Thursday, January 08, 2015

Mt 1:1-2:6

For a book to start like this -- the geneology, I'm referring to -- is the bane of the  interested child in many, many homes.  I still have the Bible which was in my home when I was learning to read, and still remember the times where I just couldn't get past the geneologies.  If nothing else, we should draw from this that I did not have much stamina so long ago; so as to better put up with blogs that are not complete sets, I hereby request.  I'm leaning on, not blaming, the geneologies here.

But what a geneology for the initiated!  The geneology of the Messiah!  And you can't get more official than an inspired document!  Neither is the geneology boring whatsoever.  The grand switch away from Joseph in 1:16, from the lists of those who fathered, to that phrase "the husband of Mary," is there in the Greek too, with that female pronoun for "by whom" Jesus was born.

But it is a geneology of the humbling of the reader too, the reader of Israel who knows about the Tamar story (1:3; Gen 38), the Ruth story, the Jesse story, the Bathsheba story, the Jeconiah story, the deportation story.  All these ancestors, but not a list of heroes, not like the king lists children used to memorize in England, in order to say something proud about each one.  True son of David and Abraham, yes.  But not a crescendo, of the kind we're used to, at least, of human glory to human glory.  And even if it was, the human fathering stops at Joseph.

So much then is the humiliation in the reader, then, a fitting preparatory humbling, to prefigure what ensues: the King of the people is born in a place where the current king of the people was going to be troubled to hear it, along with the people (2:3).  The current king was made king by an outside nation, Rome.  Aptly, Jesus will be honored by representatives of an outside nation, the oddest kind -- the among-Daniel wisemen kind, the kind that the then-king wanted to murder, but Daniel saved them -- Jesus will be honored from that same area as Daniel saved their perhaps-ancestors and guild, from that area that Matthew had mentioned in the geneology just previous, Babylon!  Jesus, with a name meaning God saves, will save people, but from their sins (1:21)!  And these astrologers, uncharacteristically actually were correctly guided by a star ... from God, at least part of the way, in the story so far. The nation was not just unprepared under Herod, but Herod himself was prepared against,  we will see ... he was anti-prepared, after he became knowledgeable about the possibility of the Messiah born (2:5).  Nevertheless, Christ was honored as God's born king by those God chose to honor Him with.

1 comment:

Larry said...

The fact that the gospel starts with a geneology, of this kind, or any kind, should also be commented upon. Someone could in today's ethos say "how relevant is it that someone's family tree is what it is?" and not realize that THIS geneology anticipates that question.

1) If we knew our family tree, we could see possibilities why we do, or are doing something, in noticing similarity. And so the history of honorable parts of the direct ancestors' lives would give understanding in looking for similarity: in this case, kings (anointed ones) to Messiah (anointed one). But the standard objection to garnering information from a family tree is that the similarities noticed are, all too often, just the similarities of great things, and not the similarity of demeaning things. But Matthew anticipates that, in the naming of demeaning events in the lives of ancestors. "The deportation to Babylon" is the most humiliating event in the history of Judah. The humiliation of David's life caused by taking "her who had been the wife of Uriah" is mentioned as well. So demeaning events in the past are not skipped ... so how can Matthew be citing the geneology as proof of past greatness? He's not!

2) What do people in a geneology contribute to the accomplishment of the deeds of their descendants ... if and since they are long passed? Matthew anticipates that! Fathering contributes to the accomplishment of a child, most directly through raising the child, but also through fathering the child. And the Father of this Child is God, who is certainly living and not long passed. Fathering of the Divine sort very much contributes to the accomplishment of the deeds of Jesus Christ. But here, Joseph is not father, but "the husband of Mary." So, to a culture that recognizes the influences that come from fathering, and from the father of the father, etc, the suprise that the Lord's Father is God, to eternity past, gives His Son the influence of His Father for all times past, and eternally past.

3) With so many ancestors, and so many stories connected with them, the vicissitudes of history can be many, and yet things kept going: Joseph ... "and his brothers," who the reader knows were about to kill him, yet God guided Joseph the patriarch through. There were enemies and antagonism to Jesus shown soon after his birth, in Herod and Herod's acts, yet God guided this child through. But even before the birth, Joseph the husband of Mary, at one point wanting, due to his ignorance, to put Mary away secretly, was divinely prevented from that. So not only was the family guided after the birth, but before it, despite enemies and antagonism, and ignorance leading to misguided ideas! Every parent's fear! Guided through.

4) If all that was being accomplished was merely the appearance of God, then again, a geneology of humans would seem to be not relevant. God had appeared many times here on this planet. But this was different. Jesus is both God and man. For there to be a man, actually born human, yet born of God, makes the geneology relevant. If God was just coming to Israel as in times past, in a visitation, that would have been nothing unique. But for the Son of God to actually be conceived in Mary, and grow in her, and be given birth by her, is very different. God visiting man is one thing, but God being also man is another. It will forever be, not just a visit.


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