The virgin birth — Mary’s chastity

(This is a continuation of the notes for Matthew chapter 1.)

Jospeh and Mary give us an example of self-control.

Joseph and Mary were married. If they were like most new couples in their day, they probably had narrow living quarters together, perhaps in a makeshift dwelling on the roof of the groom’s parents’ home. People in antiquity often felt that if a young man and woman were alone together for an hour, they would end up having intercourse. Like many people today, many people back then thought that people were just like animals in heat, unable to control their sexual appetites.

This young couple puts to shame our excuses today. In addition to passion, they would have had another reason for intercourse, at least on the first night of the wedding feast. Couples proved the woman’s virginity by the blood on the sheet during their first intercourse (cf. Deut 22:15, 17). By having intercourse that night, Joseph and Mary could have proved that Mary was still a virgin. Yet they chose to abstain, valuing God’s honor above their own.

Why would they need to do this? So that Jesus would have not only a virgin conception but a virgin birth.

Sometimes when I have preached about Joseph’s righteous example of compassion, consecration, and especially self-control, people have felt guilty. At that point I like to remind them that this narrative addresses not only the righteous example of Joseph and Mary, but also includes another character: Jesus, who will save his people from their sins. Jesus came to deliver us from our old life of disobeying God to give us a new, forgiven life on God’s side. He is ready to be “with us”—we need only invite him.



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