“Immanuel, God With Us”

Matthew 1:1-25

Happy New Year! As we begin 2022 we will be reading through the first book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew. 

The author of the book is anonymous, however earliest tradition connects the writing of this book to Matthew, a tax collector, who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. The book is a compilation of 30-40 years of oral tradition carefully crafted into specific themes about Jesus. One of the biggest themes Matthew presents is that Jesus Christ is the continuation and fulfillment of the story of God and the nation of Israel, presented to us through the Old Testament. Matthew demonstrates Jesus’ fulfillment in three ways.

First, that Jesus is the Messiah, from the line of David. 

Second, Jesus is an authoritative teacher like Moses.

Third, most importantly, Jesus is God with us, Immanuel. 

Matthew begins this gospel, in chapter one, by attaching Jesus’ story directly to the Jewish search for the Messiah. The book opens with the genealogy of Jesus, which connects him to the messianic line of King David, from 2 Samuel 7:12-16. The Messianic connection goes back as far as Abraham, which means He is going to bring a blessing to all the nations, Genesis 12:3

There are two genealogical lists of Jesus’ claim to the throne of David and to Abraham. 

This one written by Matthew, which goes through the lineage of His adoptive father Joseph, and the genealogy written in the Gospel of Luke, that provides Jesus’ blood lineage through Mary. Matthew’s genealogy is unique for its unusual presence of four women. For one thing, women were rarely mentioned in ancient genealogies and secondly, the four women Matthew mentioned had less than stellar reputations demonstrating the power of God’s grace. 

Tamar sold herself as a prostitute to her father-in-law Judah to bring forth Perez and Zerah, Genesis 38.

Rahab was a Gentile prostitute whom God saved from both judgement and her lifestyle of prostitution in 

Joshua 2; 6:22-23

Ruth was a Moabite, a Gentile until her conversion out of the covenant of Israel, Ruth 1.

The wife of Uriah, otherwise known as Bathsheba, was an adulteress, infamous for her sin with David, 2 Samuel 11. Matthew has a peculiar way of referring to her as “Uriah’s wife,” which also puts a focus on the fact that Uriah was not an Israelite, but a Hittite. 

God demonstrates His inclusiveness of all people through the genealogy of Jesus. The genealogical requirements of the Messiah through David and Abraham were met while also demonstrating His connection to sinners beginning with His genealogy, then His birth, baptism, life and His death on the cross. 

Next Matthew gives an explanation as to how he organized the genealogy. 

By stating there were fourteen generations, then fourteen generations, then another fourteen generations, Matthew was demonstrating that his genealogy was not complete. Matthew was taking license to edit the list into a format that was easy to remember and to memorize, by using this ancient Jewish literary format. 

Matthew continues by addressing the fact that Jesus’ birth was the result of a miracle, that was prophesied, of a miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit. Matthew tells this part of the story through the eyes of Joseph. It is helpful to know that in the Jewish world of Jesus’ time, there were three steps to marriage. 

  • Engagement: Often arranged by the parents while the bride and groom were quite young. 

  • Betrothal: Typically lasting about a year, this confirmed the previous engagement and made it official and binding. At this time, the couple was known as husband and wife and they were preparing for the final step…
  • Marriage: This took place after the wedding, after the year of betrothal.  

Mary was found with child of the Holy Spirit, during the “betrothal” step. Virgin births were difficult for people to believe in Jesus’ time as much as they are for us today. Mary and Joseph were in a distressing and humiliating situation. References were made at the time to the suspicions of Jesus’ parentage, read John 8:19 and 8:41. Lies were being spread and Matthew wanted to set the story straight.

Being legally bound to marry, Joseph, like any respectable Jewish man, did his best to comprehend what was happening and decided he should secretly divorce Mary and try not to make her a public disgrace.  But God had other plans and sent an angel to speak to Joseph in a dream, in order to convince him not to divorce Mary. What a gift. Joseph was troubled by Mary’s mysterious pregnancy, her future and what he should do. He must have been uncomfortable with the whole thing and while he thought about the ordeal, an angel met him in a dream. The angel addressed Joseph by his lineage, “Joseph, son of David,” and then proceeded to explain how it was that Mary was pregnant. It seems that Mary had not told Joseph, which makes sense. Who would believe her? The information coming through a messenger of God, would be the best way Joseph would be persuaded. 

The angel told Joseph to name the baby, Jesus, “The Salvation of Yahweh,” which happened to be a fairly common name at the time. The angel also informed Joseph what Jesus would accomplish, “He would save His people from their sins.” 

Matthew claimed the virgin birth as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, Isaiah 7:14. 

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

God with us. 

A God who shows how low He was willing to bend down to save humans. Accepting the weaknesses, frailties and dependency that humans have, in order to show us how to trust in Him. 

If God will come to us, then we can come to Him. 

Let us do so now, as we remember the purpose of His coming through the Lord’s Supper. 

Jesus meets us in our sin, but His purpose is to save us from our sins. 

Lord’s Supper.