Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: All
From: Su Min
Subject: Matthew 1:1-17

Dearly Beloved,

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Today we start at the beginning of the New Testament, Matthew 1:1: and scan 3 versions:

The Greek word biblos (Strong Concordance 976) refers to the inner bark of the papyrus plant, and by implication a sheet or scroll of writing.

So Matthew begins by stating this script records the lineage of Jesus Christ, descendant of Abraham. He does not at this stage need to introduce to the reader who Jesus Christ is, because this scroll was initially meant to be shared with the early church, probably that centred around Antioch.

We understand that the content of this document was being shared by oral tradition for about 30 years, beginning with the early believers who assembled in Jerusalem after Jesus ascended into heaven from Mount Olivet (Acts 1:9).

As the number of early followers and original eye witnesses were beginning to fade, and as the church grew in numbers and physical location, there was the need to preserve the teachings into a written record. We understand that Matthew was a tax collector, and as such he was very astute in collecting data, who is who, who is earning how much and who has paid how much, who was been overcharged how much, which Roman official has been paid how much, and so on. The very teachings of Jesus were taught in a style that was easy to assimilate and remember. So Matthew finally sat down and wrote down a scroll. This scroll was copied and duplicated several times. We do not possess the original manuscript. The earliest copies are from around the year 400.

This scroll delineates the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the name given to him by the angel who appeared before his father Joseph to tell him that the child Mary was bearing was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and was to be named Jesus: we will come to that a little later in this chapter We are also told that the angel Gabriel appeared directly to Mary, and told her that she would bear a son to be named Jesus (Luke 1:31).

Jesus, the name above all names. It means saviour, for he came to save the world. The name Jesus (Strong's concordance #2424)is the Hellenised version (Greek) Iesous, of the Hebrew or Aramaic Jehoshua or Joshua (Yahweh is salvation) sometimes contracted to Jesu. It is most unlikely that the angel spoke in Greek, so the Aramaic version Joshua must be the given name to Our Lord. It was not an uncommon Hebrew name, as the people had been promised a saviour. I am lead to believe that Mary called her baby Joshua, the Greek scrolls recorded the name as Iesous and the Anglicised KJV had this name converted to Jesus.

The title "Christ" has undergone equal transformation. Christ (Strong's concordance #5547) is the anglicised version of the Greek Christos, a title that means Anointed One. This reflects the Hebrew title Messaiah, the Anointed One. The early church recognised that this Jesus was the Anointed One promised in Daniel 9:25, 26.

And we now see that this scroll began with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became Son of Man, and his ancestry could be linked back to David, one of the great Kings of Israel, and author of the book of Psalms. Indeed God had promised David that one of his own lineage would inherit the throne.

The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit (Isa 11:1).

David stands as one of the Bible greats. Little Sunday school children sing (as we sang when we were tin Sunday school), "Only a boy call David", in commemoration of shepherd boy David's slingshot conquest over Goliath the Philistine giant (1 Samuel 17).

Great as David was, he was not infallible, and in 10 seconds he allowed himself to develop a fatal attraction for Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2), fatal for his own spiritual life, fatal for the son that Bathsheba was to bear him, and fatal to Uriah the Hittite, a soldier who was steadfastly faithful to David. His sin was exposed when confronted by Nathan who related the tale of a rich man with many sheep who stole the only lamb from a poor man, provoking David be outraged and to say "The man who did this deserves to die", to which Nathan says "You are that man" (2 Sam 12). But warts, pimples and all, David is counted as one of the bible greats. He left us with his book of psalms.

During His ministry Jesus was recognised as Son of David

His ancestry could be linked further back, right up to Abraham, the great patriarch of the Hebrews who, at the age of 75 was called out of Haran where he had migrated to from homeland in the Ur of Chaldeans (Gen 11:28 - Gen 12:4) who received God's blessing and was directed to the promised land of Canaan. Luke goes back even further, tracing Jesus' lineage as son of Enosh, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God (Luke 3:38).

As we read the genealogy of Jesus Christ as detailed in Matt 1: 2-16 we do see the history of Israel encaptured and highlighted by some famous and some not so famous men and women. We have learned of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Tamar and Perez in Genesis. The history and significance of the others are there for us to explore in the Old Testament. Read, enjoy and learn! Matthew describes the lineage in sections of fourteen, fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen generations from the exile to the Christ (Matt 1:17). This approach is a good learning tool, the breaking up of the big into smaller parts, with David and the exile as markerpoints in the history of the lineage of Jesus.

In our study of Matthew we next look at 1: 16 which records Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Here the gospel writer takes pains to spell out that Joseph is the husband of Mary, and Mary gave birth to Jesus, showing us that Matthew was clear in his understanding that Joseph was not the physical father of Jesus. The rest of Matt 1 we will look at tomorrow.

Let us close in prayer.

Su Min

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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