Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Matthew (1A): Fourteen

Matt. 1:1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: 

Matt. 1:2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. 

Matt. 1:3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. 

Matt. 1:4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 

Matt. 1:5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 

Matt. 1:6 Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. 

Matt. 1:7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. 

Matt. 1:8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. 

Matt. 1:9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. 

Matt. 1:10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. 

Matt. 1:11 Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 

Matt. 1:12 After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. 

Matt. 1:13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. 

Matt. 1:14 Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. 

Matt. 1:15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. 

Matt. 1:16 Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. 

Matt. 1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Now during the 3-plus years that Jesus ministered on earth, there were tens of thousands of people who witnessed His miracles and heard His teaching. So theoretically, we could have many accounts of Jesus having been written by those eye witnesses. But only the Holy Spirit can inspire or lead someone to author Scripture. Peter tells us this plainly in his letter. 2 Peter 1:20, he says

2 Pet. 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 

2 Pet 1:21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 

So, what you have in your Bible, you have it because God moves someone to write it. And in God's providence, only four men were moved by the Spirit to author an account of Jesus' life on earth. And those four accounts are the first four books in our New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The first three of these Gospels in our Bible - Matthew, Mark and Luke - are structured very similarly. They all report the events of Jesus' life on earth, all ending with His death and resurrection. And so, naturally these three Gospels are going to talk about similar things, describing similar events. And they're often called the Synoptic Gospels, because they are so similar in their perspective. 

But what's really interesting is that two of those three authors were not disciples of Jesus. They never knew Him while He walked the earth. Matthew is one of the 12 Apostles, but Luke and Mark became Christians only after Jesus ascended into Heaven. You would ask then, how can Luke and Mark have seen the same things that Matthew did see? Well, the answer is that they're reporting things through the eyes of others. 

Specifically, Mark was a traveling companion of the Apostle Peter, while Peter did his missionary work. And Luke was the companion of the Apostle Paul. So, what Mark wrote in his gospel is what Peter related to him from Peter's own experiences with Jesus, accompanying Jesus before Jesus' death and resurrection. And then what Luke wrote in his gospel, he received from Paul and what Paul received, he gained from the encounters that he had with Jesus after Jesus’ resurrection. 

So, the first three Gospels are similar because they record the experiences of three men: Matthew, Mark and Luke, who were all eyewitnesses (or influenced by eyewitnesses) to the events of Jesus Life. 

But having said that, these three are not identical. And that has caused some people to question their trustworthiness. For example, only Matthew’s and Luke's Gospels have genealogies like the one we just opened with. But when you look at those two pieces, the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, they're different - and you would hardly expect genealogies to be different, would you? And there are other differences across the first three Gospels and all of these differences would cause someone to wonder if these accounts can be trusted.

In particular for our study, we should ask, “Why are those genealogies different?” 

Well, let's first consider that general question of why there are differences at all. And what that says about the Gospels. 

Imagine for a moment that the first three Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke - were identical. Literally word-for-word, the same. You could have read one, and you've read all three. Would there be any value in that? And for that matter, why would God want to inspire such repetition in the early parts of the New Testament? And in fact, wouldn't that perfection, that similarity, cause you to be suspicious…a little bit? Wouldn’t you assume that one author’s just copying the other guys? Or if the books are exactly the same, wouldn't you feel a little less certain about their inspiration and not more confident about their inspiration?

And perhaps that's exactly what the Lord is doing in these three Gospels. He intentionally allows each man's personality, and their memory differences, and their perspective differences to play a part in the formation of the story of the Gospel. Yet without making mistakes, without having contradictions. And in doing so, you actually gain greater confidence in the accuracy of what you have before you.

Imagine this other scenario. What if you were a detective and you came upon some crime scene? You're investigating the crime; you have four witnesses to the crime and you interview all four witnesses. Imagine each one tells you exactly the same story, word-for-word. Would you find that reassuring? Or would you find that cause for suspicion? 

If their stories were identical, wouldn't you assume they prearranged their testimonies and that they're hiding something? That's why they went to the effort to prearrange? As a matter of fact, in true detective work, if two witnesses have identical testimonies, the detectives think of it immediately as a conspiracy because it's not natural. 

Instead, what you expect is that each person's perspective is going to vary at least slightly, and they're going to have different memories. They're going to have seen different things. They're going to recall different things. But in the end, what the detective gains by having, say, four witnesses, is that after they have assimilated what they hear from all four they actually end up with a better understanding of what happened then you would have if you'd only had one witness to the whole scene. Having multiple perspectives serves to fill gaps in the witnesses’ testimonies. 

That's how you have to see the four Gospels that open our Bible, not just the first three. That's exactly why the Lord gave us four perspectives on Jesus' life and on His words – it’s because having those different perspectives adds authenticity to the accounts, and it gains us the benefit of more information, of filling in those gaps. Plus, it allowed the Lord to tailor each author's presentation to fit the needs of a particular audience. The four Gospel authors - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - they all wrote essentially on the events of Jesus life, but they all did it from a very unique perspective. 

Many have noted that Mark wrote primarily to the Romans of his day; and that Luke wrote primarily to a wide Gentile audience; while Matthew wrote to the Jews who were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire in his day. And then you have John's Gospel which is very different from the other three because John wrote his much later, decades later than the first three, and he did it from a hindsight that understood there were some things the other three forgot. And so his Gospel has a lot of things the other ones don't have for that reason. 

So, when we go into this study of Matthew and we find something in Matthew that's different from what you might find about that same scene elsewhere in the other three Gospels, what are we going to do? What we're going to do is what a detective would have done. We're going to accept the reality that one of these authors noticed or remembered things that the other guys overlooked. And we're going to assimilate what we're learning across these Gospels. And if we do that and we come to a point where it seems as though one is directly contradicting the other so that they can't both be true, then what are we going to do? Well, we’ll then work from the assumption that both accounts are true and we're going to seek to reconcile them. 

And by doing that, you hold the authenticity and the authority of Scripture high. When you have a high view of Scripture, you stop worrying about explaining it away. God shows you how to reconcile. And we're going to do that - we're going to understand it, knowing it's true. 

And we can do this safely because we know this Word is inspired by God. As Peter said, the same God who spoke this universe into existence, spoke these words to us. He just used a man to record them for us. The same God who designed the forces of nature and gave life to everything, and made the sun rise every morning for our benefit, He has shared His thoughts with you and I in this Book. That's how much respect we ought to give to it. There is no misplaced word in this Book. There is nothing approximate. Nothing is in error. Everything is in harmony. 

So if we can't make sense of something here, it's not because the Bible lacks sense. It's because we lack understanding. And the Bible was written by an omniscient God. He has given it to finite minds like you and me. And so we should not expect that we can absorb everything that an infinite God can provide to us; certainly not in the first sitting. 

If you submit to the Word of God and you allow the Spirit to instruct you in it, the Lord's going to make things clear in time. God delights to reveal Himself to those who sit at His feet. In Luke 10, in Jesus’ own prayer to the Father, we read this:

Luke 10:21 “At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants (That’s you and me - we’re the infants in that analogy. We're not the wise ones). Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 

So, how do we understand the genealogy presented here in Matthew? What's its reason to exist? Both Matthew and Luke record genealogies of Jesus. And interestingly, Matthew and Luke are also the only two Gospels that record any details of Jesus' birth story. The two authors that have an interest in the birth of Jesus, are also the two authors who want us to understand His genealogy, so the two are connected, and it’s that connection that also explains why the two genealogies are different. 

Remember, Matthew is one of the 12 disciples of Jesus who was elevated, at a certain point, to Apostle. Like the other Apostles that Jesus appointed, he was introduced to Jesus near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, right after the baptism of John. That's when these men first got to know Jesus and began to follow Him for about three years. 

Before that, Jesus spent roughly 30 years on earth living and working in obscurity in this backwater area of Judea, that today we know as the Galilee. And at that time, this was the place you went to disappear. This is where you went to be invisible. 

So, even if Jesus and Matthew had crossed paths at some point in those earlier 30 years, Matthew wouldn't have given Jesus a second look. He wouldn’t have known who He was, he wouldn’t have cared. So, neither Matthew, and for that matter, Luke - neither of them had first-hand knowledge of Jesus' birth, much less His family genealogy. They would never have known Him that time in His life. So again, how did they get all that information about His birth? 

Well, if you compare those two Gospels - Matthew and Luke - and you compare what they say in their two accounts, it becomes clear that they were written from two different perspectives. 

For example, in Matthew's Gospel, what we're going to find as we study the birth story here, are some intimate details of Joseph’s experience. But if you go over and you look at Luke, Luke has all these intimate details on Mary's experience. 

And secondly, in Matthew's account, you're going to notice that we're given descriptions of what Joseph is thinking. But in Luke's account, you find out what Mary was thinking.

And in Matthew's account, you have descriptions of what the angel told Joseph, but you don't hear any mention at all of an angel appearing to Mary.

In Luke's account, you have an angel appearing to Mary; no mention of an angel appearing to Joseph.

See the pattern? 

So evidently, Joseph was Matthew's source for the backstory on Jesus' birth, while Mary was Luke's. And so naturally, each author's account reflects the perspective of that source, which is what you would normally expect. 

And for that same reason, the genealogy in Matthew is the genealogy of Joseph's family.  And the genealogy in Luke is the genealogy of Mary's family. Mary was likely still alive when Luke wrote his gospel. He could have interviewed her presumably. While Matthew probably got Joseph's account second-hand, because most assumed that Joseph was not alive at the point when Jesus began His ministry. There’s just no mention of Joseph. So, it leads people to assume he was dead. Perhaps he was, perhaps he wasn't. But in any case, you could have assumed Matthew could have gone to his family, to Jesus’ half-brothers - because Mary and Joseph had other sons - so he could have interviewed them. 

Anyway, knowing this, we now look at Matthew's genealogy, understanding that he's telling a story from Joseph's perspective - not as the father of Jesus, of course, but the husband of Mary. Let's look at the genealogy itself. But we’re not going to look at each and every name - that's not how you study a genealogy, not unless you're very interested in the history of each of those names and that's not our purpose here.

A genealogy is like a family tree – it lists generations in a family over time. But let's take a different perspective on genealogies for a minute. For a Jew – remember, Matthew is a Jew, and Jesus is a Jew, and Matthew is writing to Jews - keeping genealogy records wasn't just a hobby. It's a crucial part of being Jewish, because God has assigned the Jewish nation a special place among all the nations of the world. And He made covenants with that people, and He gave promises to that people. 

And now those covenants and promises are inherited as it were, down these lines of the family. And the most important promise that God gave to Israel was to bring a Messiah, a Saviour, not just for them, but for the whole world, and to do it through their people, through their lines. 

So, it was all important for the Jewish people to maintain this understanding of who was truly Jewish, and genealogical records were kept for that very purpose. 

Let’s look briefly at a simple example from their history. When the Jews were preparing to come back from Babylon and re-establish themselves in the land of Judah, in the land of Israel, after God had banished them for a time, for 70 years. There comes that point where they're ready to come back. But they've been living in an intermingling, to some extent, with those in Babylon. And so there comes a point where they have to prove they’re Jewish before they're allowed to come back. In the book that covers the return, in Ezra 2:59, you hear this: 

Ezra 2:59 Now these are those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan and Immer, but they were not able to give evidence of their fathers' households and their descendants, whether they were of Israel:

Ezra 2:62  These searched among their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood.

That’s pretty stringent, isn’t it? If you claim to be a Jew, much less a priest or an heir to the throne of David, you didn't just say you were. You had to prove it. And you proved it through a genealogical record. And so the Jews kept scrupulous records of genealogy of every tribe. And they stored these records and preserved them in the temple in Jerusalem. And it was open to the public for the Jews to go in there and look at their genealogical records and look at someone else's records. 

So, what Matthew does is he opens his Gospel, his story of Jesus, is to tell you Jesus’ genealogy on Joseph's side, and he does it to prove something – he’s proving Jesus' claims. 

Now, you and I might look at this and wonder “Is it true? How do we know he got the right genealogy?” Well, when Matthew wrote this, he wrote it before the temple was destroyed. So, there's no reason to doubt the genealogy, because in his day it would have been so easy for anyone to validate whether he got it right. Any Jew could have just walked into the archives and looked up Jesus’ or Joseph's genealogy. And if there had been anything amiss, any error, or any discrepancy, it would have been shown to be such very easily. And yet we have no historical evidence of anyone ever disputing the genealogy here in the Gospel of Matthew. 

So, if someone wanted to tear this down, they could have easily done it. But they couldn't do it because it was correct. So this is a correct genealogy of Joseph. 

When you look at the names on the list, the question we have to answer is what Matthew was trying to prove here about Jesus through this genealogy. We find our answer by starting with a few observations of the names in the list. First, you see in verse 2 that the list begins with Abraham. Matthew uses the man's covenant name: Abraham. That's not his given name. His given name was Abram, remember? Back in verse 1, Matthew introduces the genealogy by calling it the record of Jesus, the son of Abraham. 

Now God made a covenant with Abram originally, and He promised this man He was going to bring a nation of people from his seed, that is, from his family line. And that through this line, He would bring a certain seed, a certain person to bless all nations, both Jewish and Gentile. And of course, we know that that was a promise of Jesus. And in marking that covenant, God changed the man's name from Abram to Abraham. He inserted a part of His own name - God's own name - in the middle of Abraham's name. ‘Yahweh’ is the name of God. He put the ‘Yah’ in the middle of Abram's name, and we have “Abraham”. And that's the way of saying God and Abraham are united in this Covenant. 

So, by beginning the genealogy with Abraham and calling Jesus the son of Abraham, Matthew is making a pretty clear statement to the Jew. He's testifying, “This man, Jesus, He's the fulfillment of what God told Abraham would be coming one day. He's that seed. He's that Son”. 

But you notice in verse 1, he also says that Jesus is the son of David. Now why mention David's name at all? And even more interestingly, why put David's name in front of Abraham? That doesn't seem very Jewish. If you know anything about Jewish custom, they always think of the father having greater authority than the son. And that goes back as many generations as you want. 

So Abraham had greater authority than anyone who came from Abraham, including David. But here it's reversed. 

Now once again, David's notable because of a covenant. God made a covenant with David as well, and He promised David something very specific. He said that there would always be a dynasty over Israel, a king. And that dynasty would always have a descendant of David occupying the throne, and the Lord promised him that one day, He would raise up a ruler in his family line who would rule perpetually. No one would ever take the throne away from this descendant. And He wouldn't just rule Israel, He'd rule the world. 

And therefore, Matthew inserts David's name before Abraham's name because he wants us to understand that Jesus doesn't just fulfill one, He fulfills the other. He is the son of David, meaning he is the promised King coming in fulfillment of that covenant, the Davidic covenant, and He is the son of Abraham because He is the promised Seed to bless all nations, not just Israel, but also the Gentiles. And he puts them in this order for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that the Davidic covenant is uniquely Jewish. It is for the Jewish people. Whereas the Abrahamic covenant is for all peoples. So he puts the Jewish segment first and then the one that covers Gentile second. 

We have one to show that He is the fulfillment of Abraham's Covenant and the second to show you that He is the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant.

Now the third reason. Matthew tells us in verse 17, “I've arranged this genealogy into 3 groups of 14 names.”. If you compare this genealogy to genealogies in the Old Testament that cover these same families, in these same periods of time, you’ll find that Matthew intentionally left some names out. There are grandfathers and great grandfathers skipped in this list at various points along the way. And then Matthew adds four names you wouldn't expect to find in this genealogy. 

So there are five kings missing in Joseph's family line. And then you have four women that have been added. And that's unusual because typically in Jewish ways of doing things, they would not have had women in the line. They used the man as the head of the home and marked him alone. 

Here again, hearing that he has missing names in the genealogy, that might have set up a red flag for you, but it’s just not unusual for Jewish way of counting genealogy. Skipping a generation here or there in a genealogy was common, and it didn't invalidate it at all. Jews understood that jumping over a generation didn't invalidate a genealogy so long as the other names on either side of it were accurate. For example, if I skipped your grandfather in your family tree, but I included your great grandfather, and I included your father correctly, then your genealogy is still accurate.

So, Jews commonly did this. They would commonly leave out names here and there. They did it for symmetry, and they did it to provide commentary on the family tree. 

Now in Matthew's case, he wants to do both. He wants symmetry, and he wants to say something about this genealogy to you. So, he dropped some of Jesus' ancestors, and in doing so, it allows him to have three groups of a perfect number of 14 each. That's what he wanted. If he had put all the names in there, it wouldn’t have worked out to 14 x 3. And you and I are thinking, “That seems like a weird thing to be worried about when you're just trying to trace genealogy. You've got to get all the numbers just right on the way down.” 

And then you have the second problem. He inserted these four women. So, the names were dropped for symmetry, and the women were added to make a commentary. These two ideas form the themes for Matthew’s entire gospel, and we’re going to see them clearly in verse 1. 

First, Matthew wants us to see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, as mentioned earlier. Hebrew names could be assigned numeric values in the way Jews did things. They have every letter of the 22 letters in their alphabet assigned a numeric value. The 1st ten are numbered 1 through 10; and then they number the next eight 20 through 90. And then the last four, they number 100, 200, 300 and 400

Now, Hebrew is written from right to left. So, here, on the extreme right is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabets – the Aleph (א) - and on the extreme left is the last – the Tav (ת).

א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י                              כ ל מ נ ס ע פ צ                          ק ר ש ת

If you take someone's name, and assign the numeric value for each letter in their name, and then add those values up, you come to a number. This is, by the way, how we get to the number of the beast: 666. His name in Hebrew, when added up, will add up to that number.

Do you know what the numerical value of “Jesus the Messiah” is when it's spelled out in Hebrew? (Some of you might have become quite familiar with Jesus’ name being given a value of 888 when it’s translated to Greek, but know also that “Gematria” is a very Jewish thing. The Jews have always known God to use numbers to speak to them – and so it’s part of their culture that numbers are embedded in their language. So for those who like to give a numerical value to potential Antichrist candidates, do get their names translated to Hebrew first, because “666” is the numerical value for the Antichrist’s name IN HEBREW. And, do stop counting dates and ward and bed numbers for that matter).

Now, “Jesus the Messiah”, in Hebrew alphabet is (reading from right to left):   י ש ו ע      ה מ ש י ח

(Pronounced “Yeshua Ha-Mashiach”)

י ש ו ע (Pronounced “Yeshua”):

י (pronounced “yud”) has a numerical value of 10

ש (pronounced “shin”) has a numerical value of 300

ו (pronounced “vav”) has a numerical value of 6

ע (pronounced “ayin”) has a numerical value of 70


ה מ ש י ח (Pronounced “Ha – Mashiach”, which translates to “The Messiah”):

ה (pronounced “heh”) has a numerical value of 5

מ (pronounced “mem”) has a numerical value of 40

ש (pronounced “shin”) has a numerical value of 300

י (pronounced “yud”) has a numerical value of 10

ח (pronounced “chet”) has a numerical value of 8

Which adds up to:

10 + 300 + 6 + 70 + 5 + 40 + 300 + 10 + 8 

= 749 (7, 7x7)

And if you add up the Hebrew numbers in the name of David, you arrive at 14. And so Matthew has arranged his genealogy into three groups of 14 because in Hebrew thinking, one is good, two is better, three is best. And so, by the repetition of 14, Matthew is pointing out David to us. It's as if David is just screaming at us in this genealogy - from the way a Hebrew would understand it - that Jesus was the eternal David, Jesus is the Promised King.

In fact, notice in verse 17, Matthew connects the first group and the second group by mentioning David again. There were 14 generations between Abraham and David, 14 more from David to Babylon. You can't help but notice his prominence in this list. And then he says, there were 14 generations from the Babylonian captivity until Jesus. 

Now that tells you that there were 14 generations to get to David, 14 generations until there was no king on the throne in Judah, and then 14 more generations before a King returned to the throne for Judah. Now the question is, would Israel receive Him or not? You see how he marked that very clearly with 14? That's the first point: David's King has come. It is Jesus. 

And then secondly, Matthew draws our attention to Jesus fulfilling the Abrahamic promise once more. He does that with those four women. You may recognize those names. Tamar was a Gentile. Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites. Ruth was a Moabitess, and Bathsheba was a Hittite. 

All four of these women were Gentiles, and three of these women were guilty of sexual sin of one kind or another. Matthew includes four Gentile women - most of not great reputation - in Jesus' genealogy to testify Jesus fulfills God's promise to Abraham to save Gentiles, too. He didn't just come for the Jews, and He didn't just come for the upright. He came for everyone. 

And notice again how the 2nd and 3rd groups of 14 are connected by the mentioning of the Babylonian captivity. The Babylonian captivity was a result of Israel's rebellion against the Lord and through two prophets - Daniel and Jeremiah - we're told that at the time of the Babylonian captivity, God had inaugurated a period called the Age of the Gentiles, a period in which God was purposely going to look for the Gentile over the Jew for a period, and it would culminate in the Messiah coming to set up His Kingdom. 

So, where are we at this point? Now, Matthew’s genealogy is constructed to introduce two themes. Those themes are Jesus fulfilling the promises given to David, and Jesus fulfilling the promises given to Abraham. David's name is listed first in verse 1 because Jesus came to the Jew first, and their King offered a Kingdom to them in fulfillment of that covenant. 

Abraham's name is listed second because after the Jews rejected Jesus and rejected the Kingdom, Jesus turned to the Gentiles and began to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant for their sake. That is, to the Jew first, and then it went to the Gentiles. We're going to see Matthew develop these themes as we go through his Gospel. 

One last thing to observe. Notice how he ends this genealogy. In verse 16, Matthew describes Joseph as the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born. He doesn't call Joseph Jesus’ father. We know that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus and Mary was a virgin. So, although Joseph assumed legal responsibility for this Son - he adopted Him basically - he was not the biological father.

And therefore, while Jesus was Joseph's heir, He was not his descendant. And Jesus only shared a physical relationship with His mother, Mary. And as you look at Mary's genealogy in Luke's Gospel, you'll find Mary also descended from King David. Both Mary and Joseph trace their ancestry back to David. So, Jesus is an heir to the throne through Joseph, and a biological descendant of David through Mary so that He meets all the terms that were required for Him.

So now, if Mary's genealogy was enough to support the claim that Jesus was descended from David, why does Matthew want us to know that Jesus was not physically related to Joseph? Wouldn’t that actually work against his argument? Wouldn't it seem to suggest, maybe, that He's not connected to David? Remember, we only have Matthew's gospel to begin. We don't have Luke’s for a little while. 

Why did he want us to know that there was no physical connection between Jesus and Joseph? It actually strengthens his argument that Jesus is the King. Let’s see how this is so. Back in Jeremiah 22 the Lord pronounces a curse on one line of David's descendants, on a king named Jeconiah. God cursed that king as he was so disobedient and evil. And in the curse God puts on Jeconiah, He says this: no one who descends from Jeconiah’s line will ever sit on the throne again. If you look at verse 11 in our genealogy, guess who's in Joseph's genealogy? Jeconiah. 

Which means that if Jesus had been a physical descendant of Joseph, Jesus would have been prevented by that curse from ever occupying the throne. People knew Joseph's genealogy as it would have been an easy thing to go to the temple and validate Joseph's genealogy. People have been walking around in Jesus' day or afterwards, saying, “He can't be our king. His father is descended from Jeconiah.” 

But Matthew preempts that criticism by providing Joseph's genealogy in such a way as to demonstrate He was not a blood relative of Joseph. Joseph was just married to Mary. Through Joseph, Jesus meets the requirements to be an heir. But through Mary, Jesus meets the requirements to be a physical descendant. And that's an important distinction. Mary's genealogy doesn't go through Jeconiah. Mary is not under that curse. So, according to Matthew, Jesus is King and He is Saviour.

Among the  characteristics of Matthew's Gospel which will soon become apparent as we go through the chapters are these three:

First, he wrote this account to persuade a Jewish audience. Matthew was a Jewish tax collector. He was a man that Jesus called to be His apostle, one of His chief disciples. He wasn't looking for a Saviour when Jesus found him, but the Saviour came to him and called him into that relationship. So, Matthew sits down and he writes an account. And he does it, especially for the Jewish readers of his day, men and women who would have otherwise overlooked Jesus.

But it's not just for the Jew obviously. Matthew's Gospel emphasizes the faithfulness of a sovereign God to fulfill His promises to Israel and to the world. God foretold everything that happens in this Gospel, by and large, that He would carry out all of these things in Jesus’ life and that even Jesus' own death would come in a certain way. All of that is in this work. There's no Plan B with God. Everything is Plan A. The challenge was trying to explain it to His followers in the moment, that His death wasn't the end of something - it was the beginning.

Finally, Matthew’s Gospel is written to save souls. It's written to bring more of us into the presence of the Lord. It's not an ancient historical account. It's not some Jewish version of a campfire story. He didn't write this to entertain. This book was written to change your heart. And we study it for that reason - to move someone out of darkness and into the light of the salvation, through a belief, through a faith in Jesus Christ as Messiah.

We want anyone who hears these words to know the truth of Jesus as Messiah. No matter where you come from, no matter what you've heard about Jesus before, no matter how you have perceived Him from what others have said, and for that matter, no matter what you've done, and no matter how many mistakes you've made, no matter how bad they are, you have this same reason to come to Jesus -  it’s because you recognize this is the one God promised to bring. And that promise is for you. 

In fact, as many have observed, the worse you are, the more you need Him. The worse your life is, the more mistakes you make - that's not cause to think you're not worthy - that's reason to embrace Him. He came for us because we're not perfect. Because you know what the standard for heaven is? According to Paul in Romans 3, it's perfection, it's the glory of God.

The story of this book and what we will learn as we study it, is that we, too, can be forgiven of our sins by a God who sent His only begotten Son to die for that reason. And He lives again so that we know that the death that we will have in this body is not the end of us, not if we have faith in Him. That all your sin, everything you've ever done could be wiped clean by that one sacrifice. That death was all God requires. Our faith in it is enough. 

So the penalty that God would otherwise lay on you and I, He put on His Son. Is there anything better to embrace at the end of this than that truth that Jesus has proven to be both the one who will reign, and also the one who comes to save? He saves first and reigns later. This is the time to receive that free gift. If what you're hearing now is news, or maybe it's not news, but maybe it's for the first time meaningful, then this is the day that God has appointed for you to have a different relationship with Him.

No comments: