Advent comes next week, ready or not. So it’s timely to delve into some of Matthew’s crisp account of the story of Jesus’s birth, the lesser-recounted version (in contrast to Luke’s). Matthew’s gospel has long been the first in the New Testament canon, and it forms a bridge between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In the first two chapters alone Matthew hearkens back to the prophets four time, showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of their prophecies, the longed-for Messiah. He also begins his account with a genealogy that shows clearly how Jesus is God’s anointed one.
As we read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth, we see it through Joseph’s eyes, instead of Mary’s (as in Luke’s). God asked a lot of Joseph, and this humble man overcame his incredulity to become the earthly father of the Son of God. Quite often today Joseph gets pushed aside or even left out of the Christmas story, but as we will see, he plays a vital role.
May the Light of the world break through any darkness you may be experiencing; may he dispel any gloom as he brings joy, peace, and rejoicing. And may we move forward in a sometimes cloudy world as we glow with his resplendent light.
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife… (Matthew 1:1–6, NIV)
Did your eyes glaze over at this genealogy? So often when reading the Bible we skip over these unfamiliar names. Nahshon? Amminadab? Who are they to me?
But treasures are buried in the list (unearthed here with the help of biblical commentators), which the original readers would have understood. For instance, unlike most ancient genealogists, Matthew includes women: as well as Mary, Jesus’ mother, he names Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife). He purposefully includes outcasts (Rahab was a Gentile prostitute), those wronged by men (Tamar had to trick her father-in-law so he would fulfil his legal obligation for her to marry his son) or those of the “wrong religion” (as a Moabite, Ruth would have been excluded from the synagogue).
With this, Matthew implies that although Jesus comes from royal stock (via King David), his roots and very DNA are in those who are marginalised and wronged. As Messiah, he is anointed to save those high in society – and those not. Including these so-called questionable women may also be Matthew’s way of preparing his readers for the unusual circumstances of Jesus’ birth, including that he was born to an unmarried woman.
The way Jesus comes to earth blows apart our preconceptions of how the King of the World should make himself known to his people. He may be high and mighty, but he is also lowly and humble.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, as we prepare to celebrate your coming, open our eyes to those at the margins of society.