Matthew 1 (NRSV)
The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah
HERE is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” — a haunting arrangement by the ethereal Irish singer Enya.
The Jewish flavor of the Gospel of Matthew makes for a logical transition between the Old and New Testaments. For this reason, perhaps, the early church placed it first in order among the four gospel accounts.
The Jewish character of this Gospel is evident in many ways. There are many indications that Matthew expected that his readers would be familiar with Jewish culture.
- Matthew doesn’t translate Aramaic terms such as raca (Matthew 5:22) and corban (Matthew 7:11).
- Matthew refers to Jewish customs without explanation (Matthew 15:2 to Mark 7:3-4; see also Matthew 23:5).
- Matthew starts his genealogy with Abraham (Matthew 1:1).
- Matthew presents the name of Jesus and its meaning in a way that assumes the reader knows its Hebrew roots (Matthew 1:21).
- Matthew frequently refers to Jesus as the “Son of David.”
- Matthew uses the more Jewish phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” instead of “Kingdom of God.”
Yet significantly, the Gospel of Matthew also triumphantly ends with Jesus commanding His followers to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). So the Gospel of Matthew is deeply rooted in Judaism, but at the same time is able to look beyond; it sees the gospel itself as more than a message for the Jewish people; rather it is a message for the whole world.
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
The genealogy of Jesus is arranged in three sections based on three great stages of Jewish history, writes William Barclay. The first section takes its history down to David, the man who welded Israel into a nation and made the Jews a power in the world. The first section takes the story down to the rise of Israel’s greatest king:
2Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David.
The second section takes the story down to the exile to Babylon — the nation’s shame and tragedy and disaster:
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
The third section takes the story down to Jesus Christ. Jesus liberated people from their slavery, rescued them from their disaster, and turned the tragedy into triumph:
12And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
17So 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.
This genealogy is noted for the unusual presence of four women. Women were rarely mentioned in ancient genealogies, and the four mentioned here are worthy of special note as examples of God’s grace. They show how God can take unlikely people and use them in great ways.
- Tamar: She sold herself as a prostitute to her father in-law Judah to bring forth Perez and Zerah (Genesis 38).
- Rahab: She was a Gentile prostitute, for whom God took extraordinary measures to save from both judgment and her lifestyle of prostitution (Joshua 2; 6:22-23).
- Ruth: She was from Moab, a Gentile and until her conversion, out of the covenant of Israel (Ruth 1).
- the wife of Uriah: Bathsheba (who is mentioned by implication in Matthew 1:6) was an adulteress, infamous for her sin with David (2 Samuel 11).
These four women have an important place in the genealogy of Jesus to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was not royalty according to human perception, in the sense that He did not come from a pure aristocratic background. They demonstrate that Jesus identifies with sinners in His genealogy, even as He will in His birth, baptism, life, and His death on the cross. Spurgeon says, “Jesus is heir of a line in which flows the blood of the harlot Rahab, and of the rustic Ruth; he is akin to the fallen and to the lowly, and he will show his love even to the poorest and most obscure.”
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
“The greatest truth of the Scripture is that God is with us.”
–ascribed to John Wesley
24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
As his “body,” the church, through us, members of the body, the living Christ is always intruding, going where he is not necessarily wanted or expected, taking up space where people did not expect God to be.
In his earthly ministry, Jesus intruded into the homes of sinners. He showed up at a wedding and caused a scene. He came into places of death, where people hardly knew him, and brought forth unexpected life.
Maybe that is one reason people try to keep religion theoretical and spiritual. But Christianity is not a “spiritual” religion: it is an incarnational religion. It believes that God has a body, that God takes up space, that God will not remain ethereal and vague, distant and detached.
– The Rev. Barbara Lundblad
And HERE is “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy,” sung by Kiri Te Kawana, Michael George, and the Choirs of Coventry and Litchfield Cathedrals.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.