Line of the King | Matthew 1.1-17
December 1, 2013 Series: The King Has Come | Matthew
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 1:1–1:17
Introduction | the genealogy
ALL Scripture is God-breathed and ALL Scripture is profitable. Theologian Matthew Henry said, “Where God has a mouth to speak and a hand to write, we should find an ear to hear and an eye to read; and God give us a heart to profit!” It’s not difficult to see how we can profit from God’s commands, promises, and warnings. But if ALL of Scripture was written for our edification and encouragement, God ALSO intends for us to learn from architectural building plans, geographical surveys, and even family genealogies.
Genealogy as Identity
Genealogies were very important to people of Israel. A family record determined much of the course of their life. Who they were, where they lived, and even what they owned was legally defined by their tribe, clan, and family. The tribe they came from dictated where they lived and, for some, even their vocation. For example, when the exiles returned from Babylon, to rebuild the temple, the leaders of Israel checked the genealogies to determine which men were legally the priests. The clan they came from dictated the property they owned within that portion of land which usually localized them around particular hometown. The family they came from frequently dictated their station, their reputation, and even their spouses based off the historical record of births, deaths, and even business transactions.
There are over 50 genealogies listed in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we see the Roman governor using the genealogical record for census and taxation. Unlike our family trees today, which are mostly used informally to discover personal or medical histories, genealogies were official records—legal documents used to establish identity. Genealogies were very important to a Jewish people, especially because they were waiting for a descendent of David to be King. One could not simply claim to be King without the pedigree to prove it—you had to have royal blood. Matthew begins with a genealogy because he wants to make a case for Jesus as the promised King of the Jews.
Genealogy as History
Matthew wrote his genealogy to do more than prove something, he wanted to teach something. Another genealogy for Jesus appears in the gospel of Luke who endeavored to write a complete investigative report of every fact. Matthew is not interested in the details of the story, as much as he interested in the meaning of the story. Luke’s genealogy descends from Jesus to Adam. Matthew’s genealogy ascends from David to Jesus. Luke writes to prove Jesus’ humanity. Matthew writes to prove Jesus’ royalty. Luke includes 77 names, while Matthew just over 40. Matthew deletes names that DON’T suit his greater purpose, includes names that DO suit his greater purpose, and even changes a few names so THAT THEY WILL suit his greater purpose. His greater purpose is to preach the gospel.
To that end, Matthew divides the genealogy into three divisions of 14 generations. From our perspective, there is nothing significant about the number 14. But for the Jew, Hebrew letters had numeric value. The letters of David’s name have the numeric equivalents of 4/4/6, or a value of 14. Unlike Luke, he has a purposeful way of dividing the genealogy into meaningful divisions. The first is a dark a 1,000 period from Abraham to David that began in darkness and ended in light. The second is the 400 years from David to Babylon, which began with light and ended in exiled darkness. And the last is the 600 years from return to the birth of Jesus, going once again from darkness to light. Unintentionally, Matthew teaches us a lot about himself by how he writes out this genealogy. With great intention, Matthew designed to this genealogy to remind us of God’s original perfect plan for the world, to reveal to us the scandalous design of the plan, and to give us hope for the new life this plan promises.
A DESIGNED GENEALOGY | the title of the book
Our God is a creator, an architect who designs and builds perfectly. Matthew’s genealogy, therefore, is not just the names of Jesus’ ancestors put into a list. God chose Matthew because he was an educated tax collector who loved statistics, numbers, and charts. Not only did Matthew design his genealogy to be easy to memorize, every word and name were carefully chosen to preach a sermon. The first line has been understood several ways-- The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Some Greek scholars have taken this to be a long title for the entire gospel. This title has several important phrases in it [FOLLOW THIS…]
1. The book of the genealogy: The word for genealogy is the same word for GENESIS. It means birth, or beginning. So, it is fair to translate this first phrase, “The Book of the New Genesis” This gives us insight into Matthew’s mind who sees the birth of Jesus as the climax of all of history; it is the beginning of the RECREATION of all God wanted for the world that was lost when the FIRST CREATION fell.
2. Jesus Christ: This combination of words is only used 5 times in the gospels, twice in Matthew, never in Luke. The name Jesus is the Greek translation of the personal Hebrew name Joshua , meaning, “God saves”. Jesus is a man, in history, with a personal history and a personal name. Then you have Christ, literally meaning “the anointed one” . The words Christ and Messiah are synonymous. This is not a last name as much as a royal title. This man named Jesus is the promised, chosen, anointed, Messiah.
3. Son of David; the Son of Abraham: These two big names in history, two covenants, with two big promises. The Promise to David was that he would have a son who would be King forever (2Samuel 7.1; 1Chronicles 17). It was a promise for the nation of Israel. “Son of David” says, “Israel here is your messiah.” The Promise to Abraham was that he would have a son who would bless the nations of the world (Genesis 12, 18.22). “Son of Abraham” says, “Nations, here is your hope.” The creation of all people started with two people: Adam and Eve. From them came all the nations among the earth. But God chose one nation, through which, he would raise ups a savior to restore the world and bring them all back into relationship with Him.
Taken all together, then, first line could easily be translated: “The Book of (the new) Genesis of Jesus Messiah, Son of David, Son of Abraham.” Or, said differently, the new beginning of God saving the world through Jesus the promised Jewish King who will bless all the families of the earth.
God’s one plan has never changed, it has never failed, and it has never even been threatened. History began, continues, and will end exactly as God has designed. God has always had one plan, beginning with one creation, falling to its death with one decision, only to be redeemed through one people, climaxing in one person, in order to begin again with one family that will live with him forever.
A BROKEN GENEALOGY | the new covenant
What I love about Scripture is that it is so honest. Matthew’s gives us a “dirty” genealogy. If we were going to write out own our own family tree, especially for public reading, it is likely that there are a few branches we’d cut off. Amen? So, if Matthew wanted to protect the dignity of Jesus, the promised Son of the King, he probably would have designed his genealogy completely differently—it is full of broken people. This is because Matthew had another purpose beyond revealing Jesus as King.
the men left out
When compared to Luke’s genealogy, there are a number of names that are excluded. Countless kings are ignored, This kind of deletion isn’t completely unusual. Typically, the purpose of the genealogy is to establish proof of one’s ancestry, not provide a complete family history. The most shocking part of the genealogy is not who he excludes, but who he includes. I could preach five sermons about all of the stories in the ancestral line of Jesus which would include a Babylonian polygamist, liars, thieves, a prideful warrior turned leper, several adulterers, a few murderers, a man who sold his own brother into slavery, a cursed king, and countless idolaters. Jesus royal lineage isn’t as clean as some might think or hope.
There are questions about whether it is even legal. One of the kings, included, was Jeconiah (listed in verse 11-12). Jeconiah was a king, in David’s line, cursed by God. The curse, recorded in Jeremiah 22, declared that “none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.” Jeconiah is Joseph’s ancestor, so this is a problem for Jesus if he is the son of Joseph. Though the genealogy is runs from Abraham to Joseph, it actually ends with “Joseph the Husband of Mary”. In Luke’s genealogy it says, “being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph.” If Jesus had been the real son of Joseph, He never could have sat on the throne of David. But if he is not the son of Joseph, then he can’t be in the royal line. In God’s wisdom, Nathan, who was also one of David’s Son, was the ancestor of Mary. Jesus was also royal through Mary’s side. John MacArthur makes a great point: Jesus had to be the LEGAL son of Joseph in order to have the right, so God had to devise a plan whereby he could be the legal heir to the throne through the father, but not in the bloodline descending from Jeconiah. The sin of men cannot thwart or even threaten God’s plans.
the women put in
But Matthew wanted his genealogy to do more than just prove Jesus was legally King; he wanted it to preach just what kind of King Jesus was— a KING who RULES with GRACE. He does this by the four women he includes (five w/ mary). That women are mentioned at all is noteworthy. Usually, genealogies went through the Father. The names of women were only mentioned if it meant that the purity of the line was preserved or the dignity enhanced. Consider the women that Matthew could have named: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, or any number of wives of these men who were more dignified. Instead, he mentions four women Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, The wife of Uriah (Bathsheba). Tamar: a young widow who played the harlot in order to trick her father-in-law (Judah) into keeping his promise (Genesis 38). Rahab was a prostitute who worked in the city of Jericho; best known for assisting the Israelite spies by hiding them. Ruth was a widow who is morally the least questionable of the four; but she is a Moabite, a descendent of the incestuous Lot (Gen. 19). Bathsheba, whom Matthew cannot even name directly, was a widow of Uriah, one of David’s great warriors. David seduces her and she becomes his wife. She is not the lawful wife of David, rather, she was married and David kills many to cover up his adultery.
Tamar who pretended to be a prostitute, Rahab who worked as a prostitute, Ruth who was the result of incestual prostitution, and Bathsheba who acted like a prostitute all became great-grandmothers of Jesus. All four were non-Jews, all four were stained with sin, but the inclusion of all four preaches the gospel of grace! God certainly could have ran his plan through what might appear to us as “CLEANER” people—but then who would we be talking about? Matthew reminds us that God came to save sinners, to take what is broken through (not despite) them, magnify his mercy, his grace, and his love.
A HOPEFUL GENEALOGY | the new life
What does a 2000 year old genealogy, that represents over 4000 years of history, have to me in 2013. Everything. We are not only putting our faith in the true identity OF CHRIST, we are putting faith in our new IDENTITY IN CHRIST. 2Corinthians 5.16-17 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. When we place our trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, we receive a new identity. We are redeemed. But our past is redeemed with us; we begin to see it all in perspective. That which we perceived as broken and meaningless because gloriously meaningful.
FIRST, we have a redeemable family history. Jesus’ genealogy teaches us that the brokenness of our own family history or our own personal story, CANNOT and DID NOT disrupt God’s plan, rather, it magnifies it. The sin we have committed, or those committed against us, does not surprise God. He may not desire it, but he has ordained it. He does not work despite it, but through it, to accomplish his kingdom purposes. All of this serves to make the sermon of our lives that more glorious—our weakness preaches the gospel better. God redeems our family histories to His glory.
SECOND, have a redeemable spiritual history. It is natural for us to look back at our worldly influences, and see how we have been affected positively or negatively. But consider all of the spiritual influences—good and bad parents, pastors, teachers, leaders—that have impacted our lives. Don’t be quick to dismiss them or the time you had with them as meaningless, it is part of your God-designed spiritual genealogy. Remember, Jesus was not a 5th generation pastor. Jesus line was full of evil men who claimed to be teachers of God. And yet, God used them all to bring his plan to completion. I am tempted, at times, to have a fear of association with teachers of yesterday that influenced me—especially if they go off the deep end today. God redeems even our spiritual histories to His glory.
We must remember that this is all possible because, in Christ, we have a completely redeemed identity. As a people, we are so tempted to look backward for identity. Sometimes we can look back and take too much pride in our lineage, our culture, our family history, even past achievements. Sometimes, we can also look back and find shame or despair. God does not want your past to define you. We always look backward with eyes of flesh—wrongly defining what is worth celebrating over or crying about—this kind of hindsight is never 20/20. If you have to look backward, then go WAY backward to the cross—where you receive a NEW BIRTH –A NEW GENESIS!. You will always struggle to define yourself by your past UNTIL you see faith in Jesus Christ as the end of one genealogy and the beginning of another.
Conclusion: A New Genealogy | Ends with Jesus
Hope is found in dying and resurrecting IN Christ. Christ does not restore your genealogy, he gives you a new one. His family becomes your family and this causes you to look backward, not with pride or despair, but with gratitude and amazement over how God used ALL of that earthly brokenness and all of that spiritual brokenness to bring you to exactly where He wanted you to be. Romans 8.28-30 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
More in The King Has Come | Matthew
May 11, 2014Jesus the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29 (Mville)
May 11, 2014Jesus is (Scary) Gracious | Matthew 7.15-23 (Snoh)
May 4, 2014Kingdom Admission | Matthew 7:13-23 (Mville)