REFLECTIONS ON THE READING OF THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: Chapter 1:4-2:7
I like learning about scripture from an historical context. I have found that the most authentic understanding of a writing is to understand it (as much as possible) through the lens of the writer, the circumstances they were facing in the time period from which they wrote, and the people to whom they were writing for that is where the heart, purpose, hope for outcome, and purest intent finds its seed for propagation (telling forth the truth of the gospel). Scholars who study the scriptures are the most reliable source of this type of information.
It is my understanding that Matthew’s Gospel was written to the Hebrew people to encourage them to place their faith in God that Jesus of Nazareth was and is God’s promised Messiah. Matthew wrote in a particular style for this very specific purpose. His gospel is written in mirror form of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Matthew’s gospel is written in 5 parts as well.
For more information I encourage you to read a commentary such as: The Interpreter’s Bible, Interpretation Commentary, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, John Calvin’s Commentary, or The Reformation Commentary. There is a long list of commentaries available. If you are a member of Cornerstone and would like more information, Pastor Jen is willing to lend you a commentary. Please speak with her directly.
My personal reflections are updated every Tuesday with reflections on the previous week’s readings. All of the reflections are on this page beginning with the most recent.
January 12, 2021
Many of us have taken a long trip. My favorite long trips involve walking, not just ordinary walking, but extraordinary walking - carrying 75 pounds on my back for a group of people to have what they need, climbing uphill 8 miles and 6,000 feet in elevation. One learns a great deal about one’s self on such journeys - patience, stamina, strength of character, group work, team-building, sharing the load instead of taking it all on yourself. One learns that taking a break is necessary, breathing techniques help you go greater distances, providing your body energy keeps it from breaking down.
I remember my first backpacking expedition with a large group of Christians. Among the group were a few who believed in the idea of “the faster you are the better you are.” This is not always true - in backpacking or in life. There is joy in encouraging the weaker members to realize their personal potential and to remind leaders that they can only go as fast as the weakest member; that we are responsible for one another on the journey; and, that we are responsible to one another - to use helpful language, positive language, encouraging language; to build up and not tear down. People are willing to travel great distances, carrying heavy loads, for people they care about.
God came into the world to do just this - to carry our load, the load of our sin - and people came great distances to offer gratitude and to pay homage to King who would be born in the lowliest of places, among the lowliest of people. Scriptures tell us that the low places will be made high by God’s hand and in the birth of Jesus Christ we see what is meant.
“But you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
God has always chosen to take the people most other people consider to be beneath them and to raise them up to leadership. David was a shepherd - defiled and unclean - and made him Israel’s greatest king for example. We ought always to see one another through the eyes of God in God’s greatest light and not in light of this world. We ought always to view our self as lower than the other person and not lord over people for we have but One Lord, One God, One King - and that is our Lord, Jesus God’s Christ. And so, as the hymn lyric goes: “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord. And He shall lift you up.” [The Maranatha! Singers]
Love in Christ, Pastor Jen
January 5, 2021
My dad passed away the night before Thanksgiving in 2020. My brother pointed out to us on Thanksgiving when we went to the funeral home that leaving a legacy was important to my dad. Growing up we learned a great deal about my mother’s family; however, my dad was much quieter about his side of the family. I can remember searching him out in the furnace room, where he would sit at his work bench reloading his ammunition cartridges for the coming year’s hunting season - it was a money saver. There in the dimly lit, quiet, cozy, rustic space in the corner of the basement, I would inquire about my dad’s family. I continued to ask him bits and pieces over the years and even on the last night that we spoke when he was still lucid, he said, “I have something important to tell you about my family.” Those moments of listening to my dad tell his life’s story will remain his legacy to me and some of my fondest memories with my dad.
The first time I ever started to read the Gospels from start to finish on my own, I was 15. I began to read it because my dad’s mom had passed away and my dad had returned from Oregon with his mom’s Bible, the one he had given to her the Christmas of 1957 when he entered the United States Air Force. Reading those words in King James fashion, “Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, Jacob begat…” it was heavy for a young mind to decipher the importance and value.
It’s about more than lineage. It’s like remembering the family stories. Most of us have them - family history. Those stories that get passed along generation after generation, unless there is a trauma that stops the telling of the stories (but that’s a subject for another “Pondering”)
The writer of the gospel crafted this opening as a mirror reflection of Genesis, as a retelling of the family story of Israel and God’s activity in the life of this family.
Those are what many of my favorite family stories are about as well. When my dad was a child, he fell from a high structure (he was playing Billboard tag with his Italian friends in Portland, OR) He died and in his death, he was greeted by an angel. His angel told him, “It’s not your time yet Charlie.” And then my dad remembers the rush of his spirit reconnecting with his body. If that event had not taken place, I would not be here today in the form with which I greet you.
And so we do not take lightly Matthew’s telling Jesus’ family story for God was at work through them for generations! 14 generations between Abraham and David, 14 generations from David to the exile to Babylon, and 14 generations from the exile to the Messiah as Matthew tells it in verse 17 of the opening chapter. And Jesus’ lineage had some colorful characters according to scripture.
Jesus’ great grandmother was the prostitute, Rahab. Another of his grandmothers was Bathsheba, whose husband, Uriah, King David had murdered so that she could become his wife. Ruth who was not a Hebrew but was welcomed in as an alien from a foreign land and she shared in the inherited promise of God through Israel. Jacob who tricked and stole his brother, Esau’s, inheritance and blessing. Judah who attempted to talk his brothers out of murdering their brother, Joseph, out of jealousy and covetousness; and, instead, encouraged his brothers to sell Joseph into slavery. Yes, a very colorful past in Jesus’ lineage. Even so, Jesus’ family was of the royal house of David through whom God made a covenant with his people.
And so, I do not take lightly the listing of Jesus’ family. I pray you will also not take it lightly, or gloss over it too quickly. In what family events can you witness the activity of God in your lives that might also be an encouragement to the faith journey of another soul who walks a parallel path?
Love in Christ, Pastor Jen