23 December 2007

Matthew 1:18-25

"She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (v.21)


This section from the opening chapter of Matthew's Gospel marks the 'run in' to the climax that is Jesus' birth. It follows the opening 'Genealogy of Jesus The Messiah', which serves to establish Jesus' credentials as part of the line of King David. David was understood as God's anointed one within the Jewish or Hebrew Scriptures.

Having established Jesus' relationship with David this passage continues to outline the events leading up to Jesus' birth. This story of Jesus' conception, from the engagement of Mary and Joseph through to his birth (v.25) is covered in only seven verses.

This highly compressed version of the story (there are no equivalents in either Mark or John's Gospels) does not seek to offer an authoritative historical record of the events of Jesus' birth. Rather, the author's aim is to interpret the meaning of this event in the salvation history of Israel and ultimately, the whole world.

Across the many centuries as people have reflected on this passage, some have taken the 'Virgin Birth' to mean some form of repulsion at or rejection of the legitimacy of sexual activity. Many scholars have argued that the nature of Jesus' conception and birth should not be taken as a rejection of human sexual activity. Rather, it should be seen as a means of showing divine involvement in the emergence of God becoming human and entering into human history.

The key line for many people is verse 21,

"She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins".

Jesus, the saviour of the world - God's special blessed one who is a blessing on the world - enters into our world in order to transform all that has gone before and all that will ever be! Jesus becomes God's supreme agent of hope for the world! The old rules are no more! A new day has dawned!

To Ponder

Jesus is a blessing to the whole of humanity. In what ways are you a blessing to others?

In what ways will Jesus' presence in the world (perhaps in your life) inspire you to break with the old rules and find a new way of being you?

Bible notes author

Dr Anthony Reddie

Dr Anthony Reddie is a Research Fellow in Black Theological Studies for the Methodist Church and the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham. He is the author of a number of books and is the editor of Black Theology: An International Journal.