The Genealogy of Jesus

Day 3

Matthew 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse,and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah,and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor,and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud,and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob,and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Now go back and actually read that, because I’m about 80% sure that you just skimmed or skipped it entirely. Exciting stuff, right? Make a note of it for when you have trouble sleeping.

While the literary form of ancient genealogy might make our eyelids droop today, Matthew is saying some pretty bold and scandalous things that would leave the people first reading this picking their jaws up from the floor. And if we believe that there is no wasted word in Scripture and that everything God has said, he said for a reason, then it’s worth our time to try and understand what exactly he’s saying in this first chapter of Matthew.

Ancient genealogies aren’t so concerned with just recording history. They’re written and arranged so carefully as to make certain theological claims about the people they’re introducing. The key to Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is in the first sentence, “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matthew is making it clear that these are the two most important people in Jesus’ lineage. His goal in this introduction to his Gospel is to proclaim Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and to David.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be the rescue plan for the whole world, that all peoples would be blessed through them. By tracing Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham, Matthew reminds his readers, “Remember that promise God made to you back in Abraham’s day? That’s what’s happening. That’s what Jesus is doing.”

But God also made a promise to David that his kingdom and his throne would reign forever. When Jerusalem fell, and Israel was driven into exile, they held on to God’s promise. The Messiah for whom they waited and hoped was to be a king in the line of David who would rise up and restore David’s throne. By tracing Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham, Matthew reminds his readers, “Remember that king you’ve been waiting for? He’s here. His name is Jesus.”

Even the order that Matthew used to separate and arrange the genealogy into sections communicates with theological significance. Matthew uses three eras from Abraham to David, from David to exile, and from exile to Jesus. These are huge portions of time that characterize different periods of uncertainty for Israel. From Abraham to David, Israel is becoming a people, enduring and escaping slavery in Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, fighting for the land God promised them, and becoming established as a nation. Matthew reminds them that even from their very beginnings, God was sovereign over their circumstances and was working his plan for them across the generations.

From David to the exile, Israel watches their nation gradually fall, nearly every new king is more wicked than the last, and finally they are conquered by a foreign power and exiled into a foreign land. Matthew reminds them that even still God was with them, and he was in control working his plan across generations. And from exile until Mary and Joseph, through Babylonian captivity, Roman oppression, and 400 years of silence in which God did not speak to his people, even still he was in control for every step, and his plan of salvation for his people was in motion.

In the midst of all this name dropping, there are few that don’t seem to belong: Tamar, Rahab, and the wife of Uriah, three scandalous Canaanite women. Tamar’s story is probably the most outrageous. You can read it in Genesis 38 (parental discretion advised), but suffice to say she disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law as revenge for denying her a replacement husband. You might remember Rahab by her other name, Rahab the Harlot. Check Joshua 2 if you need a refresher. The wife of Uriah is Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11. David saw her bathing, slept with her, and had Uriah killed to cover it up.

So why did Matthew include these three women in his account of the lineage of Jesus? The literary form of ancient genealogy doesn’t even require mothers to be listed, and scandalous Canaanites are the kinds of characters a good Jew would normally avoid mentioning anyways. So why did he go out of his way to include them? Because the gospel that Matthew proclaims, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the long-anticipated King and Messiah, is good news for everyone: men and women, Jews and Gentiles, saints and sinners.

You would expect that when someone is chronicling the legacy of a king, they would leave out the sorts of things that might raise questions. But the king whose first throne was a manger does a lot of things you wouldn’t expect. He isn’t ashamed to include messy people like Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba in his story of redemption, and he isn’t afraid to include messy people like you and me either. He stood by Israel in their wandering, exile, and affliction and he stands by us in our darkest days. He is the culmination of all the songs and prophecies of Israel, and the fulfillment of God’s promise to uphold the throne of David and to bring blessing to all nations on the earth through his people.

We, by the way, the church, are those people. Our Savior and King who gathers us to himself, sends us out into the world to be a blessing. All peoples on earth shall be blessed through Christ’s work in us. It’s December 27th. If you haven’t already, you’re probably heading back to work and out into the world again after a few days spent with your family. How will you carry the promised blessing of Jesus into the world today?
Taylor Whitson | Worship Pastor

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