Matthew 1:1-17: Destined for Greatness

Read: Matthew 1:1-17

Matthew launches right into Jesus’ genealogy without as much as an introduction or purpose in writing the book of Matthew. Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel was to show that Jesus was indeed the messiah that was promised to the Jewish people. In order to do so, Matthew needed to show that Jesus was indeed a descendant of David and ultimately Abraham.

Jewish genealogies would generally follow the lineage from the father to the son. Matthew follows this tradition, but also inserts the names of women in the text as well. This is no mere coincidence either. Each one of the women presented in the genealogy as some thing about her that makes

  • Tamar was actually Judah’s daughter-in-law who posed as a prostitute and seduced Judah. She became pregnant and presented his staff and cloak to incriminate the father (Genesis 38:13-26).
  • Rahab is mentioned here as being the mother of Boaz. She can’t be the Rahab from Joshua 2 because Boaz lived much later. She was probably a foreign woman like Rahab from Joshua 2 though .
  • Ruth was a Moabite woman who married Boaz and has an entire book in the Bible written about her virtuous deeds (Ruth 1:4, Ruth 4:13-22).
  • Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon. She committed adultery with David, who tried to conceal by having her husband killed in battle (2 Samuel 11:1-5, 2 Samuel 11:26-27).
  • Mary is mentioned as the mother of Jesus, who conceived him while she was till a virgin (Luke 1:26-38).

Another remarkable feature contained in Matthew’s genealogy are the remarks concerning the number of generations between various events in Jewish history: 14 from Abraham to David, then 14 from David to the exile, then another 14 from the exile to Jesus. Apparently, Matthew omitted a number of names from his genealogy that are found elsewhere (Ezra 7:1-5, 1 Chronicles 6:3-15). Scholars have offered explanations as to why this is the case – and some see this not as 14 biological generations, rather 14 divisions of history to mark time, similar to how the contemporary culture has “The Greatest Generation”, “Boomer”, “Gen X” and so on. The ebb and flow of this from Abraham to David is a rise, from David to Babylon is a fall, then from Babylon to Christ is another rise. Jesus in a manner of speaking is at the zenith of this rise and thereby “destined” in a manner of speaking to be great.

The entire story of Jesus’ coming is remarkable even from the beginning of time. God in his providence knew this and was able to redeem even sin and even used non-Jewish people to bring about his purposes. The women in the genealogy work as markers to remind his readers of many of these occasions. Likewise, Jesus numbers mentioned show that Jesus was the culmination of that history, standing with David . This sets the stage for the rest of the book – a story of how the Jewish Messiah comes into the world to redeem it!

Lord, you redeemed history to bring about salvation! Truly, you are amazing!

Luke 3:23-38: Children of God

Read: Luke 3:23-38

Two genealogies of Jesus appear in the New Testament: one in Luke and the other in Matthew 1:1-17. Genealogies can be boring, but usually within the genealogy there are little nuggets that the chronologist will inject into the in the genealogy to make a point. Luke does this as well First, he notes that Jesus is the “supposed” son of Joseph. This is a round about way of affirming the virgin birth of Jesus (as he was conceive d by the Holy Spirit), a nod to the fact that God the Father had just affirmed Jesus as his son (Luke 3:22), reaffirming what the angel told Mary (Luke 1:35), and also reaffirms what Jesus said when he acknowledge God the Father as his father when he was at the temple (Luke 2:49). But in keeping with tradition, Luke lists Joseph as his earthly father and traces the genealogy from there. Second, which is a curious thing, is that Luke calls Adam the the “son of God”. Adam was not divine, rather he was created (Genesis 2:7). John calls Jesus the “begotten son” of God (John 3:16). Likewise, Adam is the father of all those who sin, which results in death while Jesus is the one who brings life (Romans 5:12-19, 1 Corinthians 15:20-49).

An issue specific to the genealogies in New Testament surrounds the differences between the genealogies Matthew and Luke. Luke has Jesus as a Son of David by way of David’s son Nathan while Matthew has Jesus coming through the line of Solomon. A difference though does not imply a contradiction, but the reason for the difference is also unknown. Given what is known about the books, the difference may have to do with the purpose of each book. Matthew’s gospel was written to Jews, so it was important for Jesus to come from the royal line in order to be the rightful heir to the throne of David and the genealogy goes back to Abraham. Luke’s gospel was written to a Gentile so the emphasis was on the global aspect so he goes all the way back to Adam. Without more insight and evidence, the reason for the differences is likely to remain unresolved, but nevertheless it does not diminish the veracity or the points made in the genealogies.

What we can affirm from Luke’s genealogy is that Jesus is indeed the one begotten Son of God who came into the world by unusual means. His mission was to bring life by overcoming the death that had been brought into the world by Adam. For those that will believe in Jesus, they too can become “children of God” through adoption (Romans 8:14-23). While Christians have earthly parents, the parentage that one can claim is God the Father. It’s a good reminder that no matter how good or how bad one’s earthly parents may be, one can live in a loving relationship with God as Father. In the same manner, knowing how God loves his own children, parents ought to love their children too, looking to God as the model parent and be an advocate for those who don’t have parents.

Lord, I rejoice that am your child!

John 8:45-59

Read: John 8:45-59

Being a descendant of Abraham did not stop the Pharisees from being children of the devil. Jesus points this out, in that they are slaves to sin, and thereby do what their “father” tells them to do. Jesus says that if they were sons of Abraham, they would do his deeds. Abraham’s deeds as Paul, the author of Hebrews, and James note were his faith that resulted in justification (Romans 4, James 2:23, Hebrews 11:8,17, Galatians 3:1-14). Paul and James both quote from Genesis 15:6, in which Abraham was promised a son, and Abraham believed God and god counted it as righteousness to Abraham. Paul makes it obvious that that it was not a working of the flesh in that it was not circumcision because this happened before circumcision. The mark of circumcision was a marker of the promise. The Pharisees and Jews did not believe him as Abraham did.

The Pharisees try to ascertain who Jesus’ father was. They thought that perhaps he was a Samaritan and had a demon. Samaritans were half-breeds in the eyes of the Jews in that they intermarried with other people and were not of pure descendants of Abraham. The Samaritans however saw themselves as descendants of Abraham, as the woman at the well notes in John 4:20. One’s heritage in Jewish society had implications on one’s standing in society. Certain tribes of Israel had particular prophecies that pertained to them, such as the ruler of Israel coming from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). Matthew and Luke both give Jesus’ genealogy to show that he was a descendant of Abraham and David such that he fulfilled certain aspects in the Jews thought were necessary for one to be the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38). The Old Testament is chock-full with genealogy. Saying Jesus was a Samaritan was a way of discrediting him among the Jews, and saying he was demon was to say he was crazy for thinking the way he did. The Pharisees in there scheming were always looking for a way to discredit Jesus, yet in all their attempts were unable to do so.

Jesus then makes a statement about Abraham that seems to baffle them yet again. Jesus says that Abraham saw his day some time ago when Abraham was alive. The Jews question this, saying Jesus is not even 50 years old. Abraham had lived some 2000 years before Jesus was born. The numbers just did not add up. Jesus then says, before Abraham was, “I am”. The tense of the verb Jesus uses for Abraham is translated “was” is “γενεσθαι” which carries the meaning if coming into existence, coming into being, or being made. Jesus is saying that before Abraham existed on the planet, Jesus “was”. This word is “ειμι” and is to “exist”. Jesus was effectively saying, “Before Moses began to existed, I exist” or “Before Moses began to existed, I Am.” Jesus’ statement is first person present tense. Any Jew would have immediately recalled Moses conversation with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3). When Moses asks about who he should say sent him, God answers “I am that I am”. The great “I Am” is who sent Moses to Pharaoh. The great “I Am” is the self-sufficient being. His existence is not contingent upon any other’s being. Jesus in effect is claiming to be the great “I Am” at the burning bush, the one who delivered them from Egypt, no one other than God himself. To many this would be blasphemy, and for this reason, they picked up stone to kill him.

A person in the world then and today has one of two possible spiritual fathers: God or the devil. One is the father of lies, and the other is the father of truth, and his son is Jesus. No matter who one’s earthly descendants are one will be in one of these two families. While the Jews claimed Abraham as their descendant, Paul likens all those who believe to be descendants of Abraham (Romans 4:16-25, Galatians 3, particularly Galatians 3:29). Abraham is the father of faith, and those who follow as he followed by faith are the family of God. No one can claim salvation because of anything earthly he might obtain or might be associated with. Going to church, tithing, being from a good family, doing good deeds, being a good person, having a good education have do not determine who one’s spiritual father is because only faith can. Trust Jesus, who is God, and you will be in the family of God.

Lord, you are Abba – my Daddy! Thank you for loving me as your child!