As I make my way through the Gospel of Matthew, I am picking up Matthew’s growing emphasis on the ethnically diverse nature of the people of God. The anti-ethnocentrism of this Gospel is so clear that it is simply baffling that anyone would think their being of Jewish descent holds any salvific or sanctification related significance. Christ is a man who was born as a Jew, yes. He was born to Jewish parents and lived in a Jewish culture and spoke Aramaic and visited the Synagogue and the Temple, yes. Nevertheless, it is unbiblical to think that one is closer to God by virtue of his or her lineage or external conformity to Jewish culture & cultural customs.
Equally wrong, however, is the idea that because Christ has a traceable lineage, that he is a real man, in other words, that this somehow counts against his role as Mediator between God and man, his role as Savior and King of kings, Lord of lords. Let’s look at this in some more detail.
The First Wrong Approach to Christ’s Humanity
In Matthew 1, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Jesus “will save his people from their sins.” (1:21b) In Matthew 3:7b-10, John the Baptist rebukes the Pharisees and Sadducees with these words:
…“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
This poses a problem for those who wish to maintain the idea that the Jewish people are the chosen people of God. Why? Because Jesus will save his people and “his people” only partially consists of the genetic offspring of Abraham, as John the Baptist’s words make very clear. In Matthew 4, therefore, where we encounter Christ walking along the sea of Galilee and preaching, shining the light of his gospel in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (4:12-17), the fullness of the phrase “his people” begins to further be revealed by the Holy Spirit. Christ’s people are of the lineage of Abraham, but there are others who are raised up from stones, Gentiles who have no immediate blood relation to Abraham’s family. Thus, God’s people, the people of Christ for whom Christ died, are not Jewish only but Gentile as well.
This means that inclusion in God’s family is not based on one’s proximity to or distance from Jesus’ humanity, genetically speaking. Hence, in Matthew 12:46-50 Jesus identifies anyone who believes the Gospel as a member of his family. Contrary to the dogmas surrounding Mary’s role as Mediatrix, Jesus demonstrates that his own flesh and blood family do not have special access to him simply by virtue of their physical relation. Those who believe that they are closer to Jesus because they are Jewish are, well, entirely wrong. And those who believe that Mary is closer to Jesus by virtue of her blood relation to Jesus are also entirely wrong
The Second Wrong Approach to Christ’s Humanity
The rejection of Christ because he is a man, moreover, is equally wrong. In Matthew 13:53-58 we are told that the people of Jesus’ hometown “were amazed” at his wisdom and yet “took offense at him” because they knew that he was “the carpenter’s son,” “the son of Mary,” the eldest brother of “James and Joseph and Simon and Judah…And…his sisters.” Whereas the people in Matthew 12 think that Jesus’ humanity implies that those, therefore, who are genetically related to him somehow have spiritual benefits, the people in Jesus’ hometown believe that the fact of Jesus’ humanity is adequate justification for their unbelief.
It is wrong to believe that the salvific and sanctification-relation benefits of the Gospel may be obtained or amplified through one’s lineage (i.e. being Jewish) or connection to those in Jesus’ immediate lineage (i.e. Mary). It is also wrong to believe that the fact of Jesus’ humanity renders dubious his capacity to save and sanctify, rule and reign, resurrect and cast into hell.
-Soli Deo Gloria