Focal Passages: Matthew 1:18-20, 24-25; Luke 1:26-31, 38; 2:21-24
We conclude our series on “Partners in Marriage” with a
taste of Christmas in August, examining Mary and Joseph as models of faith and
In Matthew, the story of Jesus’ birth follows directly after
a genealogy. The genealogy should be understood as setting the context for the
interpretation of the birth narrative. Matthew’s genealogy, in particular, is
striking in its references to women.
It was unusual for a first-century Jewish genealogy even to
But Matthew doesn’t simply include women; he includes some
scandalous characters in Old Testament history: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba.
Even Ruth, whose name has more positive associations, took some rather bold
action to gain Boaz as her husband. Why did Matthew choose to introduce the
birth of Jesus in such a way?
Matthew and Luke tell us that Mary was a virgin. Jesus’
miraculous birth certainly emphasizes His divinity, His sinlessness because He
was divine, His supernatural life, and the sovereignty of God in salvation.
However, in order to arrive at an even fuller understanding
of the virgin conception, we need to examine the biblical meaning of virginity.
In the Old Testament virginity is a characteristic of a people, not of
individual persons. The relationship of Israel to God is described as a
marriage covenant. As a people, Israel
had “covenantal virginity” as she was faithful to God.
was often declared a “harlot” as she forsook her “covenantal virginity” by
going after other gods.
Keeping in mind that virginity and harlotry in the Old
Testament have to do with the corporate faithfulness of Israel,
we might conclude that the four women of the genealogy represent Israel
the harlot, and that Mary the virgin remnant represents those who are pure in
their devotion to God.
If Mary was righteous, so was Joseph. Joseph is explicitly
called a “righteous man” (Matt. 1:19). His righteousness, moreover, is implicit
throughout Matthew’s Gospel. He responded to the angel’s explanation of Mary’s
pregnancy by marrying her, as the angel had instructed (1:24-25). When commanded
to leave Bethlehem to flee to Egypt,
he “arose and took the child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt”
When told to return to Israel,
he returned, despite apparent misgivings about the safety of the return (2:19-23).
Through Mary and Joseph we are reminded of God’s desire to
have a committed people who remain faithful to Him. They were partners not only
with one another, but with God as they followed the path He laid for them.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — In the Sept. 17 print issue of the Biblical
Recorder you will see the Oct. 2 lesson for Explore the Bible, a curriculum
published by LifeWay. This issue will have the last lesson from Formations, a
curriculum printed by Smyth & Helwys Publishing. This lesson will be dated
for Sept. 25. Most likely the Sept. 25 Formations lesson will be updated online
Sept. 12. The first Explore the Bible lesson for October will be posted online
that same week.)