The significance of Christmas – Part 4

Emeritus Prof. Mercy Olumide

Although Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father (v. 20), he was His legal father. Since God had promised that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham (Gen 12:3; 22:18; Gal 3:16) and David (cf 2 Sam 7:12-19; Jer 23:5), Matthew traces Jesus’ legal lineage back to these two men in order to demonstrate to the Jews that Jesus had the proper genealogy to qualify as the Messiah.

“Christ.” The word “Christ” (Gk christos) means, “anointed.” It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term “Messiah” (Dan 9:25-26). (1) From the beginning, Matthew affirms that Jesus is God’s Anointed One, anointed with the Holy Spirit (cf. Is 61:1; Luke 4:18; John 3:34; Act 10:38). (2) Jesus was anointed as Prophet to bring knowledge and truth (Deut 18:15); as Priest to offer the sacrifice and cancel the guilt (Ps 110:4; Heb 10:10-14); and as King to establish, rule, and lead the kingdom of righteousness (Zech 9:9).

“Son of David.” (1) Matthew establishes that Jesus was a legal descendant of David by tracing the genealogy of Joseph, who was of the house of David. Although Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was still formally registered as Joseph’s son and legally a son of David. (2) Luke’s genealogy (Luke 3:23-38) traces the lineage of Jesus through the males in Mary’s line (she was also from the Davidic line). Luke stresses that Jesus is the flesh and blood (i.e., offering) of Mary and therefore one of us (cf. Rom 1:3). Thus, the Gospel writers assert both Jesus’ legal and biological right and to the Messiahship.

“and Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ” (Mat 1:16)
“Mary … Jesus.” The virgin birth of Jesus is safeguarded in the genealogy. Notice the word “begat” is used of all the names down to Joseph, but then the statement is altered. It is not said that Joseph “begat” Jesus, but rather that Joseph was the “husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.”

Because Mary was a virgin, when she became pregnant, Matthew lists Joseph only as the husband of Mary, not the father of Jesus. Matthew’s genealogy gives Jesus’ legal (or royal) lineage through Joseph. Mary’s ancestral line is recorded in Luke 3:23-38. Both Mary and Joseph were direct descendants of David. Matthew traced the genealogy back to Abraham, while Luke traced it back to Adam. Matthew wrote to the Jews, so Jesus was shown as a descendant of their father, Abraham.

Luke wrote to the Gentiles, so he emphasised Jesus as the Saviour of all people. Read Matthew 1:18-25 on the birth of Jesus
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Mat 1:23)
“A virgin,” (Mat 1:23) The Hebrew word for “virgin” (almah) used in Is 7:14 and the equivalent Greek word parthenos, used in the Septuagint in Is 7:14 and in Mat 1:23 and Luke 1:27 for Mary, means a young virgin (normally a “maiden” of marriageable age). In addition to the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew, Matthew and Luke emphasise that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit (1:18,20; Luke 1:35,37) without the intervention of a human father (Luke 1:34) and given birth by Mary while still a virgin (1:25; see 1:16 note above). Joseph and Mary did not have sexual union until after Mary gave birth to Jesus (1:25)
“Virgin … bear a Son.” (Mat 1:23) The prophecy of Isaiah in the OT (7:14; cf. Mat 1:22-23) and both Matthew and Luke in the NT ascribe virginity to the mother of Jesus.

In this article:
Mercy Olumide

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