Summary: The lineage of Jesus helps us find our place in His family.
“What’s Christmas All About? Finding Your Place on the Family Tree”
Most of us, at some point in time, develop a curiosity about our heritage. We like to look at our family tree. Usually we find a mixture of good news and bad news. My family tree, for example, has on it preachers, A Royal Canadian Policeman, a local deputy sheriff, and a judge; but also a town drunk who never overcame his obsession with and addiction to drinking. On the one hand, awareness of our heritage is nothing more than knowledge – it doesn’t change us or impact us. On the other hand, it can motivate us and also give us an understanding of the context of our lives. So it’s interesting that Matthew begins his Gospel with Jesus’ lineage, by sharing Jesus’ lengthy genealogy.
It’s not the most exciting way to begin a biography. Reading these names feels almost like reading a page in the telephone book – there may be some good people in the list, but most, if not all of them, mean nothing to us. This is probably one of the most ignored and least read passages of the New Testament. Did you ever memorize it in Sunday School or Bible School? Did you ever hear it as part of the yearly Christmas program? As Dr. David Bast of Words of Hope once pointed out, this genealogy is like our appendix – we know it’s there, we think we believe it’s necessary, but we’re not sure why. We’re not certain what it’s good for. But Matthew shares Jesus’ genealogy to give us a context for Jesus’ life and in doing so gives us a context for our lives as well.
First of all, the genealogy in Matthew demonstrates that Jesus’ life is ROOTED IN DIVINE HISTORY. God has revealed Himself to every generation. He is a generational God. His truths and character are unfolded from one generation to the next. THROUGH SUCCESSIVE GENERATIONS GOD HAS FAITHFULLY PROVIDED PEOPLE FOR HIMSELF. From Abraham to David to Jesus, and all generations along the way, God worked. Perhaps that’s why Matthew made a special point of counting the generations (1:17): “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 Christ;” forty-two generations from Abraham to Christ – although there were in reality more than that. Matthew skips names and repeats others to stress his intended symbolism. In the Hebrew system each digit had an alphabetical equivalent – 14 was the number of David’s name. In this way Matthew could stress that the entire history of the generations was part of the flow through the line of David. The point is for nearly 2,000 years, generation after generation, God’s people waited and God acted. Through times of blessing and testing, through good kings and evil kings, through days of glory under Solomon and days of exile – God continued faithfully. He never quit moving and acting, always staying steady and on course. God never wavered, never faltered so that, according to Paul, “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son…”