Messianic missions can be messy. Henson Lim shares five observations and lessons from Matt 1:18-20 that will help us rightly position ourselves as we go about our kingdom assignments for Jesus the Messiah.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18-20.
Most of us are familiar with messiness in our lives. When we go through a messy situation, it is often hard to appreciate the big picture, let alone embrace the fact that God will make it work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). With today’s brand of “feel-good” Christianity, some of us assume that the Christian life should be easy, and that if it is not, we are somehow not doing it right. But this could not be further from the truth. kingdom assignments will likely put us in messy situations and failing to realise this will likely drop our assignments prematurely. Matthew 1:18-20 brings this same messiness into view as we are introduced to the lives of Joseph and Mary, as they live out their kingdom assignments in the birth of the Messiah.
After Matthew makes the case for Jesus’ Jewish and royal heritage in his genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17), he draws our attention to the circumstances of Jesus’ birth from Matthew 1:18: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.”
Jesus’ conception “messes” with our understanding of what a normal conception should be like. Instead of being begotten from Joseph by Mary, Jesus was directly conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary. We see this reflected in the use of the feminine pronoun for “whom” in Matthew 1:16: “…Mary, of whom Jesus was born…” Despite this, there is still order in that Jesus’ royal heritage remained intact since Joseph was Mary’s husband (Matthew 1:16), and that this was ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
Joseph and Mary were also drawn into a potential scandal as Mary was found with child after her betrothal but before her wedding (Matthew 1:18). A betrothal was an important ceremony in a marriage where a bridegroom and bride would be deemed as husband and wife even before their wedding. This made Mary potentially guilty of infidelity. The only way out, then, would have been divorce for the couple (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) or worse, for Mary to be put to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-27).
1. Joseph and Mary were Archippuses
If not for Joseph’s genealogy, Joseph and Mary were of a simple and humble background. Joseph was a carpenter in the little-known city of Nazareth, which made the couple out to be not well off. This is further evidenced by their simple offering—a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons—that they gave when Jesus was presented in the temple (Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:8). Also, Joseph was only featured in the gospels concerning the birth and early years of Jesus, only to fade from view in the rest of the New Testament. In their own ways, Joseph and Mary were Archippuses; seemingly unknown and unimportant, but known by God and qualified as such for kingdom assignments, apart from being in the line of David. In the same way, regardless of our background or present circumstances, we only need to be in Christ to qualify for kingdom assignments.
2. Joseph and Mary Were Obedient to the Spirit of the Law and Willing to be Messed Up for the Kingdom
Joseph was a just man in his willingness and determination to obey the law and, as such, to divorce Mary for her alleged “infidelity.” Despite this, he was also compassionate towards her, in wanting a quiet divorce instead of a spectacle that would openly shame her (Matthew 1:19). While Joseph knew and wanted to do the right thing, this was no less difficult, especially since it concerned Mary’s life as well. Also, a divorce would have required two of three witnesses, which meant that there was only so much Joseph could do to make it quiet.
On probing a little further, however, we realise that the spirit of the law behind divorce was to guard against the likes of sexual immorality and to protect marriage. This, ultimately, was not violated by Joseph or Mary in remaining betrothed to each other. Any doubts that Joseph might have had of this were resolved by the angelic visitation in his dream (Matthew 1:20). Yet still, there was only so much the couple could do to prevent others from misunderstanding their situation.
When we are on kingdom assignments, God will never call us to violate his word or, in other words, to violate the spirit of his law. We might be put in messy situations that involve not only us but also those who are associated with us. Situations like this force us to confront difficult decisions, but we can have the assurance that God can clarify any doubts or confusion that might arise from this.
3. Joseph and Mary Had to Obey to Fulfill Their Kingdom Assignments
Both Joseph and Mary were offered the opportunity to be involved in the birth of our Messiah Jesus, but the choice was up to them to obey and accept it. In response during the angelic visitation, Mary accepted the assignment to bear Jesus in her womb: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38).” Joseph, too, having received an angelic visitation, accepted his assignment to continue to take Mary as his wife: “…he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son… (Matthew 1:24, 25).” Joseph and Mary both received an assignment from the Lord, but they had to exercise their faith to obey it. Their obedience led to the conception and eventual birth of Jesus as the Messiah, who would give life to people.
We too have a choice to make as we are metaphorically led through the same process from word to life as we receive our kingdom assignments. God provides the word of his kingdom assignments to us, but it too requires our faith and obedience to accept it. Only when we obey can the vision of the assignment be conceived and eventually birthed in its fulfilment, which would then bring life. In the same way, the kingdom assignment of Archippus Awakening was given to Pastor Henson Lim and conceived within him in the form of Colossians 4:17 on 27 October 2013. On 3 August 2014, exactly 40 weeks later, this assignment was birthed in the starting of Archippus Awakening.
Sin also follows a similar sort of process: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14, 15).”
4. God’s Sovereignly Involved Joseph and Mary’s Participation
God, in his sovereignty, does not ultimately require Joseph and Mary to be involved in the birth of Jesus and, ultimately, in the advancement of his kingdom (Esther 4:14). However, he had graciously called them on their kingdom assignments to make a difference for the kingdom.
Even as they went through messy situations, God was sure to help (Matthew 1:20) and ultimately work it out for their good (Romans 8:28) in the eventual birth and death of our Messiah Jesus.
In the same way, God has no need for us to be involved in the advancement of His kingdom, but he graciously involves us and is sure to help us and work all things for our eventual good.
Like Joseph and Mary, the Bible is full of men and women whose lives were messed up for the kingdom of God as they fulfil kingdom assignments. May we not lose our significance as Archippuses and strive to obey God in following His word as we walk in the kingdom assignments that He calls us to, even if it might put us in messy situations.
Like Joseph and Mary, the Bible is full of men and women whose lives were messed up as they went about fulfilling God’s kingdom assignments. Moses, prince of Egypt, Hosea, asked to marry a prostitute, Jeremiah, a promising young man, Ezekiel, the most drama-prophet of all,
John and James, running their family business, Paul, a brilliant scholar, set for great things in the Sanhedrin; and Matthew, wealthy tax collector, each messed up for the Messiah.
JESUS the Messiah, messed up for us. As we learn about His birth, we remember His death. The Messiah was born to be messed up. For us. On our behalf.
These did not focus on things that can be seen but on things that cannot be seen. These did not walk by sight but walked by faith. They knew that however gory the mess they experienced was but for a moment that will one day be exchanged for the glory of the Messiah. That promise is true for all who would undertake their kingdom assignment, to run the race in such a way that they would win the prize!
Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It.