Summary: Jesus' genealogy as recorded by Matthew has a sudden surprise at the end!
The Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 1 verses 1-17.
Genealogies. Who likes genealogies? Who is into tracing their genealogy? You know, tracing one’s genealogy has become quite popular. But I’ve noticed something about Australians when we trace our genealogies – or perhaps it’s just our family. We trace our genealogy back to when our ancestors came to Australia, and then as soon as we get back to the mother country, the original country, we stop. Let me tell you about one of my ancestors. His name was Bryan Veech and he came out here in the 1850s from Ireland. Anyway, he got free passage to Australia – and perhaps I had better leave it there about why he was sent to Australia….
As you’ve probably noticed, the Bible is full of genealogies. We’ve just had a look at Genesis and that has quite a few genealogical lists in them. Today we start going through the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter 1 is divided into two parts. The first part, from verses 1-17, gives us the list of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, which is the part we will look at today. Before I read these verses, I want to speak about this list of Jesus’ genealogy.
Why do I want to do that? Because, I think, that many of you consider that genealogical lists are very boring! In the Bible there are a number of genealogical lists, not just here in the first chapter of Matthew. Tell me, honestly, what do you do, when reading the Bible, and you meet a genealogical list? Do you read it attentively? Honestly? Or do you read it quickly? Or to you not read it at all and skip the section entirely?
Despite the fact that we may find genealogical lists boring, God placed them in the Bible for a reason. Therefore, we need to read these lists carefully – these lists which God places in the pages of the Bible. God placed them there, so that we should learn something from them. Therefore, when we read this text, we need to read it carefully.
Before we read this text, we need to know, that for the Jews, genealogy is more important that it is for us. For those of us who have had our genealogies traced, we find it interesting, because we can learn where we came from, what our ancestors did and so on. But for the Jews, their genealogy was more important that just finding bits of interesting information. Their whole identity as a people was tied up in their genealogy. Remember, that in the time before Christ came, only the Jews were the people of God. Therefore, for a Jew, his genealogy was important, because his genealogy proved that he was a real Jew, and therefore, a member of the people of God. Also, the genealogies of some people were more important than for others. For example, priests. In order to become a priest, a person had to prove from his genealogy that he was not only a real Jew, but also a Levite – and one descended from Aaron! The Levites were one of the 12 tribes of Israel. That is, they were descended from Levi, who wa one of the sons of Jacob, also known as Israel, who we’ve looked at recently. And Aaron was a descendent of Levi. Only Levites descended from Aaron could become priests. In order to prove that he could be a priest, a person had to show a list of his genealogy.
Genealogy was important not only for priests. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Israel was not an independent country. Israel was a part of the Roman Empire. The Jews did not like this situation and wanted to become independent.
They waited for the Messiah, who would save them from oppression and who would rule them with justice. This Messiah would lead them into a golden era of peace and prosperity. But, not just anyone could become the Messiah. Only a descendent of King David could be the Messiah. And David, like all the kings after him, was descended from Judah, one of Jacob’s sons, who we looked at last week. The Jews considered King David to have been the ideal king. Additionally, in the 2 Samuel 7, the prophet Nathan prophesied to David, that his descendents would always rule Israel. The church of the New Testament claimed that Jesus was the Messiah. Therefore Matthew needed to show the genealogy of Jesus, in order to prove that Jesus really was the Messiah. Jesus’ genealogy clearly shows that He was descended from David and that He was in the royal line.
From verses 8-11 we notice the kings of Israel and Judah were Jesus’ ancestors. Such kings as Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah and others.