Week 4 - Incarnation
A Hero Revealed
The moment the hero of the movie is revealed on screen is incredibly important. The first time we see Luke Skywalker he’s given his own hero musical score to mark the moment. Aragorn, from Lord of the Rings, is shrouded in mystery until it is suddenly revealed that this lowly ranger has a rightful claim to the throne.
The way these characters are revealed causes the audience to sit up and pay attention. It's like saying "Hey! This character is important to the story! Keep your eyes on them!" If you’re not careful, you’ll miss that same moment with Jesus in Scripture.
In Matthew 1:1-17, the author recounts the genealogy of Jesus. It’s that long list of names that nobody cares about. So-and-so was the father of unpronounceable name number 3, and so on. But there’s so much more here that, if we’re not careful, we’ll miss it.
To the audience of Jews in the first century, it’s full of HUGE flags, fireworks, and maybe even a tongue-in-cheek jab or two. Here are a few observations about the Matthew genealogy that announce God's hero: Jesus! Open to Matthew 1: 1-17 while you read along.
The Number 14 Seems to Mean Something
The genealogy is actually divided into three sections of 14 names. So, get ready for some math!
In Scripture, numbers are somewhat symbolic. The number 7 represents spiritual perfection, such as the 7 days of Creation, an end-times prophecy in Daniel 9, and the number of times we should forgive others (70 x 7, a good reminder for Christmas time).
The number 14 is actually representative of a double measure of spiritual perfection. Often, this number is used to represent deliverance or salvation in some way. For example, the 14th day of the first month of the Jewish calendar is Passover, a celebration of Israel's deliverance from Egypt.
The sections of 14 aren't an accident. Matthew was trying to show the reader something.
It Skips Several Names
In order to get these sections, Matthew skips several names. They aren’t bad skips though. The skips he makes are from one guy to his grandson or great-grandson, skipping the unimportant names in between. But the lineage is still intact.
Matthew is trying to show the royal lineage of Jesus, not just his earthly family tree. He wants to show that God has been orchestrating the fulfillment of His promises the entire way, even across exiles to Babylon and enslavement! The good news is that God is doing that in your life right now too!
It Includes Women
Most genealogies didn’t include women, but this one does. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.
This shows us two things, in my opinion. First, Jesus came to save the Jews, but faithful Gentiles were offered salvation too. None of the women mentioned were of Jewish descent, not to mention they were tied up in some “frowned-upon” lifestyles (at least 2 prostitutes and an adulterer).
Second, this also may tie back to the original prophecy in Genesis 3:15 which says that the Messiah would be the “seed of woman.” Joseph is of the tribe of Judah as was prophesied. However, (let’s get our best Maury Povich voice on here) he is NOT the father of Jesus. So, when Mary and Joseph are wed, she legally becomes part of the tribe of Judah. Jesus, though, is born of the Holy Spirit.
The Hero is “One of Us”
When Jesus is finally revealed at the end of this chapter, it’s his big moment. In verses 23, Joseph is told that Jesus will be called “God with us” because he will be one of us, but at the same time, be something else.
The dual nature of Jesus is a tough one, but basically, Jesus is fully God and fully man, not some split or divided version like 50/50. He's 100/100. So, take that, Mathematics!
He knows our pain, frustrations, and joy. The joy of this season for us is that our God is not far from us. He is near.
Our God is with us. His name is Jesus.
Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, "God with us." — Matthew 1:23
They say salvation is based on faith, not good works, right? As a young Christian, that was extremely difficult for me to understand. Living by faith was foreign to me - I felt that I had to do everything that I could to get to God. The more I read my Bible, I felt I was a few steps closer. Spending time in prayer? A few more steps. Consistent church attendance? A few more steps.
But, what I found is that the harder I tried to do good things or do what I felt would bring me closer to God, the emptier I felt. I tried my hardest to get to God, but none of those things on their own would save me or redeem me. I needed something else.
The incarnation is God’s answer to our inability to reach Him on our own. He saw human nature attempt time after time to reach God with the things we do (or don’t do). He knew that Jesus was the only way to redeem His creation and to bring restoration to a broken world.
From a throne in Heaven to a feeding trough in Bethlehem, Jesus was sent for the sole reason of bringing his peace - his shalom - into this world. He humbled himself to join us in this broken world to do what we could not. The name Emmanuel is a reminder that God is still with us. He was then, and has been ever since.
This Christmas season is an opportunity for us to remember not only what Jesus did for us, but why he did it: so we could know him and build His Kingdom. It is the true reason of the incarnation, and the reason for us to celebrate.