Summary: The genealogy of Jesus helps us to understand and relate to the fullness of Jesus’ humanity.
Well, as you are well aware, it’s the holiday season. Just look around you, red and green everywhere, the stores are crowded with shoppers, and the extended family is getting friendlier and more loving toward one another as each day passes, right? It’s true that the holiday season is billed as one of the premier family times of the year, but you know as well as I do that when you get together with all the people you love, it can drive you crazy! I saw on the cover of one of Pam’s Good Housekeeping magazines a title of an article, "Family! The Holidays! How to make peace, not war." If your family holiday celebrations aren’t the highlight of your year, don’t feel bad. You aren’t alone.
Now I have a question for you. How many of you wouldn’t have to shake the family tree very hard to see several nuts fall out? (Raise Hands) Go ahead, be honest! If you didn’t raise your hand, it’s probably because you are afraid that some of your family in the room right now will think you’re talking about them. I’m not trying to be disrespectful here. It’s just reality. When you get lots of people together who know each other’s history and quirks, there’s bound to be some friction. It’s part of the human condition.
That’s why I think that Matthew began his story about Jesus with one of the most family oriented texts in the entire Bible. From now through Easter we are going to be exploring the life of Jesus from Matthew’s perspective. We begin here at Christmas time celebrating the Savior’s birth, and we will conclude at Easter as we celebrate his resurrection from the grave. This morning we start at the beginning of the story according to Matthew, the family of Jesus.
Read Matthew 1:1-16
Pretty dramatic, huh? Maybe the most compelling text you’ve ever heard read I bet. One more note of honesty here. How many of you have at some point in your life committed to read through the entire New Testament, sat down to begin, faced that list of intimidating names, and skipped right over it to verse 17 without even attempting it? (Raise hands) That’s understandable.
Now you might think, "Why in the world does Matthew begin the most important story in the history of the world like this?" I mean we all know that the first thing you have to do if you are going to convince somebody of something is to get their attention. And Matthew is so convinced that Jesus is the Son of God that he writes a book to convince others of that. But like any good author, Matthew is smart enough to know his audience.
He is trying to convince Jews that Jesus is the Messiah, and he does grab their attention from the very first words, "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." To them that was the boldest statement you could make about a person. You see, we’ve gotten so used to hearing Jesus referred to as "Jesus Christ," that we almost think of "Christ" as His last name. But really, Christ is a title that means "the anointed one." Calling Jesus "the Christ" was a claim that God had sent this man as the fulfillment of thousands of years of anticipation. Prophecies from a thousand years earlier had proclaimed that the Christ would be a Jew who could trace his ancestral line back through King David. So next, Matthew proves his point by tracing Jesus’ genealogy from Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, through King David. Even though to us this list of hard to pronounce names might seem dry as dust, to the Jew awaiting the coming of the messiah of God, it would be dynamite. Even today, if you read it closely, it is a powerful statement about who Jesus is and what God is like. You see, embedded in this genealogical record is a very important lesson that Matthew wants us to learn about God and His Son.
CT. God uses flawed people and difficult circumstances to accomplish his will.
When you look through the list of characters that make up Jesus’ family tree, it’s not hard to recognize some deeply troubled roots here. Some of these guys are pretty rough. Abraham regularly played fast and loose with the truth. Jacob was a con artist whose very name means something like "cheater." Jacob’s son, Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah through Tamar, but Tamar wasn’t his wife. Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law. If that’s not strange enough, when the twins were conceived Judah didn’t know who Tamar was. He thought she was a prostitute. It’s a pretty weird story from Genesis 38, but the result is that Matthew goes out of his way to highlight both Judah and Tamar in the heritage of Jesus.