Yesterday Mary and I went into the new Tractor Supply here in Midlothian and you couldn't miss that it was the Christmas Season. Even the toy tractors were covered with lights. This reminded me that it's time to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. So we'll leave the Book of Acts until 2018 and allow Matthew, the tax collector, to give us his account of Jesus' birth.
Ask an American about their roots, and most get stuck trying to name their great grandparents. Not so among first century Jews. This was especially true of the royal line of King David. His family might have lost their throne in Jerusalem and become humble artisans, but they hadn't lost their family records. Mathew not only knows how to count money but he also can trace Jesus' ancestry all the way back to David and to Abraham.
Use the term 'genesis" and a first century Jew instantly thought, "Written by Moses, the first book in our Sacred Writings." Matthew deliberately uses the term in the title of his Gospel because he's going to tell us the story of the new Moses, One even greater than Israel's Founder, who is going to generate a new beginning, not only for Jews, but for the entire human race. So Matthew titles his Gospel, "The Book of the Genesis of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." Matthew 1:1
A 'book" in the first century was a papyrus or parchment scroll, not a bound book like we purchase at Half Price Books. The term was also used by the Jews to refer to their Sacred Book, so Matthew's title implies that he intends for his Gospel to be placed on the shelf right up there with the writings of Moses.
By using the term "genesis"(meaning "beginning," "source," and also "lineage"), Matthew leads us into the roots of Jesus from Abraham to David to Jesus, the Messiah and reminds us at the beginning that Jesus' earthly life will only begin the impact Jesus will have on the world.
The very name Jesus means "Yahweh will save" and introduces us to the theme of the Story that Jesus is finally the "seed of the woman" who will save us from the curse of rebellion against God and death. As readers we immediately begin to ask, "How will Yahweh save through this man?" That's the question Matthew is going to answer.
By calling Jesus the Son of Abraham Matthew reminds us of one of the most sacred vows God made in the Jewish Scriptures. Take a look at Genesis 12, 15, and 17 and ask yourself what God promised Abraham and how these promises lead to Jesus. Tomorrow I'll share my thoughts about the Abraham--Jesus connection.
Jesus, thank you that you had a beginning on earth in Mary's womb, but that you have no beginning in eternity. You've existed and will exist forever. Thank you that Matthew is going to explain to us the meaning of your earthly story, and show us how his Jewish Scripture from the earliest chapters of Genesis pointed us to you. Use our studies together the next few weeks to change forever our celebration of Christmas because of what we have learned about who you are and what you have done and will do.
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