Welcome to Matthew Mondays Part 2. There’s a lot that could be said about Matthew Chapter 2 and the birth of Jesus Christ, but let’s start with a contemplation:
Have you ever thought about Jesus’ conception? I mean never mind that Mary’s a teenage virgin, consider for a moment that the infinite God mashed His essence into one cell inside of that teenage virgin, and she didn’t explode! How crazy is that?
I’m going to just let you think about that for awhile for two reasons: first two millennium have been spent trying to understand the whole fully God, fully man thing, and secondly I have nothing new to offer. I’m as amazed and confused by the whole thing as anyone else. What a powerful and humble God we serve!
So then, since there's no good way to transition from the awe of the incarnation, let's just jump right in; shall we? When we look at chapter 2, the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew’s Gospel is as significant in what he leaves out as what he chooses to include.
Matthew doesn’t mention the census, the manger, the shepherds, the dedication at the temple, or Anna and Simeon. Instead Matthew’s main focus is to show that Jesus is a descendant of David and heir to the crown, and he does it with the story of the Magi.
The Magi ask, “where is he who is born king of the Jews?” This brings up an important point. Herod is not the true king of Israel. Herod was not a descendant of David. He was an Edomite (a descendant of Esau) that the Roman government had set in place: a puppet king. He had converted to Judaism for the sake of ruling Judah, but he was not of the kingly lineage.
And he was aware, as was all of Jerusalem, that there was a descendant of David out there. The Jewish people kept copious records of genealogy at the temple, many of which were destroyed by Rome in 70 A.D.
Who was that descendant?
Now you’d be tempted to jump and say, “Jesus”, and while you’re not wrong, let’s not forget the genealogy in chapter one. Joseph, as a son of David and a direct descendant of the kingly line, had a legitimate claim to the throne, and there would have been record on hand to prove it. Thus his son, Jesus, would have record on hand to prove it. In fact Jewish scholars from antiquity back up Joseph and Mary’s lineage, though they do so while denying Christ.
The fact that Joseph was a carpenter and not the king shows the situation Israel found itself in during Jesus’ birth. It was occupied. Its rulers were appointed by and subservient to Rome. But the Jewish people were ready to revolt, and if they had a king, a descendant of David, they would have at the drop of a hat. In fact, all through the Gospels the disciples are itching for war and missing the point of Jesus’ incarnation, which we’ll see in later chapters.
So, when the Magi show up spouting off about a king, the king of the Jews. Herod is understandably put on edge, which leads to the child killing and all that.
I guess the part that I find intriguing about the whole scenario is that God picks this point in history to send the Messiah: the One who will free His people from their sins. This point where the Jewish people are not only figuratively captive in their sin, they’re literally captive, occupied by a foreign power. And after all the cycles of blessing and cursing, plenty and little, freedom and captivity, God picks this point to send the One to end the cycle, first for the Jew and then the Gentile.
And He does it humbly in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that we might once and all be free from sin, so the King of kings and Lord of lords would not just be the literal king of the Jews who overthrew an earthly oppressor, but the King of all, who took the keys to hell and death, who set us free from ourselves, and who will reign forever and ever.
Could the timing have been better? I don’t think so. God is an amazing storyteller, and I can tell you this much, He’s telling your story right now. The more you listen to the storyteller, the more you’ll get out of this life.