December 17, 2021 - Generations - A Reflection on Matthew 1:1-17

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, 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 Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab 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 King David. 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 Salathiel, and Salathiel 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 the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

I'm pretty sure many of you were waiting for that to get over, probably wondering why Matthew would start his gospel with a long genealogy, instead of getting straight into the action like Mark, or a tale of two miracle births like Luke, or the operatic opening of John (In the beginning was the Word). The reason is because genealogy was very important to the Jewish people, who were Matthew's primary audience.

Matthew begins by writing: "An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham." He introduces Jesus straight off the bat as the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior, then links him to the line of David and Abraham. Being of the line of Abraham places him in the nation. Being of the line of David puts him on the throne. Establishing this shows his Jewish readers that Jesus is from the often prophesied lineage. 

Matthew arranges his genealogy in three sections of fourteen. One reason for this was undoubtedly as an aid to memorization. Seriously? Yeah. People in those days didn't find genealogies boring; they would actually be able to recite their lineages back to Jacob, whose sons led the twelve tribes of Israel. A second reason for this arrangement is to highlight the importance of David in this genealogy. The numeric value of the Hebrew name David is 14.

There are quite a few lessons we can learn from this genealogy. One is the overriding providence of God. He doesn't play by man's rules, and you will see how time and time again, it is he who chooses who comes in the line. He chooses Abraham, but then Isaac, not Ishmael, is chosen to continue it. Again, Jacob, not first-born Esau, continues the line. David, too, was not the oldest in his family.

Another thing we learn is about the grace of God. Five women are included in this genealogy (see if you can spot them all), four of whom were Gentiles, and three of them guilty of sexual immorality. The gospel is for everybody, male and female, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor. And, of course, for the sinner. And, finally, we learn that God keeps his promise. Remember way back in Genesis, he said that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. Here he was: Jesus Christ, redeemer of the world.

So. Not so boring after all, right?