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A Coming Christ in Advent. The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17) The Annunciation to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25). Sunday, November 26, 2006 10 to 10:50 am, in the Parlor. Everyone is welcome!.

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a coming christ in advent

A Coming Christ in Advent

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

(Matthew 1:1-17)

The Annunciation to Joseph

(Matthew 1:18-25)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

10 to 10:50 am, in the Parlor.

Everyone is welcome!

slide2
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

- Book of Common Prayer, p. 211

slide3
A Coming Christ in Advent: Essays on the Gospel Narratives Preparing for the Birth of Jesus. Raymond E. Brown, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1988. ISBN: 0-8146-1587-2.
  • Raymond E. Brown, S.S., was a world renown New Testament biblical scholar and the Auburn Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Dr. Brown died in 1998.
slide4
The Birth of the Messiah, A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Raymond E. Brown, S.S. Doubleday, 1993. ISBN: 0-385-49447-5
genealogy of jesus introduction
Genealogy of JesusIntroduction
  • Matthew’s gospel – and the New Testament – begins with a lengthy genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17)
    • Often skipped or skimmed by modern readers.
    • Can drive lectors and lay readers to despair.
    • Brown notes he would stun churches by going out of his way to preach on the genealogy.
  • The Protestant Reformer Ulrich Zwingli wrote in January 1519 that the genealogy contained the essential theology of the Reformation.
  • Brown: “it contains the essential theology of the Old and New Testaments that the whole Church, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant, should proclaim.”
genealogy of jesus three sections
Genealogy of JesusThree Sections
  • Why such high praise?
  • The genealogy has three sections:
    • 1. The Patriarchs
    • 2. The Kings
    • 3. The Unknown and the Unexpected
genealogy of jesus the patriarchs
Genealogy of JesusThe Patriarchs
  • The genealogy begins with Abraham begetting Isaac
    • Why isn’t the older son Ishmael and his mother Hagar – the more abused figure – mentioned?
  • Then comes Isaac begetting Jacob
    • Why isn’t Esau mentioned?
    • Esau was Isaac’s older son, a bit rustic perhaps, but more honest than the scheming Jacob.
  • Next comes Jacob begetting Judah and his brothers.
    • But wasn’t Joseph the best of the brothers?
    • Judah was the guy who sold his own brother and sought out prostitutes.
genealogy of jesus the patriarchs9
Genealogy of JesusThe Patriarchs
  • The message here: God frequently does not chose the best or the noble or the saintly.
  • Brown: “Matthew is faithful to an insight about a God who is not controlled by human merit but manifests His own unpredictable graciousness. No wonder Zwingli saw here the theology of the Reformation, a theology of salvation by grace.”
  • Truly this theology behind the genealogy is “the beginning story of Jesus Christ.”
genealogy of jesus the kings
Genealogy of JesusThe Kings
  • Next comes a list of 14 Judean kings from David to the exile in Babylon.
    • Of these 14 kings, only two were faithful to God’s laws in Deuteronomy (Hezekiah and Josiah).
    • The others were idolaters, murderers, incompetents, power-mongers, and harem-wastrels.
    • David himself was a “stunning combination of saint and sinner
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Genealogy of JesusThe Kings
  • David himself was a “stunning combination of saint and sinner”:
    • He arranged the murder of Bathsheba’s husband so he could marry her legally
    • He practiced a “mafia-like” politics by arranging for relatives to murder his opponents
    • Yet: he was the sweet singer of psalms, the composer of prayers so beautiful they have found their way into every Eucharist.
genealogy of jesus the unknown and unexpected
Genealogy of JesusThe Unknown and Unexpected
  • The last part of the genealogy goes from the exile in Babylon to Jesus.
  • It is curious that only the first two in the list (Shealtiel and Zerubbabel) and the last two (Joseph and Mary) are found elsewhere in sacred scripture.
    • The rest apparently had not done anything important enough to make it in.
    • Brown: “Still another indicator of the unpredictability of God’s grace is that He accomplishes His purpose through those whom others regard as unimportant and forgettable.”
genealogy of jesus the women in the genealogy
Genealogy of JesusThe Women in the Genealogy
  • The genealogy is also remarkable in containing five women.
    • Matthew reminds us that women as well as men were part of the story of the genesis of Jesus Christ.
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Genealogy of JesusThe Women in the Genealogy
  • It is curious however the particular women Matthew does include –
    • There is no mention of the “saintly patriarchal wives:” Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel.
  • He begins with Tamar:
    • Tamar was a Canaanite outsider left childless by the deaths of both her first and second husbands, both Judah’s sons.
    • Judah did not do his duty to provide her a third son as a husband, so Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah to conceive a child.
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Genealogy of JesusThe Women in the Genealogy
  • Next is another outsider, the Canaanite Rahab:
    • She was a real prostitute
    • Rahab protected Israelite spies, thus helping to make the conquest of Jericho possible (Joshua 2)
  • Next is Ruth, another outsider, a Moabite
    • She was faithful to the law of her Israelite relatives and raised the child of her dead husband, who would become the grandfather of David.
genealogy of jesus the women in the genealogy16
Genealogy of JesusThe Women in the Genealogy
  • The fourth women is Bathsheba, the victim of David’s lust, and wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was then murdered by David.
    • Bathsheba lost her first son through David, but was enterprising enough to make sure her second son, Solomon, succeeded David to the throne.
  • All these women had marital histories tainted by human scandal or scorn, yet they are part of the sacred line leading to Jesus.
genealogy of jesus the women in the genealogy17
Genealogy of JesusThe Women in the Genealogy
  • These women provide a fitting backdrop to the fifth and last woman in the list, whose marital situation was indeed quite scandalous – Mary, the mother of Jesus, discovered to be pregnant by her betrothed husband when he had never had sex with her.
genealogy of jesus god s unpredictable graciousness
Genealogy of JesusGod’s Unpredictable Graciousness
  • The genealogy of Jesus includes as many sinners as saints, reflecting a God who is not controlled by human merit, but manifests His own unpredictable graciousness.
  • But it is not only the genesis of Jesus that includes sinners as well as saints, but also the “sequence” of Jesus:
    • A Peter who will deny three times that he ever knew Jesus,
    • A Paul who will make a mission of persecuting Jesus’ followers,
    • Men and women, sinners and saints, over the centuries, who have claimed the name “Christian.”
genealogy of jesus god s unpredictable graciousness19
Genealogy of JesusGod’s Unpredictable Graciousness
  • Brown: “The God who wrote the beginnings with crooked lines also writes the sequence with crooked lines, and some of those lines are our own lives and witness. A God who did not hesitate to use the scheming as well as the noble, the impure as well as the pure, men to whom the world hearkened and women upon whom the world frowned – this God continues to work through the same melange.”
annunciation to joseph introduction
Annunciation to JosephIntroduction
  • In Matthew’s gospel there is no “annunciation” to Mary by the angel Gabriel as in Luke 1:26-38.
  • Instead, there is only an “annunciation” to Joseph in a dream by “an angel of the Lord.”
    • Joseph is told not to divorce Mary as he was planning, but rather take her into his house, for she was pregnant by the Spirit of God.
annunciation to joseph the dilemma of a just man
Annunciation to JosephThe Dilemma of a Just Man
  • In Jesus’ day, marriage was agreed upon by the parents, and the marriage began almost immediately after the children reached puberty.
    • However, until the husband could support his wife, the wife continued to live with her parents.
    • No sexual intercourse between husband and wife was permissible during this time.
annunciation to joseph the dilemma of a just man23
Annunciation to JosephThe Dilemma of a Just Man
  • So now Joseph, Mary’s husband, finds that his wife is pregnant even though they are still living apart and have not engaged in sexual intercourse.
  • Note that Joseph hasn’t yet had his dream that explains Mary’s pregnancy.
    • Also note there is no reason in Matthew’s narrative to think that Mary knew why she was pregnant, for there is no Lucan annunciation to Mary in Matthew explaining she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceive a son.
annunciation to joseph the dilemma of a just man24
Annunciation to JosephThe Dilemma of a Just Man
  • Matthew insists Joseph was “just” (or “unright” or “righteous”), meaning Joseph conformed to the Law of God, the supreme Jewish standard of holiness.
  • Mary’s lost of virginity could have been due to adultery, and Joseph as a just man would have no choice but to divorce her if he were to uphold the sanctity of marriage as required by God’s law.
annunciation to joseph the dilemma of a just man25
Annunciation to JosephThe Dilemma of a Just Man
  • But the law also stated that the pregnancy, which could be a consequence of adultery (Deut 22:22-24), might also be a consequence of rape (Deut 22:25-27).
  • Joseph could have demanded a formal trial to determine if Mary’s pregnancy was adultery or rape.
    • If it was found to be adultery, Joseph could have kept the dowry.
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Annunciation to JosephThe Dilemma of a Just Man
  • Joseph however, was “unwilling to expose her to public disgrace” or “make a public spectacle of her.”
    • So instead he decided to divorce Mary “quietly” – that is, without a formal public trial.
  • Matthew’s description here is of a man sensitive to the complexity of the law. Joseph neither assumes the worse nor does he seek the maximum punishment.
  • Only after his decision to quietly divorce Mary, does Joseph have his annunciation dream in which the Angel of the Lord tells him something he did not previously know – that Mary is pregnant by the Spirit of God. He should not divorce her, but rather take her into his home.
annunciation to joseph the how of jesus identity
Annunciation to JosephThe “How” of Jesus’ Identity
  • God promised David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
  • Jesus, to be the fulfillment of this promise to David, must be the son of Joseph, who was in the line of King David.
annunciation to joseph the how of jesus identity28
Annunciation to JosephThe “How” of Jesus’ Identity
  • Modern readers often cannot help but ask: “How can Jesus be Joseph’s son if Joseph is not his biological father?”
  • Matthew answered this modern query in Matthew 1:21, where the angel tells Joseph “She [Mary] will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (NRSV)
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Annunciation to JosephThe “How” of Jesus’ Identity
  • In Judaism, a legal paternity is established when a man acknowledges a child as his own.
    • The Mishna Baba Bathra 8:6: “If a man says, ‘This is my son,’ he is to be believed.”
  • Joseph, the just man, obeys both commands of the angel by:
    • Naming Jesus, and thereby acknowledging and making Jesus his own legal son.
    • Not divorcing Mary, but rather taking her into his home as his wife.
  • Joseph, by virtue of:
    • His dedication to the Law of God
    • His nuanced and sensitive reading of the Law,

is thus for Matthew a worthy father to Jesus, who would insist He had come not to do away with any of the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.