Today’s Gospel according to St. Mathew chapter 1 verse 1-25 is read ones a year, every Sunday before the Nativity of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ.
More then a century years ago, Church Fathers have prescribed exactly this Gospel to be read a week before the Feast of the Nativity. Though, why did they decided to pick especially this passage of the Gospel of Mathew?
It is important to mention here that this Gospel passage consists of two parts. The first one is the genealogy or family tree of Jesus Christ. The second part is description of actual birth of Jesus from Virgin Mary. Well it’s understandable why they included the second part the scene of Jesus Birth. We are right before the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, therefore it tells us a lot about what we are going to celebrate pretty soon. However why did they include the first part, the Christ’s family tree? Do we rally need to hear all of those names today. Priests most probably mispronounce quite a lot of them, reading the passage. Was it so important for us and all the other Orthodox faithful of the Church to hear all those names in the Churches on the Sunday before the Nativity?
In order to find the answer, we have to figure this out first of all why it was so important for the Saint Evangelist Mathew to include these names in the Gospel, before the account of Jesus Christ’s Birth.
I have to mention here that Mathew did not just set down and made up those names, took it strait from his imagination. They are all real people. This is the actual family tree of Jesus Christ. As all of us do, Jesus Christ had his human family tree.
It wasn’t easy for Evangelist Mathew to put together this genealogy. He had to have a research done on this issue, and he did it well.
We may think he did that for historical purposes. It is a good thing to leave behind for next generations. Nice thoughtful idea, but not the main purpose for writing down Christ’s family tree.
There are two main reasons why it was so important for St. Mathew to put together Christ’s family tree. He did that in order to prove to certain unbelievers that Jesus Christ is indeed long promised Messiah. As we know in the Old Testament God communicated with His chosen people through prophets and through them God promised to send a Savior, who would be born from the knee of King David.
In the book of prophet Jeremiah 23:5 we read “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.”
Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel.”
And this genealogy proves that Jesus Christ (his human person) indeed came out from the knee of King David. Born in Bethlehem, from virgin and the star appeared above the place where He was born. All of this is from the Old Testament promise about coming of Messiah. Jesus Christ truly has fulfilled the prophesy.
Moreover, St. Mathew put together Christ’s lineage in order to show to us faithful, the reality of family tree from which Jesus Christ was born. As I have mentioned before, all of those name were real people. What is taken into consideration here is that they were all different people. Some were rich and royal as King David some were poor as Joseph and Mary. Some were holy and some were sinful, very sinful people; adulterers and murders.
Different people. A whole bouquet of personalities. Question is why? Couldn’t God pick a better family tree for His Son to be born? A family tree that would fit His image as Messiah, as Savior of the world. No! This family tree with all the holy people and the worse sinners, rich and poor fits perfectly. Christ comes among sinful people for sinful people. He comes among the sick with sin and heals them all. “Healthy do not need the doctor, but who are sick.” Mathew 9:12
Jesus Christ comes to the world as the savior as healer not as conqueror of humanity. He puts upon Himself human flesh in order to cleanse it from corruption of the sin of Adam and Eve. This is why He becomes man, actual human to purify human body. He comes to the earth bringing peace and love, bringing freedom from sin. Before His coming the humanity was doomed for eternal death, but He changes that by bringing light into the darkened human souls. By coming out from the family of sinful people, He comes to save them as well as all the others. Does not matter if they are rich or poor, faithful to God or sinful, He offers healing, He offers salvation to all of them, giving them peace, giving them love, giving them forgiveness and a second chance.
Fr. Vasyl Sendeha
Sts. Peter & Paul Church
PALOS PARK IL