Commentary by Walter Albritton

                                   September 14, 2008


The Birth of Jesus Was a New Beginning for the World

Matthew 1:18—2:23


Key Verse: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel. – Matthew 2:6

I love the conviction with which Matthew begins his gospel. He offers no conjecture, no maybe this or maybe that. No reader could surmise that this is some “once upon a time” fairy tale. No, with absolute certainty, Matthew presents Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Though it was probably not the first book of the New Testament to be written, Matthew was placed first because it serves as a bridge linking the promise of the Messiah to the birth of Jesus. In his helpful commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Bob Utley agrees with William Barclay that this gospel is “the most important single document of the Christian faith.” Utley says, “This is because it developed the teachings of Jesus in a thematic way. It was used to teach new converts (both Jew and Gentile) about the life and message of Jesus.” (Utley’s commentaries are available at

Quoting the Old Testament fifty times, Matthew leaves no room for doubt; Jesus is the Shepherd promised by the prophets. He is the Son of David. He is the Son of Abraham. And he is the Son of God.

Matthew assures us that Jesus was more than a baby born to a woman named Mary; he was actually the eternal God coming to earth. Thus the name Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” God had acted. Jesus was God in the flesh. His birth marked a new beginning for the world. God took the initiative to create a new family, a new community with new values and fresh hope for the world. Jesus explained it by saying that the kingdom of God was “at hand.”

No longer was God invisible and “out there” somewhere. God had come to earth as a helpless baby. Jesus was a real baby, born in a cow’s stall. Mary and Joseph were real too. They were ordinary people in a real world where poor people rode on donkeys and choked on the dust of dirt roads. It was a world in which people feared violent rulers like Herod the Great. He was the ruthless ruler of Palestine who, fearing that Jesus was a new king who would displace him, ordered the slaughter of male children up to two years of age.

Matthew saw God’s coming to earth as good news. It was good news for the poor who would now have a kind Shepherd to take care of them. It was good news for the imprisoned; they now had a King who would give them freedom.

It was good news for the sick; they now had a Messiah who could cure their diseases and cause the blind to see and the lame to walk. It was good news for the oppressed; they now had a Deliverer who could set them free.  It was good news for everyone who longed for the forgiveness of their sins and peace with God. It was a new day! God had come to share our humanity.

Matthew’s story shows us God’s willingness to be involved in the lives of those who trust him. God met the needs of Mary and Joseph. He guided them. He protected them. He told them when to take the baby Jesus to Egypt. He told them when it was safe for them to leave Egypt and return to Israel.

Back in Nazareth Jesus was nurtured in the simple life of Joseph the carpenter. The influence and training of Mary and Joseph helped prepare Jesus for the day when he would answer his Father’s call to ministry. God uses a family and a home to prepare men and women for Kingdom service. There is no doubt this happened with Jesus as he grew to manhood.

The story of Jesus’ birth and childhood gives us the assurance that God wants to live with us also. He wants us to trust him for guidance and protection. He wants us to allow him to get down in the trenches with us and give us the power to overcome our problems. He wants to be our Emmanuel in the daily struggles of life. He wants us to be able to say, “I was not alone. God was with me and his presence made all the difference.”

God came when Jesus was born and there was a new community of faith, hope, and love. When Jesus comes to us, when he is “born” anew in us and manifests his presence in our families, then we also experience a new community of faith, hope, and love.

When Jesus was born God did a new thing. When Jesus is born in our lives and in our homes, God does a new thing. We have new values, new hopes, new dreams, and new energy to fulfill God’s mission for our lives. Emmanuel, God with us, guides us just as he guided Mary and Joseph. This gives a whole new meaning to our earthly existence. Almighty God is with us. Hallelujah!

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