Advent - a messy season
Below are some thoughts that my pastor, Jeremy Erb, delivered for the first Sunday of Advent. His sermon series during these next weeks is entitled: "Messy" - you can listen in here. I've also copied the notes that Jeremy included with his text.
Matthew begins by introducing his gospel as “the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” I imagine most people skip over a very vital piece of information in those eight words. This is a result of a common misunderstanding about the word Christ. To our culture and to our ears this means that Jesus is his first name and that Christ is his last name. His name is Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, that is not how the Hebrews did things. Christ is not the last name of Jesus – rather, it is a very important title that tells us significant things about Jesus.The word Christ is an English transliteration of a Greek noun – the word christos. It literally means “the anointed one.” It is also the word used to translate the Hebrew word meshica, from which we get Messiah, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. Thus, both of the English terms Christ and Messiah have the same source in Greek – christos. They both mean “the anointed one” and they both refer to a King.So Matthew introduces his main character Jesus by announcing he is the Christ – the Messiah – the anointed one of God. He then proceeds to prove this claim by demonstrating Jesus’ right to Kingship genealogically. He simply states that Jesus is both the “Son of David” and the “Son of Abraham.” Well, so what? What is the significance of the fact that Jesus can claim both David and Abraham as His ancestors? In order to answer this question we have to go back, way back in the Old Testament and get an understanding of God’s plan to deal with sin. We just did this in our study of Galatians and I’m sure we’ll do it again in the future because this is the big picture of the bible that we have got to understand.When Adam and Eve fell in the garden and sin entered into the human experience – God had some things to say. We call it the curse. Mankind was cursed because of their willful choice of disobedience. Yet in the middle of the curse God offers a glimpse of the future and with it a promise. In GENESIS 3:15 God declares that there will be a cosmic conflict lived out in the descendants of Adam and Eve. It reads, “And I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman (Eve) and between you offspring (seed) and her offspring (seed); He (the seed) shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Here in the vaguest of terms God promises a redeemer – a coming ‘seed’ that will end the conflict started in the garden between mankind and Satan, which is ultimately a struggle between man and God.In one sense, the rest of scripture is the unfolding historical reality of God progressively fulfilling this promise in GENESIS 3:15. If you keep reading in Genesis, Cain and Abel are the first representatives of the seeds but not the fulfillment. (See I JOHN 3:10-12, HEBREWS 11:4, and JUDE 8-11.) Next the conflict arises between Noah and the Nephilim and so on…but that’s another sermon.
A. SON OF ABRAHAMHowever, when we get to GENESIS 12 God does something decisively different. When choosing Abraham, God promises to him a seed that will bring blessing to every nation of the earth. Israel, God’s chosen people would become God’s breeding stock of THE SEED. The promises issued to Abraham are found in GENESIS 12-22. Here are the essentials:
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV)
17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Genesis 22:17-18 (ESV)Notice specifically that last reference in GENESIS 22:18. Abraham is promised a seed, singular, by which all the nations will be blessed. Paul picks up on this and says in GALATIANS 3:16: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.” So when Matthew records that Jesus is the Christ, son of Abraham, he’s not messing around – he’s saying something. He is saying that Jesus is anointed one of God.
B. SON OF DAVIDMatthew continues by tracing Christ’s lineage to King David. After Abraham, God continued his plan of bringing about the seed. God’s next major promise regarding the seed is made to the man described as ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ Let’s look at what God promised David.
12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
2 Samuel 7:12-13 (ESV)First the seed is promised to Abraham and then God promises that it will come from the line of David. One of David’s seed, being also the seed of Abraham, will be the eternal mediator and ruler of God’s Kingdom. So when Matthew declares Jesus to be the Son of David, Son of Abraham he is backing up his claim that Jesus is the Christ – the anointed King and promised seed of God.This is just a brief overview of how the scriptures demonstrate that Jesus is God’s anointed King. Jesus is the long awaited hope of the entire world. He is the seed that was promised in the garden that would crush the head of Satan and reconcile mankind to the Creator. Jesus is the hinge-point of history – God’s exclamation point to both His mercy and His justice. Jesus is the Christ – the anointed King of God’s Kingdom and truly the heir of promise and I have one question for you: “So what?”So what? I mean it – can we be honest for a minute with each other? So – freaking – what? To be honest, this is the kind of abstract truth that in one sense drove me from the church when I was younger. It’s interesting intellectually but does little for my heart and is almost completely irrelevant to the realities of my day-to-day life. I can appreciate the fact that Jesus is the anointed King of God – the promised seed – even the Redeemer and Reconciler of man to God – I can appreciate these truths as factual realities; but…I can’t relate to a King. The fact that Jesus is the seed promised from the very beginning does nothing to help me in my daily struggles with sin. I want to do more than know truth – I need to experience it. The reality of what God did in the past through Christ is only important to me as much as it impacts me now in the here and now. And I can’t relate to Abraham or David. I’m NOT a great man of faith and I’m certainly not a king and I would never describe myself as ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ I’d love to be – I just don’t think that I am. And if you ask my wife – please don’t – I’m sure she’ll confirm it.Thankfully, there is more to this passage than simply the Kingship of Christ. For the genealogy continues and Matthew does something very strange for a Jewish historian – he includes women within the genealogy. Israel was a patriarchal society and lineage was traced through the men so why would Matthew include the names of five women?The first name to be included that shouldn’t have been is in verse three – Tamar.
A. TAMAR (1:3)Genesis 38 contains the tragic story of Tamar. A woman whose life didn’t turn out the way she expected. She married Judah’s son Er, a man so evil in the sight of the LORD that God took his life. Left widowed and alone, Judah married her to his next son Onan so that she might be provided for and Er’s name might live on. Onan, an evil man as well, refused to fulfill his obligation and deliberately ‘spilled his seed,’ leaving Tamar barren. The LORD took Onan’s life as well.Left widowed and alone for a second time, Tamar is told to wait for Judah’s next son Shelah to grow up. After years of waiting, when it becomes apparent that Judah will not fulfill his obligation she resorts to prostituting herself and becoming pregnant by Judah himself. She was a lonely, desperate woman who resorted to deceit and prostitution to survive.
B. RAHAB (1:5)When the Israelites first entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, their first battle was with the people of Jericho. Joshua 2 contains the story of Rahab. She was a pagan, not a descendant of Abraham who did not know or worship the true God. Most likely she was an idol worshipper. But she had heard of the God of Israel and what she heard made her afraid.Now Rahab did come to faith and I’ve thought long and hard about her character. I’ve heard many sermons trying to defend her actions but what I see is this. She betrayed her own people, lied to her King, and bargained for her own life at the price of others. She was a weak, cowardly, deceitful woman who was only moved to faith in God out of fear and desperate sense of self-preservation.
C. RUTH (1:5)Ruth married an Israelite running away from God. He died leaving her a widow in a harsh world where women were hard pressed to survive on their own. Moreover, she was a Moabitess. A pagan for whom the Law demanded 10 generations of faithfulness before being included into the community.
3 “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.
Deuteronomy 23:3-4 (ESV)
D. BATHSHEBA ► THE WIFE OF URIAH (1:6)2 Samuel 11 records the story of David’s disastrous love affair with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah. Much attention has been focused on David’s role in this affair but Bathsheba’s actions are often overlooked. Here is a woman who bathed herself publicly knowing that she was being watched. Here was a woman who willfully committed adultery against her godly husband. Here was a woman who participated in a plot to deceive her husband. Here was a woman who did not act to stop her husband’s murder.
E. MARY (1:16)Finally comes the young teenage girl pregnant out of wedlock. To all appearances a woman unfaithful to her betrothed. A young, pregnant, fearful, poor, about to be abandoned girl was chosen to bear the baby Jesus – that is, the Christ.In Christ we see a beautiful paradox and a holy irony. Jesus is the promised Christ – the fulfillment of the covenants made with Abraham and David – descended from Pagans and prostitutes. He is spiritual and earthly – divine and human – supernatural and natural – extraordinary and ordinary. He is the unknowable God incased in a humanity, which all can understand – and all can relate to.No one can say to Him, “You don’t know where I’ve come from. You don’t know what I’ve done.” Jesus identified Himself with sinful humanity so that sinful humanity could identify themselves with him. Therefore, Jesus is the King that we both need and want.