Summary: Though it might sound boring to preach on the genealogy of Jesus, this sermon received more favorable comments than any I’ve preached, it shows the lengths that God went through to save us through the genealogy of Jesus (and goes well with my prior sermon
“The Genealogy of Jesus” Sermon Series on Matthew
Westmoreland Church of Christ
February 26th, 2005
A genealogy is a list of a person’s ancestor, showing their family tree. To be honest, they are usually not very interesting. They list name after name of people that are mostly forgotten with the rare name that might stand out, if you happen to be related to somebody famous. But in general, they are people that you have never heard of, and their lives are usually boiled down to a few dates and relationships. And for me, genealogies are confusing. I have a hard time making sense of who is related to whom and what relationship they are to one another.
There is a song that sums up genealogies to me. It tells about a widow who remarried. Her grown daughter later married her new husband’s father. Each couple had a child. The song says:
This made my dad my son-in law,
my daughter was my ‘mother,’ cause she was my father’s wife.
Father’s wife then had a son,
he became my grandchild, for he was my daughter’s son.
My wife is now my mother’s mother,
now if my wife is my grandmother,
then I’m her grandchild...
As husband of my grandmother,
I’m my own grandpa. (from Holmans New Testament Commentary, "Matthew")
Got all that? Families are confusing, aren’t they? Still, all that being said, I think that there is a part of us all that is very interested in our family tree. Deep down inside we want to know the history of our family, to know where we are from. Personally, I’d like to know what kind of people my ancestors were, to know what kind of struggles they went through, to know how they came to this country and how I ended up where I am. But most of all, I’m always amazed at how unlikely it is that all of us are here. Think about it: if each and every one of your ancestors had not met and produced each and every one of your ancestors when they did, you would not be here. Take away one husband or one wife somewhere down the line and you would not exist. Tracing back your family tree is a lesson in how uncertain life is. Of course, you could argue, you’re here because you’re here, it’s just a matter of chance, but imagine if you were trying to ensure that a child would be born generations and generations in the future: it would be impossible. And that brings us to the scripture today.
Matthew begins his account of the story of Jesus with a genealogy. A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, is how he starts his book. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? To be honest, a lot of people, if they were going to start a study of Matthew, would probably just skim over the first chapter of Matthew. I’ve always wanted to memorize as much as I could of the New Testament, but have never started because I didn’t think I could learn all those names. After all, when most people think of the bible and the difficulties in reading it, it’s because they think the bible is just a bunch of "So-and-so begat so-and-so." And, sure enough, you turn to the first chapter of the New Testament and there is a whole list of hard to pronounce names that you have probably never heard of begatting one another. Yes, this first section is full of hard to pronounce names. And yes, you probably have never heard of most of them. And yes, it’s hard, at first, to see what you could learn from all these names. What could we possibly gain by looking at the genealogy of Jesus?
A whole lot, it turns out. For the Jewish people, their genealogy was very important. It told you who your people were, what tribe they came from, and most importantly, if you were 100% Jewish or not; they would have been horrified to think that they were not one of the Promised People. So, the Jewish people kept very careful records of their genealogy. No, the bible is not just a bunch of who begat whoms, but there ARE a lot of genealogies in the bible. The Book of Numbers is little more than names. Knowing your genealogy was important to a people who cared about maintaining their identity, which is the same reason that people even today go back and try to find out who they are and where they came from.
But you know, there is one group of people who care about genealogy more than anyone else, and that is royalty. It is essential to royalty to be able to prove that they are indeed descended from the royal family so that they can make a claim to the throne. There are people who have made a living out of studying the royal line and being able to determine exactly who is in line to be the king. Remember the movie “King Ralph?” That was exactly the premise of that movie. The royal family of England gathers for a picture, and they are all electrocuted. So, the English people have to search back through the records to find the 100th person or so in line to be king, and it happens to be an American played by John Goodman. Sounds silly, but it’s important to royalty to be able to prove that the person on the throne is really descended from royalty in the proper way.