Summary: In these 25 verses, most of which do read something like a phone directory, we have the theological stage set for all of the rest of Matthew’s gospel. And not only is the shape set forth for the rest of the gospel, the shape and form of the entire New Te
It was December 1944. Dietrich Bonhoeffer found himself celebrating his last Christmas on the earth. He was only 39. He had been a German pastor. Now, he was a Nazi war criminal.
It was Christmas time. And he was pensive, with pen in hand, over his little diary. And the thought came to him, "How like being in a prison cell is the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. We putter around inside our stone walls and iron bars, and we long to be free. But the doors is locked, and it can only be opened from the outside."
The psychology of confinement … Psychologists play a fascinating little game with this business of confinement, on the line between panic and despair. You see you can set up a lab condition, in which you introduce people into a situation were there is limited time and limited escape, and they go into pandemonium. And they begin to scream, and claw at each other, and fight in desperation to escape.
Or you can create a condition were there is unlimited time but no escape, and the experimental subjects turn to stoic resignation , to death, hopeless depression.
Now the Jews had held fast to their promises for centuries, waiting for their liberator. As Paul had said to Agrippa, making this clear, he said, "I am happy to witness to the hope of the promise of God and to our father for which our twelve tribes incessantly serving God night and day have longed."
And Alfred Edersheim, the converted Jew adds to Paul’s statement, "Yes, they have longed to an extent that they have read it in almost every event and promise. With such earnestness that it was ever the burden of their prayers. With such intensity that many long centuries have not quenched it. It’s light comparatively dim in the days of sunshine and calm, seem to burn brightest in the dark and lonely nights of suffering, as if each gust over Israel rekindled it to fresh flame."
Matthew 1 is a pivot point from the Old Testament springing us into the New. And 400 years of prophetic silence is shattered.
I can understand if your heart was not stirred by our New Testament scripture reading. I know that genealogical tables are not usually electric with homiletical gems. But I like a challenge. I found myself set afire by chapter one.
In these 25 verses, most of which do read something like a phone directory, we have the theological stage set for all of the rest of Matthew’s gospel. And not only is the shape set forth for the rest of the gospel, the shape and form of the entire New Testament is in that one chapter. It is all right here in Matthew 1.
1) This is more than a recitation of genealogies, of lineages. In the first 17 verses the gospel writer is setting forth Jesus as truly man. He wanted his audience to know that he was a man, fully man.
He was a child of history. He was a son of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. He was a son of Jesse. He was a son of David. He was a son of Joseph. He was a child of history, rooted in history.
The lesson of humility, my friends, is the lesson of his humanity.
Listen to Matthew (Matthew, the hated tax-collector), now, as he punctuates this point. Most of our New Testaments do not have the form so that you have these genealogies drawn in parallel. They are in sequences of fourteen; so that they go from Abraham to David; from David to the Babylonian exile; from the Babylonian exile to the birth of Christ. So there is a nice, little, tidy, compacted grouping.
But inserted in these are four women. It is kind of like Matthew pulls those four women, and sticks them in. And it is kind of like they do not fit the form of the passage. They disrupt the flow. But he is saying something.
He is punctuating what he is saying in general, so that in case you missed the point. He says, "Here is Tamar. And here is Rahab. And here is Bathsheba and Ruth."
Now Tamar was guilty of incest, sexual intercourse with her father-in-law. Rahab was a notorious prostitute. Bathsheba was an infamous adulterous. Now everyone one of these women were cunning, clever.
One was a Hittite. One was a Moabite. All four of them were Gentiles. What are you doing with Gentiles in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
Is there any comfort here for foreigners? Who is a foreigner?
Any comfort for a tax-collector? Oh, yes, we should say there is. There may be more hope for us in this genealogical table than thre are for some of us in our own religious and social groups.