Little Greek Gems: God with Us

The opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is, for some, like watching paint dry on a wall!  Genealogies are not everyone’s thing.  But this genealogy ought to be.  It’s obviously the genealogy of Jesus.  Yet, not so obvious is the Davidic background of the genealogy.  David alone is mentioned five times!  However, something a bit arcane but no less valid is the fact that David’s name has three Hebrew letters and adds up to a numerical value of fourteen.  Strikingly, the genealogy has three main sections each having fourteen descendants.  David is the conceptual center of the genealogy and we will soon see why.

Immediately following the genealogy are those wonderful verses depicting the birth of Christ and it is here that we discover the gem.  In verse 20 Joseph is introduced as the “Son of David” and the instruction to name and Joseph’s naming express the Daviding or adoption of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of David.

What is more, the naming is set apart by an inclusion in verses 21 and 25.  The obvious implication of the inclusion is that Jesus is a son of David by Joseph’s adopting act.

v. 21, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν

          and you shall call name his Jesus.

v. 25, καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν

          and he called name his Jesus

However, verse 23 appearing in the middle of the inclusion clarifies the identity of this adopted son of David. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us in His Son. In fact, according to Matthew’s use of Isaiah 9, it was this Jesus who God promised would come through Isaiah the prophet to be the faithful Son of David after Ahaz repudiated his Davidic sonship by sending a letter of pleading to the Tiglath Pileser, king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son” (II Kings 16:7). God would send His own Son to be adopted into the line of David that he might fulfill the promises given through Abraham. Notice how verse 21 and 25 bracket verse 23.

v. 21, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν

          and you shall call name his Jesus.

v. 23, καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ

          and they shall call name his Immanuel

v. 25, καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν

          and he called name his Jesus

The bracketing of Immanuel with Jesus clearly indicates the identity of this Son.  He is the Son of God and the adopted son of Joseph, the son of David. 

But notice what the Holy Spirit does at the end of Matthew’s gospel.  As the resurrected Jesus is about to ascend into heaven with outstretched hands of blessing upon his people, he says, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It’s as if Jesus were saying, “And behold, my name is Immanuel and I am always with you, to the end of the age.”  Brothers and sisters, the book of Matthew is enclosed with the idea that God is with us even to the end of the age.  How many of us need to hear that truth?  Well, let me encourage you to go to the source and read these sections in Matthew’s Gospel.  Better yet, read Matthew’s Gospel and be reminded of how Jesus is with us even to the end of the age.

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He has recently been appointed Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is also an online instructor for Westminster Theological Seminary. Jeff is the author of From Inscrutability to Concursus (P&R), he has contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans) and is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.