The Book of Matthew: The Birth of Christ

Previously: Overview


Matthew’s account of the birth and early years of Jesus is told from the perspective of Joseph. He gives Joseph’s genealogy, tracing Jesus’ lineage from Abraham through King David and the Captivity, to demonstrate His impeccably Jewish ancestry. But Joseph was not only an Israelite by birth; he was also a just and devout man, as evidenced by his immediate obedience to God.

Although it’s true that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father – as Matthew is careful to point out – it’s also true that he was Jesus’ adopted father. Adoption is of tremendous significance in Scripture, as witnessed by our own adoption as sons of God. I suspect that this is one of the reasons Matthew relates his account of Jesus’ formative years from the perspective of His adopted father.


The genealogies of Scripture are easily skipped over as boring and irrelevant facts, but as Paul says, all Scripture is profitable for the Christian. We know that God had a purpose in including it. The question for the student of God’s word is “Why?” Here are a couple ideas; there are doubtless many other reasons, but for the sake of time and space, I’ll leave it at this.

First, Jesus’ claim to Kingship is validated by his ancestry tracing back through the royal line of the Kings of Israel. He is, as prophesied, the Son of David, and by ancestry very definitely an Israelite.

Second, we are reminded of those who came before Christ, with such famous names as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Rahab, Ruth, David, Bathsheba, Solomon, and many more. This calls to mind the parable quoted in yesterday’s post: the King in the parable sent his servants to the tenants, and they were mistreated, abused, and ignored. Isaac, for example, was teased and ridiculed by Ishmael; Jacob clashed with Esau; David was hunted by Saul; the other Kings of Israel, aside from Solomon, had no end of warfare and trouble and strife; and the list goes on. Then, the parable says, He sent His Son. “They will respect my Son.”


Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ is short and matter of fact. Joseph, engaged to Mary, discovered that she was with child. Despite her apparent unfaithfulness and conception out of wedlock, he resolved not to subject her to public humiliation, as he could have under the Law. Instead, he graciously planned to break off the engagement quietly.

I have no doubt Mary tried to explain what had happened, how she’d been visited by an angel, and how this was the child of God, not the result of an adulterous affair. Still, Joseph didn’t seem to believe her outlandish story until he himself received a dream from God.

That tells us something. Joseph was not only a just and kind man, he was a devout man – he knew the voice of his God when He spoke. In fact, Joseph knew his God better than he knew his fiancee! When he received the confirmation of Mary’s story from God, he obeyed the angel and took Mary as his wife, something he evidently hadn’t been willing to do on her testimony alone. He trusted his God more than anyone else, and believed Him even when it flew in the face of everything he knew to be possible.


Joseph’s example in his relationship with God is a challenge for all of us. You may not receive a dream or vision from God in your sleep, but what about when the Spirit nudges you? When your conscience pricks you, do you follow it even against the norms of the culture or society in which you live? Is your relationship with God such that you can tell when it’s Him leading you and when it’s your own imagination?

It’s simple to build and strengthen that connection, but it’s not necessarily easy. Read the Bible often, pray always, and, most importantly, obey what you read. Listen to your conscience when it speaks; it’ll be a little easier the next time. If you listen for the Spirit’s voice, you’ll hear it. If you don’t obey what you hear, you’ll dull your conscience and harden your heart, and the Spirit’s promptings will become fainter and fainter. It’s your call, and your responsibility. Choose carefully.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” (John Sammis)

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