Worship the King of Kings

Explore the Bible Series

December 19, 2010


Background Passage: Matthew 1:18-2:23

Lesson Passage: Matthew 1:20b-23; 2:1-11


 Personal note: With your kind understanding, I have included an outline from three years ago.  The last few weeks have proven difficult because of surgeries endured by my father (throat surgery) and mother-in-law (emergency open heart surgery).  A few of you dear readers sent warm and encouraging e-mails, and Kathy and I have appreciated your prayers.  Hopefully, the lesson outlines will continue next week.  Merry Christmas to all of you.


Lesson Outline:


I.                   The Genealogy of Jesus (1:1-17): At first reading, the appearance of this genealogical information, placed at the very outset of the book, may seem odd.  Contemporary biographers, of course, would not follow this pattern.  Matthew, in the very first verse, stated his purpose for including the linage of Jesus.  He detailed this genealogy to demonstrate Jesus’ connection with the family of Abraham and the house of David. This list reveals Christ as the fulfillment of the great covenants of the Old Testament. Matthew’s account, however, presents some problems.  For instance, Matthew’s genealogy differs from Luke’s (See Luke 3:23-38).  Some have surmised that Matthew presented the legal linage of Jesus (thus tracing Joseph’s family), while Luke recorded the genealogy of Mary.  This view, however, has some problems.  Those who want to examine an excellent overview of possible solutions should consult books like An Introduction to the New Testament, D.A. Carson, et al. 


A second problem relates to the symbolism of the number fourteen in Matthew’s genealogy (See v. 17).  The apostle gave no hint to his readers why he arranged the material as he did; nor did he give any explanation of the significance of the number fourteen.  Honestly, having read a number of possible explanations, I do not know why Matthew recorded this information as he did (in particular, the use of the number fourteen).  Perhaps his meaning seemed clear to his First Century audience, but does not seem as apparent to Twenty-first Century readers.


II.                The Annunciation to Joseph and the Birth Narrative (1:18-24)

A.    Joseph’s betrothal to Mary (vv. 18-19): Modern, western culture has no parallel to betrothal, but it was a binding agreement for marriage that, in some ways, relates to our practice of engagement.  The betrothed couple did not live together as husband and wife, but this arrangement required a divorce to break.  As Mary and Joseph awaited their coming marriage, Mary became pregnant with a child, and Joseph determined to break the engagement privately.

B.     The angel’s announcement (vv. 20-23): While Joseph planned his divorce, an angel appeared to him and announced that the Holy Spirit had conceived this child.  The heavenly messenger told Joseph to follow these instructions.

1.      Joseph was to marry his fiancé (v. 20).

2.      Joseph was to name the child Jesus (Savior) for the babe would save his people from their sins (vv. 21-23). For the first time in this Gospel, verses twenty-two and twenty-three introduce a common feature of Matthew’s writing.  The author highlights the fulfillment of prophecy by quoting from the Old Testament (See Isaiah 7:14).

C.     Joseph’s obedience and the birth of Jesus (vv. 24-25): Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he was not intimate with her until after the birth of Jesus.  Also, he followed the angel’s directive by naming the infant according to the angelic command.


III.             The Visit of the Magi and the Flight to Egypt (2:1-15)

A.    The visit of the magi (vv. 1-18)

1.      the magi’s journey to Herod’s palace (vv. 1-8): These astronomers/astrologists were probably from Persia, and they served both a political and religious function in their society.  No doubt, they came from an idolatrous society, but they came sincerely seeking the Messiah. Naturally, they came to Jerusalem and spoke with the court of Herod the Great.   The Jewish priests informed Herod that the Old Testament predicted Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah (note the reference to Micah 5:2-4).  Herod instructed the wise men to seek the child and, when they found him, return to Jerusalem with news of the baby.

2.      the magi’s worship of the baby Jesus (vv. 9-12): The star that had guided the magi led them to Bethlehem. Some scholars have sought natural explanations for the appearance of the star, but it seems better to see this as a supernatural occurrence that led these men to Jesus.  After offering the child costly gifts, the wise men, warned by in a dream, did not return to Jerusalem to report to Herod.

B.     The flight to Egypt and the slaughter of the infants (vv. 13-18): this material is unique to Matthew’s Gospel.  Herod plotted to kill the Christ child, and an angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect the life of the baby. Again, Matthew understood this journey as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (See Hosea 11:1).  Herod, driven by unspeakable cruelty, ordered the execution of all children in the region of Bethlehem (See Jeremiah 31:15).


IV.             The Journey to Nazareth (2:19-23)

A.    The death of Herod the Great (vv. 19-20): Secular history reveals that Herod died in 4 B.C. (Some scholars argue for a slightly later date) After Herod died, at the behest of an angel, the little family of Joseph and Mary determined to return to Israel.

B.     The reign of Archelaus (vv. 21-23): Just before his death Herod the Great decreed a division of his governance to three of his sons, and Archelaus was designated as the ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea.  He proved a poor governor, and, in 6 A.D., Caesar deposed him in favor of Herod Antipas.  Of course, by this time, Joseph had relocated his family in Nazareth of Galilee.