Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 1: Saturday
Saturday’s Bible reading is Matthew 1–2. These chapters open with the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, “the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born” beginning with Abraham. Matthew continues with Jesus’ birth and infancy: the marriage of Mary and Joseph; the Magi; Herod; the slaying of the baby boys of Bethlehem; the flight to Egypt; and closes chapter 2 with the return to Israel and the start of family life in Nazareth.
R. E. Nixon writes,
The general purpose of any Gospel is well summed up by John (Jn. 20:31). It is to make a selection of the deeds and words of Christ to induce faith in Him and life through Him.1
R. T. France explains some unique aspects of Matthew’s Gospel:
The essential key to all of Matthew’s theology is that in Jesus all God’s purposes have come to fulfilment. This is, of course, true of all New Testament theology, but it is emphasized in a remarkable way in Matthew. Everything is related to Jesus. The Old Testament points forward to him…the future no less than the present is to be understood as the working out of the ministry of Jesus. History revolves around him…Matthew leaves no room for any idea of the fulfilment of God’s purposes, whether for Israel or in any other aspect, which is not focused in this theme of fulfilment in Jesus. In his coming, a new age has dawned; nothing will ever be quite the same again…
Ten times in Matthew we find the formula ‘This was to fulfil (or ‘then was fulfilled’) what was spoken by the prophet, saying . . .’, after which comes a quotation from an Old Testament prophet (or, in one case, the Psalms). The references are 1:22–23; 2:15; 2:17–18; 2:23; 4:14–16; 8:17; 12:17–21; 21:4–5; 27:9–10…In another case (2:5-6) the setting of the quotation in the narrative causes the formula to be changes to ‘for so it is written by the prophet’, but this text is usually classes with the formula-quotations…All but one are quoted only by Matthew…
Matthew’s view of Jesus as the one who fulfils the whole fabric of scriptural revelation is most strikingly brought to light in the large number of what may be called ‘typological’ allusions to the Old Testament. These occur both in his records of Jesus’ sayings and in his own wording of narratives and his editorial comments. Typology is not peculiar to Matthew, and may properly be seen as an essential element of Jesus’ own self-understanding. But in Matthew it is particularly pronounced.
…Put simply, we are talking here about ‘fulfilment’ not only of Old Testament predictions, but of Old Testament history and religion, including events and institutions which in themselves carry no explicit reference to the future…In chapter 2 we shall see Jesus presented as a ‘new Moses’, among other varied typological themes, and in the same chapter he will be equated with God’s ‘son’, Israel…
This emphasis on fulfilment will run through the whole Gospel, but it will be announced with particular force in the prologue, chapters 1–2, which is devoted to presenting Jesus in the light of scriptural patterns and prophecy.2
In the genealogy that opens the book, four women are named, three of whom had an immoral past: Tamar, Genesis 38; Rahab, Joshua 2; and the wife of Uriah, who was Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11. The fourth woman, Ruth, had an immoral lineage, Genesis 19:30–38. Fornication, prostitution, adultery, and incest are all found in the lives and background of those in the genealogy of Jesus.
In his sermon introducing Matthew, “The Gracious King,” John MacArthur said, “It is the story of the King who comes, the King who is rejected, and the King who will return.” He remarked that as he searched out Jesus’ genealogy he found grace in it everywhere. Of the four women in the genealogy he said,
You’ve got two harlots, one born out of incest, and an adulteress, and they’re the only four ladies mentioned in the entire genealogy of Jesus Christ. Now what do you think the message is? God is a God of what? Grace. Are you glad about that? I’m glad about that. Grace. And you know I think, I think that this genealogy was a literal knockout punch by Matthew against the Jews. And by that, I mean those antagonistic, hateful ones. They were legalistic. Boy, they were hot on the pedigree and the line of purity and all of this heritage stuff. And so he introduces the Messiah as descending from two harlots, one adulteress, and one produced of incest.
Coming through a nation whose history was a degenerative history, coming from two sinful men and born to one sinful lady was the King of all kings. Let it be known to Israel and anybody who listens Jesus Christ is the friend of sinners. Did you get that? He’s the friend of sinners. And he himself said it. “I have not come to call the righteous, but – ” what? “ – sinners to repentance.”3
In Matthew 1–2, we not only have the record of the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, but we also read about Joseph’s key role in caring for Mary and Jesus. At four pivotal points of crucial importance Joseph’s obedience provided shelter and protection for Jesus. Four times Joseph had a dream in which either an angel appeared and commanded him or God warned him, and each time Joseph awoke and obeyed: he married Mary, Matthew 1:20–24; he took Mary and Jesus and left for Egypt while it was still night!, Matthew 2:13–15; he brought Mary and Jesus back to Israel, Matthew 2:19–21; and he settled in Galilee rather than Judea, Matthew 2:22–23. None of those things were easy things to do: each had its intrinsic difficulties, each required faith in God—Joseph obeyed.
In these first two chapters, with records of outcasts and obedience, Matthew tells us who Jesus, Messiah: the fulfillment of God’s promises and purposes.
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Sistine Chapel lunetta, Salmon – Boaz – Obed, Michaelangelo: Public Domain. Cropped.
1R. E. Nixon, “Matthew,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 815.
2R. T. France, Matthew (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1985) 38–41. You can see this fulfillment of both Old Testament predictions and Old Testament history in Matthew 2 when you compare Matthew 2:13–23 with Exodus 1:15–2:10, Exodus 4:22, and Hosea 11:1.
3John MacArthur, Copyright 1978, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This Grace to You sermon, “The Gracious King,” originally appeared here.
Grace to You: Introduction to Matthew.
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