The Matthew Christmas story is one of the two full-length versions of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Matthew wrote his gospel to provide evidence to the Jewish community that the man they knew as Jesus was fully God and fully man.
Jesus was the Promised Messiah for whom they had long-awaited. Understanding the truth that Jesus is the Messiah is a message that we as believers need to internalize. Let’s go through the Christmas story as told by Matthew to uncover the evidence which proves that Jesus is the Messiah.
Where is the Christmas Story in Matthew?
The Christmas story in Matthew begins at Matthew 1:1 and goes through to Matthew 2:23.
Matthew’s version of the Christmas story starts with the genealogy of Jesus as he traces the lineage of Jesus beginning with Abraham.
The Matthew Christmas Story
Matthew’s Christmas story begins with the words,
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: (Matthew 1:1 NKJV).
Immediately you’ll notice three names that you recognize:
- David, and
Right at the beginning of his gospel account, Matthew wanted his readers to know that the man they knew as Jesus Christ, son of Joseph the carpenter, had a much loftier family background.
He was the descendant of a king, and not just any king, David. King David, one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history. The one they had written songs about. The king whom God called a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).
Next, Matthew establishes Jesus as the descendant of Abraham. This is important because it was with Abraham that God had made His covenant promise to make him into a great nation and gave the Promised Land.
Proof that Jesus is the Messiah
The Matthew Christmas story was written to provide irrefutable evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
Matthew’s Christmas story is written to the Jews and so it was necessary for him to establish that not only was Jesus one of them, He met all the requirements foretold about the Messiah.
Matthew wanted to prove to his audience that Jesus was the Messiah and all the prophecies had been fulfilled in Him.
1. The Genealogy of Jesus Christ
It’s easy to skim over the list of names when we’re reading the lineage of the families in the Bible. To us, the names are difficult to pronounce and don’t mean much.
But if you slow down and look carefully at the names, you’ll notice that there are some you recognize. Names like Isaac, Jacob, Boaz, Asa, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh to name a few.
You may even remember some of their stories. Some of them did great things, others made mistakes that showed their humanity, and still, there were others who did horrible things.
Now imagine you were among Matthew’s Jewish audience. The people you heard mentioned in Jesus’s genealogy would have been your ancestors. You would have been intimately familiar with many of their stories.
Not only that, you would have been fully aware of all the prophecies that had promised that the Messiah would come from the line of King David. He would be a descendant of Abraham, their forefather.
Then you’d remember the words He had spoken during His ministry. You would have remembered the miracles He had performed. And slowly, the Matthew Christmas story would have had you thinking, what if? What if Jesus was really the promised Messiah?
2. The Virgin Birth
Matthew 1:18-25 is all about the virgin birth. After tracing Jesus’s lineage back to Abraham, Matthew addresses the prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18 NKJV
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 NIV
According to the Matthew Christmas story, the circumstances prove that Jesus is the Messiah. His mother was impregnated by the Holy Spirit which means that God is His father.
3. Born in Bethlehem
Matthew 2:1-12 details the account of the Magi’s visit to Jerusalem. The wise men came from the East inquiring about the One who had been born King of the Jews because they had seen His star.
The Matthew Christmas story offers proof that the prophecy about where the Messiah would be born was fulfilled in Jesus.
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’
This prophecy was made by Micah and can be found in Micah 5:2.
4. A Son from Egypt
When speaking about the enduring love God the Father has for His children, the prophet Hosea said these words,
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.” Hosea 11:1 NKJV
This was a dual reference: first, to the fact that God has rescued Israel from Egyptian bondage. And second, it was a reference to the Messiah.
This was the next point that the Matthew Christmas story offers as proof that Jesus is the Son of God.
Matthew 2:13-15 chronicles the escape of the young Jesus and His family from the destructive purposes of Herod, the tetrarch.
5. Mourning in Bethlehem
But the wise men did not return to Herod with the information about where they had found the King of the Jews. Angered, Herod ordered the massacre of boys aged two and under in Bethlehem.
This sad event told in Matthew 2:16-18 had been prophesied centuries earlier by the prophet Jeremiah.
Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15 NKJV
6. A Nazarene
The Matthew Christmas story ends with the return of Jesus and His family to Israel where they settled in the city of Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 2:19-23).
While there is no direct prophecy that the Messiah would be from Nazareth, we have Isaiah’s prediction that the Messiah would be despised and rejected by mankind (Isaiah 53:3).
At the time of Jesus’s birth, Nazareth had a reputation of being “good for nothing”. It was such a tiny place housing only the poorest folks that it would be hard to believe God would send His Son to live there.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Philip encouraged his friend Nathanael to come and see the man who had been identified by John the baptizer as the Lamb of God (John 1:35-40). Nathanael’s response was scathing,
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46 ESV
All of this subtext would have been clearly understood by Matthew’s audience thus giving merit to his point that Jesus was the Son of God.
Why Matthew’s Christmas Story Matters Today
The birth of the Messiah is the tenet on which the whole plan of salvation is built. If the Messiah wasn’t born, it means that humanity has not been redeemed.
Let’s think about that for a second. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, the penalty was death. But out of His great mercy, God promised them a Savior, and the first animal sacrifice was made.
Centuries later, after the Israelites had been delivered from slavery in Egypt, God gave them the sacrificial system. It was an elaborate one with details of what type of sacrifice was required in every possible situation.
When was the last time you sacrificed an animal for your sin?
If the Messiah hasn’t come, then no one has died for our sins. If the Messiah did not die for sin and rise again after the third day, then as Paul said, our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
As believers, we hope in the truth of the Matthew Christmas story knowing that our Savior has come and we have been saved from our sins.
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