As I read the beginning of Matthew’s gospel account in chapter 1, I encounter the genealogy of Jesus. This genealogical record of Jesus reads fairly easy with quick repetition until I come across v. 16. Here lies a problem: Jesus is not the offspring of Joseph. This person named Jesus of Nazareth, whom we confess as God’s anointed (Messiah/Christ), appears to be one born from an illegitimate relationship.
Without a doubt this was a scandal for the headlines and seems to be the reason why Matthew begins to explain Mary’s conception of Jesus in vv. 18-25. In these particular verses, we learn that Joseph regarded Mary as an adulterous woman until the angel of the Lord explains to Joseph that Mary has conceived a child from the Holy Spirit. If Joseph originally regarded Mary as unfaithful, I can only wonder what the town folk must have thought. I can only imagine the accusations that could come forth from the court of public opinion.
Also in vv. 18-25 Matthew tells us two important facts about Jesus. First, he is to be called Jesus because he will save people from their sins. Second, Jesus is also Immanuel which means ‘God with us.’ It seems that Matthew wants us to know that our fundamental problem as people is sin. But as bad as that news is, the even greater news (the gospel) is that God has made his presence among this world in Jesus to save us from our sins.
Back to the scandal that surrounds this story. I ask myself why God would choose such a scandalous way at making his presence among this world. But then as I come to grips with the reality of my sin and the realization that God is seeking to redeem me from my sin through the presence of Jesus, I begin to understand why. My whole life, your whole life, and every one else’s whole life is one big scandalous realm of sin. He came to save those whose life is filled with the scandal of sin, so why not make his presence among us through a scandalous event. But what a wonderful God we have who loves us enough to make his presence among us, even at the risk of shame and scandal, in order to save us from our sins.