Malankara World

Bible Study - Gospel of Matthew
Dr. Susan Jacob, MD - Editor

Matthew Chapter 1 - Jesus Among Us
by Dr. Susan Jacob, MD

Matthew Chapter 1:1-17

Today’s Bible Class is Chapter 1:1-17, The genealogy of Christ. Matthew uses this to show that Christ is descended from David as foretold in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is full of genealogy. In fact the genealogical records were preserved in the temple. These were like legal documented proof of one’s ancestry. Probably this was one of the reasons Jesus’ proclaimed descent from David was never challenged by the Pharisees.

As we read through the first 17 verses an unusual fact stands out. In the Old Testament, except for a few mentioned here and there, women were never heard of. This was because women were regarded as possessions of her father or husband on a par with slaves. The church (including us) believe that God inspired the writing of the gospels and in Matthew He chose to acknowledge five women as Christ’s ancestors.

As we look at all the forefathers mentioned in the book (14 generations) what becomes obvious is that some of them were very dubious characters –like David, the most famous of them all. He was a murderer, an adulterer and had a terribly dysfunctional family. Some of the others committed pretty nasty crimes. Well the five women mentioned were not all high minded people either. Let’s take them one by one.

Tamar was a gentile married to Er the eldest son of Judah (Issac’s son). The Bible says that Er was a nasty guy and so God “killed” him. By Jewish tradition since Tamar was childless she had to marry the next oldest brother who also happened to be a horrible man and met his death very quickly. She should then have married the third brother but Judah intervened and sent Tamar away promising that the wedding would take place later. He however never intended this to happen thus depriving Tamar of her legal inheritance and a place with God’s chosen people. Finally by a little bit of scheming Tamar bore a child that was Judah’s. You could say that here Tamar was more sinned against than sinning, but God acknowledged the fact that Tamar persisted because she wanted so much to be part of His people as she had faith in Him and His promise of life.

The second woman Rahab mentioned was a prostitute out of necessity – she was a gentile but because of her faith in the greatness of the true God, she helped the Israelite spies. She chose to be with God’s people and proved her faith by risking her life and that of her child, to help the chosen people.

Ruth, the next women mentioned, is well known. Again, a gentile –she chose to go with her mother in law leaving her own people, because she wanted to be part of the true faith. Unlike the other two women, Ruth was morally pure. She gave up her security and happiness with the Moabites, her people, for God and ended up gaining love and happiness.

Bathsheba is the fourth woman, known because of David’s misdeeds. David and Bathsheba lost their first child but David truly repented and God eventually forgave him and Solomon was born.

The last woman mentioned in the genealogy is Mary Because of the goodness, and faith and submissiveness to God, Jesus was born to her. From this genealogy I have learned a few things. When God inspired Mathew to name these five women, He was removing all racial barriers. Remember four of them were gentiles.

The second lesson I learned was that all believers are equal in the sight of God. In the Old Testament, man has discriminated against women but God has very clearly shown that in His sight women and men have spiritual equality. The third lesson is that each one is free to choose whether he or she believes in Christ. The past does not necessarily condemn them. However, when you sin you can not escape the consequence. We talk about God’s grace and forgiveness being given freely. This is true. When we sin we are separated from God and that is the worst punishment for a believer. When you sincerely repent, God forgives you freely and gives His grace freely.

However, the consequences of your action may continue to have an effect. In physics we learn that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When we do something good or bad or say some hurtful things it may set in motion results that would not have been anticipated. What do I mean by that?. The Bible is full of examples that highlight this. Let us take David again. He sent Uriah to be killed so that he could marry Bethsheba. As a consequence of his sin towards an innocent man, he and Bethseba lost their first child. David realized his sin and fervently and honestly repented and God did forgive him. When Solomon built temples for various gods to please his wives and worshipped with them, breaking the first commandment, who paid the price for his actions. ?. His future generation and the nation of Israel did. People looked up to Solomon and when they saw him worshipping other gods, they felt it was alright for them to worship other gods as well. Well, Israel paid for this by being condemned to slavery for a number of years.

In the New Testament, Annaias and Sapphira lied about their offering and the consequence was death. There are many more examples in the Bible about sin and its consequence.

So the “ take home message” for our daily living would be:

(1) spiritually there is no difference between man and woman in the sight of God; differences are man made

(2) when you truly and honestly repent of your wrong deeds and try not to repeat it, God forgives and embraces you with love and forgiveness, and

(3) there are consequences to every action which even if we repent, may still have an effect as it impacts other people. If you are wise you will learn from your mistakes and grow spiritually

This is a lay man’s lesson that you just had. Fr. Mathai will follow with the theological aspect of it. We would like you to send in your questions directly or through your youth leader. Remember we will absolutely love it if you ask questions or put forward arguments to refute what we say. If you do we know that you are reading this and thinking. If you would like to see any other format and if it is feasible we will try to accommodate. When we finish Mathew’s gospel the church that has sent in the most questions will get an honorable mention as the ‘most active church’ !!!

Matthew Chapter 1:18-25

Annunciation to St. Mary by Sandro Filipepi Botticelli
Annunciation to St. Mary

This portion of Matthew deals with the birth of Christ. Matthew gives a very matter of fact stark-outline of the obedience and submission of Mary to God’s wishes, the Holy Spirit creating Jesus in Mary, the angel telling Joseph not to divorce her as the child conceived by Mary was from the Holy Spirit and Joseph obeying God. In verses 22 and 23, Matthew says “ all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophets. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel”. The name means God with us. Luke gives us a beautiful version of the conception of Christ which also contains Mary’s song known as the Magnificate (Luke Chapter 1)

Annunciation - Greek Ikon
Annunciation to St. Mary - Greek Ikon

Going back to Matthew, the seven verses 18 to 25, is packed with a lot of information of faith in action. Today if “an angel” appears to us, and gives us the same message, we would probably think “psycho”. A virgin birth? Ha, Ha. A large number of “christians” do not believe that a virgin birth took place. Is this truly impossible ?. We believe in the creation as presented in Genesis. As a physician, I marvel at the “science” in the make up of our body, especially those billions of genes which is basically a human being. Each baby is created with co-dominant equal chromosomes from the mother and the father. In spite of mutations and combination of genes, the number of children being born without abnormalities is amazing. You can not but believe in God. So if God with the Holy Spirit can create the world out of nothing and create all that is in it, is it really impossible for the Holy Spirit to create a child in a woman without the usual means ?. If we can accept the divinity of Christ and His resurrection is it difficult to accept the virgin birth?

What dumbfounds me, however, is the unquestioning faith that Mary and Joseph had. If something like this happens to us today, we would probably calculate the cost to us before giving an answer. Remember that Mary could have been stoned to death, if Joseph had divorced her. You could stop here and ask if Mary was only betrothed to Joseph how can he divorce her? Jewish customs were different then. An engagement was an understanding between the parents about their children’s marriage. As the kids became of marriageable age they were betrothed. Though the couple would not be living together till their marriage they could get out of the betrothal only through divorce. Understanding this, now let us look at Mary’s dilemma. When the angel told Mary that she was going to have a child through the Holy Spirit I wonder if the possibility of being stoned to death crossed her mind. All that we know is, because of her tremendous faith, she submitted to God’s will. She also left it to God to take care of Joseph and the consequence.

Joseph proved his faith and obedience by accepting the will of God. Without Mary’s and Joseph’s obedience, God’s purpose for this world would not have been accomplished. When Christ was born Joseph called the child Jesus as was directed by the angel. Isaiah had said that “He shall be called Immanuel”, which means God with us, while Jesus is the Greek version of Joshua meaning God is salvation. The names point to Jesus’ mission which is to save his

people from sin and spiritual death. Sometimes we get irritated when “evangelists” ask us, are you saved?. If you look at it honestly, this was a word used by Christ and his apostles. We could elaborate on this – but it belongs to another chapter in Matthew 3:7 or John 3:36.

We saw faith in action when Mary and Joseph accepted God’s decree without question and left it to Him to guide them.

What is faith? In very simple terms, when we buy something from a sales person, we accept in faith that the product has the capability described. When a friend tells us something we accept it in faith and trust. In the Bible it says that God gave all people a measure of faith, Romans 12:3. He has also given us free will. We can choose to believe the scriptures or to believe the unbelieving world. It is only by constant reading and learning the Scriptures that we can gain further faith and insight into God. In 1Corinthians 2:12 it says “ we have not received the spirit of the world but the spirit who is from God that we may understand what God has freely given us”. Then in Luke 11:13 it says “ ask God humbly to give you His Holy Spirit”. In 2Corinthians 4:6, it says “ for God who said let light shine upon darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”. Paul in Hebrews Chapter 11defines faith and illustrates it through the lives of Old Testament heroes. You should read it.

What is our “take home” message from Matthew 1:18-25 that is meaningful in our daily lives ?

(1) Faith is a gift from God that we have to pray for.

(2) We can develop our faith by learning the Scriptures or reject it listening to unbelievers.

(3) Freedom to choose is given to us.

(4) Faith alone is not complete. Action in faith like Mary and Joseph is essential. It means that one should be able to act in obedience to God, and trust Him to work out the consequences.

Please remember to send in your questions.

Last week there was a question - Shouldn’t trust be a two way street between man and God?.

My answer is, in this instance, trust is a one way street to God. Trust or faith is in something we do not know, cannot see or feel, but it is what we hope for. If we are sure of that something then there is no question of trust. Faith which is the same as trust, has to come from us. God who created us knows us thoroughly. Our thoughts and deeds are known to Him before we even formulate it. On God’s side it is knowledge of us, on our part it is faith and trust in Him. One of the clergy can probably give a better answer.

Dr. Susan Jacob

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