Verses 1-17: The genealogy of Jesus Christ is given first and fulfills both the Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants. This means that God had promised both Abraham and David that the savior of the world would come through their family lines (Genesis 12:3, II Samuel 7:12) and the long list of “begots” here proves it. It is the story of the family tree of Jesus.
There are other genealogies in the Old Testament, many longer than this one. But this one has two characteristics that distinguish it greatly from other genealogies, Biblical or not:
– The genealogy of Jesus fulfills prophecy
– The genealogy of Jesus ends with a woman (Mary)
Why is it significant that this genealogy ends with a woman? Usually genealogies deal with and end at men; men as fathers are traditionally thought of as the authors of progeny. But this time is different. This line mentions Joshua, Jesus’s “father,” but then merely refers to Joshua as “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” The genealogy stops with Jesus after Mary because Joshua was not Jesus’ father; God was.
Verses 18-25: The virgin birth is the first evidence we have of Christ’s divinity. Mary is pregnant with Jesus before she consummated her marriage with Joseph. Verse 18 says “she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” When Joseph finds out she is pregnant, he proves his quality by not making a public show of a divorce (which he could have done had she been unfaithful to him), but instead he opts to end the marriage in private, which would have preserved a degree of Mary’s honor.
But Joseph does not get the opportunity to do either of these things. An angel from God comes to Joseph in a dream and compels him to keep Mary as his wife because the child was conceived of the Holy Spirit. The angel tells Joshua that he “shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
This was done to fulfill another prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, which says that the virgin will bring forth a son and he shall be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Joseph, to the credit of his faith, takes Mary as his wife and names the child Jesus.
The birth of our savior Jesus Christ is notable enough in its’ fulfillment of prophecies. Also consider that it is Jesus’ sacrifice and blood coupled with God’s mercy and our obedience that saves us. His is certainly the most important birth in the history of the world.
However, before we conclude, consider Joseph and Mary. Elsewhere in the gospels we know that Mary also knew of her firstborn son’s identity through an angel of God. So we have a newlywed couple, poor and alone in an out-of-the-way part of the country with an unexplained pregnancy and visited by angels. The outcome of a peaceful and holy birth, without God’s providence, could have ended instead with a nasty public divorce, shaming, false accusations, abandonment and misery.
Instead, because of the faith of a poor young couple, we have an occasion of the highest importance: the birth of the savior of the world. My savior and yours, Jesus Christ.
It helps to remember the faith of Joseph and Mary when we find ourselves lacking in faith. Having faith can make a big difference in my life and in the lives of others, and it is all too easy to underestimate the effect of faith.