When Jesus met him, no one liked him. He was one on of those traitors: A Jew that was collecting tax for the Romans. But everything changed the day that this man from Nazareth met him and told him with a command you couldn’t ignore. He said “follow me”. Now many years later he looked back and thought about just how naïve he was that day. At first he was not sure about this man. To be honest he didn’t really dare believe that this man, called Jesus could be him – could be the Messiah. He knew he had to be important, a prophet maybe, but the Messiah? He even remembers running when they took him, and hung him on a cross, watching from a safe distance.
But everything changed three days later, when he met this man in a little room where they had metalive. From that day on everything changed. It is like he could read and understand the scriptures with a whole new perspective. This is what God has been talking about all along! The son of Abraham, the son of David was the Lord and savior of the universe! He was the promised one! And now a few years later he had decided to write down his time with this man, to prove to his own people, the Jews, that he was the messiah, the promised one. And he starts with 16 verses of names. A geneology. A family History.
Recently someone once showed me a book that traced their family history almost back three hundred years, even further than the voortrekkers! They were proud to show me the book of their family lineage and rightly so. I was impressed to see it. Where we come from – our roots – says a lot about who we are. A family tree is important especially if you claim to be of a certain ethnicity, and even more so if you claim to be a descendant of royalty. We have such a genealogy before us today. You see Jesus was a profoundly historical figure. Jesus was born to two young parents whose family had faithfully recorded their ancestry for almost 2000 years of human history.
As world empires where coming and going from the Hittite, to the Egyptian; from the Syrians, to the Assyrians; from the Babylonians to the Persians; from the Persian to the Roman. World powers arose, and were defeated, or collapsed into the tombs of history. Kings and queens ruled the world for short time, thinking they had it all until death conquered even them
While all this was happening there was a royal line that was greater than them all. A line that couldn’t die. A royal line that stood in a way above history – that was kept through divine promise, first to a woman in a garden that her seed would crush the serpents head then to this Arabian called Abraham, then to one of his great great grandson’s Judah, and then four hundred years later to David. That man was Jesus. And he rules today. Today: A Jew a descendant of Abraham, a son of David sits on the throne of the universe.
Jesus Christ the son of Abraham, the son of David stands at the center of history.
- Jesus Christ: The son of Abraham the Son of David
- Jesus Christ: The rest of the family
Jesus Christ: The Son of Abraham the Son of David
The Jews knew there was something special about them. They were Gods chosen people, as Romans 9 says, “Thiers was the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory; the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. Thiers are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestor of Christ, who is God over all.” Apparently Paul had read Jesus genealogy too. The Jews knew that the messiah they were waiting for would be their flesh and blood who would fulfill the promises to Abraham.So if you want to prove to a jew that Jesus is the messiah, you are going to have to prove first that he was a Jew. That is exactly what Matthew does. Verse 1 “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ (or the messiah) the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The Christ, the messiah, had to be ethnically Jewish. Not African, European, Asian, or American, but Jewish.
If there was anything that could convince a Jew to keep reading it is the first verse in Matthew. He wanted to write an introduction that would grab them, so that they couldn’t book the book down. If anything was going to do it, it was by telling them in verse 1 chatper 1, “I know a person that is the son of David, son of Abraham. He is called Jesus and he is the Christ – the messiah.” The Messiah: Toward which the whole law and the prophets pointed. The one they were all waiting for. The prupose of their History.
Israel were the chosen people of God . They knew their story was part of something bigger: A story that would one day lead to the blessing of the nations. They knew history was going somewhere, they understood history theologically. It might be the tragedy of the time that we in our generation don’t think of this history theologically. As a story that is written by God, through the lives of human. Each one led and guided by God, so that his word is fulfilled so that his promises would come true. God is at work in this list. He is the pilot of History. Guiding it to the destination which he has planned. As someone once said, “History is the compilation of millions of Biographies.” So I ask you to read this through Jewish eyes, or as if this was your family. They knew the story of these names.
Each one is the result of Gods promise. Each one was profoundly human, with their hopes and dreams, families, strengthsweaknesses.. Our modern world is so individualized, we forget the big story. God was writing the story of humanity through these men and women, working through the generations. These names are leading somewhere – what we are reading here is the story of God’s faithfulness to his promises, through good times, and the wickedest of times. Their names are forever inscribed by the finger of God. God is writing a story far bigger than anyone of us.
“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Abraham. The man first chosen to carry on the promise after the flood and destruction of the world – a man to whom came the promise of Land and a people so great that they would outnumber the stars in heaven, and the sand on the seashore.
David: the king of that land and that people a man after God own heart, the man who received the promise that one of his children would always sit upon his throne! He promised an inheritance - a kingdom, where his people would dwell in peace; He promised them a king that would rule that inheritance forever and ever.
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Behold him: the Jewish man in the flesh that combined the promises to Abraham and David in one. Jesus Christ the son of David the son of Abraham is the inheritor of those promises. He is the son. The son that was promised to eve, the son promised to Abraham. The son promised to David. The true Jew! Through whom the nations would be blessed, and come into the Israel of God.
Matthew announces with this verse that Jesus, the king of the kingdom, had come. When Jesus stepped on the scene of History he announces that that the kingdom of God is at hand! The time had come! , the light has come into the darkness! WOW! If this sentence is not one to keep reading this book, I do not know what is!
Here on page 1 verse 1 of the New Testament we have the news that someone has finally arrived on the scene claiming that title extraordinaire, Messiah (or Christ). After hearing these words, I can’t wait to read more! To read how this king came to earth, about his birth!
Just two things to quickly note before we move on. First this genealogy is profoundly historical. Matthew wants you all to see this real history. Matthew is talking about the real past, the real ancestry of Jesus, the real historical stories to the Christ event. If the history of Israel is the background to the Christ event, we had better understand the actual history of Israel. The Old Testament is vital to understanding who this man, called Jesus, is. If you do not know the story of the people of God from the beginning onward, this story will mean nothing these names will mean nothing. The word Christ (or anointed one will mean nothing. Kind of like you are sitting with a group of friends who are talking about someone that don’t know: You can’t join the conversation, you can’t partake in the story.
And second point, this history is deeply theological. The authors of the Old and New Testament are not writing to merely chronicle the facts of history. But they are sharing history for the specific purpose of showing God’s work. This story is told for a specific purpose, so it does not include all the details. But he writes to make a point.
This is why Matthew leaves out a few names. He uses the entire genealogy of Ruth 4, and adds some of the names from Chronicles, so that he has three times fourteen generations. As we read in Verse 17, “Thus there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.” Why fourteen? Well the name David equals the number fourteen in the Hebrew. Here is the GREAT 14. The great king. The eternal one of Psalm 2 who is installed on Zion forever! Who will rule with an iron scepter! The one who will bring the nations to Israel, and unite them to his people. This is history, this is theology! Is it not wonderful?
So when you read the Bible, read it as history with a theological meaning. On one side we have those that read it purely as history and will try to prove how everything perfectly fits with the actual historical events and they miss the theological message. On the other hand you have many who read it as purely theology, and say the history is actually a myth, an illustration trying to prove a point. And they miss the point that God is the God who is really there, and works through real historical events.
After all there was a reason God rose up a Luther at the same time as the printing press, there is a reason Protestants discovered America, There is a reason that a man like nelson Mandela was alive at the end of the apartheid. There is a reason why Jesus came exactly when he did. There is a reason for every event in history; every event in your life. Because the one in whom it all holds together, reigns. Bringing us to our second point.
Jesus Christ: the rest of the family
Another thing this genealogy teaches is that all of History flows to this point. All of history was pushing and moving to his coming and all of history flows from this point. We even organize our calendars this way! Before Christ, and after Christ. He interprets all that came before and he is the one driving all that comes after. In a sense he is the end of history and the beginning of history. The beginning of history as we know it in Adams fall ended in him, and he established on earth a new eternal kingdom, through his church. Jesus the man at the center of it all. God entered into our human history, and now reigns over it, at the Fathers right side.
Let’s take a closer look at this kings family. Right off the bat we notice he did not have a perfect family. . Sure there are beautiful stories in the lives of some of these men, but generally speaking this line was filled with sin and rejection of God. Some followed God, others rejected them. All of them were sinners. Sure you have guys like Boaz, David, and Josiah.
But look at a guy like Ahaz, who even sacrificed his own son in the fire, and stripped Gods temple so that he could pay off the king of Assyria, telling God he was not quite as trustworthy as the king of Assyria. Or Manasseh who built alters to gods inside God’s temple, and worshiped all the starry host of heaven. He also sacrificed son, and practiced sorcery and divination. Listen to what it says, “He made Israel do more evil that the nations that God had destroyed in the land. He filled the Jerusalem with the blood of the saints.”
And it is into this line of humans that God send his son. Into this messed up dysfunctional family. You can go back and read the stories. The line itself is almost crying out we need a savior! We need a king that will lead us in the path of righteousness not oppression, that will reign in peace and not in bloodshed, that will led us back from exile, giving us a home.
They were in exile from the land promised to them through Abraham when God took them out of Egypt through Moses. And now too the line ends in exile, and Jesus comes to lead his people back. As we read in verse 17, “from the exile to Christ, fourteen.” Here is the one who would lead his people out of exile, out of slavery. Deliver us from evil! Deliver us from bondage! Deliever us from everything that we are unable to deliver ourselves from.
So the first thing that stands out is the messiness of this family line ending in exile because of sin. Secondly, and possibly more intriguing is the inclusion of four women. It was very rare for women to be listed in Jewish genealogies. These aren’t the women we might expect, either. Instead of Sarah or Rebekah, we get Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah. Why? For starters, all four have some past connection to sexual immorality. Tamar seduced her father-in-law, and Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth was part of the Moabites, a people group with origins in incest, and led Israel astray through sexuality (Gen. 19, Num 25). The child born to Uriah's wife was conceived as a result of an adulterous relationship with King David. But there’s more. All four women had Gentile connections. Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites; Ruth was a Moabite; Uriah’s wife was married to a Hittite. God is telling us something here through these women.
As part of the ancestry of Jesus, he is honoring these women, and holding these high as a testament of his faithfulness not just to Israel but to all of sinful humanity – gentiles included. Just as there were great sinners among the men in Christ line, so these were not perfect women. This line shows us the past does not make you who you are in Christ, in Christ you have been born again, you are a new creation. The old has gone the new has come.
He has not come to save the righteous but sinners. We see in these women a picture of the people whom Christ came for. It was not just the famous women of the patriarchs, but these women with baggage. Matthew Gospels give a prominent place to women as co-heirs with men of eternal life. They are the first to hear the good news (Mary), the first to believe the good news. It was the seed of the woman, after all, that had come to crush the head of the serpent.
So the women here are not a mistake, but a highlight of the genealogy. These names, especially these women, tell the story of God. We see sin and darkness, and the inability to live according to the law. But then the light came into the world and everything changed.
Matthew is saying this is the story of all of history. The past in Adams sin is dark, but the light has come. The seed will crush the serpent. Sin and his buddy death with not be the victors! The whole Jewish Old Testament is moving toward this point! Matthew continually goes back to the Old Testament, and says would you just look at this! Look at it! Its talking about the coming of this man I am writing about! It is talking about Jesus.
God himself has been writing this story to prepare the world for his son. He says, “I have been bringing history to this point. I have been carefully weaving all these lives into the beautiful tapestry that finds its center here.” So today we start this journey toward Christmas not by looking forward, but by looking back into history at Gods work in the lives of ordinary men and women like me and you. Each name important not because of what they did or who they were but because they were united to the family of Jesus Christ.
These names show the humanity of Christ. He came into this mess. The perfect son of God, through whom all these were created, was born into this family. Through his Spirit these names have been etched to teach us too – if we would have our names etched into eternity we had better find ourselves in him. As part of his family. He is the only one that can redeem us out of the line of Adam. He is the light of the world.
The light of Christ shone backward across the generations giving meaning to life, to history, and the light of Christ shines forward to his children to day. Through faith in him, we have been united to this Jewish family. Because of him our names, too, are etched into eternity, united forever and part of the family of Jesus the son of David, the son of Abraham. The king spoke these words from heaven after he ascended. 'He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” He is the king of history and is once more leading it to the point of his return.
This is history. This is HIS STORY.