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Matthew’s Advent

‘Distant’ Relatives and Wise Strangers ”遠い”親戚と見知らぬ賢い人々

I’d like to spend each week of this Advent looking at the birth of Christ from the perspective of each of the gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – because each one adds in some way to the full story of the birth of Christ, and each one tells us something important about each of the writers and the gospels they write.

1. Genealogies 系図
Right at the beginning of Matthew (right at the beginning of the whole NT), we’re given a long rambling list of genealogy – the father of…the father of…the father of etc etc. I spent most of my Christian upbringing thinking that this was probably unparalleled in being the most boring and irrelevant of all Scripture passages. Why does Matthew (and Luke) insist on boring us with all these names?

Maybe they had a good reason.

Matthew was writing primarily (but not only) to Jews. So Matthew’s gospel is much more concerned with things like the fulfillment of OT prophecy, especially with regards to the Messiah. So one of the things that these lists of names does is satisfy OT prophecy that the long-promised Messiah would be
of Abraham’s seed (Gen 22:18),
the son of Isaac (Gen 21:12),
the son of Jacob (Num 24:17),
the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10),
the family line of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), and
the house of David (Jer 23:5).
So suddenly all these names have some real purpose and value. But there’s more.

ii. It shows the surprising diversity of people who make up the genealogy of Christ, including 4 women (unusual for an ancient genealogy), 3 Gentiles, a Hittite, and a prostitute. This tells us that the gospel is not limited to men or to the people of Israel. It fulfills the promise that the Messiah would be a blessing for all nations and would save all people from their sin. (v21)

You don’t have to look too far to see that there is something unusual about this genealogy, especially when compared to that of Luke. Matthew seems more concerned with systematic organisation and symbolism in numbers (fourteen generations…fourteen generations…) than with recording a full genealogy. Whole generations are periodically skipped and more obvious characters are overlooked in favour of more obscure characters. Matthew never explains his choices.
But one thing you might note is that – and at first this seems very odd – is that the names in Matthew’s genealogy are very different from those in Luke’s genealogy! What’s going on?
Simply, because they were both skipping generations, they often gave different names (generations) in the same line. Also, and this is important, from David to Jesus, Matthew follows the legal line of descendants through Joseph, while Luke follows the blood line through Mary.マタイの系図にある名前は、ルカの系図に載っている名前と全然違う!
And this leads us to our next point of interest:

2. The Virgin Birth 処女降誕
Mat. 1:18 The virgin birth. Both Matthew and Luke address this indirectly in their genealogies. Matthew does it by the unusual method of using Mary’s line to David (and so excluding Joseph from the line). Luke does it by following Joseph’s line but changing “the son of” to “the son, so it was thought” when it comes to Joseph.
Some people have trouble with the concept of the virgin birth – it just seems so impossible, so fictional. But there really is no need to doubt the historicity of the virgin birth. It was prophesied from long ago. Remember that Matthew was writing primarily to Jews and as such his gospel contains * quotes from the OT to show OT prophecy fulfilled in Christ. One of these is the prophecy from Isaiah 600 years earlier, saying that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. 600年前のイザヤ書の預言の一つは、メシアは処女から生まれると言っています。

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

One of the things I ask doubters of the virgin birth is “Do you believe in God?” If the answer is ‘no’ then it’s no wonder they have a hard time accepting the supernatural nature of Christ’s birth (or any supernatural event). If they do believe in God, I ask them then what sort of God would not be able to work a virgin birth. If God is the creator of all life, then God is only doing what He does, only outside of his normal means of creating.

There’s more to this though. At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of God – that is the coming of God into the world in human form. If this were done through the normal means of a human father and human mother, it’s hard to see how God himself could have entered the world. The result would have been a purely human child. So it seems necessary that God himself father the child through the Holy Spirit and the young Mary bear the baby – not as a surrogate mother – but as the human mother of God. And so the child to be born would be – and was – both God and man. 神様ご自身が父となり、聖霊によって子どもをおとめマリヤに宿らせたー”代理の母”としてではなく、神の母としてーことは必然だったと思われます。そうしてその子どもは神であり人間でありえたのです。

Packer writes, “The supreme mystery … lies, not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man.” (Knowing God p 53) パッカーはこう書いています。「究極の奥義は、受難日の購いのメッセージにあるのではなく、イースターの復活のメッセージにあるのでもない。それはクリスマスの神が人となられたというメッセージにあるのです。本当に信じがたいクリスチャンの宣言は、ナザレのイエスが人となった神であるということです」
There was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.
Packer continues:
This is the real stumbling block in Christianity. It is here that Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many of those who feel the difficulties [of the virgin birth, Christ’s miracles, the atonement, the resurrection etc] have come to grief. It is from misbelief, or at least inadequate belief, about the incarnation that difficulties at other points in the gospel story usually spring. But once the incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties dissolve… The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the NT contains.” “Knowing God” pp 53,54

3. The Magi 博士たち
There’s something very unusual and very wonderful about Matthew’s account of the Magi (traditionally ‘kings’). Remember, Matthew is writing primarily to Jews. Yet he gives this prominence to visiting Gentiles. People who are ‘not God’s people’ are used as an example and to humble those who are God’s people. Again, this is to fulfill OT prophecies in Micah (and elsewhere) that God’s salvation would extend to all people.

Here’s an interesting question: Who was the first person in the Bible to worship Jesus?
The magi. Gentiles. 聖書の中でイエスを最初に礼拝したのは誰でしたか?博士たち、異邦人でした。
Certainly Simeon prophesied over the baby Jesus in the temple and the prophetess Anna did likewise, and Mary “stored all these things in her heart” and she and Joseph “marveled” over the words spoken about Jesus as a baby.

But it was the magi who first came and bowed down before Him and paid homage to Him as king. Where were the Jews? Where were the flocks of people coming down from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to worship their king? The zeal of the gentile magi to worship the child-king highlights the indifference of the Jews.異邦人の博士たちが幼い王を礼拝する熱心さは、ユダヤ人の無関心さを際立たせています。

It’s also interesting that the magi did not come to worship someone who would one day be king. Not someone who was born to be a king. They came to worship the one “who has been born the King of the Jews”. These guys had done their homework. No wonder we call them wise men. 博士たちは、”ユダヤ人の王としてお生まれになった”お方を拝みに来ました。

Even the gifts they gave were highly symbolic of the type of king this would be.
Gold – This child was a king
Incense – This child was deity
Myrrh – Myrrh was typically used for anointing dead bodies. This child, as King and Lord, would die.

There’s one more part to this story of the magi and that’s their avoidance of Herod on their return back to their country (probably Babylon).
Matthew 2:16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
This is the same thing that happened at the birth of Moses.
Exodus 1:22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

When God wanted to raise up powerful leaders, Satan’s work was indiscriminate – there was mass killing to rid any possibility of God’s anointed people being raised up. God thwarted those plans but it didn’t stop multitudes of newborns being slaughtered.
Many have suggested that the same thing is happening today. We are in the end times when God will raise up powerful, anointed people of His own to lead people back to Him. But what is happening?
According to WHO, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.
You have to wonder what’s behind it. Mass killing to rid any possibility of God’s anointed people being raised up. God will thwart it but multitudes of lives are being terminated every day.
神様が力強い指導者を立て上げようとすると、サタンは見境無く働きました。神に油注がれた人々が立て上げられる可能性を取り除くため、大量殺戮がありました。 同じことが今日でも起こっていると言う人はたくさんいます。 WHOによると、毎年世界中で、推定四千万〜五千万の妊娠中絶が行われています。神に油注がれた人々が起こされる可能性を排除しようとする大量殺戮です。

Let’s finish by turning our attention back to the focus of Matthew’s account:
Jesus was the fulfillment of centuries of OT Messianic prophecy
Jesus’ birth was necessarily miraculous and sets the platform for the whole NT message of salvation for all people
Jesus was born to be worshipped as the Messiah-king