The Birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25)

Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph, but before the time of their marriage she found that she was pregnant through the Holy Spirit. As an upright man, and in a wish to spare Mary any kind of public disgrace, Joseph planned to divorce her quietly. However, an angel appeared to him in a dream, addressing him as "Joseph son of David". The angel explained the matter to Joseph, saying that Mary was pregnant from the Holy Spirit and that she would give birth to a son. He was to be called Jesus, because he would save people from their sins. This was to fulfil the prophecy [of Isaiah] that a virgin would conceive, give birth to a son, and that he would be called Immanuel (which means "God with us"). When Joseph woke up he followed the angel's instructions and married Mary. And Mary and Joseph did not have intercourse until after Mary had given birth to this son, whom they called Jesus.


  • Jesus - means "The Lord Saves" or "The Lord Heals": an appropriate name for the Messiah.
  • Prophecy - Jesus' birth is predicted by the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament, rooting him firmly within Jewish scriptures.
  • King David - Joseph (and therefore Jesus) is a member of the Davidic line, like many Israelite rulers in the past. Jews believed that the long-awaited Messiah would be descended from the great Old Testament king, David.
  • Miraculous birth - the fact that Mary and Joseph did not sleep together until after Jesus' birth is emphasised.
  • Danger of having a child outside marriage - Mary could have been stoned to death for having a child without first being married.
  • Joseph needs to be convinced - Joseph is described as being an "upright man", and so it is unlikely that he would have wanted to adopt a child with an "unknown" father. He only agrees after an angel appears to him in a dream.

Contemporary Issues

  • Doing the right thing, even if this is difficult.
  • Following instructions.
  • Radical/extreme views.



What is the significance of Mary's son being given the name "Jesus"?

Name two ways in which Jesus is linked, in this birth narrative, to Old Testament scriptures.

Explain what this account teaches about the character of Joseph.

The fact that Mary could have been put to death simply for having a child before getting married seems highly extreme to us in the twenty-first century. Outline and explain a couple of views held nowadays that you consider to be equally radical.