“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”- Matthew 1:1
Within the first sentence of his Gospel, Matthew makes it very clear what this genealogy and his whole Gospel is about. He wants to make it very clear from the beginning. In the last post, we talked about how keeping Matthew’s audience in mind is helpful when studying his Gospel in general and specifically when studying the genealogy. Understanding his audience helps us understand the importance of the first sentence in the genealogy. The Jews Matthew was writing to were waiting for the coming Messiah, the Christ. This Christ was a promise from God they hadn’t seen fulfilled yet. And in this first statement, Matthew makes a bold statement. He claims that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. The genealogy is where he will start to make his case for Jesus being the Christ. This first sentence sets the stage for the genealogy and the rest of the Gospel.
When I sit down to study any part of the Bible deeper, the biggest thing I do is start asking questions. If you’re studying this with me, you can try to answer the questions I have here yourself, but also ask your own. For the genealogy, the question I constantly ask is what is Matthew saying about Jesus in what I’m reading? If Matthew is making the case that Jesus is the Christ, then the whole point of the genealogy is to tell us about Jesus. And while his primary purpose was most likely to just prove Jesus’ connection to Abraham and David, I also believe he was making theological statements about Jesus, whether he knew it or not. So, I constantly want to be asking how does Matthew show us what he believed about Jesus?
I also want to be constantly asking myself “What does that mean?” If I come to something I don’t understand, of course, that’s a helpful question. But I actually have a different purpose for that question. When I ask what something means in the Bible, it’s usually when I feel God trying to push me to really think about what I’m reading, even if it’s something I’ve already read before. When I was in college one thing my professors constantly talked about was not taking Scripture for granted. It’s easy when you’ve been in church for a while to get used to certain phrases and ideas. We can often assume we know everything about a passage or a certain phrase that comes out of the Bible and miss out on the depth of it. As you read the genealogy, challenge yourself to dig deeper. What does it mean for Jesus to be the son of David? Why is that significant? Why is did Matthew open his genealogy with that statement? Why does it matter that Jesus is the son of Abraham? What does that have to do with Jesus being the Christ?
Again, I encourage you to answer those questions for yourself, but I will give some of my thoughts from what I have studied here.
The Son of David
We have already talked about how the line of David was important to the Jews. In 2 Samuel 7, God makes an important promise to David. I would encourage you to go and read that story yourself, but I will summarize it here. God promises that he will build a “house” for David. David’s kingdom will be established forever. God promises that one day from David’s line, a king will come and his kingdom will never end. Here is how God describes this king “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” You will find a similar prophecy in 1 Chronicles 17.
Later in the prophetic books, God’s promise gets deeper. We can look at two of these together. Take some time to summarize these in your own words and think about how they connect to Matthew’s genealogy and the gospel. Keep asking yourself, what does it mean for Jesus to be the Christ? What does it mean for Him to be the son of David?
The first one we’ll look at is Isaiah 11:1-16. Isaiah focuses on the judgment of God’s people. At the beginning of Isaiah, God calls out their idolatry and sin through the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah turns to foreign gods and chooses to trust other nations for help instead of trusting God. God patiently warns them and waits for them to return, but they continue to rebel. So, God pronounces judgment on them. This judgment will take the form of exile and attack from the nations they sought for protection. But in the midst of this judgment, we also see amazing examples of God’s grace and love for His people. In chapter 10, God promises that a remnant will return from exile. He promises to have mercy on His people. Then, in chapter 11 He says this,
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
Or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
But with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
And he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
And with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waits,
And faithfulness the belt of his loins.”
If you keep reading, you’ll see more about this “root of Jesse.” We see this king will be a righteous judge. He will fear the LORD. He will be the king the other kings of Israel and Judah could not be. See, Israel and Judah found themselves in the position they were in because of their leaders. If you read through 1 and 2 Kings, as well as 1 and 2 Chronicles, you’ll see over and over the failure of the kings to fear the LORD. I won’t go into that too much now, because we’ll talk about that in a few posts. I just want to show the contrast between this promised son of David and the sons of David God’s people had already seen. They had failed. And here, God promises them a king, a son of David who would not fail.
The other prophecy I want to look at is in Jeremiah 23. Jeremiah is like Isaiah in its content. It is a book about God warning His people through His prophet about coming judgment. In fact, during the time Jeremiah was prophesying the exile came and God’s people were carried away to Babylon.
Before Jeremiah 23, God pronounces judgment on Jehoiakim because he treated the people poorly and encouraged their idolatry. God even contrasts him with his father, Josiah, who was Judah’s last good king. After calling out Jehoiakim’s wicked ways, God pronounces judgment on anyone who leads His people astray and who scatter His flock. God promises to bring His people back from exile.
“Behold, the days are coming declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” Again, here we see the promise of a king who would be the king Judah had not yet seen. This king would be righteous and just. And he would save God’s people. Even amid judgment, God promises salvation.
The Son of Abraham
Probably the most important person to the Jews other than David was Abraham. To understand why we need to go back to the beginning of the Bible. In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham, at the time Abram, to leave his home to go settle in a new land. God promises that Abraham’s descendants would inherit this land. God also promises that through Abraham’s descendants the whole world would be blessed. God tells Abraham this blessing would come through his son Isaac. A lot of God’s promises in the Old Testament were two-fold. They had a more immediate application, but there was also a look toward the future. This promise to Abraham was no different. Through Isaac, God formed the nation of Israel. Israel was meant to be a light for God in the world. He created them to show the world what it looked like to be in a relationship with Him. But, as we see as we read through the Old Testament, they failed. They turned to other gods and rebelled against the one who had saved them.
God’s promise to Abraham also looked into the future. By linking Jesus to Abraham, Matthew not only shows that He belongs to the people of Israel, but he also shows that Jesus is the son of Abraham from whom blessing will come.
When Matthew said Jesus is the Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, his fellow Jews knew what he was talking about. They understood completely the point he was trying to make. Jesus is the Christ. He is the king God had promised. He is the one from whom blessing will finally come. These were the promises the Jews were waiting eagerly for. So, when Matthew makes the statement that Jesus is the Christ and then follows it up with the son of David, that’s a big deal. As we read the rest of the genealogy, keep looking for how Matthew is proving his case that Jesus is the Christ. Try to look at it from the point of view of both Matthew and the Jews he was writing to. As Matthew starts the Gospel, you can almost hear the chorus of Jews saying, “You say He’s the Christ, son of David, son of Abraham? You say Jesus is who we’ve been waiting for? Ok, prove it.” And in the rest of the genealogy and the Gospel, that’s exactly what Matthew sets out to do. He not only proves that Jesus is the Christ, but he also shows his readers what it means for Jesus to be the Christ.
Introduction and the Importance of Genealogies
Genealogies are usually the parts of the Bible we like to skip. Honestly, I don’t always read most of the genealogies in the Bible. I know the genealogies can be intimidating. The names are hard and it’s easy to get lost as we read them. They’re a harder part of the Bible to read through, so we may try reading them but end up just skimming through. Or we just don’t see how these long lists of names are important, so we don’t read them at all. But over the years God has shown me how important genealogies in the Bible are, even for us in the 21st century. The genealogy we find in Matthew 1 is probably one of the most important genealogies in my opinion. It’s also my favorite. It’s beautifully deep and if we study it carefully, we can learn a lot about Jesus.
So, I was actually very excited last Sunday when Mowgli said we are going to walk through the genealogy in Matthew. I was excited not only because of what God has shown me about this genealogy in the past but also what He has shown me more recently. About a month or two ago, God led me to start studying the Gospel of Matthew in depth. I had started studying personally because I wanted to just see Jesus. When I just need to hear Jesus and remember who He is and what He has done for me, I usually read straight through all four Gospels. But this time when I started reading Matthew, God convicted me about the fact that I have read through the Gospel of Matthew many times but have never sat down to study it. So, I decided to take some time to really dig into Matthew. Of course, the first thing I read was the genealogy we are studying as a church right now. And God showed me some crazy things in this genealogy that I never knew before and led me to see Him a lot deeper. He helped me remember the importance of this genealogy.
I want to share some of what God showed me during the next few weeks. As I’ve already said, I hope these posts will complement what we talk about on Sundays but also encourage you to study Matthew’s genealogy on your own. I don’t want to just read the genealogy for you. I want to challenge you to take some time to sit down with Matthew’s genealogy for themselves and use these posts as a guide. Think of it as a conversation. I’ll share some of my thoughts as well as some tips and helpful information to help guide you through it, but I want to hear what God is showing you as well. Take your own notes, ask your own questions and try to see if you can answer them on your own. I encourage you to leave comments and share what you’re seeing and any questions. I think it would be cool for all of us to be engaging in this together as we go through this series.
In this first post, I want to just talk briefly on why Matthew’s genealogy is important. In the next post, I’ll share some things to keep in mind as we study the genealogy.
The Importance of Matthew’s Genealogy
To understand the importance of Matthew’s genealogy, let’s first think about the circumstances behind Matthew’s Gospel as a whole. Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience. These Jews were waiting to see God fulfill promises He had made them. Long ago, God promised that through Abraham’s son Isaac, the whole world would be blessed (Gen. 12). God promised David a king would come from his line and that king would rule forever (2. Sam. 7). And throughout the prophetic books, we see countless promises from God that someday a king would come from the line of David. This king would redeem God’s people and bring in God’s kingdom. Now, over 400 years have passed and so far, nothing seems to be happening. The Jews are living under the rule of another nation and this promised Messiah, this Christ, is nowhere to be seen. They believed the Christ would come; they just didn’t know when.
In his Gospel, Matthew is going to claim that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the king the Jews had been waiting for. He is going to make the case that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the promises of God, and so much more. The genealogy is his opening statement, so to speak. It’s the introduction paragraph to his essay on why Jesus is the promised king. He used the genealogy to show his fellow Jews that Jesus was who they were waiting for.
The genealogy is important for us because it reminds us that God keeps His promises, even if it takes a long time. In the genealogy, we can see God arranging everything in history to fulfill His promises to His people. God will do what He says He will do.
Matthew’s genealogy can also help us learn more about Jesus and who he is. Genealogies helped prove someone’s right to the throne or other important things. But ancient genealogies also functioned as a sort of social resume. A person’s identity was very much tied to their family. As Mowgli said in the first sermon in this series, for the Jews, you were who your family was. We live in a much more individualized society. We still value family, and family is important. But for the most part, we can separate ourselves from our family a bit more than they did in Biblical times. Your reputation is not usually based on what your great-great-great-grandparents did. But in Matthew’s day, your family tree said a lot about who you were.
And Jesus’ genealogy says a lot about Him.
At the bottom of each post I’ll share some of the resources I used when I was doing some of the outside research for this, so if you want to look into anything on your own, feel free. I especially recommend checking out Overview Bible and The Bible Project. Those are two I use quite often, and they are good at presenting information about the Bible in a way that’s easy to understand.
How to Read Jesus’ Genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew– Crosswalk.com
Jesus & Genealogies—The Bible Project
Blue Letter Bible
 Andreas J. Kostenberger and Alexander E. Stewart, “How to Read Jesus’ Genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew,” November 24, 2015, https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/how-to-read-jesus-genealogy-in-the-gospel-of-matthew.html)
In the last post, we started looking at Matthew 18:15-20. In these verses Jesus is giving His followers an outline for how to deal with other Christians who have sinned against us. The process He gives us is one of mercy, grace, and respect for our brothers and sisters, but also takes sin seriously. When a brother or sister sins against us we should talk to them in private first. If they listen to us then, we should forgive them and let it go. But, if they refuse to listen, refuse to admit they have sinned we should get one or two other people who can listen to both sides and help our brother or sister understand where they have sinned. If they still don’t listen, we should take it to the church.
But, sometimes people will not listen and will not own their sin no matter how much we try to graciously show them. Sometimes they will just not agree they have sinned and sometimes they just won’t care. So, what do we do then?
A Gentile and a Tax Collector
Well, Jesus’ final step may seem a bit harsh. He says, “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.”
Remember that Matthew is writing to a primarily Jewish audience, and remember how the Jews viewed tax collectors.
Basically, Jesus tells His followers to see this person as an unbeliever. And that may seem harsh. Aren’t we supposed to forgive people endlessly? Yes, we’ll see that next. But again, forgiving sin doesn’t mean we just let people continue to sin or ignore their sin. Grace confronts us with our sin to help us repent and turn away from it and into forgiveness and mercy. Like the Apostle Paul says in Romans 2, God’s grace and kindness toward us is meant to lead us to repentance. God want us to acknowledge our sins against Him and other people. His grace toward us is meant to lead us to repentance. Likewise, in this process, another person’s kindness toward us is meant to lead us to repent of our sin against them.
Owning Our Sins: Understanding the Gospel
If we are confronted with our sin over and over, but don’t see it as sin or just don’t care if it is sin, we show that we don’t really understand the gospel and we don’t really know Jesus. In order to understand this, we’re going to jump out of Matthew for a minute and hop over to 1 John.
In 1 John 1, it says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”
Take a bit to walk through what John is saying here. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins, he says that twice. But, in order for that blood to cleanse us, what does John says has to happen first? We have to acknowledge our sins. John says, if we say we don’t sin, we deceive ourselves. If we pretend, we don’t sin at all, that we’re perfect, then why would we need His grace in the first place?
In order for Jesus to cleanse us of our sins, for us to experience His forgiveness, first we have to acknowledge that we are sinners. We have to admit that we sin against God and against other people. We often buy into the lie that if we confess our sin to God, He will crush us. We are afraid to expose our sins, because we think in that exposure God will destroy us. But we see twice here in 1 John 1 that God’s goal in our confession is not to destroy but to forgive and cleanse. But He can’t forgive us if we don’t want to admit we need to be cleaned. Being a Christian, walking in the light is not about being a good, moral person. It’s not about being perfect. In fact, John shows us here that being in the light means letting God expose our sins, so He can forgive us and enable us to obey His commands (I would encourage you to read through the rest of 1 John 1 to see how this plays out).
So, when we go back to what Jesus teaches in Matthew 18, we can understand a bit more why Jesus says what He says. When we don’t admit to our sin, we show we don’t understand the gospel. We show that we don’t understand or really know Jesus. Either because we don’t trust His grace in exposing our sin, or because we proudly think we are better than Jesus knows we are. In either case, we show we don’t know who Jesus is. Jesus doesn’t show us our sin because He wants to destroy us with it, He does it because He wants to help us kill it, He wants to forgive us for it.
With Mercy and Grace
When we take this final step, like in the other steps we can still show mercy and grace. In a way this step can be merciful, because it can lead this person to see where they have misunderstood the gospel. It can help them truly come to Jesus.
We see how this practically plays out in 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul is addressing a number of issues in the Corinthian church. One issue was one of the members of the church had committed adultery with his step mother. Paul tells the church to remove this man from their gathering. That may seem backwards from the gospel of mercy and grace. But I think here we have a similar situation to what Jesus is describing in Mathew 18. I think if you read through the first couple of chapters, you’ll see why Paul responds in this way. Read through the first couple of chapters of 1 Corinthians and try to see how the church in Corinth was responding to this man’s sin. Were they taking his sin seriously? And then look at Paul’s response and his reason for that response. Where do you see mercy in how Paul deals with this man’s sin? How does this relate to what Jesus says in Matthew 18?
When we get to this last step in the process Jesus gives us, we can still show compassion and mercy because we might just be helping this person come to truly understand Jesus by taking their sin as seriously as God does. And when we do that, when we see our sin for what it is, when we confess it we will find God’s mercy and forgiveness.