Introduction: Genealogies - to skim or not to skim… As is evident from our decorations and songs and traffic, Christmas is just around the corner. Twelve days and counting - and that’s pretty exciting. That means that it’s getting close to the time when some of us start thinking about planning to begin making preparations to commence shopping.
And with Christmas getting close, 2015 is wrapping up. We can almost see 2016 from here. On January 1st, 2016, many of us will spend some time reading the first chapter of Genesis in hopes of reading the last chapter of Revelation sometime next December.
We Bible readers will reach a moral crisis early in our read-through-the-Bible programs because, while the first four chapters of Genesis are riveting narrative, chapter 5 is, well, not so much…
Genesis 5 is a genealogy. It traces the line of Adam forward to Noah and his three sons. So. Do you carefully read all of Genesis 5 or do you skim?
Do you just let your eyes see the names Seth and Enosh, Kenan and Mahalalel, Jared and Enoch, Methuselah and Lamech and Noah? Does skimming “count”? Or do you have to read all the words?
It can be tempting to scan, not read, genealogies.
It may seem to us that genealogies were written to be skimmed. Breeze through the genealogies that we find in Genesis and elsewhere and get on to the story.
However, if it seems that speed-reading through an endless list of nearly unpronounceable Jewish names might make sense, we skim to our loss. That’s because there is gold to be found in a genealogy.
My father was an avid, amateur genealogist, and because of his interest in our Smith family tree, I know that if you take a certain, somewhat circuitous route through aunts and second cousins, you can link our family to Captain John Smith, the pioneer settler of Jamestown in the early 1600’s.
Thanks to Dad’s studies, I appreciate knowing that my ancestors fought in the First World War, the Civil War, and in the American Revolution.
I’m less than heartened to know that one of my forebears was banned from a Kentucky Baptist church in the 1800’s - and am just as glad that Dad couldn’t ever find a written record as to the reason for the ban.
In my family tree there are some highlights and some lowlights, some beautiful branches and some rotten fruit. There are stories to be told from my genealogy and from yours. And the same is true about every genealogy we find in the Bible.
The genealogies traces the family trees of significant people: Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob, King David among them.
But the most important genealogical records in the Bible are the two we have of Jesus.
One of the genealogies is given in the Gospel of Matthew and the other in the Gospel of Luke. Both list the ancestors of the Lord, but they go about their work in different ways.
The THEOLOGICAL Point of Matthew’s Genealogy Intro: The Essence of the Genealogies…
The distinctives of Luke’s genealogy -
In the third chapter of Luke, the genealogical record starts with Jesus and traces His roots all the way back to Adam.
Luke was a Gentile, not a Jew, and he wrote from a universal, all-of-humanity perspective. He traced Jesus’ line through His mother, Mary, and emphasized His natural line of physical descent.
The distinctives of Matthew’s genealogy -
Matthew’s account, though, is Jewish through and through. It was written with the Jews in mind. So, in his genealogy, the record begins with Abraham, the father of the Jews, and ends with Jesus.
Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ Jewishness and shows Jesus to be in the royal line of all the kings who reigned from Jerusalem.
As well, Matthew’s genealogy was written in a way that would be easily memorized.1 His list of names divides neatly into three sections.
From Abraham until David, he records fourteen generations; from David until the fall of Jerusalem, fourteen generations; and, from the fall of Jerusalem until the time of Jesus, fourteen generations.
Clearly, Matthew thought that knowing Jesus’ genealogy was important. For him to have taken up the space in his book he did to write down the forty two generations preceding Jesus tells us that it is important to know the Lord’s roots.
My father’s interest in genealogy led to some interesting explorations of Virginia cemeteries on family vacations when I was young. Dad would take us deep into long-neglected graveyards to find markers of lost ancestor to get a better picture of our family tree.
And today, without the poison ivy Dad and I had to crawl through, you and I are going to go rooting around in this genealogy of Jesus to find Matthew’s hidden treasures.
The first thing you will notice as you look at the genealogy is that Matthew begins to record Jesus’ lineage with the greatest hero of the Old Testament, the patriarch Abraham.
Jesus Was a JEW - In the Direct Line of Abraham Mentioning the father of the Jews first was a savvy move on Matthew’s part, because it established immediate credibility with the Jews of His day.
He is presenting Jesus as the promised Messiah, and anyone claiming to be Messiah would have to be a Jew. Jesus’ genealogy proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that He was a true son of Abraham.
It was Abraham who had received great promises from God. He was promised a land to possess (Canaan) and a son as an heir. In fact, he was promised that he would become the father of a nation and that a Messiah/Anointed One would come from that nation.
So, the first thing that Matthew’s genealogy teaches is that Jesus was a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew through and through.
And that’s not all…
Jesus often claimed to be not only Jewish, but a king. And royalty is not guaranteed in the simple statement, “Jesus was Jewish.” So, beginning with Abraham, Matthew went on to list his son, grandson, great-grandson, etc…, until he wound up at King David.
Jesus Was a KING - In the Direct Line of David Jesus’ kingship is affirmed at various places in the Gospels.
In John’s Gospel, one of the disciples, Nathaniel, recognized Jesus’ royalty when he said, [1:49] “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”
When Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds saw Him as the king He was, throwing down garments and palm branches in front of Him, crying out, [Matthew 21:9] “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
As He stood before Pontius Pilate, hours before His crucifixion, Jesus claimed to be a king whose kingdom was not of this world. His exact words to Pilate were, [John 18:37] “You say correctly that I am a King.”
But, claims need to be backed up. And, the back-up we need is found right here in the genealogical record.
Matthew traces the line from Abraham, generation by generation, all the way to King David.
From David, the line flows through every king of Judah until the downfall of the Jewish monarchy. Jesus, without question, is in the line of royalty.2
So, Matthew, writing to fellow Jews who needed to know if Jesus had a valid claim to the throne of Israel, proves it by His ancestry. All the evidence needed is right here in the genealogy.
They got the evidence they needed and we, too, have the evidence we need to say that Jesus is a king. Now, the question comes to us. Jesus is the King - SO WHAT?
You are a born-again believer in Jesus. You have placed your trust in Him for eternal life. You are a daughter, a son of God through faith alone in Christ alone.
Are you growing in your submission to your Savior King?
Being saved by a sovereign king means that what He says, goes. He deserves my unalloyed allegiance, and He deserves yours, too.
If before this morning, you have not reckoned with the reality that your Savior is a Sovereign, reckon with it now.
It is only reasonable and right that you would obey your king.
And, there is no surer path to joy than to follow Jesus with every ounce of your energy. Transcendent meaning is found in a life of submission. Coming to Jesus with heart, soul, mind, and strength love is the way that brings L-I-F-E!
The genealogy of Jesus highlights His kingly lordship. But there is much, much more here for us to see.
The list of Matthew 1 may appear sterile and colorless. But if we look beyond the strange-sounding names to the stories behind the names , we’ll find evidence of God’s power, love, and grace.
The PERSONAL Point of Matthew’s Genealogy The POWER of God: A Matter of Praise (1:2) The first words are [1:2] Abraham was the father of Isaac - and those words call to mind the story of Isaac’s birth.
When Abraham first heard from God (Genesis 12), he was promised that he would become the father of a great nation through which the whole earth would be blessed.
Of course, the fulfillment of that promise depended on Abraham becoming a father. And, at the time God promised, he and his wife, Sarah, did not have any kids.
Not to worry. Over the next twenty five years, God explicitly promised and re-promised Abraham several times that he and Sarah would have a son.
When God had first given this promise, Abraham was seventy five years old, and Sarah was about sixty five. When the promise was given for the last time, Abraham was 99 years old, and Sarah was about 90, waaay past the age of child-bearing.
But when we turn to Genesis 21, there’s the story of Isaac’s birth. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, just as God had promised, and the long-empty nursery was finally filled with laughter. (“Isaac” means “laughter” in Hebrew)
Granted, here in Matthew, all we read are the words, [1:2] Abraham was the father of Isaac - but knowing the story reminds us that God was mightily at work behind the scenes. The birth of Isaac was a Class 1 miracle.
The story of the birth of Jesus, recorded here in Matthew, is also a miracle story. It’s a story we’ll look at more closely next Sunday, when we are one week closer to Christmas.
But what comes to our mind after reading the miraculous, [1:2] Abraham was the father of Isaac is that there is no surprise that Jesus, a descendant of Isaac, would also have a miraculous birth.
Trust the account of Matthew 1. If a miracle occurred that enabled old Abraham and old Sarah to become the parents of Isaac, God could just as easily perform a miracle to bring about the birth of Jesus.
What we read is really the way it happened. What we celebrate every year is true. God was involved in Jesus’ conception in a way He has never been involved in the conception of any other person.
And it makes perfect sense to kneel in worship before the Baby in Bethlehem’s manger - because, miraculously, the Baby Mary laid there was Mary’s Creator.
So, there is the gold of miracles in this genealogy. There is more gold besides and the unifying theme of these goldmines is: women.
There are four mothers mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, and their appearance is remarkable. That’s because women aren’t usually mentioned in Jewish genealogies. Normally, the march from generation to generation is recorded father to son.
When a mother is mentioned, it is like seeing a penguin at the Alamo or an elephant in the middle of a room. The presence of a mom in a Jewish genealogy is so out of place that it is as if Matthew is shouting, “Here is something important. Don’t miss this. Pay attention.” Take a look at verse five.
The LOVE of God: Neither FROM nor FOR the Jews Only (1:5) Rahab - citizen of Jericho [1:5] Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab… A man named Salmon fathered a son named Boaz. And, in a break with normal style, he mentions the mother of Boaz. The mother’s name may be familiar to you: Rahab.
Rahab was the heroine of the story Joshua tells of the battle of Jericho. She was the Jericho prostitute who spared the Jewish spies who had sneaked in to Jericho before the attack.
Jericho was the city where “the walls came a tumblin’ down” when the Jews won their ’ first military victory in the Promised Land. And this Rahab, along with her whole family, was spared when Israel defeated Jericho.
What is so significant about Rahab that she found her way into the Jewish genealogy of Jesus? She wasn’t Jewish.
To this point, every person mentioned in the genealogy has been a descendant of Abraham.
Earlier, I made a big deal over Jesus’ Jewishness and the Jewishness of the genealogy. But, Rahab wasn’t Jewish. She was a Canaanite. She was a Gentile through and through.
Now, hang onto that thought for a minute as we highlight another woman who is mentioned in the very next generation in the line of Jesus.
Ruth - citizen of Moab [1:5b]…Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth… Salmon and Rahab’s son, Boaz, married a woman named Ruth, and they had a son named Obed. Why did Matthew the mother, Ruth?
Is it because Ruth is a prominent figure in the Old Testament? After all, she has her own book in the Bible. And the story of how she and Boaz met and married is a great story.
No, these are not the reasons Ruth is included here. She shows up for the same reason Rahab does. She was not of the line of Abraham. Ruth was Gentile, a member of the Moabite race.3 Again, Matthew’s genealogy was written for a Jewish audience. But including the names of Rahab and Ruth does nothing to reinforce Jewish nationalism.
So, what do these inclusions accomplish?
Just this: They tell all the readers of the Gospel of Matthew that, while Jesus is Jewish, He is not of the Jews only. And, while Jesus is for the Jews, He is not for the Jews alone. Jesus is OF ALL PEOPLE, and Jesus is FOR ALL PEOPLE.
Application Point #2: The all-inclusive genealogy of Jesus
We’re always hearing people say, “Don’t miss ‘the Christmas spirit.’” And by that people may mean “Give gifts” or “Spend time with family” or “Be nice” or some such thing.
But, since Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, if the Christmas spirit is anything it is that the love of God was poured out on ALL humanity when Jesus was born.
The Christmasspirit is the Good News that “God with us” is a reality into which any person - any ethnicity, any age, female or male - can enter through faith in Jesus.
The Baby born in Bethlehem was God. He lived a sinless life. He died a sacrificial death on a Roman cross. He rose a conquering Savior King to purchase redemption for us from the bondage of sin.
If you have never seen what Christmas is all about before this morning, please see it now. See the love of God given in the gift of His Son, born for you. He came to earth to seek and to save people just like you and just like me.
Yes, Christmas is about gift giving and gift receiving.
Right now, recognize that God has already given the greatest gift He could ever give when He sent His Son. And the only right response is to give Him - not money or best intentions or good works - but simple, childlike faith to receive the free gift of eternal life.
There is yet one final piece of encouragement in Matthew’s genealogy. I’ll admit that this piece of the genealogy may not initially appear to contain any great encouragement. So trust me. The encouragement is here.
Any genealogist will discover, after enough digging, that there are twisted roots and dirty laundry, horse rustlers, a hanging or two, and some shady characters in the distant or recent past in any family tree.
They are there in my family tree and they are probably there in yours. Read carefully and you’ll find that even in the family tree of Jesus there are some very dirty linens.
The GRACE of God: Don’t Cover Up That Dirt (1:3,6) The story of Judah and Tamar (v. 3)  Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar Matthew traces the line of Jesus from Judah to Judah’s son, Perez. Here, again, he mentions a woman. And remember, whenever you find the name of a woman in a Jewish genealogy it is an invitation to sit up and take notice.
We hear of Perez’ and Zerah’s mother, Tamar. Why?
Well, like Rahab and Ruth, she was a Gentile. But, Matthew has a purpose in mentioning her that goes beyond Tamar’s Canaanite roots.
The reason she finds herself in this genealogy of Jesus’ ancestors is that, while she bore Judah’s sons (Perez and his twin brother, Zerah), Tamar was not Judah’s wife. She was his daughter-in-law.
If you are not familiar with the story of Judah and Tamar from Genesis 38, I will assure you that it is one of the ugliest stories you will ever hear. Here are the pertinent lowlights.
Judah had married a Canaanite woman, who bore him three sons, the oldest two being Er and Onan. When Er, his oldest son, came of age, Judah gave him a Canaanite wife named Tamar in marriage.
However, because of sin, Er died by the Lord’s hand. Then, Judah gave Tamar to Onan as a wife. But Onan also died because he committed a terrible sin.
Next, Judah promised the now twice-widowed Tamar, that he would give her his third son, Shelah, when Shelah came of age. (Might not Shelah be a bit nervous at this?)
Well, the years passed and Shelah grew up. But Judah didn’t keep his promise. He did not give Tamar to be Shelah’s wife.
So, Tamar took matters into her own hands. She dressed herself as a prostitute. Then she stationed herself, cloaked and veiled, by the side of the road as prostitutes did in those days.
She stayed there until Judah passed by. When Judah walked her way, he paid her a prostitute’s wage, not knowing who she was.
Later, when Judah was told that Tamar, his daughter-in-law, was with child, he became incensed at HER immorality. And the end of the story shows Tamar proving that Judah (her father-in-law) was the father of the twins (Perez and Zerah).
And for some reason, Matthew wants you and me to remember that story when we read the genealogy of Jesus. He draws attention to the story by mentioning the mother - Tamar - by name.4 And there is one more woman, one more mother, Matthew wants us to see.
The story of David and Bathsheba (v. 6) [6b] David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba5 who had been the wife of Uriah. Bathsheba was the faithful wife of a good and faithful soldier in King David’s army, Uriah the Hittite6 Bathsheba makes her way into the genealogy of Jesus because of the awful way David treated her and because of the shameful way in which she became David’s wife.
Of course, Matthew left out all of the sordid details of the David / Bathsheba story. But, his Jewish audience knew all those details.
Matthew doesn’t stop to tell us - but we know - that Bathsheba hadbeen the wife of Uriah until King David took her, committed adultery with her, and then murdered her husband, Uriah.
Application Point #3: The redemptive genealogy of Jesus
So, Merry Christmas. Indeed.
And you might be thinking to yourself, “Dave, why bring up such things in your December 13th sermon? Why not focus on a beautiful stable scene, lovely Christmas carols, brightly wrapped presents, and the eager faces of children on Christmas morning?” Well, of course, there is nothing wrong with any of those things. And I like that stuff as much as you do. But we miss something beautiful when we skim over the ugliness of Jesus’ lineage.
What Matthew has done has been to give us a special kind of genealogy. It is a redemptive genealogy.
The redemptive message is that God sent His Son from glory to be born a Baby in Bethlehem’s smelly stables, to grow up to be a poor Man in an oppressed nation, and to die a horrible death on a Roman cross. Out of that mess God provided our great salvation and out of any other mess, God can produce something beautiful.
He did it with Tamar’s and Judah’s mess and with the mess of David and Bathsheba. He brought out of their mess the birth of Jesus. And He is able to bring something beautiful out of your messes and mine, too.
God used people who seriously misbehaved as tools to bring Jesus into the world. Today, God is still using people who have seriously misbehaved to press Jesus into the world.
If you have ever had the thought, “Because of what I have done, God could not ever use me/God would not ever use me” - look at the genealogy. Or better yet, look at Jesus.
Never in His thirty three years did Jesus separate Himself from people who sinned.
It wasn’t surprising to find Him with notorious sinners. He was invited to their parties and He loved to hang with the lost, the least, and the last.
His first followers were either cowardly, bombastic, arrogant, racist, or hot-tempered. He turned those messes into loving, God-centered, servants.
He has been turning messes into trophies of grace for two thousand years. He is still turning messes into trophies of grace.
So, today, as you reflect on past misdeeds, hear the word grace. Today, as you realize that you have strayed, hear the word forgiveness. Hear that in Jesus, God puts the broken back together.
If God can bring His Son out of a lineage as twisted as the one we have seen today, surely we can trust Him to do wonderful things in and through us, too.
1 Jewish style didn’t require that every single generation be recorded in a genealogy. Frequently, in the Old Testament genealogies, there are gaps where generations are missing.
2 This second section of the genealogy is followed by the third and last series of names. These names take us from the deportation to Babylon all the way up to the birth of Jesus Himself (vv. 12-16), through a period of Jewish history in which there were no kings over Israel.
3 Moabites were relatives of Israel, because of their having descended from Lot, Abraham's nephew. They were also a despised race because they worshiped false gods and because of the awful way in which their race began.
4 To highlight sin, we could also draw attention to Rahab’s line of work (she was a prostitute). We might cut her some slack, though, as she obviously became a godly woman, sided with the people of Israel over the people of Jericho, protected the two spies, and married the Jew, Salmon.
5 Literally, “her of Uriah.” In the original Greek, Bathsheba is not named.
6 Uriah wasn’t even a Jew. We assume that Bathsheba was, but Uriah was not.