Who is this?
Reading: Mt.1:1, 17-
Christmas is regularly described as the festive season and with cause – surely it is right to celebrate the birth of a new child in the world especially when the child born is the Saviour of the World.
And yet it is all too easy to lose sight of this central theme as so many other things compete for our attention
The birth of a child into a family should always be a happy and joyous occasion and of course for many it is. After those months of growing anticipation and expectation the baby is finally born – life goes on but will never be quite the same ever again for those involved.
Some parents in the UK will celebrate by putting a birth announcement in the paper: a little over £30 for a coloured box in the local press or if you're more adventurous £87 for each black & white line in The Times.
Recently you may have heard of a somewhat more impressive birth announcement: Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and his wife celebrated the birth of their daughter by publishing an open letter to her on Facebook. There they told the world that they intended to give away, during their lifetime, 99% of Mark's shares in Facebook. I'm not knocking their good intentions but such generosity is unlikely to seriously impact his ability to live well – the remaining 1% of those shares is still worth 450$ and that is by no means all the wealth he will have left.
How different it all was when a baby boy was born 2,000 years again in Bethlehem! This baby was not born into the lap of luxury with every care and provision that money could buy. This baby was born to a poor young couple who in just a few months would become refugees forced to flee their own country. Just one more poor refugee but wait – we are still celebrating his birth – who was he?
I imagine that most of you don't spend your time reading the Birth Announcement columns of the press whether local or national. Were you to do so you would inevitably learn something of the family into which the new baby was born.
This morning I want us to consider the details that the Bible text gives us concerning the birth of Jesus Christ which might make it into one of our typical birth announcements.
Who was this boy? To whom was he related?
As we investigate this question we'll focus upon the words "the son of…" We'll find that there is quite a bit of interesting information – so let's get started. And the place to start is the very first line of the NT where we read:
Mt 1:1 "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
The Son of Abraham
As Matthew begins his gospel account he immediately introduces us to Jesus' family tree from which he singles out two individuals for special emphasis: David and Abraham.
In beginning like this Matthew wants us to know that, when he refers to Jesus Christ, he is referring to a real historical character. Jesus was not a figment of his imagination, Jesus was not some fictitious creation of Matthew's fertile brain. The baby born at Bethlehem was a real baby with a real set of ancestors who could be traced back through history. Yes, there will be some things about this baby's birth, or rather his conception, that are unique but Matthew wants us to realise that however unique these details he is nevertheless a real person.
Matthew introduces Jesus as being the son of two men who died hundreds of years earlier. This should alert us at once to the fact that this is no ordinary birth announcement. What are we to understand by this?
Jesus is only called the son of Abraham in this one chapter.
Abraham is, however, referred to a number of times in the NT and most often when he is mentioned it is in relation to his faith. Abraham was a true man of faith – he received the promise of God and took God at his word, believing that the One who made such promises could be trusted to keep them even when the circumstances were anything but promising. So the believer who trusts God taking him at his word as Abraham had done so many years before would be referred to as a child of Abraham.
Faith is essential if a man or a woman is to please God (see Heb.11:6) and we read that as Jesus grew up "he increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man." Lk.2:52 – Jesus was thus a man of faith.
But this is not all there is when we think about Abraham and Abraham's sons. Abraham's faith was demonstrated and tested over the whole matter of his producing an heir. You see Abraham and his wife had no children and Sarai was passed the age of child-
Jesus the son of Abraham is the man of faith par excellence through whom God pours out the blessings of salvation to a lost world.
When we turn to the description, or rather to the title, Son of David we move onto what is probably more familiar ground as this idea is much more widely used in both the OT and the NT.
Indeed both Matthew and Luke were concerned in their birth narratives to emphasise that Jesus was legally one of David's descendants:
Mt.1:20 "But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."
The reason for this insistence is that the long-
Indeed we could say that Jesus was no ordinary member of the "house and line of David", he was the most important member there would ever be. He would grow up and show himself to be "Great David's Greater Son".
The title Son of David is applied to Jesus on several different occasions during his life and ministry. Matthew in particular recorded a number of these incidents:
On two separate occasion blind men called out to him hoping to be healed as, on another occasion, did a Canaanite woman seeking help for her demon-
"Have mercy on us, Son of David." (Mt.9:27)
The crowds as they were exposed more and more to Jesus and his healing power were brought to ask themselves the question concerning who Jesus really was:
Mt.12:23 "And all the people were amazed, and said, "Can this be the Son of David?""
By the time he enjoyed Jerusalem for the final time many no longer had any questions remaining, for them he was undeniably the Messiah and they were prepared to declare it forcefully:
Mt.21:9 "And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!""
So not only was Jesus the man of faith and the channel through God's blessings would flow to the nations, in being the Messiah he had come to secure the deliverance of his people and was himself the source of those blessings that would flood the world.
The Son of God
When we turn to the Gospel of Mark we find that Mark doesn't bother to give us any birth narrative at all, instead he begins by introducing Jesus as yet another son -
Mr 1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
Jesus is also referred to in the birth narratives of Luke as "the Son of the Most High" or the "son of God" as the angel Gabriel spoke with Mary explaining to her just what was going to take place. Concerning the boy child to which she would give birth, Gabriel declared:
Lk.1:32 "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,"
Lk.1:35 "And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy -
While Matthew didn't explicitly use these words to describe Jesus at the time of his birth he did use others that pointed in exactly the same direction. He spoke of the conception of Mary's son as being due to the direct influence of the Holy Spirit and described this child by the name of Immanuel. Matthew immediately told what the meaning of this name was: it meant "God with us".
Jesus didn't often use this particular description of himself, preferring the less immediately provocative title of the "Son of Man". And yet the title is used a further 24x in the gospels and 19x in the rest of the NT.
Satan knew that this was Jesus' identity and confronted him over his behaviour as the Son of God.
The demons and evils spirits knew who he was as well and were fearful of this Son of God.
Some men and women too recognised Jesus to be the Son of God during his lifetime.
I wonder have you?
This is important because it is fundamental to Jesus' ability to be able to give his life as a ransom for sin. If his life did not have the infinite value of God himself he would never have been able to pay the infinite debt owed by sinners!
How important it is to have clear views of who Jesus is! The apostle John certainly thought it important for he wrote:
1Jn. 5:13 "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life."
Do you believe? Do you have eternal life? Have you been bowled over by these wonderful truths? Can you say with Paul?:
Gal.2:20 "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
A Warning Note
The religious leaders were horrified that Jesus might be considered as the Son of God. They were horrified that he didn't stop others believing it. They were horrified when he refused to deny it when put under oath at their illegal heresy trial. And rejecting him they killed him exactly as he had earlier said they would.
But you don't have to be horrified and to aggressive reject Jesus to be lost and to fail to benefit from the many salvation blessings he would readily give you.
It is possible to reject Jesus' salvation by simply refusing to think of him as being significantly different from the rest of us.
Let me explain what I mean. On a regular birth announcement we normally expect to find a prominent place being given to the new-
Oh yes, there are references – three to be precise – and two of these are used later in Jesus' life as a means of trying to treat him as nobody particularly special, as a way of domesticating him and robbing him of his rightful claims upon us.
Mk.6:3 "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
Jn.6:42 "They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?"
These descriptions were employed to counter Jesus' claims. I hope none of you are trying to do? I hope none of you are trying desperately to hold Jesus at arms' length. I hope you are not doing that because if you are you are not only dishonouring God the Father who sent his only Son as a demonstration of his great love towards guilty sinners, but you are also doing yourself great harm. Jesus came into the world to bring life, to save his people from their sins – who will give you life and who will save you from your sins if you refuse to turn and trust this glorious Saviour?
May God grant us all faith to believe and receive.
And to God be the glory.