Pastor David B. Curtis

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Why was Jesus Born?

Matthew 1:18-23

Delivered 12/20/2009

If you asked the average Christian what Christmas was, they would no doubt associate Christmas with the birth of Christ and in some way see it as a celebration of His birth. Is it? Is Christmas about Christ? The word "Christmas" means: "Mass of Christ," or, as it came to be shortened, "Christ-mass"; a Roman Catholic Mass which grew out of a specific feast day established in A.D.1038. It has nothing to do with Scripture or the birth of Christ! The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 ed. says this: "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church. It was not instituted by Christ or the Apostles, or by Bible authority. It was picked up after-ward from paganism."

What about the birth of Christ, that's important, isn't it? Was Jesus born on December 25? It is very unlikely. The date came from a pagan holiday of Saturnalia. This was a Roman observance of the birthday of the "Invincible Sun" on December 25. The celebration consisted of feasts, parades, gift giving, lighted candles, and green trees. Many of our Christmas customs have their origins in Saturnalia. This pagan holiday was Christianized in A.D. 336 by the Emperor Constantine; he declared Christ's birthday an official Roman holiday. Chrysostom, the early church father, rebuked Christians for adopting this pagan holiday, but it stuck.

When was Jesus born? I think that if we look closely at the Scriptures, we can tell exactly when He was born. To understand when He was born we first need to understand where He was born. We see from the Scripture that He was born in Bethlehem:

Matthew 2:1 (NASB) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

Bethlehem comes from two words bayith, meaning: "house"; and lechem, meaning: "bread." Jesus was born in the "house of bread." What do we call a house of bread? A bakery! This is interesting in light of the fact that Jesus said:

John 6:35 (NASB) Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

The bread of life was born in a bakery. Jesus, the "bread of life," offers spiritual food that will completely satisfy our hunger.

Bethlehem's unique location at the border between the mountains and the wilderness enabled its people to capitalize on the benefits from both environments. This photograph is taken from the top of the Herodion looking east towards the wilderness. It is striking how the farms seen in the foreground end where the wilderness begins.

It doesn't rain in the desert. But in Bethlehem, just a mile away, they may get 28 inches a year, and it all comes in about 12 weeks; 6 weeks in the early rains, a little in between, and 6 weeks in the later rains. The fertile mountain valleys and hillsides that received adequate rainfall provided valuable cropland for farmers, while the wilderness nearby provided pastures for the shepherds' flock.

Luke 2:7-8 (NASB) And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.

Fields were small plots of land and they were right next to the desert. In the desert there are the shepherds ­ they didn't want shepherds in the fields. As the harvest is complete, they pull the grain out of the field and the shepherds show up. If any of the shepherd's flock steps in the field before the harvest is out, there would be war. The fields were the size of this room, and that is all they had to feed their family. The moment the harvest is gone, the shepherds move in. The sheep then turn the stubble into dirt. So, if the Shepherds were in the fields at the time of Jesus birth, it had to be after the time of the harvest and before planting. Harvest ends about July 1, Spring planting begins the moment the first rains happen, about October 1. So Jesus' birth could not have been between October 1 and July 1.

There is another passage in Luke that helps us date the birth of Jesus:

Luke 1:5-6 (NASB) In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

We know that Zacharias and Elizabeth were the parents of John the Baptist. Johns' father Zacharias was a priest. In the Second Temple period, in Jesus' time, there were 25,000 priests. The Temple itself is not as big as this room. So what they did was to divide the 25,000 priests into 24 groups called brigades. The Mishnah (Oral Torah) states that each division had to serve twice in one year (but not consecutively), with the first division starting on the first week of Nissan. Each division served a one-week period and all priestly divisions had to serve during the three pilgrim Festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. We know from Jewish history that Abijah's brigade serves during the first week of Sivan and then is required to serve the following week for Shavuot. During Shavuot, the priests would draw lots to see who would get the honor of going into the Holy Place to burn incense on the altar. Only once during a priest's lifetime could his lot be drawn for this service. Zechariah's lot was drawn:

Luke 1:9 (NASB) according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

Zechariah would enter the Holy Place, offer incense, and then would return back outside to give the blessing over the worshipers. As Zechariah is offering incense, to his surprise, an angel of the Lord appears to him and informs him that his prayers have been answered, and that his wife will have a child. Zechariah doubted the angel's announcement, and he lost the ability to speak:

Luke 1:19-20 (NASB) And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20 "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their proper time."

The worshipers began to wonder what was taking Zechariah so long ,and then he appeared to give the blessing, but soon realized he could not speak:

Luke 1:21-22 (NASB) And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.

After Zechariah's service was completed, he returned home; and Elizabeth, his wife, conceived. So it was around the end of May when the angel appeared (Luke 1:11), and told him that his wife Elizabeth is going to have a baby. Then the text says, "After these days his wife Elizabeth became pregnant." Let's assume that She becomes pregnant in the middle of June. Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus when Elizabeth is 6 months along. So the angel would have appeared to Mary in mid December, or early January. So when was Jesus born? Late September, which is when the feast of Tabernacles takes place.

John 1:14 (NASB) And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The word "dwelt" is the Greek word skenoo, which means: "Tent." Why did John use the language of Sukkot to describe the birth of Jesus? I think it is because Jesus was born during the Feast of Sukkot or Booths.

Leviticus 23:34 (NASB) "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD.

If Jesus was born on Tishri 15, then His circumcision would have taken place on the eighth day of Sukkot. The Jews have a tradition associated with the eighth day called "Simchat Torah," and means "Rejoicing in the Torah." Luke 2:21-38 says that on the eighth day they brought the baby Messiah up to the Temple to circumcise Him and to name Him, and when Simeon and Anna saw Israel's Savior, they rejoiced over Him. These two righteous people were rejoicing over the Living Torah of God. Every aspect of Messiah's birth, including the day of His circumcision, is a picture designed to teach us more about Him.

The Feast of Tabernacle is called "the season of our joy." With this in mind, listen to what the angels said:

Luke 2:10 (NASB) And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;

Here the birth of Christ is announced as a time of "great joy which shall be to all people." So, we can see from this that the terminology the angel used to announce the birth of Jesus was themes and messages associated with the Feast of Sukkot.

There is a Sukkot liturgy recorded in Jewish writings that was written well before Jesus' time that says, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill." The Angels said that to the Shepherds:

Luke 2:14 (NASB) "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

Why did the angels say the Sukkot liturgy the night of Jesus' birth? I think it was because He was born on Sukkot.

During the Feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles, God required that all male Jews come to Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16). For this reason, the city would be overcrowded with people and would explain why Mary and Joseph could not find lodging in and around Jerusalem (Luke 2:7). Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born, is only about four miles from Jerusalem.

Sukkot is the seventh feast on the seventh month, and it was to last for seven days. The number "seven" is the Biblical number of completion. This is the grand finale in God's plan of redemption. What a perfect time for God's Savior to be born.

Sukkot is the most joyful and festive of all Israel's feasts. It is also the most important and prominent feast; mentioned more often in Scripture than any of the other feasts.

In the days of the Temple, the Feast of Sukkot was viewed with great awe, for it was during the Feast of Sukkot, that Solomon dedicated the newly built Temple to the Lord. At that ancient observance of Sukkot, the Shekinah glory of the Lord descended from Heaven to light the fire on the altar and filled the Holy of Holies.

During the festival of Sukkot a choir of Levites sang the Hallel (i.e. the praise Psalms 113-118). At the proper time, the congregation waved their palm branches toward the altar and joined in singing:

Psalms 118:25 (NASB) O LORD, do save, we beseech Thee; O LORD, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity!

At the same time the priests, with palm branches in hand, marched once toward the altar. It was at this very festival that the Salvation of God was born into the world. So, if you put it all together, you see that Jesus could not have been born on December 25.

But you know it really doesn't matter when Jesus was born or how we celebrate His birth. What matters is that we understand why He was born. The birth of Jesus Christ is a miraculous event of great significance to mankind.

In order to understand why Jesus was born, we need to look to the Bible:

Matthew 1:18-23 (NASB) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." 22 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 23 "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."

There is something very important in the first verse we read:

Matthew 1:18 (NASB) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

"Betrothal" among the Jews was not like our present day engagement. It was far more serious and binding. The bridegroom and bride pledged their "troth," meaning: "faithfulness, loyalty" ­ to each other in the presence of witnesses. A betrothed couple was considered as legally married, even though they did not live together or have any physical relationships. This period normally lasted twelve months and served as a period of protection to establish each partner's fidelity.

Our text says, "....before they came together..." - In other words, it was during the betrothal period, before they began living together and before there were any sexual relations, that "....she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." Mary discovered her pregnancy while she was still a virgin, they had not yet married in the full sense of the term. Mary knew immediately the cause of her condition, because the angel, Gabriel, had told her that this would happen:

Luke 1:34-35 (NASB) And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.

This was no natural pregnancy, it was miraculous, it was the divinely conceived birth of God in human flesh. The virgin birth was prophesied in the First Testament:

Genesis 3:15 (NASB) And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."

"Her seed" is an expression used nowhere else in Scripture. Only one time in the history of the world did a woman ever have a seed, which normally is ascribed to the man. Jeremiah speaks of this miraculous event in slightly different terms:

Jeremiah 31:22 (NASB) "How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth-- A woman will encompass a man."

In other words, a woman on her own shall develop a man. Isaiah's prophecy is probably the most familiar to us:

Isaiah 7:14 (NASB) "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

The truth of the virgin birth is very important. For Jesus to be God, He must be born of God. Joseph, a man, and Mary, a woman, could not produce God. God could not be born into this world through natural human processes. He could not be God apart from being conceived by God.

Matthew 1:21-23 (NASB) "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." 22 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 23 "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."

This has got to be the greatest miracle, the most fantastic truth recorded in the pages of Scripture, God became a man. The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie, stare, wiggle, and make noises; needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation; God becoming a man.

You might ask, "Is it a big deal that we believe that Jesus Christ is God? Yes!

1 John 2:22-23 (NASB) Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

Jesus Christ is God, and to deny this is be under the wrath of God:

John 3:36 (NASB) "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

God the Son has become a man. That is the meaning of the incarnation, but what is its purpose? Why did God become a man? The answer is found in verse 21 of our text:

Matthew 1:21 (NASB) "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins."

The Bible says Jesus Christ came into the world to "save His people from their from their sins." That's the reason for His coming. He did this by dying in our place. So we could say, He was born to die! The purpose of the incarnation was specifically that Jesus Christ might die for our sins and thus save us.

Now we need to ask a very important question here: Why did we need saving?

Romans 5:12 (NASB) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned­

We needed saving because through Adam sin entered the world-"Sin entered into the world" - What is sin?

1 John 3:4 (NASB) Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

Sin is disobeying God. It is violating his Holy law. God is the Creator and law giver, and any violation of his moral will is sin. Adam introduced sin into the human realm.

Genesis 2:15-17 (NASB) Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die."

Adam was placed in a perfect environment in the garden of Eden. God gave Adam one prohibition ­ just one! Adam could do anything he wanted ­ anything ­ except eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 3:4-6 (NASB) And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! 5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Adam ate of the forbidden fruit ­ he sinned. Sin is violating the commands of God. When Adam sinned, "sin entered into the world."

That act resulted in an innate corrupting principle, and he transmitted this to his decedents. Men became sinners as Paul said in:

Romans 5:19 (NASB) For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

It's not that you sin, and that's what makes you a sinner. You're a sinner, you were born that way, and that is why you sin. Every human being born is born with original sin.

Through Adam's personal sin, original sin came to all mankind, and all humanity was corrupted. We are all born sinners; separated from God.

Romans 5:12 (NASB) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned­

Death came to all men as a result of sin,"and death through sin." What was the result of Adam's sin, he died. We know from the Bible that Adam lived at least 800 years beyond the day he ate the fruit. But, God said he would die the day he ate, and we know that God cannot lie. Adam did not die physically that day, but he did die spiritually.

So the death referred to here is spiritual death, which is separation from God. If a man dies physically while in a state of spiritual death, he will be sent to the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the "second death."

Romans 5:12 (NASB) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned­

Because of Adam's sin, death spread to all men; "and so death spread to all men." Spiritual death spread to all men. Every human being born is born separated from God, dead in sin. The question that arises here is, "Why?" Why do all die? The answer is given in the end of verse 12, "because all sinned."

God constituted Adam as the federal head or representative of the entire race. Adam acted on our behalf as our representative. Adam's sin has been put to our account - this is imputation. All men are born spiritually dead.

This is the bad news -we are all sinners. This is why Jesus Christ was born. He was born to die for our sin. To pay our penalty; to give us spiritual life.

But there is good news! It is found in the birth of Jesus Christ:

Luke 2:10-11 (NASB) And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The good news is that God has done something to make it possible for guilty, hell-deserving sinners to escape that condemnation. The good news is that Jesus Christ has paid the price of sin for every person who trusts in Him, so that man can escape judgment. God became man to save us from our sin:

Romans 5:8 (NASB) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God invaded human history in the form of the man Christ Jesus. This Jesus lived a sinless life and then died a substitutionary death at Calvary. On that cross, Jesus took upon Himself our sin and received the judgement of God that we deserved as sinners. Because He was an innocent infinite sufferer, He satisfied fully and completely the righteous demands of a holy God, and God was propitiated. Propitiation is the removal of wrath by the offering of a sacrifice. It is the turning of God's wrath away from the sinner by a sacrifice made to satisfy God:

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

What do you have to do to receive God's forgiveness?

John 5:24 (NASB) "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

If you trust in what Jesus Christ has done for you, you will receive the forgiveness of your sins and spend eternity in heaven. If you reject what Jesus Christ has done, you will spend eternity under the wrath of God:

John 3:36 (NKJV) ""He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

The Gospel is the good news that "Christ died for our sins." Believing the Gospel is trusting in the substitutionary death and payment of Christ for our sins.

The incarnation, God becoming a man, was God's gift of love to us:

John 3:16 (NASB) "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Our salvation is not based upon what we do, but upon trusting in what Christ did for us.

Romans 5:19 (NASB) For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Just as I am born a sinner because of Adam, even so I have become "righteous" by faith in Jesus Christ.

The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. If you are not a Christian, I beg you consider the claims of Christ. If you are a Christian, I beg you to share the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born to die for our sin. This is the message that we need to be sharing.

Media #356b (12/24/2006) & 488 (12/20/2009)

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