The Christ Stream – reading from the NIV today. We are covering Jesus’ birth to His baptism.
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“Jesus, we want to be like Joseph and Mary who hear from you and listen and heed and deliver salvation to those who will receive. We want to be like John; baptizing in the wilderness – boldly making way for salvation to be delivered to whole nations. May it be so. Amen.”
Today we launched into the era of the New Covenant; The New Testament – that is Jesus Himself. The writer of the first book is Matthew and it is called “Matthew”, though the book isn’t about him. Matthew presents Jesus as King with a strong Messianic overtone. His point is that Jesus is who we have been waiting thousands of years for. Matthew employs wording and illustrations to assert that this Jesus is King, not only for the people but even for the kings of earth. The Jewish nation in and around Jerusalem is the target group that Matthew is writing to. Scholarship strongly suggests that the first copy of Matthew was written in Aramaic; Jesus’ boyhood language in Nazareth.
Matthew 01 gets right into Jesus’ lineage showing his direct family tree connection to the revered Abraham. There were 42 generations between the two. Matthew states the relationship from Abraham; the original one called to start this chosen nation, and traces down to Jesus. The wording of Matthew’s genealogy is, “the father of…”. This means, “his son was… and his son was…” In Jewish culture this is top concern. Jews want to know, “tell me, do you have children?” In Luke’s genealogy, we get the family line traced from Jesus back toward to Adam. Here the wording is, “and his father was…and his father was…” Luke wrote to Greeks and that was the concern in Greek culture, “who was his dad?…who’s your dad?” Notice Matthew also writes in a few of the mothers along the way, and their reputations were “colorful” shall we say. So on one end of the cultural scale, Jesus is for kings – as well as shady women on the other end of their cultural scale. I.e. He is for everyone.
We read of the angel talking to Joseph to encourage him onward in his new family (that God started!). Note the contrast with Luke who told of the angel talking to John-the-Baptist’ father and Mary; Jesus’ mother-to-be, and to Joseph after Jesus is born. But Matthew tells of the prophecies that are fulfilled with Jesus birth. Imagine a people who were wondering for centuries, “a virgin has a child?! … really? This news answered a 700 year old prophecy. The people would read Matthew’s account and think, “good heavens, it was Him!” And the literative genius of Matthew proves the virgin birth also. And it keeps getting better.
Matthew 02 tells of prominent men, wise men, kings of the east, Magi (choose your translation), who are drawn to this new baby. And just as astronomers can tell us when the eclipses are going to happen for the next thousand years, they can also look back millennia to the eclipses and solar alignments making huge stars from the past. The wise men were not hallucinating in unison. There was a giant star that guided them to Jesus’ birthplace. Note how Herod is involved. Did you catch that “Herod was disturbed/troubled and all Jerusalem with him”? This was because whenever Herod got disturbed during that last 30 years or so, he ordered executions, legitimate or not! This served to further rush the news that something really big has happened in Bethlehem. The gifts that Joseph and Mary received financed Jesus’ childhood. When we make it our priority to deliver the Savior, there is provision for the task. The slaughter is told of so that the Jewish mind would draw a link between Jesus and Moses. Remember Moses is born an exceptional child. And as events turn, an edict is given to kill all the boys. It’s an awful development but students of the scriptures would read of Jesus’ birth and recall that it was an historical repeat of Moses infant years. As time went by others would retort, “we don’t listen to Jesus, we follow Moses…!” Hold it folks, the two are linked. We need to read about both these men, not embrace one while resenting the other.
Joseph hears from an angel again [twice] and it is vital communication each time. It is as dire as Joseph’s namesake in Genesis 37 and 41 where another Joseph knows what to make of dreams and it ends up saving a world from famine.
Matthew 03 – John the Baptist bursts on the scene. All four gospels tell of him from differing slants. It is the springtime of Jesus’ 30th year on earth. This John is Jesus’ cousin, mind you. The John we read of later with Peter and James is another John. He prepares the way for Jesus’ arrival. With John-the-Baptizer’s ministry sending shockwaves across the landscape, he told of One who would bring the Holy Spirit. The stampede from Jerusalem to Jericho this season made it so that no one who witnessed Jesus’ baptism merely to shrug, “yeah, OK, whatever.” They realized Jesus was bringing something straight from heaven. He would have been mobbed had they realized fully what was happening. But then Jesus disappears alone into the desert for 40 days. But that is next week’s reading…