Jesus Christ, Son of David, Savior, Immanuel
Advent reading for December 23: Matthew 1
The opening chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew is another example of the New Testament writers recognizing that the ancient prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. (See Advent Reading for December 22.)
Matthew opens the New Testament with these words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Immediately he traces Jesus’ descent from Abraham through the royal line of Judah via “David the King.” Abraham is mentioned three times (1:1, 2, 17), but the emphasis is on David who is mentioned six times in four verses (1:1, 6, 17, 20), the second time as “David the king” (1:6).
JOSEPH, THE HUSBAND OF MARY
In the genealogy, Matthew uses the phrase “the father of” 39 times: “Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of…” etc. When he gets to Joseph, the pattern changes. Joseph is not said to be the father of Jesus, but rather “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is call Christ” (1:16).
Picking up the story in verse 18, Matthew clearly states that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. Joseph and Mary were betrothed, a legal status as binding as marriage, but they had not yet “come together” for the actual marriage had not yet occurred. When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, knowing that he had not been with her, he naturally assumed that she had been with another man and decided to divorce her privately.
As Joseph considered his plan, God intervened. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and addressed him as “Joseph, son of David,” reminding him of “his legal ancestry by which he was the legitimate successor to the throne of David.” 1 The angel relieves his fears about Mary. She was still a virgin: “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (1:20).
JESUS, THE CHRIST, THE SON OF DAVID
“She will bear a son,” the angel instructs him, “and you shall call his name Jesus.” The naming of the child was a legal act of adoption. By virtue of this adoption, Jesus is like Joseph “a legitimate successor to the throne of David.” 2 As the angel addressed Joseph as “son of David,” Jesus would be called “the Son of David” (eight more times in this Gospel) fulfilling the promise that God had made to David (2 Samuel 7:12-13). While both Joseph and Jesus were legitimate successors to the throne, Jesus alone was the promised Messiah, the Christ (1:1, 16, 17, 18; 2:4; etc.).
JESUS, THE SAVIOR
Thus, this child, conceived in Mary, from the Holy Spirit, would bear the name “Jesus” from the Hebrew Yeshua, or Joshua, meaning “Yahweh saves.” “God to the rescue!” 3 “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (1:21).
JOSEPH, THE OBEDIENT MAN
While Luke tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Mary’s perspective. Matthew focuses on Joseph. Mary was submissive (Luke 1:36); Joseph was obedient:
Matthew 1:24–25 (ESV) — When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him:
- He took his wife.
- He did not have relations with her until she had given birth. This implies that he did have normal conjugal relations with Mary after the birth of Jesus. His brothers are frequently mentioned (Mat 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 2:12; 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19).
- He called his name Jesus.
JESUS, IMMANUEL, “GOD WITH US”
Jesus is no mere teacher, no guru, no Muhammad or Gandhi. He is ‘God with us’.
— Michael Green
Matthew specifically states that this virgin conception was a fulfillment of the prophecy given by Isaiah 7:14,
Matthew 1:22–23 (ESV) — All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Immanuel: God with us. This is not us making our own way to God. No, God made his way to us. Jesus is God with us.
Jesus is no mere teacher, no guru, no Muhammad or Gandhi. He is ‘God with us’. That is the essential claim on which Christianity is built. It is a claim that cannot be abandoned without abandoning the faith in its entirety. 4
God with us. “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
1 Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 53.
3 Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 60.
4 Michael Green, 59–60.