Words aren’t always what they seem to be.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” It sounds very nice. And that is the way the Matthew text (1:18) starts after the “boring” genealogy—I only use that adjective because most people quickly pass it by, although it has some very interesting characteristics. (But those must be saved for another day.)
First of all, the order of the words in the original language is different. In the order within the original, the text goes something like this: “Now the thing of Jesus Christ, the birth, took place in this way.” That certainly does not flow as smoothly.
But the important thing is not the birth (or even how smoothly the message flows). The important thing is certainly Jesus Christ. One could even say that his birth is secondary to the person that he is—Jesus, the Christ, or the Anointed One.
That importance of Jesus continues within the entire account. He is called “Immanuel,” God with us, within this chapter. And, in the final chapter, some of his final words are “I will be with you always.”
What is interesting as well is that the account of Jesus’ birth, as it is given in Matthew, does not focus on Jesus’ birth. For Matthew, even more important than the birth was the name.
Because of this, I am in favor of the following translation: “Now the genesis of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” It actually happens to be a more literal rendering of the word. There also happens to be a good alliteration with name of Jesus here.
The word “genesis” takes us ahead to the eighth day of Jesus, the day of his naming and his circumcision—his first shedding of blood for us. And the word takes us back to the very beginning, the genesis of everything, but particularly the genesis of our salvation.
The stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not particularly good examples for us to follow, but they are examples of God working with his people. Those can also be extremely comforting.
His genesis is much more important than ours. His genesis means our salvation. God’s Jesus is our Jesus.