I. Genealogy, Birth, and Childhood (Matthew 1:1–2:23)

1:1 The apostle Matthew opens his Gospel account with a genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of Abraham. Many people tend to skip over this record and the one in Luke, but that’s a mistake. These genealogies demonstrate that Jesus had a legitimate legal claim to be the Messiah—the Son of David and heir to the throne (see 2 Sam 7:12-16; Isa 11:1-10). Though Jewish gene-alogical records would be destroyed in AD 70 when Jerusalem fell to the Romans, Jesus’s genealogy was supernaturally preserved in the Gospels.

1:24-25 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel had commanded him (1:24). Again, he was a righteous man (1:19). So, when he understood what God was doing, he complied in full obedience. He did not have sexual relations with Mary until she gave birth: Jesus was to be born of a virgin (1:25).

2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem . . . wise men arrived. There are two common misconceptions to clear up about these visitors. First, according to legend, there were three wise men. However, we only know that they brought three specific gifts (2:11). We don’t know how many men there were.

Second, contrary to how the scene is often portrayed, the wise men weren’t present at the nativity. They weren’t there for Jesus’s birth. By the time they arrived, Joseph and Mary were living in a house (2:11). In addition, as we’ll see, Herod sought to kill all the male children two years old and younger (2:16); therefore, Jesus was a toddler when the wise men saw him, not a baby.

Matthew tells us their origin was from the east (2:1)—perhaps Babylonia or Persia. They were looking for the king of the Jews, had seen his star, and had come to worship him (2:2). The Greek term for these men is magi. They were astrologers—students of the heavenly bodies. Whatever religious practices they’d engaged in previously, when they saw the manifestation of God’s glory in the heavens, they responded and traveled to worship the true King.

2:3-8 They entered Jerusalem (the obvious place to find a king) and went to the palace of King Herod, also known as Herod the Great. Herod wasn’t a Jew. He was an Idumean whom the Romans had made a ruler of the Jews. So when he heard what the wise men had to say, he was deeply disturbed (2:3). As far as he was concerned, there was no room for any king but him.

Herod asked the chief priests and scribes to tell him where the Christ would be born (2:4). And while these leaders clearly knew the Scriptures, they never pursued the Savior (see John 5:39-40). They didn’t act on what they studied. Nevertheless, when Herod learned that Scripture foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (2:5-6; see Mic 5:2), he secretly summoned the wise men (2:7). He told them he also desired to worship and asked them to search carefully for the child and report back (2:8). But Herod had ulterior motives. He wasn’t about to let anyone take away his kingdom.

2:9-11 The wise men continued their search, following the star until it stopped above the place where the child was (2:9). Whereas Herod was deeply distressed over the news of a new king, the wise men were overwhelmed with joy to see him (2:10). They fell on their knees before the child and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (2:11).

True worship can’t be contained. These men had traveled an incredible distance for perhaps as long as two years to worship this King, but they knew he was worth the journey. How much are you willing to be inconvenienced to worship the King of kings? How badly do you want him?

2:12-13 Since they had faithfully sought the Savior, the wise men received inside information. They were warned in a dream about Herod and returned home by another route (2:12). Joseph also—since he had obeyed the Lord’s word (1:24-25)—received further information and understanding. An angel warned him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus for safety from Herod (2:13). When you obey God’s revelation you get further divine illumination for your destination.

2:14-15 Joseph took the child and his mother and escaped to Egypt where they’d be safe until Herod died (2:14). Matthew tells his readers that this was to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet Hosea: Out of Egypt I called my Son (2:15).

In his prophecy, Hosea was talking about Israel, whom God called his son and delivered from Egypt (see Hos 11:1), but Matthew understood that Israel was a type of God’s Son who was yet to come. A type is a historical person, institution, or event that pre-figures a future corresponding reality. Thus, as God called his son Israel out of Egypt, so he would call his true Son out of Egypt. Matthew knew that many Old Testament texts point forward to Jesus.

2:16-18 When he realized that he had been outwitted by the wise men, Herod displayed his true, murderous colors. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. He used the information learned from the wise men—which they had learned by divine illumination—to slaughter innocent children (2:16). Matthew recognized this as another fulfillment of prophecy—this time from Jeremiah (2:17). Here too there is a connection between Israel and their Messiah. As Israel wept in Jeremiah’s day for their children in exile (see Jer 31:15-16), so they wept again in Matthew’s day for their children who were persecuted in connection to Jesus.

2:19-22 After Herod’s death, God once again communicated to Joseph in a dream to take the child and his mother back to Israel (2:19-21). When Joseph heard that Archelaus, Herod’s son, was ruling over Judea in his father’s place, he was afraid to go to there. But God addressed his fears and sent him to Galilee (2:22).

2:23 There the family settled in the town of Nazareth and thus it was fulfilled that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. Actually, though, such a statement is not found in any of the Old Testament prophets. So likely Matthew was thinking of statements like Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men” (see also Ps 22:6; Isa 49:7), because Nazareth was viewed as a despised community from which no good thing could come (see John 1:46). God sovereignly wove his plan in history to bring the Messiah into the world.

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