (the same word is used of the devil in Matthew 4:1) Jesus with a final question. He asked Jesus about the greatest commandment. This was often up for debate in rabbinic circles. Jesus answered from Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18. Moses had his 10 famous “words” (the Ten Commandments) but the Law and the Prophets (a way of speaking about the entire Old Testament) hang (depend) on these two commandments. They summarized all of the commandments. Perhaps this lawyer who put Jesus to the test had a change of heart during their encounter (Mark 12:32-34). Joseph and the Pharisee shared one thing in common: their fidelity to God’s law. But there was one glaring difference between them: Joseph acted in love.

Mark Scott

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. He also serves as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin.


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