We are studying Matthew 1:1-17 and Hebrews 1:1-5 for Sunday, December 6. These two very different texts are, each in its own way, statements about the “genesis” of Jesus. Some notes on Matthew 1:1-17 are here; some notes on Hebrews 1:1-5 are here. Here are some questions we might want to consider:
Both of these texts emphasize the importance of ancestry and heritage. What is our own thinking about the role of ancestry in a person’s identity? What role does ancestry play, and how does it play that role, do we think?
[More personal] What role would say our ancestry has played in our own lives? How do we think our own experience of ancestry influences the way we read these texts?
Matthew gives his readers a genealogy for Joseph, Jesus’s formal, legal, and social father, but not Jesus’s biological father. Matthew himself implies this in verse 16 and will make it explicit in the next several verses. So what seems to be the purpose of this genealogy? Is Matthew telling us something about Jesus here, do we think, and if so, how, and what is it? Why do we think this? [Here, we might want to draw on all the many things we know about the individuals mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, including all those women …]
The author of Hebrews includes several cosmic tasks assigned to the Son. [It might be a good idea to read through verses 2-3 and list those tasks.] Which of these tasks do we usually think of in connection with Jesus Christ? Are there any that we don’t usually associate with Jesus Christ? How similar is this picture of Jesus Christ to the one we usually have? How is it different? What influence does it seem to have on our thinking about Jesus? Why is that, do we think?
In verse 3, the author specifically mentions Jesus’s making “purification for sins.” How familiar is this language to us, and what do we think it refers to? Why do we think that?
When we ourselves think of “purification,” what images come to mind? What are our own experiences with purity or purification? How do those experiences influence the way we read this part of the text, do we think?
[More theological, but also kind of personal] What do we usually think of as “Jesus’s work” on earth? How does that seem to fit with the picture we have of that work so far in Hebrews? Does the picture in Hebrews seem to expand our vision of Jesus’s work, narrow it, change it – and how? Thoughts or feelings about that?
[Way more theological] Do we want to have any conversation about the orthodox western Christian faith that Jesus Christ is one, in two natures, human and divine, without confusion, alteration, division, or separation, according to the decision of the 5th century Council of Chalcedon? And how we deal with that humanity and divinity and the various issues it raises in our own minds?
Overall, both of our texts are, it seems to me, making claims about who Jesus is, and what Jesus’s task is. Those claims might push us to notice who we ourselves usually think Jesus is, and what we think Jesus’s task is or was. That, in turn, might push us to pay some attention to what we think our relationship is to Jesus, as someone with the specific identity and the specific world historical task or set of tasks presented in these texts. That would be a lot to think about.