This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (New International Version)
You might be saying to yourself, “Really? You’re doing a reflection on this, a genealogy? Are you kidding?”
Why? Because all of Holy Scripture drips with grace, including genealogies.
The gospel of grace is the good news of Jesus; and, through the genealogy, we have the opportunity to understand and appreciate Christ better.
At the heart of Matthew’s gospel is a presentation of Jesus and Christ’s teaching which centers on the kingdom of God. Jesus is the King who fulfills all Old Testament promises. The genealogy is more than a chronicle of Christ’s lineage; it is a theological statement that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the anointed King of Israel, and the Savior of the world.
Who is Jesus?
Jesus is the Christ. The name “Jesus” means “God is salvation.” And “Christ” means “anointed one” (king). The name “Jesus Christ” communicates his person and his mission; he is the sovereign king who brings deliverance.
Matthew, throughout his Gospel, takes pain to convey that Jesus is the King over an ethical kingdom of righteousness, and not a political kingdom. Therefore, Jesus is unlike King Herod or any other earthly king who seeks to have power and serve his own interests. Instead, Jesus uses his authority to serve others through love and grace; he doesn’t make subjects by coercion.
Jesus is the son of David
Matthew establishes Christ’s pedigree by saying that Jesus was not some new kid on the block; he was anticipated for centuries. Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant given to King David by God:
When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up a descendant of yours after you, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingship. He is the one who will build me a temple, and I will establish his throne forever. I will become his father and he will become my son, and I’ll never withdraw my faithful love from him as I did from the one before you. I’ll install him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne will be established forever. (1 Chronicles 17:11-14, CEB)
Jesus is a king in the same line and spirit of David. For example, when David became king, he didn’t immediately set out to annihilate all of the previous king’s (Saul) sons. That’s often how kings did it back then. Instead, David used his power to scan the land and show kindness to them. (2 Samuel 9:1-16)
Jesus is the son of Abraham
Matthew also establishes Christ’s pedigree as the rightful king of the universe by saying that Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant given to Abraham:
I will make you a great nation,
I will bless you.
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you, I will curse.
Through you every family on earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3, GW)
Abraham was called by God because of sheer grace. There was nothing special about Abraham, other than the fact that God called him out of a pagan land to create a people for God’s own possession. Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise; all nations are blessed by coming to Christ the Lord and King.
From Abraham to David
Matthew made a statement about God through the genealogy: the Lord is merciful and full of grace. Grace is seen in the inclusion of four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.
The use of genealogy was a conventional form in the ancient world for establishing the credibility of a king’s right to rule. What was highly unconventional was including women. Matthew purposefully included them for two reasons:
- Women are central to the kingdom of God and play a pivotal role in the New Covenant.
- The women in the genealogy are Gentiles and were all notorious for their sexual exploits.
Matthew highlighted a gospel of grace. No matter your gender, race, or even sordid past, the kingdom message is for everyone and is not an exclusive club.
God is acting to redeem and reconcile the world. The gospel is not bound in any way by scandal, race, or gender. Jesus is the Savior and uses whomever he wants to extend his gospel of grace.
From Solomon to the Exile
The men listed in this part of the genealogy are all kings; most of them not very good kings; and many of them downright evil. Because of this, God’s wrath was aroused, and the people were expelled from the land for following the unrighteous kings.
However, grace overcomes everything. God’s purposes are still providentially accomplished despite human failure and sin. The lineage of Jesus was neither cut off nor thwarted because of powerful men who went in the wrong direction. In the end, God’s promises prevail.
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10, NIV)
From the Exile to Christ
God is faithful, despite human unfaithfulness. Even though the people didn’t listen to the prophets during the reign of the earthly kings, the Lord quietly preserved a remnant who carried on the kingdom ethic.
“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.” (Jeremiah 23:3, NRSV)
Instead of extermination, God sent a Savior to settle the sin issue once for all. God’s grace and providence reign supreme in the universe.
Jesus is the Promised King
Matthew’s genealogy is presented with 3 sets of 14. The number 14 is symbolic: the name “David” has three consonants in Hebrew, and the number value of that name is 4+6+4=14. By modern standards, this doesn’t make much sense. However, by ancient standards, this was a conventional use of genealogy. And so, Matthew’s original readers got the point that David is the center of the genealogy; and Jesus is the promised king to come. It’s a creative way of pointing to Jesus, which connected to people accustomed to using numerology for making arguments.
It’s good to think about avenues of communication that speak to the people we want to reach. For example, in raising three girls, playing tea party with dolls was a way to love them and have a conversation on their level.
In other words, we must ask: How do I need to change in order to reach the people I want to reach? (and not how others need to conform to what I’m doing).
God acted in history by sending Jesus, who is the rightful king of the universe. Christ is the Anointed One, sent to restore people to God. He is our peace, and our hope. To walk in the footsteps of Jesus is to walk in grace, not self-serving, but looking to use what has been given us to live as God’s subjects in the kingdom.
May we make our own theological statement of who God is by the manner in which we live and speak, truly having Jesus at the center of all we do and say.
Soli Deo Gloria