This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Advent day 25: Introducing God

Peter Wiebe is a native of Manitoba and a graduate of Goshen (Ind.) College and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. He has served as pastor of Yellow Creek Mennonite Church, Goshen, Ind., Hesston (Kan.) Mennonite Church, Oak Grove Mennonite Church in Smithville, Ohio, and Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz. Peter has been married to Rheta Mae for 65 years, and together they have eight children, 18 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. 

Reflections on Matthew 1:1-19. 

Matthew has for us a strange beginning. The first paragraphs of a book are usually meant to excite the reader. Matthew starts with a geneology.

When I gave a prospective believer a New Testament, I was a bit apologetic He did not exactly get turned-on with the first page of this great book. But to Jewish people an impure line, a mixture in lineage, could deny being Jewish. These verses outline first of the rise of God’s people; David was their king. Then it also tells of the shame and captivity. Then Jesus comes as the Messiah to save his people.

We see our story here; designed for greatness, we lost our way but Jesus saves us, frees us and gives us a new identity.

Matthew wants us to see Jesus as the human expression of God. Readers know this lineage. Here is the historic setting. God’s Messiah belongs to all peoples. Women listed here in this pedigree is the most surprising and unusual phenomenon.  Could Matthew not choose persons of less repute?  He includes Rahab, a prostitute from Jericho, then also Ruth of the Moabites, Themar, an adultress, and Bethsheba, the out-of-wedlock mother of Solomon. For the Jews, this was smearing a good lineage.

But God is God, and we need to understand that God has come into history in Jesus and he will be a Savior for all.

He breaks the barrier between Jews and Gentile. He will overrule all sin by offering acceptance of sinners. He will erase whatever shame may have come to men or women. He will use simple people to accomplish his mission. He will triumph over all tragedy, bringing hope to all mankind. The barrier between male and female is also no longer existent. Women are elevated as carriers, with men, of the blessings of God to all peoples. And there is now no longer a distinction between sinners and saints as so popular in that time.

What a revolutionary text, hidden to us when we first read it, but most shocking to the Jewish audience in the New Testament Church.

Matthew writes to believers in the post-Pentecost days for whom life had become difficult. Persecution was severe. Matthew is interested in the conversion of Jews to follow Jesus. Yet he also points to the Kingdom of God as being from all nations and will end his book with a strong mandate to go into all the world. How are we then to understand God? It’s a harsh world, but God rules. The holiness of God is not rejecting the failures of history. Matthew makes it clear that Jesus is the King of the Jews and Gentiles alike.

God will be seen in this book as in charge of all human events. His providence guides and leads to the fulfillment of his intentions. The impatient waiting for a redeemer illustrated God’s leisureliness in the promises he had made. His faithfulness shines through all stages of history.

Matthew is the only writer of the four gospel accounts who talks about the Church; once in Peter’s great confession, and again in the settling of disputes passage. Both texts contrast with the history of the early believers in stating their confession and community life as the church became institutionalized.

The early church readers, and we today, are to realize that God bridges all the broken gaps, and in Jesus overcomes the rubbish in our lives. If we feel we don’t belong, then take another look at the people Jesus claims to be in his humanity. Jewish Christians can be assured that Gentiles are included. Our God is a God of grace! He has a human face and offers acceptance to each of us. He is making himself available to all people. God makes us feel at home.

Our God is full of surprises. Our irregularities do not distract him. His ways may seem unconventional. Look into history and know that our future is also in God’s hands.  John Newton says it well: “amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.” Our God cares about each of us, and our future is in his hands. We can claim our heritage: we are all connected to God’s royal line from creation, redemption and awaiting his completed work in each of us. Paul talks about us being heirs of God.

The God who waited a long time in his coming to our world is still patiently waiting and working his ways.

Read past Advent posts from 2016. 

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