“But you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” Matthew 2:6 (NIV)
Matthew’s version of the birth of Christ may not have been the most moving or even the first Gospel to be written, but Matthew, more than any of the other Gospel writers, picks up where the Old Testament left off. Malachi ends with the promise of a saviour and Matthew starts off by declaring in no less than 57 quotes in all, that the promises of centuries past have been fulfilled. From now on mankind could move forward and not hark back to the past.
Why does he go to these lengths to convince readers that Jesus is the Messiah? For good reason: Jesus was not what anyone expected. The Jews were looking for someone like David who would restore the glory of Israel, but what they got was a pacifist. What they wanted was an impact player, one who could change the status quo. They were waiting for a new kingdom but instead they get a kingdom no-one can see. This is indeed a new ball game where not only the rules of the game change but also, in their minds, the goalposts are moved.
All these gospel writers had to go on were the fulfilled prophecies (Matthew witnessed at least one of Jesus’ predictions, that of the destruction of the temple in 70 AD), divinely insightful teaching, and miracles to convince the Jews and others who believed that he was the one who would “rise with healing in its rays” (Malachi 4:2).
The question to us today is: Who is Jesus to you? Is he the helpless babe in a manger or the “game-changer”, the One who brings new life where before there was only desert? In this year of our Lord, 2020 A.D. let us once more acknowledge Christ as the Messiah and the Saviour of all mankind.
Prayer: Jesus, mankind didn’t get it right when you came to them as a new born babe and the suffering servant. And we’re still not getting it right. Yet, we cannot but celebrate your birth which gives us a taste of the Divine dwelling among us. Amen