Christmas Characters – Matthew and Luke

No, I have not lost my mind!  Yes, I do read my Bible.  The reason I wanted to include these two Gospel writers is that they took the time to listen to Mary and record her “ponderings.”  These two men had different audiences so their approach to the story is slightly different – Thank God.  Matthew wrote for a Jewish-Christian audience while Luke was writing for Greeks.   Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:22 that Jews want signs and Greeks want knowledge.  I think Matthew and Luke go against this thought (a little) in their writing of the Christmas story.  Matthew lays a very solid fountain built on the Scripture and tradition while Luke gives sign after sign in his story.


Matthew connects immediately to his Jewish readers by introducing Jesus as the son of David.  He does this by using three sets of fourteen names.  The name David, using the numerical values of the letters, adds up to fourteen (nun); a very knowledgeable connection to draw his readers into his story. Using the three sets of fourteen makes this family, and brings his readers to the idea that a new age is ready to begin.  The first set is made up of patriarchs, the second set is the kings of Israel and ends with the fall of Jerusalem, the final set begins with the governor of Jerusalem and then goes to “citizens” who do not show up anywhere else in history.  He also uses four mothers in the genealogy something that was not usually done, actually five since we need to include Mary.  This genealogy is really Joseph’s family tree since it comes through Solomon and not Nathan.

Matthew uses the reader’s knowledge of their history to firmly plant Mary and Jesus as acceptable additions into this sorted family tree. Tamar was a scorned woman who resorted to trickery in order to bear children.  Rahab was an innkeeper/prostitute who hid the spies from Joshua son of Nun and later married into the royal lineage.  Faithful Ruth was a Moabite, she should not have been allowed near the Tent of Meeting because of the Balaam incident.  Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, really stirred the pot because of how David took her as his wife.  So using the groups of fourteen names was a very scholarly approach on Matthew’s part to show the less than spotless lineage from David and so the humanity of Jesus.

Angel and Dreams

Joseph is the center of attention here as he had several dreams, with angels in them, to lead and protect his new family.  These would have connected his readers to the prophets and leaders of old, putting Joseph in a very elite company of people.

Magi and Herod

The Magi or Wise Men had knowledge of the stars and the sign they saw was enough to set them on a very long journey.  (God used the three gifts to supply the little family while they were in Egypt.)  When they got to Herod he had the priest supply a place to look for the King by searching the scrolls.  Matthew shows his knowledge of the Scriptures by quoting Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and Hosea in his telling of the birth of Jesus.


Luke starts with the signs and wonders right away.  An angel in the Temple, a mute priest, an older barren woman, now pregnant; that was to just get an “Elijah” to prepare the way of the Lord.  The answered plea of Zechariah and Elizabeth also reflects the nation of Israel as they were seeking redemption from the Romans.  The signs continue as baby John jumps in the womb because Jesus came into the room and Zechariah speaks after he shows his faith.  After Jesus’ birth angels sing to shepherds and people prophesying about Jesus when He is in the Temple fulfilling the Law for His birth.  Luke certainly used the parables of Jesus to satisfy the Greek hunger for knowledge, but he started his story with an impressive list of signs.

I have tried to connect Zachariah’s service with the birth of Jesus in the Post – The Day of Atonement, Passover, and Epiphany.  The results are not what I expected about the birth time of Jesus.  The legend/history is better than I thought.

Suggest reading: Joy to the World by Scott Hahn

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