READ: Matthew 1
BACKGROUND: The first chapter of Matthew introduces us to two overarching themes that will be present throughout his gospel: 1. Jesus as the promised Messiah and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, & 2. The radical inclusion of all people – not just Jews – in the Kingdom Jesus was building. So, how does it introduce these themes?
Verse 1 makes a very specific and unmistakable claim that Jesus is the promised savior of the Old Testament as Matthew assigns him four very significant names:
- Jesus – from the Greek/Latin spelling of the Hebrew name Jeshua which means “The Lord is salvation.”
- The Messiah – or the Christ in some translations, from the Hebrew Meshiah & the Greek Christos (which is the word Matthew uses here) which both mean “anointed one.”
- The son of Abraham – The Messiah/Christ absolutely had to come from the line of Abraham as promised in the Old Testament.
- The son of David – Same as Abraham. Also, the Davidic ancestral line establishes his kingship.
Verse 23 further establishes Matthew’s theme of prophetic fulfillment in the person of Jesus by directly quoting Isaiah 7:14 to state that the events surrounding the birth of Jesus took place for the specific purpose of fulfilling this prophecy.
The theme of inclusion of all the people of the earth in Jesus’ mission shows up powerfully too. As the “son of Abraham” Jesus is one through whom “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” according to Genesis 12:3. Also, in a totally radical move because women were second-class citizens in society in the first century AD & because Jews considered Gentiles (anybody who wasn’t Jewish) to be second-class citizens or worse, Matthew includes Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, & Bathsheba in Jesus’ genealogy. That’s four women! And two gentiles! One prostitute, one who pretended to be one, and one adulteress! Matthew is already building towards the Great Commission – to take the gospel into all the world – by showing that this Jesus guy is for everybody whether they are Jews or Gentiles, men or women, righteous or broken, kings or prostitutes.
THINK: I’m a pretty big soccer fan. It’s possible that I’m an overly obsessive sports fan in general, but I really love watching soccer. And my favorite team is Manchester United of the English Premier League, partially because their star player is chubby and balding and I really relate to that & partially because they are the most dominant team in the league. They have a record 19 championships. I’m also a fan of the Yankees (as soon as the Cubs are out of it which is usually mid-April). I apologize to all of you who are offended by that…please bear with me! They, too, are the most dominant team in the league with a record 27 championships (the Cardinals are in 2nd place with only 11). In some ways it’s awesome to cheer for teams that win all the time, but here’s the catch: in some ways it’s really not. One of the most common criticisms leveled at United fans and Yankee fans alike is that they’ve lost the joy of being fans – they’ve become so accustomed to winning that it is simply an expectation rather than an excitement. Watching their teams win has become so commonplace that they’ve lost the wonder and the beauty of it all.
I wonder sometimes if all of us are in that boat when it comes to Christmas – this season where we annually celebrate the birth of Jesus. I mean, we’ve all heard the Christmas story a thousand times and we’ve seen glowing Nativity scenes in people’s yards all our lives. The language and the imagery are terribly familiar. But I wonder if, in that familiarity, we’ve lost some of the wonder about what actually happened that night. Has it all become so commonplace that we don’t even stop to think and to marvel at the miracle?
In Matthew 1, these things happened:
- The Holy Spirit put a baby in the womb of a virgin
- An angel appeared and told Joseph to marry her even though she was pregnant
- The angel told Joseph to name the baby “The Lord is salvation,” because he was going to save the people from their sins.
- Mary, the virgin, gave birth & Joseph named the baby Jesus.
It’s absolutely incredible! Outrageous! Amazing! The Christmas story is beyond comprehension. And one of the things I marvel at is the willingness of all the people involved to yield themselves to the will of God. Mary said, “Okay, God!” So did Joseph and the shepherds and the wise men. And God worked wonders and miracles through them. If anything, this story & this chapter in Matthew demonstrate that God is at work in our world and that he can and will do amazing things to accomplish his plan and restore a lost humanity to himself. Are you willing to let him work through you? Are you willing to follow in the footsteps of Mary & Joseph & the others and say “okay” to God? God wants to use you to make a difference for his Kingdom; he wants to work through you to do amazing things and change the world. He is real. He is present. He is calling. Don’t just go through the motions let your faith become so monotonous and dry that you miss out on the wonder and majesty of his design for your life.
ASK: What are some incredible things that God has done in my life that I marvel at? What are some specific areas where I need to say “okay” to God?