Matthew 3:13-17; The Baptism

Jesus comes to John to be baptized. This historical fact was an embarrassment to many early Christians. After all, John was inferior to Jesus. Why would Jesus want this?

  • Jesus is humble. He wants to identify with his people. He knows of no sin in his life needing to be confessed, but the people don’t know that.
  • This episode is the segue from the ministry of John to the ministry of Jesus. “He must increase, I must decrease.”
  • Jesus fulfills all righteousness. This is a Matthean theme and both John and Jesus preached righteousness. Righteousness is about a right relationship with God, but also about how the righteous person lives. Jesus puts his money where his mouth will be.
  • God declaimed his approval of Jesus, at least to Jesus himself. This is really his first enthronement ceremony on the throne of his kingdom. Heaven opened for him and he overheard the heavenly conversation.
  • In a way—stay with me—his baptism was the beginning of his efficacious work to save his people from their sins. He was baptized for all of us.
  • This was anointing. “Messiah” and “Christ” mean he is anointed.

That should not be embarrassing to any Christian. It should help us to be more humble.

Matthew 3:1-12; The Baptist

Time passes. The silent years are over. John the Baptist appears on the scene. Soon to be followed by Jesus.

John provides a baptism of repentance, but foretells of a baptism with fire and the Holy Spirit. John is a prominent and noticeable person, but he foretells of one to whom he is worthy to only be a servant.

John invites repentance because the kind of heaven is near. The message and ministry of Jesus is about the coming of that kingdom in himself.

John’s message is a biting one. He is like an OT prophet calling to people back to their roots, back to YHWH. Jesus will continue that message.

The forerunner of Christ burned brightly and for a short duration. But the kingdom he announced lives on in Jesus and in those who follow Jesus.

Matthew 2:13-23; Herod Goes Off and So Does the Joseph Family

Herod wanted Jesus dead. The Magi did not oblige him with any assistance. So Herod, true to form, just wiped out all the little kids who could possibly be the one he was after. This is a clue to his level of sanity.

But Joseph (the unsung hero) to the rescue, with some help from an angel. Off to Egypt. This sets up a mini version of the Exodus. The salvation of God’s people has begun.

The family ends up in Nazareth, in Galilee. Can anything good come from Nazareth? It’s a little town of at most 500 people. A nice place to bring up a child. A safe place. Judaea is not a safe place. (Remember this for much later in the story.) Galilee and Nazareth are sleepy; completely different from Judaea and Jerusalem.

Jesus has an ordeal ahead of him. God blessed him with a great adopted father to keep him out of trouble and teach (show!) him how to be righteous. Joseph is wise. Having an angel giving instructions doesn’t hurt either. And God blessed him with a great place to grow toward what he needs to be.

Now the silent years.

Matthew 2:1-12; Wise Men and Wise Guys

The wise men are the Magi. The wise guys are Herod and his thugs. Get it?

Once again we see Gentiles as the good guys. They come to worship the baby Jesus as Kind of the Jews. (A bigger title than Herod held.)

We have skipped over some time since the first chapter. I don’t know how much. And the unsung hero Joseph is not mentioned at all, but Mary is.

The Gentile Magi (probably Persians, I guess) gave costly gifts to Mary and Jesus.

By not going back to Herod, they helped Jesus stay pretty much undercover until his time would come in another thirty-some years. Herod died in 4 BC, so Jesus might have been born in 7 or 6 BC. The time for Jesus to be known would come much later.

We await his coming out as the shepherd of Israel.

Matthew 1:18-25; Joseph, the Unsung Hero

Joseph is pretty cool, Mary gets all the press, and I don’t want to detract from that. But Joseph is special, too.

His contractual wife has shown up pregnant. He is within his rights to end the contract and make a spectacle of her. What would you do?

He decided on a lower key approach. End the contract, but do so quietly so she could retain as much dignity as possible. He was a righteous man. Perhaps he also loved the young lady, despite the rather strange arrangements that pertained to the time and place in history.

An angel spoke to him in a dream. And he believed the angel. He changed his mind.

He went ahead and the consummated the marriage without consummation of the marriage until the baby was born, if you know what I mean.

Joseph named the baby Jesus, as instructed in the dream. By naming him, Joseph adopted him as his son. He was just a much the son of Joseph as he was of Mary after the adoption. Joseph was of David’s line. That makes Jesus of David’s line. And that is important.

When you think about the birth of Jesus—who will save his people from their sins—by all means give honor to Mary for her willingness to participate in the incarnation of the Son of God. But don’t forget Jospeh.

I wonder if we will be having church services together yet a year from now. I wonder if churches continue to support a full paid staff. I wonder if this will change our approach into the future.

Matthew 1:1-17; Don’t Skip the Genealogy

You might be tempted to skip the genealogy section when you start to read Matthew’s gospel. Unless you are clueless about the Hebrew Scriptures—the Old Testament—don’t skip it. There are several points of interest you would miss if you gloss over the genealogy.

Note the women

There are four women in this genealogy of Jesus as it comes down from Abraham through David to Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father. Including women is unusual in Jewish genealogies. These women are special cases. Tamar (who committed incest with her father-in-law because she was not treated according to the law), Rahab (a prostitute who helped the Israelites conquer Jericho), Ruth (a great example of faith and God’s faithfulness), and Bathsheba (the rooftop bather who caught the eye of King David). All were likely Gentiles. All contributed to the history of Israel.

Actually, there was another woman. Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Note the “exiles”

Abraham was promised a land, but his descendents ended up in Egypt, in slavery.

David was promised an everlasting dynasty, but his kingdom continued in sin, split in two, and was eventually conquered and the people were removed from the land.

NT Wright proposes that the true exile continued even after some of the people returned to the land. Jesus cane to bring a kingdom that will be the final end of exile.

Note Joseph

Even though the list denotes that Jesus was born of Mary and not of Joseph, the line comes down through him. Joseph is a son of David. More on Joseph in the next section.

The messiah was expected to be a new David. Actually, the expectations of the messiah during the New Testament period were quite varied. We Christians sometimes oversimplify the diversity of beliefs and expectations of the Jewish people.

Matthew declares Jesus to be the messiah. The gospel he wrote will explain, I think, what he means by that.