Matthew Chapters 1-4
Verses 1-17 – The Genealogy of Jesus
The first part of Chapter 1 is the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Most people tend to skip over genealogies – all of those begats – but in this case it’s interesting. I’m not going to go into how Matthew does three sets of 14 genealogies, because that’s a study for another day. But here are some interesting things:
The first forefather mentioned is Abraham – who was told that he would father a nation, even though up until that point he was very old but had never had children. But as God promised, he did. We also find King David is in this line, and Rahab, who was a prostitute who protected the Israelite spies who came to check out the promised land.
But this is what is really interesting – this is Joseph’s family tree. Verse 16 says “and Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary.” Joseph isn’t actually the father of Jesus, God is the Father. So what difference does Joseph’s family tree make? My NIV College Press commentary tells me that while Joseph had no direct paternal role in the development of Jesus, angelic revelation instructs him to receive the child as his own (see verses below)…and that Jesus is descended from this line not because of physical descent but by legal adoption. Jesus is a new creation, created by the Holy Spirit, but adopted into the lineage, just as we are adopted into the family of Jesus by our faith.
There is another genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, which we will compare later.
Verses 18-25 – The Birth of Jesus
We all know the story of the Birth of Jesus from tradition and from scripture. In Matthew, the story of the birth is from the perspective of Joseph. It says that Mary and Joseph were engaged and that before they “came together,” it was discovered that she was with child. Traditionally, engagement was the same as marriage, so Mary and Joseph, culturally, would have been allowed to “be together.” But they hadn’t been together, so Joseph thought that she had been with someone else. But being a good man, he decided to just divorce her quietly without besmirching her name. But an angel appeared to Joseph telling him that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit and to go ahead with the wedding as planned. The angel further told Joseph that she was to give birth to a son and Joseph shall give Him the name of Jesus. So, Joseph obeyed and went through with the wedding. It seems to me that Joseph was given the role to be Jesus’ earthly father by God when he was asked to name Him – and also because his lineage was considered to be important.
The Magi Worship and Herod is Threatened
Chapter 2 of Matthew reveals what happened after Jesus was born. The story of Him being born in a stable is in another gospel, which will be covered later. In Matthew, the first chapter was devoted to the lineage of Jesus and the news of His conception, which came to Joseph in a dream. In Chapter 2, the Magi learn of the birth of Jesus and want to seek him out. Herod gets word of this, and he is threatened. I’m noticing that the birth of a mere baby, who hasn’t done anything yet, is already stirring things up. People are coming to worship Him, and the king is so threatened that he wants to kill Him. We see another miracle, in that an angel speaks to the Magi and tells them not to tell Herod where Jesus is. Instead of returning to Herod, then went home. Joseph and Mary are able to take Jesus and flee with Him to Egypt, where Jesus spends His boyhood. We aren’t told much about the life of Jesus before he began His ministry. Once Herod died, Jesus’s family was able to return; they did this because an angel told them it was safe.
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus who leaped in his mother’s womb when Mary came to visit. He was a few months older than Jesus. As prophesied in the book of Isaiah, John was the voice from the wilderness proclaiming the coming of the Savior. He said the kingdom is at hand, or near. There was a gap before the birth of Jesus of 400 years when no one heard from God. Now, John was here saying that God is near. People had been waiting to hear this message.
I did learn something about the word repent. John said “repent” for the Lord is near. Some of the commentaries I’ve read say that “repent” doesn’t mean to feel sorry for any sins you’ve committed (which is something I’d always thought). Rather, it’s to change your life. Even in modern times, we are sometimes guilty of living within the temptations of the moment. Or, we live a certain lifestyle that is not pleasing to God, thinking that we have the time to make good before we die or before He comes. But even today, the kingdom is near. We need to live as though God is here today, because He is.
As people were hearing John’s message, they responded by knowing that they were indeed sinners and that they needed to repent and be baptized. There is a little bit of a distinction here. Scripture says that while being baptized, people were confessing their sins. This suggests that they didn’t have to confess their sins to be baptized, but rather that while being baptized, they were feeling the Holy Spirit and it was causing them to realize their sinful ways and to confess them.
Pharisees and Sadducees
The next passage is about the Pharisees and Sadducees who saw the huge revival that was taking place and came to participate. However, John saw that they were participating for show, on the surface, but that in their hearts they weren’t repentant because they didn’t think they were really sinners. They were followers of religious law, so thought they were morally upright. We see this in modern times too, too often in our churches, and it’s one of the reasons I’m writing through the Gospels. I’ve heard so many church people criticizing the sins of others and how the world and our country are falling to sin. This is true, but sometimes people spend too much time dwelling on the sins of others and not on their own. If people today would have been in that situation, we would have had to truly feel that our own hearts needed change – not the hearts and souls of others.
John Baptizing Jesus
Jesus came where John was baptizing people, and came up to be baptized. John said it is you who should be baptizing me, but Jesus said no, in order for things to be properly done, you have to baptize Me. Since John was baptizing sinners, Jesus stood in as a sinner. He wasn’t a sinner, but He was standing in for those of us who have sinned since He is our sacrificial lamb. Once Jesus paid the final price on the cross for our sins, our baptism no longer represents repentance, it’s about being baptized with the Holy Spirit. But it is still about life change — it’s a statement of acceptance of Jesus in our lives and that calls for us to act differently. We are no longer citizens of the world, we are citizens of heaven.
After Jesus was baptized, the skies opened up and God said “this is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” This was because Jesus was being obedient. He didn’t have to be baptized, but He did it willingly because it was pleasing to God and it was part of what God was calling Him to do. All of us should want to hear the same message from God – that He is well pleased that we are being obedient to his will and His plan.
Jesus Tempted in the Desert
As soon as Jesus was finished being baptized, He went into the desert to take the next steps to begin His ministry on hearth. In the last chapter, He obeyed God and was baptized by John the Baptist. Now He further humbles Himself to obedience by going into the desert to fast for 40 days and 40 nights. The fast is heard enough, but during this fast, He was also tested by the devil. This testing by the devil showed us the strength of Jesus, but also His devotion to God, and to doing things God’s way and not in His own way. Satan tempted Jesus with food and with power, but Jesus stood His ground. Note that Satan quoted scripture to Jesus, but Jesus didn’t let that confuse Him or tempt Him. Instead, He quoted scripture right back to Satan. This reveals to us the importance of knowing scripture, and it shows how knowing scripture gives us power against the devil and against temptation.
Jesus Begins His Ministry
Jesus began traveling in preparation for His ministry and in fulfillment of various prophesies from the Old Testament. Then He begins His preaching ministry. What is the first thing that Jesus says…the first words we hear Him preach? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (v 17). These are the same words that John the Baptist used. This must be one of the most important things that Jesus wants us to know. Note again that repent means life change – it means altering our life to fit the calling that God has for our lives.
Next, Jesus began recruiting His disciples – people who he would train to help Him with His ministry, and more importantly, to continue it when He left the earth. As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He came across some fishermen – His first disciples. Jesus said “come and you will be fishers of men.” Most of us have heard this passage before, but in this reading I realized that Jesus was telling them the most important thing that He would want them to be doing – fishing for people. This means that all of their ministry, all of their training, was all designed to bring people to God. Just like today – no matter what ministry we do, whether feeding the hungry, praying for people, greeting at church, inviting people to church, or even attending church – everything that we do should be with the goal to bring others to Jesus. And this includes you and me. Jesus didn’t call the best trained, or people who were already in ministry – He called fishermen – normal people like us. We are all called, no matter who we are or where we have come from.
In the next part of Jesus’ ministry, we see Jesus continuing to preach the Good News of the kingdom, and also healing the sick. Scriptures says people came with all kinds of diseases for healing. Many people began following Him. This passage is one of the reasons why I love Jesus and love serving my God – He helps people who are hurting. I’m sure Jesus also had people around Him who were wealthy, but He went out of His way to let the poor and hurting know that He wanted them to follow Him too. In fact, He reached out to them and drew them in by healing their hurts. Jesus wants us to do the same thing – to love and help the hurting in His name. To welcome the poor just as much as the wealthy. Our Jesus is compassionate and loving!