Saturday 24 December 2011

Bible Book:

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

Matthew 1:18-23 Saturday 24 December 2011


Matthew's Gospel opens with a long genealogy (Matthew1:1-17) listing all the generations between Abraham and Jesusin order to show that Jesus was descended from Abraham and David,and that the arrival of the Messiah came at the end of the threeperiods in the history of Israel, marked by Abraham, David, theBabylonian exile and finally the birth of Jesus. The narrative ofJesus' life then begins with today's passage.

Unlike the Gospel of Mark, which was probably written earlier andbegins with Jesus' Baptism by John, Matthew begins with the birthof Jesus. For many, it will be difficult to read these words afreshbecause of their familiarity, but it seems like an unusual start inlife for a Messiah. Unlike all the other figures in the long listof generations, Jesus does not have a father. Matthew tells us thatMary "was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit" (v. 18) andthat Joseph wanted to end their engagement quietly, to avoiddisgracing her. An angel tells him instead to take Mary as his wifeand name the child 'Jesus', because he will save his people fromtheir sins.

In Isaiah chapter 7, Isaiah promises the people a sign: "Look, theyoung woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name himImmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Matthew quotes this verse becausehe sees the birth of Jesus as the fulfilment of this prophecy.Notice that in Isaiah the translation is "young woman", whereas inMatthew it is translated as "virgin". This translation is atraditional one, and is in line with the view of Christiantheologians, who have argued that Jesus must have been born of avirgin in order to be free of the sin of the humanity. We should beaware, however, that it is not clear that this is what Matthew hadin mind.

To Ponder

How would you have expected the great Messiah ofIsrael to have been born?

What do you make of the figure of Joseph, who isnot mentioned again by Matthew after the birth narrative, at theend of which he brings Mary and Jesus back from Egypt to Israel (Matthew2:21)?

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