A while back I talked about Matthew and how we really don’t need his gospel, (sort of). The bottom line is Matthew wrote his gospel with a purpose and a people in mind. He was writing to the Jews, (the people), to help them see that Jesus was the promised Messiah, (the purpose). This helps us see why he wrote the way he did. Matthew chose specific incidents and messages in Jesus’ life to highlight how Jesus was the Messiah and to call the Jews to believe in Christ.
So Matthew, a Jewish believer in Christ, is going to write the longest of the four gospel accounts. He is passionate about seeing his fellow Jews come to Christ. He’s going to write an awesome gospel account. It’s going to blow people’s minds. Therefore he’s going to start with a really exciting sentence, right? So what does he start off with?
“This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa! What is this? This isn’t interesting. Only history buffs like family trees. This is BO-RING. Obviously Matthew was not in marketing and did not go to writer’s conferences. This is not a good opening line. No one is going to want to read about Jesus ancestors…or will they?
In reality the genealogy of Jesus would be CRUCIAL for the Jews. If Jesus was born in the wrong family line his claims to be the Messiah could be flat out rejected. If his lineage is corrupted, then all bets are off. Matthew knew this, so he takes pains to show Jesus was was of the right family tree.
First the Messiah had to be born of Abraham. God told Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” and “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” (Gen. 12:3; 22:18). Jesus was born of Abraham. Check.
Then the Messiah had to be born of Judah. Judah was not the firstborn of Jacob. The firstborn was Reuben, but Judah was the one chosen to carry the line of kings. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,” (Jacob’s prophecy and blessing to Judah on his deathbed, Genesis 49:8-12). Jesus was of the line of kings. Check.
The Messiah also had to be in the lineage of David. God told David, “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom…your throne shall be established forever,” (2 Sam. 7:12, 16). Jesus was born of the line of “the king”, (not Elvis). Check.
So maybe Matthew is not a boring or horrible writer after all. The genealogy he includes is showing something monumentally important. Jesus’ claims to the Messiah are validated by his lineage. He’s from the line of Abraham, Judah, and David. Granted, this is just one piece of the puzzle of who the Messiah would be, but it’s a pretty big piece. Without this piece there is no completed puzzle. This mattered to the Jews.
I can hear you saying, “So what?” I’m not Jewish and I don’t like family trees. All I care about is Jesus loving people and dying for my sins. Why should I care?
1. It mattered a WHOLE LOT to God. God took pains throughout human history to carefully craft the Messiah’s fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. If it matters to the Lord it should matter to us.
2. It shows God as the grand architect of salvation. God knew about Jesus when Adam and Eve were still dirty, (get it?), but he worked throughout 4,000 years of births, deaths, families, wars, sin, and upheaval to bring us the perfect Savior, through the right lineage, at the perfect time. Wow.
3. It shows us Jesus is bigger than our New Testament. We all like the New Testament, particularly the gospels. Jesus shows up, heals people, cares for sinners and poor folks, rebukes the rich and arrogant, and dies for the sins of the world. Groovy. But we don’t consider how Jesus’ arrival was first the result of history, prophesy, and the carefully revelation of God’s plan throughout 1,000 pages and 39 books in the Old Testament. Jesus is bigger than our small perceptions of him. God’s plans are bigger than what we can comprehend.
So yeah. It’s important.
It seems Matthew isn’t a boring writer after all. But he still needs better opening lines.