Matthew 1-3: The Infancy Narrative and The Proclamation of the Kingdom

ABOUT READING: After Tuesday’s Old Testament post, I have to admit I was really excited to get a jump on the New Testament (see Blog Schedule). Yes, these posts reacting to readings from Scripture have been a little more time consuming than I had originally thought, but they have also been more rewarding. So let’s dive in! The first two chapters of today’s reading were under the division title “The Infancy Narrative.” The gospel’s opening chapter begins with the Jesus’s genealogy:

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
Matthew 1:17

In the next part, Joseph, when he learns that Mary is pregnant, decides that he wants to quietly divorce her. But then an angel appears to him in his sleep and tells Joseph that it is by the Holy Spirit that Mary became with child, and so Joseph takes Mary into his home and Jesus is born.

In chapter two, magi arrive in Jerusalem and, having seen the star, ask, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2)? Upon hearing this king Herod becomes upset and asks the magi to go and find Jesus so that he too may pay the child homage. However, once the magi find Jesus and pay Him homage, a warning to not return to Herod is given to them in a dream and they leave for another country.

But the magi are not the only ones to receive a warning concerning Herod’s wrath; an angel also appears to Joseph, again in a dream, and tells Joseph that he and his family must flee to Egypt and remain there until it is safe. When Herod learns that the magi have betrayed him, he orders the slaughter of all of the boys of Bethlehem of the age of two and under out of anger:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.
Matthew 2:18

After Herod dies, Joseph receives word from an messenger of the Lord that it is finally safe to return from Egypt. So Joseph takes Mary and Jesus to Isreal, but when they arrive they discover that Archelaus, the son of Herod, is now the ruler. Fearful that it is not yet safe and having been warned in another dream, Joseph leads his family to the town of Nazareth in Galilee.

Then in the final chapter of my self-assigned reading, we skip ahead to a time when Jesus is much older. Here, we meet John the Baptist as he preaches to those who come to him to be baptized:

I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.
Matthew 3:11

Then Jesus arrives and requests to be baptized in the Jordan by John. Befuddled John replies, “I need to to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:13) Then after convincing John, Jesus is baptized:

And a voice came down from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son,
with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:16

MY REACTION: I remember both reading this genealogy on my own as well as hearing it read at mass, and I recall that in both cases I zoned out. Why is this important? I don’t know these people. Why are they wasting paper with such a long list? But then I took a Scripture class last year and in it we discussed the significance that this section plays. Here is a small excerpt from my Bible’s footnotes to give you a taste:

While the genealogy shows the continuity of God’s providential plan from Abraham on, discontinuity is also present. The women Tamar (Mt 1:3), Rahab and Ruth (Mt 1:5) and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba (Mt1:6), bore their sons through unions of varying degrees strange and unexpected … The Son of David, the son of Abraham: two links of the genealogical chain are singled out. Although the later, David is placed first in order to emphasize that Jesus is the royal Messiah. The mention of Abraham may be due not only to his being the father of the nation Isreal but to Matthew’s interest in the universal scope of Jesus’ mission; cf Genesis 22:18 ” … in your descendents all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.” (Prove it! The Catholic Teen Bible)

So now that I’ve thrown a bunch of words at you, what does it all mean? Well, first off  this illustrates that God’s convenant with Abraham was kept. Secondly, this proves that Jesus is of royal Jewish blood like the Jews had been expecting. Lastly, and the matter that is dearest to my heart, is that this tells us that God came down to earth and became man; that He is both fully human and fully divine. But where am I getting this from?

If we take closer look at this we notice that of the names listed there are both men AND women, and that many of these people had stumbled and fallen in their lifetimes. Take David for example, he had an affair with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and upon learning that she had become pregnant, he requested that her husband come home from war so that Uriah would think that the child was his own. But when Uriah refuses, David sends him off to the battle front to be killed and marries Bathsheba to cover up the scandal.

Did I used to dislike this passage? Yes. Did I fully understand it back then? No. Do I fully understand it now? Probably not, but every time I read it I learn something new and closer to God. Hopefully, I have helped you become closer to Him as well. This was really the only section I wanted to comment on for this post. If you have any questions or would like me to talk more on this reading feel free to comment!

P.S. Before I sign off, could you imagine being in John’s shoes? Jesus walks up to you and says, “Hey! Will you baptize me?” You give Him a funny look and reply, “Wait … So you want me to baptize You in the name of  … You?” :)

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