The Virgin Birth the First Miracle and Mystery of Jesus, but Genealogy Full of Miraculous
Matthew presents the virgin birth as the first miracle of Jesus life. A study of the stories of his genealogy will reveal many interesting personalities and backgrounds. Many “respectable people” through the centuries put forth great effort in highlighting only the honorable parts of their past. They continue the deception by hiding the dishonorable portions of their genealogy. In contrast, Matthew, true to the transparent and truthfulness of the Holy Spirit, records the full genealogy of Jesus.
Would not a Jew or anyone telling their story in the best light glaze over uncomfortable truths? I would expect them to edge out of the story Gentiles and prostitutes in their past. In contrast, Matthew parades the full cast including a son resulting from a marriage tainted by adultery and murder. God uses fallen people of all kinds. None other but fallen people exist. As a remedy to this problem, he sent his son.
Matthew Chapter One
The Genealogy of Jesus Christ
This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah (by Tamar), Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz (by Rahab), Boaz the father of Obed (by Ruth), Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
David was the father of Solomon (by the wife of Uriah), Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
After the deportation to Babylon, Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ, fourteen generations.
The Birth of Jesus Christ
Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.
On the Recording of Genealogies
According to Severus in his Cathedral Sermons, “On the one hand, he is not able to be counted simply from natural generation among families, since it is written, “Who shall declare his generation?” He is before the centuries and of one substance with the Father himself, from the standpoint of eternity. But by this genealogy he is also numbered among the families of humanity according to the flesh. For in truth, while remaining God, Christ became man without ceasing to be God, unaltered till the end of time.
This is why there is also mention of the ancient patriarchs in the lineage, the narrative and observation of the times and vicissitudes that are indeed proper to human history. Through all this Matthew made it clear that Christ participates in our human generation and in our nature. Otherwise some might claim that he appeared in illusion and in imagination only.”
Further Church Father Comments on Genealogy of Jesus
According to Hilary, “What Matthew publishes in order of kingly succession, Luke has set forth in order of priestly origin. While accounting for each order, both indicate the relationship of the Lord to each ancestral lineage.”
Severus adds, “It is for this reason [to show Christ’s true humanity] that in this genealogy the Evangelist mentioned in his list even hose who had shocking carnal relations that were inappropriate and outside the law. For Matthew wrote with due deliberation, “And Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar” and even more plainly “And David became the father of Solomon by Uriah’s wife.” These were women with whom they became united by fornication and adultery. By this means the genealogy revealed that it is our very sinful nature that Christ himself came to heal.”
In anonymous writings of Church Fathers, the gentile prostitute Rahab figures prominently as a foreshadowing and metaphor for the church. Though a prostitute and defiled by idol worship, a prince, Salmon, recognizes her worth. She received the spies as messengers. Rehab, not only saved from the destruction of Jericho, but Salmon ennobles her through marriage.
The Nature of Miracles and Mysteries
Chrysostom in his commentary, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 4-3 says, “For neither Gabriel nor Matthew was able to say anything more, but only that the generation was from the Spirit. But how from the Spirit? In what manner? Neither Gabriel nor Matthew has explained, nor is it possible. Do no imagine that you have untangled the mystery merely by hearing that this is the work of the Spirit. For we remain ignorant of many things, even while learning of them. So how could the infinite One reside in a womb? How could he that contains all be carried as yet unborn by a woman? How could the Virgin bear and continue to be a virgin?”
Further anonymous commentary from Church Fathers said, “Humanity is born out of the necessity to exist. Christ, however, was not born out of the necessity of nature to exist but by his his merciful will to save. He was appropriately born contrary to the law of human nature because he was beyond nature.”
Chromatius, Tractate on Matthew, writes, “The bodily birth of Christ was in time; his divine birth was before time. The one in this age, the other before the ages. The one from a virgin mother, the other from God the Father. Angels and men stood as witnesses at the corporeal birth of the Lord, yet at his divine birth there was no witness except the Father and the Son, because nothing existed before the Father and the Son. But because the Word could not be seen as God in the glory of his own divinity, he assumed visible flesh to demonstrate his invisible divinity.”
The situation presented Joseph with a great dilemma. He clearly loved her but could not condone unrighteous behavior. As a Jew, he would have known that Sarah had become pregnant at old age. As a greater mystery, he could not conceive how Mary could become pregnant without being familiar with a man. “So Joseph determined to conduct himself now by a higher rule than the law. For now that grace was appearing, it would be fitting that many tokens of that exalted citizenship be expressed. It is like the sun not yet arrived, but from afar more than half the world is already illumined by its light,” wrote Chrysostom.
Gabriel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit,” so he might acknowledge the integrity of his fiancée and the virgin birth. Most appropriately, Gabriel reveals this great mystery to Joseph, Mary’s fiancée, a righteous man.
In fact, Joseph translated from Hebrew into Latin mens “beyond reproach,” writes Chromatius. “The angel did not only mention her by name but also called her “your wife.” He would not have called her so if she had been unfaithful,” wrote Chrysostom. Chrysostom continued, “For with this intent the angel laid open to Joseph all things that were in his mind, what he felt, what he feared, what he was resolved to do, so that he would be wholly reassured.” In giving the charge to name him, Gabriel directed him to the responsibility of exhibiting a father’s care and raising him.
Gabriel reassured Joseph based on what Joseph’s finite mind grasped. Did Gabriel understand the mystery himself beyond the grasp of Joseph? We cannot know until we throw aside our dimensional limitations and enter eternity.
A Mystery Which Rings in Something Never Before Possible
“He will save his people from their sins.” The coming event exceeds all expectations, something never before possible foretold by the prophets.
The Virgin Birth the First of Many Mysteries to Come
The Virgin Birth is the first miracle in the new testament and the first mystery of Christ. My ability to form and maintain a dynamic relationship with my Lord depends upon my ability to tolerate and embrace mystery in general and specifically this mystery of the Virgin Birth. God exists outside of the limits of time and space, he made all, and in him I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28). For God to touch my life requires that I do not try to limit him by the natural laws he made or with my limited concepts.
The limit of natural law declares the Virgin Birth impossible. This essential tenet of Christianity contained in chapter one of Matthew steers me toward the need to look at things differently. I must ground my approach to this mystery in my acceptance of the fulfillment of prophecy and truth of ancient texts. Belief stands as a choice. Created outside the limits of empiricism, empirical eyes cannot see or prove it. This essential tenet remains the first step forward. Without taking it, I cannot call myself a follower or believer.
My empiricist nature should not despair. Because Jesus promises me that if I will hold to his teaching, I will know the truth, and the truth will set me free. John 8: 31,32. Thus his teachings prove out with experience. If I take the first steps of trust and belief, he will reveal more to me as I trust him more.
- What promises to Abraham (Genesis 15:5) and David (2 Samuel 7:16) does Jesus fulfill?
- Am I proud of my heritage? Do I judge others as less worthy because of more ‘skeletons’ in their closet than me? What lesson does the genealogy of Jesus teach me? Some clues are Solomon’s mother and Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3).
- In addition to fulfilling Isaiah 7:14, why did the Virgin Birth occur? See: original sin.
- How can meditation upon the miracle of the Virgin Birth change my relationship with him today?
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14b
Father, help me to always remember I need you as savior daily. Thank you for coming to earth and living among us. Thank you for the miracle of Virgin Birth, a miracle that only you, God who made all could accomplish. I accept and believe this miracle. By this, I signify I am ready to believe in and follow you, the one true God. By this confession, I reject man’s wisdom and accept more than I see and understand. I accept your mystery and am ready for you to work in my life.
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