Matthew Chapter 1 – Jesus: God With Us
And you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Emmanuel’ which means, ‘God with us.’” When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:21-25)
Book of Beginnings
The book of Matthew is first of the four gospels. Like Genesis, it’s a book of “beginnings.” This gospel account is written to a primarily Jewish audience. It links many of the promises found in the Old Testament scriptures to their fulfillment in the New Testament. Matthew, the author of this book, was also an eyewitness of Jesus, a former Roman tax collector, and one of the 12 apostles.
The gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah (God’s anointed one). The Jewish people were promised a leader that would come one day and set up a new kingdom. They had hoped it would be like King David’s. The Jewish people believed that their new king (the Messiah) would be a triumphant political leader who would lead their nation to freedom. They thought the Messiah would liberate them from political oppression (which during the first century was the Roman Empire), and establish a righteous government. Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah, but He established a different kind of rulership and kingdom than they had expected.
Birth of Jesus Christ
Chapter one contains the genealogy and birth of Jesus Christ. Genealogies were important to many societies, including the Jewish people. “Family trees” were not only a matter of historical record, but gave each family a strong and clear sense of identity and calling. Matthew lists Jesus’ genealogy because it shows His legal claim to the throne of David, which was a prerequisite of the coming Messiah. Matthew is suggesting that Israel had been waiting over 2,000 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise that was being fulfilled now in the person of Jesus Christ.
The chapter concludes with the details of the dramatic story surrounding the birth of Jesus. Luke’s gospel describes the birth story through the eyes of Mary. Matthew’s gospel describes it through the eyes of Joseph. As the story unfolds, the angel announces Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit. Mary and Joseph are engaged at the time. Joseph considers divorcing Mary, as he thought she had committed adultery. Joseph is warned by an angel not to divorce her. Rather, he’s told to take Mary as his wife and name the child Jesus. The angel quotes the prophecy from the book of Isaiah that says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel – which means, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
Emmanuel: “God with Us”
In these ancient times, names were given to people as descriptions of who they were. That’s why you often find in scripture that when a person met God face-to-face that their name was changed because that person’s nature and purpose was forever altered due to their encounter with God. So when the prophet Isaiah declared that another name for Jesus is “Emmanuel,” he is trying to tell us something about His nature and His great plan for each of us. Matthew’s gospel opens in the first chapter and concludes in the last one with this very theme: Emmanuel, the God who is with us (Matthew 28:20). Because the name Emmanuel means “God with us,” the scriptures are revealing something unique and wonderful about God’s nature and intentions. God desires to be “with us” and alongside us to help us in our lives. That’s one of the reasons why Jesus came: to put a face on the invisible God, and to extend His embrace to humanity.
The Holy Spirit
In the book of Genesis, the first question God ever asked man in the Garden of Eden was, “Where are you?” Even from the beginning, God has always desired to be with us in loving relationship. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as the “helper,” which is derived from the word paraclete, which means “one alongside to help.” This is one of the themes found within the grand narrative of scripture: God loves us and wants to be with us. He pursues us and extends His reach toward us with an invitation to come near.
The Whisper Test
Mary Ann Bird, in her book The Whisper Test, illustrates this thought well as she describes an experience she had with a teacher when she was a young child. She writes: I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others—a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside of my family could love me. There was a teacher in the second grade we all adored. Her name was Mrs. Leonard, a sparkling personality. Annually, we had a hearing test. Mrs. Leonard gave the hearing test to everyone in the class, and finally, it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back. Things like, “The sky is blue,” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words, similar to what God must have put into Mrs. Leonard’s mouth…those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl. I wish you were mine. I choose you.”
I Choose You
This story reminds me how Jesus time and again impacted people’s worlds by “whispering” a very similar message. It was simple, sincere, and life-altering. It was the message of “Emmanuel.” Jesus walked around saying to the forgotten, “I choose you.” He called out to the lonely, “You are mine.” He declared to the troubled, “My peace be with you.” Jesus was and is the God who is with us. He promised that in times of difficulty and sorrow, He would extend His grace to meet us and sustain us, even in our darkest valley.
God With Us
“God with us” is central to the gospel message. Jesus came to earth and lived among people. And before He was crucified and resurrected, He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to help us, comfort us, teach us, guide us, and live inside us to transform us into His image and likeness. We are not alone! We are not forgotten. It was Jesus’ intention that this “whisper” would spread over all the earth and seep into the heart of every human being.
The God Who is Near
My prayer for us is that we too would echo the “whisper” of good news, and declare the message of “Emmanuel, God is with us” to the watching world. God has come near, and His invitation is still going out to the world.
Let us “Emmanuelize” the gospel of Jesus. Let people see that as Christ-followers, we don’t claim or pretend to be perfect, but rather that God is working in us and through us, not because we are good, but because He is good and He is with us. Let our lives be authentic, open, and honest. Let the world see Jesus’ grace working in us in spite of our weaknesses, sins, and failures.
Today the Holy Spirit promises to walk with us and transform us from the inside-out. God the Spirit carries on the ministry of God the Son, Jesus Christ. Who do you know that needs to hear God’s whisper? Who needs to be reassured that God is near and available even today?
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