Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 1’

Last week we looked at Jesus’ family tree in Matthew 1. There are a number of interesting things about that genealogy, which I tried to point out. But the main point is certainly that Jesus is a descendant of David who is qualified to be the Messiah and to sit on David’s throne.

Handout– After the genealogy there are five stories which have to do with Jesus’ birth and childhood. As we will see, each one has a dream and an Old Testament scripture connected to Jesus. And also, as we will see, each story presents a glimpse into Jesus’ future. I want us to go through these stories and see what we can learn about Jesus.

We begin today with –

The story of Jesus’ birth and name

– found in Matthew 1:18-25. This story opens with a difficult situation.

v. 18 – “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child – from the Holy Spirit.”

First, note the phrase, “betrothed to Joseph, before they came together.” This reflects the Jewish pattern of marriage at this time, which had two stages. First, you make a public commitment to each other before witnesses. You are legally married at this point. And if you are unfaithful it is adultery, and to get out of it requires divorce. Stage two is when you actually move in together and consummate the marriage, which could be a year or so after the first stage.

So they have gone through stage one, but not stage two, which is the problem. Because “she was found to be with child,” which should not have happened.

The phrase, “from the Holy Spirit” is Matthew’s own comment. Joseph doesn’t know this yet.

v. 19 – “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”

He was just, or righteous in that he abided by the Law of Moses with regard to “the evil” of adultery – Deuteronomy 22:23-27. These verses deal specifically with a woman who is betrothed, but unfaithful. According to the Law the adulterer is to be killed. Although this was probably not enforced at this time, such an evil is still not to be tolerated. Hence his desire for divorce (apart from any personal feelings of betrayal).

But he also didn’t want to put her on public trial. So he resolved to proceed with a quieter form of divorce, with only two or three witnesses to spare her shame.

A dream from God.

v. 20 – “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’”

As with the Old Testament Joseph, our Joseph will hear from God often in the form of dreams in Matthew 1-2. [There are other parallels: Both are concerned with sexual purity,  both make a trip to Egypt which saves Israel and both have a father named Jacob.]

In this one, God tells Joseph, instead of divorce, he is to stay with Mary. The phrase, “take Mary as your wife” can also be translated, “take Mary your wife home.” Either way, it means that he is to proceed to the second stage of the marriage relationship – although as we see in v. 25 without sex.

Why should he keep Mary? Because she has not been unfaithful. Rather the child is “from the Holy Spirit.” This is the second time this phrase is used of Jesus’ conception.

Just a note here: This idea of a virginal conception is different from anything else attested in human history (including stories of the gods and the like). For there is no male involved in the conception of Jesus and no sexual activity; not even a sperm donor. What’s claimed here is pure miracle. The Spirit, the creative power of God, uses an ovum from Mary and produces a child.

The angel goes on in

v. 21 – “’She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”

The name “Jesus” or Yeshua, is a shortened form of Joshua. According to popular etymology it means – Yahweh is salvation. The angel gives the reasoning: call him Jesus, Yahweh is salvation, “for he will save his people from their sins.” So the name is fitting, given what he will do.

Next, Matthew shares a prophetic Scripture connected to Jesus’ birth.

vs. 22-23 – “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

The verse that is quoted is Isaiah 7:14 (LXX). In its original context this was a promise to King Ahaz of Judah. He was threatened with overthrow by Northern Israel and Syria, who planned to set aside the Davidic line and install a puppet ruler (Isaiah 7:4-6).

But the prophet tells Ahaz that he would have a son, born to a young woman. And that during the boy’s infancy, the current threat against Judah and the house of David would be overcome.

The original fulfillment of this was the birth of Hezekiah, as well as the preservation of David’s royal line in him, and the defeat of Ahaz’s enemies. All of which took place.

For several reasons, however, this passage was seen to go beyond this immediate fulfillment:

1.  Hezekiah was a son of David and a good king, and as such he foreshadowed the Messiah. That is, parts of his life can point to what will happen with the Messiah. In this case his birth.

2.  The name “God with us” points to something beyond just Hezekiah and his birth; something more substantial.

3.  This part of Isaiah 2-11 speaks of the coming of what we would call the kingdom of God, which didn’t happen in Hezekiah’s time. (Hagner, Matthew, p. 20 for #2 and #3.).

So, like so many others, and in accord with Jewish practice, this passage is seen to have a deeper and fuller meaning. It has another layer to it. And as Matthew shows us, this points to Jesus.

  • Hezekiah was born to a young woman. But Jesus is born to a virgin – a heightened fulfillment.
  • Hezekiah was a son of David. But Jesus is more. He is the Son of David and the Messiah.
  • Hezekiah’s birth was a sign that God remembered his promise and gave David a son to rule in Judah. Jesus’ birth is a sign that God remembered his promise and gave David a son to rule the world.
  • Hezekiah’s birth and the saving of Judah was a sign that God was with Judah. Jesus’ birth and the salvation he brings to the world is a sign that God is with us; that the kingdom of God has truly come.

So Jesus is the truest fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14.

The story ends with Joseph’s obedience.

vs. 24-25 – “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”

Joseph is immediately obedient to what he received in the dream. He took Mary into his home and he named the baby, Jesus.

This is really important because in Judaism at this time, someone’s son had less to do with biology, than with the fact that you claim the child as your own. And this is what Joseph does here. He legally adopts him by naming him. And so Jesus is given Joseph’s royal lineage, all the way back to king David.

As I said at the beginning, this story gives –

A picture of Jesus’ future

In this story it has to do with the circumstances of his birth, that is, the contrast between the appearance and the reality of his birth.

By appearance there’s a problem. In fact a scandal. Jesus looks as if he’s an illegitimate child. It looks like his mother was unfaithful. And this carried much social stigma in that day, and was a source of scorn and rejection.

An example of this can be found in John 8:41. In the midst of a heated argument with the Pharisees, they say to Jesus, “We were not born of sexual immorality.” The circumstances of his birth are thrown in his face as a way of dismissing him. And this kind of response and rejection continued among later non-believing Jews and Gentiles as well, for centuries.

So in this story we see a picture of his future – he will be despised and rejected for the circumstances of his birth.

But the reality is that Jesus is, in fact, the promised Messiah. What looks like scandal is just the opposite. He is born of a virgin, the true fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. He is conceived “from the Holy Spirit.” Instead of a cause of rejection, the circumstances of his birth should show us that he is the Messiah, who has come to save us from our sins and to show that God is with us.

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I’m excited today because I get to give a whole sermon on a Scriptural genealogy! Now, of course, I’m aware that this may have the exact opposite effect on you, as you think, ‘What could be more boring?’ Right? But it’s my hope that today, as we look at Jesus’ family tree, you will find this interesting. And even more so that it will build up your faith.

Overview of Matthew 1:1-17

If you will look at your handout: Matthew 1 Genealogy let me point out a few things –

1. The title of the section is in v. 1, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus.”

2. This section has two bookends (an inclusion with a chiastic structure) made up of the names – Abraham, David and the Messiah in 1 and v. 17. These bookends mark this off as a distinct section from the rest of chapter one. This was a common writing technique in that day.

3. Notice that it’s divided into 3 sets of 14 generations. As v. 17 points out, “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah fourteen generations.”

There are some additional notes on the handout for you to look at, if you’re interested.

A word about ancient genealogies

They can be quite different than modern ones. And I share this with you because if you start really digging in and taking a close look you might ask, ‘Well, what about this?’ or ‘What about that?’

First of all, there isn’t the same kind of focus on technical accuracy as we have today in genealogies. Let me give you two examples. 1) Names can be left out. For instance in the second section, v. 8 three kings are left out. Now these kings may have been left out for a reason (because they were under a curse?). But the point is they aren’t listed.

Now, leaving out names was not uncommon in ancient Jewish genealogies, so it’s not a big deal. Matthew may well be working with some common assumptions of the time about who should, and who shouldn’t be listed. And given these common assumptions he points out the symbolism of 3 sets of 14’s.

2) Another example of less technical accuracy is the alternate names that show up at points – Asaph for Asa, Amos for Amon, the former being alternate spellings for the latter.

Second, with ancient genealogies, you can be creative to make a point; to highlight certain people or things. For instance, the three time periods that are delineated highlight Abraham, David and the time of exile. Others could have been highlighted. And as we will see in a moment, this genealogy is set up to highlight Jesus’ connection with King David. Also, as we will see in a bit, Matthew adds in several women, which is quite unusual. But they are there for a reason, to make a point.

What do we learn from Jesus’ family tree?

1. Jesus is a descendant of king David or “the son of David” as v. 1 says. This is a royal genealogy. It traces Jesus’ lineage through Joseph to the royal line of David through Solomon. The point is that Jesus, by being adopted by Joseph, is a descendant of David, and is thus qualified to be the Messiah and to sit on David’s throne.

Now there are other things going on in this genealogy, as we will see. For instance, there is also a concern with Jesus’ connection to Abraham. But clearly the main focus in on David.

  • He’s the only person in a list with many kings, who is given the title – “the king” – v. 6
  • David’s name shows up five times in this genealogy – v. 1, v. 6, v. 17
  • For this next point a little background. In alphabets of languages that don’t use numerals, the letters become numbers. This was the case with Hebrew. This means that you can take a word and count up the numerical value of it letters, and that is the number of the word. And this number can be used for symbolic purposes. Who can tell me the most famous example of this? Revelation 13:18 and the number “666.” I said all this to say that David’s name in Hebrew has 3 letters, which equal the number 14. (d = 4; w = 6; d = 4). This is certainly a part of the structure of this genealogy – 3 parts with 14 in each part. The whole genealogy, as it is put together here reflects David’s name.
  • Also, David’s name is found in the 14th spot. (For this emphasis on David – Davies & Allison, Matthew, v. 1, p. 163-165)

In all of these ways David is highlighted among Jesus’ ancestors to show that Jesus has the credentials to be the Messiah and to sit on David’s throne.

2. A virginal conception isn’t that strange. This genealogy does teach that Mary was a virgin when she conceived. Throughout, the pattern is X is the father of Y. But when it comes to Jesus it reads, “Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born” – v. 16. The language has to change to account for this different kind of event.

Now the circumstances of Jesus’ birth could certainly seem scandalous. A young woman who is pregnant, while not yet with her husband. And, in fact, the only reason she isn’t divorced as an adulteress is that an angel told Joseph not to do this. But this genealogy points out that there have been several irregular unions between men and women that seemed scandalous to outsiders, which were used by God in the royal lineage. (Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, p. 73)

The addition of the following women makes this point:

  • Tamar – v. 3. She bore a child to Judah, under highly scandalous circumstances. But she is in the chosen line.
  • Rahab – v. 5. She was a Gentile and a prostitute at one time, but she is in the kingly line of Israel.
  • Ruth – v. 5. She was a Moabite who was not to be a part of Israel up to the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3). But she was the mother of David’s grandfather.
  • “The wife of Uriah” or Bathsheba – v. 6. She committed adultery with David, but Solomon came from this union.

Mary is the other woman in this genealogy. We know that many at the time and afterward slandered her by saying that she was involved in sexual immorality (e.g. John 8:41). And so the point is that a virginal conception may seem scandalous, but it has been used by God.

3. Jesus fulfills God’s promises to his people. The way the genealogy is set up in three sections, highlights three periods of time, all of which have key promises for the future of the people of God, which Jesus came to fulfill.

From the time of Abraham: Genesis 12:2-3 – God said, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 17:19 – God said, “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.” Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises. He is the offspring of Abraham and through him God’s blessings are received.

From the time of David: 2 Samuel 7:12-13 – The Lord said, “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. . . . I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” This promise is applied to the Messiah in the prophets. Isaiah 11:1 – “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Jeremiah 23:5 – “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises. He is the promised Messiah who will reign.

From the time of the exile: Ezekiel 36:26-27 – the Lord promises that after this time – “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 – “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises. He has brought true salvation – forgiveness of our sins, the giving of the Holy Spirit and the provision of a new heart for everyone.

As Paul says, “all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Jesus Christ” – 2 Corinthians 1:20. He comes at the end of this lineage to bring to fulfillment all that God has promised before.

4. Finally, we learn that God is faithful through the ages. A lot of time is covered in these generations. And all this time God was working toward his own end, the coming of Jesus. Through good times – David, Abraham,  and very bad times – wicked kings and exile, God has been working to bring about his plans and purposes.

And a God who can do this can certainly be faithful to us in our lives – in our good times and in our bad times. And God can bring about his purpose for our lives as well.

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Today I want us to look briefly at    Jesus’ name, Immanuel, to see what this means and to see what it means to us. This comes to us from the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1:18-25:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 where the name Immanuel is given. But what does it mean that Jesus is Immanuel, or as Matthew translates, “God with us?”

1. “God with us” means God has had favor on us, fulfilling his promises. He has remembered us and acted for us.

This promise was originally given to king Ahaz in a time of crisis, when the royal line was threatened to be cut off. It was a promise that God was not done with his plans for his people, or with the line of David.

The birth of Hezekiah to a young woman was the original fulfillment of the promise. But Jesus is the true fulfillment.

  • Hezekiah, the original fulfillment, was born to a young woman. Jesus, the true fulfillment is born to a virgin.
  • Hezekiah, the original fulfillment, was a son of David. Jesus, the true fulfillment, is the Son of David and the Messiah.
  • Hezekiah’s birth was a sign that God was with Judah, remembering his promise to give David a son to rule in Judah. Jesus’ birth is a sign that God is with us, remembering his promise to give David a son to save and to rule the world.

2. “God with us” means that Jesus is God in human form. He became flesh, a living breathing human being and walked among us. We call this the incarnation, or enfleshment, because God came in human flesh.

This is recognized throughout the gospel of Matthew:

  • In Matthew 14:33, after Jesus walked on the water and saved the disciples from the storm, it says, “those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
  • In Matthew 16:16 Peter confesses, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  • God says of Jesus in Matthew 17:5 “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
  • In Matthew 27:54, after Jesus died on the cross, the Roman centurion there said, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
  • In Matthew 28:17, after Jesus’ resurrection, it says, “when the disciples saw him, they worshipped him.”

Jesus is God’s Son, who came and became a human and walked on this earth to be with us in person and to save us.

3. Finally, “God with us” means that Jesus is always present with his people.

If we learn about Jesus as “God with us” near to the very beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, we also hear it in the very last verse of this Gospel. Matthew 28:20 says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus is with us in all our situations in life. It says, he is “always” with us – whether we find ourselves in good circumstances or in very difficult circumstances.

Specifically we learn in Matthew 18:20 that Jesus is in our midst as we gather in his name as the church. He is here with us now. And Jesus is with us as we seek to carry out his commission to share about him and make disciples of all peoples, which is the context of Matthew 28:20, which we just read.

Jesus came to be with us in all these ways. Let’s all rejoice in this as we celebrate Christmas this year.

William Higgins

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Check out the series on Jesus’ birth and childhood from Matthew 1-2

The Genealogy: 1:1-17 – Jesus is qualified to be the Messiah and sit on David’s throne.

A. Jesus’ birth and name: 1:18-25

dream: Joseph should keep Mary and own Jesus

prophetic connection: Isaiah 7:14 – Jesus is like Hezekiah who was born to a young woman and who was a sign that God remembered his promise to David for a son to rule. Jesus is not illegitimate (John 8:41). He is the true fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 – born of a virgin.

B. Gentile Magi honor Jesus as king: 2:1-12

prophetic connection: Micah 5:2 – Jesus is the promised ruler born in Bethlehem.

dream: The Magi should not return to Herod

C. Jesus is taken to Egypt: 2:13-15

dream: Joseph should take his family and flee

prophetic connection: Hosea 11:1 – Jesus is connected to Israel in going into and coming up out of Egypt.

`B. Judean Herod tries to kill Jesus: 2:16-21

prophetic connection: Jeremiah 31:15 – refers to the exile into Babylon. “Rachel” weeps for those who are no more – taken into captivity. Jesus’ exile to Egypt and the weeping for those killed by Herod are linked to this.

dream: Joseph can come back since Herod has since died

`A. Jesus’ home and name: 2:22-23

dream: Joseph should go to Galilee

prophetic connection: Isaiah 11:1 (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah  3:8; 6:12). Jesus is again connected to Hezekiah. Jesus is the true fulfillment of the prophecy of a branch that will come from David. This is a Hebrew word-play between “Branch“: NSR and “Nazareth“: NSRT. Jesus’ home of Nazareth does not make him insignificant (John 1:46; 7:41-42;52), it ties him to the prophetic promises of the branch of David.

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Story #1. Jesus will be despised because of the circumstances of his birth, although they actually point out that he is the promised Messiah – Isaiah 7:14.

Story #2. Jesus will attract Gentiles who will honor him as King.

Story #3. Jesus will show himself to be the faithful Son of God – Hosea 11:1

Story #4. Jesus will be opposed by the Judean authorities who will eventually kill him.

Story #5. Jesus will be despised because of his hometown, Nazareth, although the name actually points to him being the promised branch or Messiah – Isaiah 11:1.

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