Description / Transcription
Thank you, my friend. Well, it is so good to be back with you again. I want to say what a privilege it is to be at Christ Covenant Church. Every time I come back, I remind myself of how and why this feels like really a home away from home for us. And so it’s a joy to be back and a joy to be in this brand new pulpit. I don’t think I’ve been here since the pulpit has changed. I realize it’s gotten higher, so if I look like I’m disappearing behind it, you can understand why. But it is great to be back with you again here. We love this church, love this family, and it’s a privilege to share another Sunday morning with you.
Now I know that this summer you are going through a series in the book of Proverbs, and I’m going to be the delinquent pastor today. I’m going to take you out of that series. I told Kevin, when he invited me to preach, look, I’d love to come preach, but I don’t think I can do the book of Proverbs, but I’ve got another text in mind. He said great, whatever’s on your mind, come preach it, and so I’m going to do that today.
And believe it or not, the text I want to preach from today is the genealogy of Matthew. Now, you’re hearing that and you’re thinking so I guess you aren’t expecting to be invited back after this particular Sunday. [laughter] And that may be true. But the Lord has laid this passage on my heart, and I trust that He has much to teach to us today from it.
So if you have your Bibles, let’s turn to the book of Matthew, chapter 1, and our text today is the genealogy. A strange and bizarre as that sounds, you’re thinking why would anybody, especially as a guest preacher, preach from a genealogy. Surely that is an unusual pick, but I think you’ll see today that the Gospel is here.
And one of the things I enjoy about passages of Scripture like this is sometimes the Gospel is even more richly displayed in a passage where we don’t expect to find it. And passages like a genealogy are just such a passage.
Now to your great relief, and perhaps to mine as well, I will not read every verse of this genealogy. In fact, I want you to listen and meditate with me on the very first verse of the New Testament. Matthew chapter 1, verse 1: “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Amen. May God bless the reading of His Word.
Let’s pray and ask Him to do that as we dive into this passage today. Let’s pray together.
Lord, we’re so grateful for Your Word. Yes, we’ve read only one short verse of this genealogy, there’s many more we’ll get to, but Lord, let us dwell on this. The very first verse of the New Testament is telling us the story of Jesus, is actually the end of a larger and older story. Give us insight into that today, we pray. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Now, if you’re like me, you’ve probably got your own little list of pet peeves about the world. And for me, there’s something that draws very near to the top. And that’s when I’m in the middle of a book or maybe waiting to watch a movie, and I’m eager to find out how it ends, and then someone spoils it before you get there. In fact, you’ve probably had that happen to you at some point. Maybe you’ve been in a book or a series of books and you’ve been dutifully poring through it, you’re tracking the plot, and you’re, you’re getting to know the characters and you’re engaged in the story and the tension is starting to build and you’re wondering how this is all going to end at the very last chapter, and every time you pick up the book to read it, you’re, you’re resisting the inevitable temptation that you feel, that what if I just flipped to the end of the book? What if I just went to that last chapter and I found out how things actually ended at the very end of this story? And you feel that building over time. But no, you say, you know the right course of action her is to stay in it and to keep reading every chapter and eventually I’ll get to the end, and when I get to the end eventually, it’ll make much more seen if I’ve read the whole book. And then about halfway through your friend stops you and says “did you hear how it ended?” and they spill the beans. And you think to yourself that’s not how it’s supposed to go. The ending isn’t best understood when you rush to it and read it. The ending is best understood when you know the whole story and how you got there.
Now we intuitively know that, when we read books in our world, fiction books. Here’s what’s interesting: Is that when we read the Bible, that logic kind of goes out the window. In fact, when we read the Bible, we don’t actually read the Bible that way. When we read the Bible, we’re actually quite content to read the last chapter first and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
You may not realize it, but when you read a gospel like Matthew’s Gospel, you’re actually reading the end in one sense of the biblical story. And when I say the end, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t continue on in the church today, but in one sense, when you read the Gospels, you’re reading not a new story, when you read the story of Jesus, you’re actually reading the end of a very old story. You’re not reading something that’s a brand new account, but you’re reading actually something that is finishing and ending something that began long before. You’re reading the last chapter, you’re in one sense seeing the last act in the play. And we don’t even realize that’s what’s happening.
And of course, even as we said a moment ago, you realize you can’t really understand the last chapter of a story unless you know what went before. And that’s exactly the problem that Matthew’s trying to correct here today in this very bizarre and unusual genealogy.
Now, who starts a Gospel with a genealogy? Does Matthew really think that people want to read a Gospel that starts with a genealogy? If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t, right? How many times have you gotten to the very beginning of your reading cycle in Matthew and you saw the genealogy and you said I think that is skippable and I will just not bother trying to pronounce those names and I will get to the good stuff afterwards.
In fact, this week I ran into a friend and I told him I was preaching at Christ Covenant this week. And they said well, what are you preaching on? And I said the genealogy of Matthew. And they said uh and felt like they’d been punched in the stomach. I thought that’s not a good boost for the morale of any preacher, to know that’s how people feel about a passage. We look at a passage like this, you’re thinking it’s skippable, it’s missable. But Matthew knows better. He knows you can’t go forward until you first go back.
And that’s what we’re going to do in this passage today. We’re going to go back for a moment, and we’re going to ask the question “why start a Gospel with a genealogy?” What is it telling us that we so desperately need to know about Jesus? In a way that perhaps we’ve forgotten.
Now, you’ll be comforted to know we’re not going to go through every single name in the genealogy, we’re not going to line by line. It’s a long text. Here’s what I will do, though. I will pull a few threads this morning. In fact, three different threads I want to pull about why this genealogy is so critical to understanding the Lord Savior that you serve, Jesus Christ.
So let’s just dive into that. What does this genealogy do for us that we’re so critical for us to get?
The first think we’ll see here is that the genealogy reveals what we might call the backstory of Jesus. It reveals where He came from, how we got here.
And here’s where what Matthew does is challenges our idea of when the story of Jesus started. If you were to ask a child “Where does the story of Jesus begin?” no doubt a child would say “well, it’s the story of Christmas, it’s the birth in the manger.” Or if you ask someone else where the story of Jesus began, they might say well, maybe at His baptism when it launched His public ministry, or maybe the story of Jesus began really at His resurrection, or what have you, but Matthew steps on the scene and says no, no no. That’s not really where the story of Jesus begins. If you want to know where the story of Jesus begins, you’ve got to go back.
And at the very cap of the whole discussion is one particular name at the head of the whole list, and you see it in verse 1. Look down there again with me. Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
And then notice verse 2, it picks up with Abraham, starting with him, goes through the rest of the genealogy, every name, beginning with Abraham. Matthew is saying you want to understand Jesus? Is He your Lord and savior? Well, then, you’ve got to understand Abraham.
What he’s alluding to here, no doubt, is the story of Abraham’s promise that he received from God. In fact, we read earlier in the service about it. Abraham was taken by God out into the desert and one night said “Abraham, I want you to look up at the sky. You see all those stars? Countless, endless numbers of stars? That is how your offspring will be.”
Now, I don’t know if you’ve actually seen stars like that out in the desert. Now, here in Charlotte at night you can see some stars, maybe if you go to the mountains in North Carolina you can see some stars, but if you’ve ever been out in a real desert, you see stars like you’ve never seen them before.
Years ago I had a chance to go out camping in the deserts of California, actually, with a friend and we went out in the desert and we rolled out our sleeping bags in the back of his pickup truck and we’re trying to go to sleep and looking up at the sky and all of a sudden I saw what I had never, ever seen before, which is this countless, myriad, twinkling, galaxies of stars. The Milky Way shining brightly. And you realize, oh, that’s what Abraham saw in the sky.
And what was God’s point in all this? Is “so shall your descendants be,” but what God had in mind is not just ethnic descendants. What God had in mind is that there was one particular seed, one particular descendant, Abraham, that is going to come from you someday and is going to save God’s people from their sins. One particular offspring, a man borne of a woman who’s going to save His people from their sins.
Matthew comes on the scene then and says look, what you need to realize about the genealogy I’m getting ready to share with you is it shows a very simple fact and that is God kept His promise to Abraham. God promised He would send a savior, and the reason I’m giving you this genealogy is to say that God kept His promise.
They may not have thought much about it, but at each stage along the genealogy there are so many opportunities where that promise looked like it was not going to be kept. And we forget this. At every stage along the way it looked like it could fail, like it was on the edge of not happening.
I mean, even when Abraham got this promise, you know, he had a barren wife in Sarah and it looked like it would end right there. And then he was asked to take Isaac on the mountain top and sacrifice him; looked like it would end there.
And then later, the 12 sons of Jacob were looking like they’re going to starve without food and a famine, and they were delivered by Egypt because Joseph was there.
And then later they were slaves in Egypt; it looked like they were not going to make it out of there.
And then when they made it to the Promised Land, they were persecuted by the Philistines and the Canaanites; maybe they weren’t going to make it out of there.
And then they were sent into exile, and it looked like that was grim, and they weren’t going to make it out of there.
And then finally God kept His promise. Each step along the way and delivered that promised seed, the savior that would save His people from their sins.
You know what that means? That means all those Sunday school stories you grew up learning in the Old Testament, all those stories that are reflected in this genealogy and captured here that you know, all those stories that are visually seen in the Children’s Storybook Bible, all those stories are simply instances of God keeping His promise to Abraham to send a savior, which means that the entire Old Testament is really about the coming of Christ.
You see, it’s funny. We think that the Old Testament’s about Israel, and the New Testament’s about Jesus, and Matthew is saying no, no, no. All the Bible’s about Jesus. All those Old Testament stories were all about God keeping a promise that He would send a seed to save His people from their sins.
So here’s what I think is happening with Matthew’s genealogy. I think when he starts his Gospel with a genealogy, Matthew is in one sense declaring to his readers that I am finishing the Old Testament story by telling you that Jesus has come.
Which is why, I think, that Mathew when he wrote his Gospel knew he was writing Scripture. You ever wonder when the Gospel writers wrote, did they think they were writing Scripture? I think Matthew absolutely thought he was writing Scripture.
One thing you may not realize is that in Matthew’s day, when he wrote this Gospel, the Old Testament in his day ended in a different place than the Old Testament in our day. Our Old Testament’s end in Malachi; the order of books was a little different in Matthew’s day. Matthew’s Old Testament would have ended probably with the book of Chronicles. And you know what the book of Chronicles starts with? A genealogy.
What that means is the last book of the Old Testament and the first book of the New Testament both start with genealogies. Matthew is saying I am finishing the Old Testament story.
Now if that’s the case, let me draw out a couple implications on this first point before we move on, and these are a couple things, I think, just can drive this home for us.
Here’s the first implication for you this morning. This is the question you don’t want me to ask you. How well do you know your Old Testament?
Now, in your mind, you’re thinking aren’t you a New Testament professor? Aren’t you supposed to make us want to read more of the New Testament? But here, Matthew is saying you can’t understand Jesus unless you also understand the Old Testament story.
Now someone will say in their mind, that’s okay, I don’t need the Old Testament, I just want to know the Jesus part.
But Matthew’s going to say it’s all the Jesus part. It’s not that the Old Testament’s not the Jesus part, and the New Testament is, it’s all the Jesus part.
And the first implication is you’ve got to know your Old Testament if you’re going to understand the Savior you serve.
It’s kind of like a prequel in a movie, right? When the Star Wars movies came out originally, and there was three of them, and then the next thing was the prequels, where you actually go back in time and you get the backstory on Anakin Skywalker, and Luke Skywalker, and Leia, and how it all unfolded, and you’re like oh, now I get it better, now I understand more.
Once you get the prequel, you get it better.
Here’s the first implication. You’ve got to make sure you’re not just reading the new, but you’re reading the old.
But there’s a second implication on this first point that I think is even deeper, and this one is more stunning and more profound, I think, in terms of what the text has to teach us, and it’s simply this: When you understand what Matthew’s doing with Abraham, you realize that this just isn’t Jesus’ genealogy, this is your genealogy. This is just Jesus’ backstory, this is our backstory.
Now, what do I mean by that? Well, you may not have picked up on it, but at the very beginning of the service today, you read, or heard read, a passage from Galatians 3, and in that passage Paul makes a mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting, sort of mind-shattering idea in that passage.
And here’s what Paul says, basically this: If you trust and believe in Jesus Christ, then you are a son or a daughter of Abraham. If you’re a believer, by faith you are considered an offspring of Abraham. Not a genetic offspring, obviously. Not ethnically an offspring of Abraham, but genuinely, really, maybe even more real an offspring of Abraham. You’re considered part of Abraham’s family, grafted into the family tree.
What you realize then, in this passage then, is that this isn’t just Jesus’ genealogy, this is your genealogy. Because what that means is is that when Abraham was shown those stars in the sky, the offspring was not just ethnic, the offspring of the stars in the sky was every person who would believe in Jesus for the generations to come. You are an example of God keeping His promise to Abraham. You are one of the stars, if you believe in Jesus, that Abraham saw.
Imagine for a moment that the genealogy can continue. Imagine if it kept going, and included all those who trusted in Jesus and are now regarded as part of Abraham’s family. The genealogy would go on for generations and generations for thousands, for millions, for countless people and your name would be in the genealogy, if you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So when someone reads the genealogy and says well, this has got nothing to do with me… It’s got everything to do with you. This is your family. These are your people. This is not just Jesus’ family tree, this is your family tree.
You know, it’s interesting. I’ve noticed just, and you’ve noticed it, too, observing the world, this recent fascination that people have with their family trees. There are shows now on TV about celebrities that go and sit down with someone whose tracked out their family tree and they tell them all who your relatives were, and you can go onto, you know, Ancestry.com and find out who your relatives are. And I gotta admit, I’m always perplexed by this. I feel like I’ve got enough relatives now to work with. I may not want to know about anymore that I’m unaware of. [laughter]
What does that tell you about people? They want to know where they belong. They want to know where they fit in. They want to know who are my people. You know what this passage says to us today? Christ Covenant? Here are your people. Here is your family. If by Christ we are Abraham’s offspring, and part of this genealogy, then that means that when you look around the room, Christ Covenant this morning, these are your brothers and sisters. These are your fathers and mothers. These are your sons and daughters. By faith in Jesus Christ, this is where you belong. These are your people. This is your family tree.
Now, of course, as soon as you say that, there’s a corollary to it, which is wow, I’ve got a dysfunctional family, right? You might look around the room and say, wow, this is my family, what a mess.
And that actually leads to the second thing I want to bring up from this passage this morning. The first was you need to understand what’s going on in this genealogy to understand where Jesus comes from and His backstory. Secondly, this genealogy reveals why Jesus came at all. It reveals His purpose in coming and why we need a savior.
When you read this genealogy, actually it puts on display and honestly sometimes in raw, uncomfortable ways, exactly the kind of people that Jesus came to save. When you read the genealogy, you realize this is the genealogy of brokenness, it’s a genealogy of dysfunction, it’s a genealogy of disobedience and sin. In fact, because of all those things, it’s actually a genealogy of God’s patience. It’s a genealogy of God’s forbearance. You could say it’s a genealogy of God’s grace.
Now to get that, you have to actually understand the way genealogies function in the ancient world. To get that, you have to understand what purpose they served in the ancient world. You see, in the ancient world it’s not just that Jesus has a genealogy. Lots of kings and leaders in the ancient world had genealogies. In the ancient world, genealogies were kind of like a resume. Genealogies were designed to lay out your pedigree, to bolster your greatness. It was designed to show your awesomeness: Look how wonderful my family is, look how wonderful my, my heritage is, therefore I should be your leader, I should be your king.
It was the resume of the ancient world.
In fact, here’s what’s interesting. Because it was the resume of the ancient world, a way to declare one’s awesomeness, it was also subject in many instances where people would purge their genealogies of all the embarrassing parts. They’d take out all the things that they didn’t like or all the names that were shameful to them, and they would make their genealogy the best they could possibly make it, so they looked better.
One person we think almost certainly did this was King Herod. King Herod, of course, when Jesus was born, went out to slaughter all the babies, trying to kill this new heir to the throne, and we have good reason to think that Herod would have purged his genealogy to make it look as good as he could possibly do. And you may think well, who would do such a thing? Here’s the honest truth: , trying to kill this new heir to the throne, and we have good reason to think that Herod would have purged his genealogy to make it look as good as he could possibly do.
And you may think well, who would do such a thing? Here’s the honest truth: You and I would do such a thing. You and I, in one sense, are always trying to sort of purge our genealogies and our families and sanitize them to make them look better, and I’ll give you just one example that may be a little painful for you to recall in a sort of humorous sort of way. I want you to think about this story for you. Think about your spouse right now, your husband or your wife. I want you to think about the first time, back when they were your boyfriend or your girlfriend, that you took them home to meet your family. That might actually be a rather painful memory, right?
In fact, I know what it’s like when you think about taking your boyfriend or girlfriend home to meet your family. I imagine I know what it’s in your head. You might have said to yourself if my girlfriend meets my family, she is never going to marry me. If my girlfriend meets my family, we have no chance at all of ever being together.
And imagine taking your girlfriend or boyfriend home for Thanksgiving. You’re probably thinking of things such as, well, you know, I hope my family behaves and I hope my dad doesn’t yell at the football game on TV, and I hope Aunt Sally is on her medication [laughter], I hope Uncle Carl doesn’t even show up.
We all want our families to look as good as they possibly can.
And then we come to the genealogy of Jesus. And we realize wait a second, what is going on here? This genealogy doesn’t look like any normal genealogy in the ancient world. This genealogy is a long, complicated mess. It’s a story of sin, serious sin. And it’s not only that, but it includes unexpected people, it includes women and Gentiles, outcasts, sort of bizarre individuals. What is going on with this genealogy?
And you realize as you look at it, that this is a genealogy of brokenness.
Let me just point out a few examples here to just sort of drive this home. Look down at the text again. I’m not going to go through every name, but here’s a few to show you how non-purged this genealogy is. This is not a sanitized genealogy.
Starting in verse 2, we come to Jacob. If you know the story of Jacob, he was a bit of a scoundrel; tricked his brother, lied to his father, stole the birthright, a bit of an all-around huckster.
Verse 3 we come to Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, who we apparently find out later had a propensity for prostitutes. Ends up unknowingly having relations with his own daughter-in-law Tamar, who dressed up like a prostitute. When he finds out later that Tamar is pregnant, he actually condemns her actions and then Tamar says well, you know what? You’re the father. Would have made for an awkward dinner conversation later. [laughter]
Speaking of prostitutes, verse 5. Rahab was a prostitute. Apparently when they showed up at the city of Jericho she was a practicing prostitute, who realized that the true God had in effect shown up. But she makes the genealogy of Jesus.
Then another woman in verse 5, Ruth. She doesn’t have sexual immorality, but strangely enough, here’s Ruth included in the genealogy as a woman, which you don’t normally have women in genealogies in the ancient world, and on top of that, she’s a Gentile, which makes no sense for a genealogy.
Verse 6, we come to Bathsheba. But of course, notice in verse 6, her name isn’t there, she’s just referred to as the wife of Uriah. That’s not a slam on Bathsheba, by the way. That’s actually in one sense a slam on David. It’s basically saying David had a son through another man’s wife. Who on top of that was his best friend, whom he later had murdered.
Verse 7, we come to Solomon, who of course we know in the biblical account had hundreds of wives and lost his way.
And then verse 10 we come to Manasseh. Here’s Manasseh in the genealogy of Jesus, one of the most wicked kings that ever lived. Turned the nation to the worship of Baal, set up idols in the temple itself, if you can even imagine such a thing, used mediums and necromancers, engaged in witchcraft, and even burned his own son as an offering to Moloch.
And we could go on and on, and this is the genealogy of Jesus.
I bet you’re feeling a little bit better about your family right now.
What do you do with something like this? What do you do with a genealogy like this? It’s not been sanitized, it’s not been cleaned up. This is the heritage of our Savior, to remind you of exactly why we need a savior. It reminds you exactly of why Jesus came. For a sinful, fallen, ugly, broken world.
Of course, make no mistake about it, these people in the genealogy are not put here because God endorses their behavior. Of course not. God does not approve of the many things these people did. God’s people are called to repent of such things like this and to turn away to new obedience. At the same time, it does reveal the world in which Jesus came and how desperately they are in need, and were in need, of salvation. This is a genealogy of God’s grace.
Now you may be here this morning, you may be thinking to yourself, you know what? If anyone ever knew what I have done, I would never be accepted into Jesus’ family. If anybody knew what I had done, no way I could be part of God’s people.
Ah, but when you read the genealogy, you’re like, well, wait a second, I might fit in quite well.
When you read the genealogy, you might say well, wait a second, you mean people who are Gentiles can join into the Abrahamic tree? Yes. You mean people who are awful sinners, like even prostitutes can join in the Abrahamic tree? Well, yes. You mean people who even commit idolatry, if they repent, can come in and be a part of the family tree of Jesus? Why, yes, this is a genealogy of hope.
You know what that is? That is good news. Sometimes we need good news, because the truth of the matter is sometimes we think that the Christian life is more about pretending things are better than they are when we show up to church because isn’t that what you have to do in religion anyway? So I’m going to put on my face, and my mask, and I’m going to put out that I’m the perfect Christian because that’s, that’s what you have to be to be part of Jesus’ family, right? And we find ourselves living a life somewhat of a fraud.
And then you read the genealogy of Jesus. You realize, oh, wait a second, this is a genealogy that has both kings and prostitutes. This is a genealogy that has both righteous and wicked. This is a genealogy that has a place for anyone who comes humbly and repents.
You know, I wonder what Matthew thought of the genealogy. We forget that he’s the one that’s writing it down. Matthew was a tax collector. You know, when we hear that in the ancient world, we don’t really know what to do with that category, but we think, oh, that’s just someone that, he’s the tax man, no one likes the tax man.
Oh, no. It was much bigger than that. To be a tax collector was not just to be someone who took people’s money; that was bad enough. To be a tax collector, is to be someone who conspired with the Roman government against their own fellow Jewish people. To be a tax collector is to be an oppressor. To be a tax collector is to be a collaborator. To be a tax collector is to be a fraud. To be a tax collector is to be someone who’s a traitor.
Anybody who knew Matthew before he was converted would have probably despised the man, and hated his guts. And Matthew would have known that. He might have even thought there’s no way I can have a place in the people of God, but yet he meets Jesus, and he writes down His family tree, and he realizes oh, there’s good news for sinners like me.
If you’re in Christ today, for better or for worse, these are your people. But it is a genealogy of grace that we do desperately need.
Leads us to a third and final thing I want to show you from this genealogy, sort of the last thread I’ll pull, so to speak here.
First one, remember, is that you need to understand the genealogy because it gives you the backstory of Jesus, sort of where He came from and how we got here.
Second point, as we just saw, is that you need to know the genealogy of Jesus because it tells you why He had to come at all to save sinners.
And now we come to what I think is really the crescendo of the genealogy, the ultimate point of the genealogy, which is it reveals who Jesus is, what His identity is. In other words, the genealogy is not just what His family is like, but it tells you something about Him in particular, and that’s where the whole genealogy is driving to.
And we look into the text here, we find very two very simple things the genealogy wants us to see about Jesus’ identity. And the first you already know, is that our genealogy wants to say that Jesus is the rightful King.
And here’s where the other names comes in. In verse 1, remember, it says “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” We’ve talked about Abraham a bit, now we talk about David. What does Matthew want us to see? That yes, Jesus is the example of God keeping His promises to Abraham, but Jesus is the son of David, and if Jesus is the son of David, that means Jesus is the rightful King. And if Jesus is the rightful King, that means that Herod’s not the rightful king. If Jesus is the rightful King, then He’s the one who is Lord over Israel, and over all the world.
Now you pick up on this question, and people were asking it, who is the real king of Israel? Who is the one that should be on the throne of God’s people? Who is the ruler of all? And Herod had set himself up as that man. He was the one who wanted to be on the throne of Israel. But he was not in the Davidic line. Herod was in the Hasmonean line, so if Herod would have gotten ahold of the genealogy of Matthew, and effectively he did by talking to some of the people who were coming to find Jesus, he probably got the gist of it, that this was one who was a claimant on the throne of David, and so he sends out his soldiers to wipe out every baby in the region in the hopes that he could preserve his own rule.
But Jesus is the rightful King, and this passage makes that abundantly clear. In other words, Jesus is the one who is the promised king of Israel, and therefore the King of the whole world someday.
But you know that’s not the only identity marker here that’s important. There’s a second one that this is driving to, which is even the bigger one, and the one that I think’s often missed here. It’s not just that Matthew wants us to see that Jesus is the rightful King; he wants us to see that Jesus is God Himself. It’s not just an earthly king that showed up; Jesus is the heavenly King that showed up. He is the Lord.
Now, there’s not a line in the genealogy that says “Jesus is God,” right? So you don’t, you don’t get it that way, you get it more subtly. But when you look at this genealogy and you read through it, you’ll pick up on that point very plainly. And the way we see this is the rhythm in the genealogy. If you look at verse 2, Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah. Notice what is repeated in every single clause, is this phrase “the father of.” It’s actually a singular Greek word, and in the old King James it was “so and so begat so and so begat so and so,” but in our English now it’s ___ was the father of. And if you were to read through the genealogy, verse after verse after verse for 16 verses, you know what rhythm you’re in? So and so’s the father of so and so, the father of so and so, the father of so and so, the father of so and so, and you’re like okay, I get it, everybody’s the father of so and so. What else do I need to know?
Until verse 16. At the very end, you see something amazing happen. And Jacob, the father of Joseph, the fa–, oh, he’s not the father of Jesus. “Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Christ.”
Now that seems subtle. I can tell you this. If you read through it in Greek or you read through it even in English all at once, which we rarely do, suddenly it’s like you hit a brick wall. The father of the father of the father of and then it stops. And when it stops, you ask the question, why did it stop? Because Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus. Jesus was born of a virgin.
We find out later in Matthew that the point of that is very clear, which is that this is not a normal child, this is not a normal king, this is the divine Son of God.
Now once you realize that, then suddenly the genealogy of Jesus takes on even more weighty proportions. Let me get this straight. Are you saying that the God of the universe has picked this as His family? The God of the universe, this is His people? Wouldn’t you think the God of the universe would, would maybe save a worthy people, or an impressive people, or a people who were accomplished, or people that earned it, or people that were sort of the highest of the pedigree out there in the world, a people that were really at the top notch of all kinds of society. But no, He saved these people? People like us? The God of the universe died and suffered for this sort of people?
That’s when you resonate with the words of Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, “Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me.”
You know what the genealogy does? It draws that grand contrast between the great Lord King Son of God Himself and the people He came to save. And it reminds us of that line. How amazing is that love that He would die for me? If you’re in the genealogy too, and you are as I am, in Christ, then we can say the same thing. This is, He, we are part of His family. He died for us.
Ah, but when you sanitize your genealogy, when we sanitize ourselves, then the famous Charles Wesley title might change. It might say oh, not amazing love, “oh, how expected love. Of course it could be and should be that my God, of course, would die for one as great as me” when all the while we know that’s not the case.
Ah, that’s what a genealogy does. Genealogy puts it in perspective. It reminds us not just who Jesus is, but when we see who He is, we see maybe, maybe for the first time, who we are. And we can say boldly, confidently, amazing love. This is a genealogy of grace.
Now as we draw this, these sort of three threads to a close here this morning, you know I started off by saying genealogies are these weird things that seem meaningless and strange, let’s skip them. I hope now you can see, we can all see that wow, we don’t want to skip any of this. This is good news, through and through. That there is a story of old where God started things and He finished them, in Jesus. The story of Jesus is not a new story, it’s the end of an old one. It’s the end of a very old one. God kept His promises.
And we saw that it tells us why Jesus came. That we need grace, we need it desperately, and we’re sinners in need of salvation. Yeah, no matter what you have done, if you repent and believe in Jesus Christ, this can by your family. You are in this family, too. It’s for anyone who trusts in Jesus. No matter how broken your life is.
And then it reminds us of our great God. He is the King, He is the Lord. How gracious that He condescends to us to save a people like this.
And all that goes back to what we read a moment ago. I want to close with these words. Listen again to what Paul says in Galatians: “If you are Christ’s, if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
And that means that all that belongs to Jesus, by faith, it belongs to you. Amen and amen.
Let’s pray. Our Lord, we’re grateful for confusing passages, we’re grateful for difficult passages. Lord, we’re even grateful for genealogies. Lord, we admit that we are a broken people, and Lord we confess our sins. O Lord, we also confess with joy that you are a forgiving, gracious God who saves His people from their sins. Give us hope today that we belong in this family because of what Christ has done for us. We pray this in His precious name. Amen.