Matthew 1:1-17

In his letter to Titus from prison in Rome, the apostle Paul condemns disputes over genealogy.  But to say, offhand and without any thought about it, that that condemnation applies to the genealogy of Christ is far too hasty.  That would be an example of a rule being applied to every situation without reason, and without thought for intent of the context.

The Jews, and especially the Pharisees, without thought concerning Jesus Christ the Messiah, having rejected Him, had formulated an indissoluble covenant based on their descendancy from Abraham.  And regardless of the fact that God had warned them time and again that they had broken His covenant and that repentance was required of them they continued to hold to genealogical succession from Abraham as the basis of hope.

But God had cut them off the genealogical tree because of their disobedience, and had grafted in the Gentile nations instead.  Elect Gentiles, adopted sons, were now true Jews and descendants of Abraham according to promise.  So, therefore, disputes over one’s genealogy were not only fruitless, but they were also a denial of the truth.

Not so in the case of Jesus.  Jesus was the second Adam and the very embodiment of the promise of God to Abraham.  Now, there is a sense in which disputes over the genealogy of Christ can be very sinful, too.  Especially if one is attempting to disprove that Jesus is the Messiah, promised by God.  But there are valid disagreements, by men who love our Lord, and who with to see with wisdom into the intent of the apostle Matthew and his purpose in writing the genealogy of Christ like this.  And the disputes over the meaning of this list are between men who are trying to see things from God’s perspective.  And I see no sin in that.  It’s God-honoring, in fact.  I love to see the Church hammering it out, because when all of us are seeking the truth of the Words of God, to the glory of our Lord, good things come from that.  And we grow in Knowledge of Him, as we’re commanded to do.

Well, I’ve identified some major areas of dispute in this lineage of Christ.  Now, in reading it, you wouldn’t think that such a big deal could be made of it.  And that’s because we don’t like to get into it and read lists of names – especially oriental names that are hard to pronounce.  And if you looked all of them up, it would take a long time.  But, you see, this is the gospel of God concerning His Son.  And we must read with insight and intelligence – seeking to know the truth.  And there are, in this seemingly endless list of names, some golden nuggets, which edify and build the knowledge of the Church, and which increase our Love for Him Who became our sacrifice.  We ought to thirst for every bit of knowledge that we can gain about Him – because He is our King.  We should want to know what God wants us to know from this passage.

So, after I identify the main problems in these seventeen verses, then we’ll go back and look at some individual verses and mine for those nuggets of gold.

Okay.  The first thing you see, in reading through the genealogy, is that it’s broken down into three periods of time – Abraham to David, David o the Babylonian exile, and the Babylonian Exile to the birth of Jesus.  Each one of those periods of time, in this list, consists of fourteen generations, or successions.  Now, it doesn’t take a mathematical wizard to add those generations and total forty-two.  And, even taking the high side, each generation is about thirty years.  And if you multiply forty-two generations times thirty years, you come up with twelve hundred and sixty years.  But by all accounts, Abraham lived in about 2000 BC to 2100 BC.  So Matthew’s list leaves us about 750 years short – minimum.

Secondly, when you compare Matthew’s genealogy to that of Luke, you find that only a few of the same names are mentioned, especially from that period of time between David and Christ.  And, thirdly, Luke’s list is much, much longer than Matthew’s.

Fourthly, Matthew’s genealogy proceeds from David to Christ through David’s son Solomon, where Luke’s lists David’s son Nathan as the lineage of Christ.

And, lastly, both genealogies trace Joseph’s lineage rather than Mary’s; and yet the Scriptures are explicit that Joseph was not the Lord’s seminal parent, and that Mary remained a virgin throughout her pregnancy.   

Now, to those who aren’t looking through the eyes of faith, and who aren’t seeking to understand the mind of God, these are problems which potentiate their innate unbelief.  But for those who are free to reason with the mind of Christ, the Scripture says, “seek and you shall find.”  They will discover the depths of the richness of the mysteries of Christ.  “Grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is the command of the apostle Peter.

You may remember, back in the first introductory sermon, that we learned about the Biblical Hebrew concept of time and chronology.  We said that history is conceived in terms of completion and incompletion, and that chronology wasn’t necessarily an issue.  And I said that Matthew’s genealogy was a good example of that concept.

Matthew isn’t attempting proof that Jesus Christ succeeds to the throne of David by bloodline.  Matthew begins, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with the presupposition that Christ is the King promised by God the Father, Who is the legal heir to the throne.  Seminal succession is of no consequence to him.  And I say that because he has left out, by design, some fifteen or twenty generations of people, and the genealogy he writes doesn’t even reflect seminal succession.  One example of that is the fact that the royal throne of Israel was passed from King David to his son Solomon, whose royal family was eventually cut off without progeny.  So, even though this genealogy passes from David to Solomon and so on, what we know from the Bible eliminates the possibility that Solomon was Christ’s ancestor by blood.

But, of course, the prime example of seminal succession not being an issue for Matthew is the fact that this is a genealogy which proceeds through  Joseph instead of Mary.  And Joseph was certainly not the seminal father of Jesus.  He was His legal father.  As we’ll see next Lord’s Day, the young girl Mary was espoused to Joseph when she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and then Joseph took her to his side as his wife.  And although Mary was, more than likely, of the tribe of Judah too, her ancestry, because of marriage, became irrelevant.  Because, Biblically, a woman who marries, legally shares her husband’s ancestry.  Two become one flesh.  So Mary’s ancestry, her genealogical lineage, is the same as Joseph’s, her husband.

So Jesus was the Son of Joseph.  And He was the legal heir to the throne by right, and He was, therefore, the legal descendant of the royal family as is illustrated here in Matthew’s genealogy.

Now, that’s made even more poignant when you consider the form in which this genealogy is written.  Verse seventeen says that there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the captivity, and fourteen from the captivity to Jesus.  Three groups of fourteen – totaling forty-two.

Now, we don’t know enough to determine all the criteria by which Matthew chose the names he did, but it’s enough for our purposes to know that he purposefully omitted fifteen or twenty generations; and that he included only fourteen from each period of time, and that he illustrated three periods of time and the terminal points of each.

Now, since we already know that Matthew’s main topic of concern wasn’t chronology, we have to ask the question, “What is his real agenda?”  Why is his ultimate concern which is so difficult for the Greek, chronological mind to understand?  And, to answer it, we have to turn to the significance of the fourteen generations, and the significance of fourteen generations three times, and the significance of the three terminal points at the end of the three periods of time.

The Scripture says that the Lord Jesus Christ came in the fullness of time.  And the number seven is used Biblically to signify fullness and completion.  And Matthew has doubled the seven three times to signify the completion or waiting between promise and fulfillment.  From the promise to Abraham of a substitute sacrifice to the coming of Christ – the period between promise and deliverance – is seven – doubled three times.  And three is significant of the manifestation of God.  And God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.

And the terminal points in each of these three time periods is equally significant, because David, who came at the end of the first fourteen generations of Matthew’s genealogy, was the manifestation of the glory of Israel under God.  The Babylonian deportation, at the end of the second fourteen generations, is the manifestation of the wrath of God at the depravity of man; and Jesus, at the end of the third period of fourteen generations, is the fullness of the promise of God, and Who is the King of an everlasting Kingdom – which David could not accomplish – and Who is the Savior and Light of the world – which Israel could not be.        

So, Matthew’s genealogy establishes Jesus as the legal heir to the Kingdom of God.  It focuses on Him as the fullness of the promises of God and the entire history of the nation of Israel, it proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom, and it is the very substance of preaching, because it glorifies our Lord as the Savior and light of the world – Whose brightness overshadows the glory of David and Solomon, and Whose dominion extends to the nations of the uttermost parts of the earth.   

Now, this last point, that the genealogy proclaims Jesus Christ as the light and Savior and King of the Gentile nations, needs to be discussed further.  Even though I’m sure you know, the Scriptures, from their earliest writing, proclaim the same thing.  For example, the promise to Abraham includes the fact that he will be the father of many nations.  And all the prophets proclaim the cutting off of ethnic Israel in favor of the Gentiles.  So it shouldn’t be incredible that such a thing as a genealogical list would include several clear indications of the same thing.  Especially since the book was written only thirty or so years before the destruction of Israel in 70 AD.

But as we discuss this phenomenon of the Gospel to the nations, we have to look at the verses having to do with four women who became mothers of the royal seed, and who, therefore, were forerunners of, and typify, the mother of our Lord.  And two of these women were Gentiles.  Not of the tribe of Judah, not of any tribe of Israel, but Gentile women. 

The first is the mention of Tamar in verse three, and it’s not mentioned whether she is Jew or Gentile.  But Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, patriarch of the tribe of Israel, and the one from whom our Lord descended, took a Canaanite wife who bore him two sons.  But Judah had secured Tamar for his first-born, but his son died childless.  So Judah gave Tamar to his second son, but he wouldn’t perform to give seed to his dead brother.  So God killed him too.  

Well, Judah promised Tamar that when his third son grew up she would be his.  But Judah didn’t fulfill his promise.  Well, probably for revenge, Tamar disguised herself, pretending to be a harlot, and Judah went in to her.  

And from this incestuous relationship came Phares, the next royal ancestor of our Lord.

Then in verse five we see that Salman begat Boaz from Rahab.  You remember that Rahab was a harlot in the city of Jericho.  She was a Gentile – a Canaanite – and a prostitute.  And she was the one who hid the spies who were sent in to Jericho by Joshua.  And she did that out of fear of the nation of Israel and its God.      

And before Joshua gave the command to destroy the city and every living thing in it, he ordered Rahab and her entire family to be brought out and saved.  And she watched as all were killed and her city burned.  From that point she became a citizen of Israel.  And it so happened that a descendant of Judah and an ancestor of our Lord named Salmon was a commander of some troops in Jericho, and he took Rahab as his wife.  And from the relationship between a member of the tribe of Judah and a forebear of David the king, and a Gentile, Canaanitish whore, was born Boaz – the great-grand-father of David the king.

Which brings us to another story here in verse five.  A man and his wife, from Bethlehem of Judah, moved to the nation of Moab because of a famine in Israel – this was during the time of the judges, about 1100 BC.  He had two sons, and both of them married Moabitess/Gentile women while they were there.  Well, the man died and so did his sons, leaving his wife – Naomi, and a daughter-in-law named Ruth.  When Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem-Judah, Ruth went with her.  Ruth was very poor of course, and she had to glean in the fields for food.  And the field she gleaned in belonged to Boaz, a resident of Bethlehem, a descendant of Judah and the son of Commander Salmon and his wife Rahab the ex-Gentile prostitute.  Boaz took Ruth as his wife and begat Obed, the grandfather of King David.

During the reign of David, who was a type of Christ and a man after God’s heart, there was a commander of the Army of Israel named Uriah.  And he had a beautiful wife named Bathsheba.  Her name isn’t mentioned by Matthew here in verse six.  She’s simply called, “the one of Uriah.”  As the situation transpired, Uriah was leading the armies of Israel in a siege of the city now known as Amman, Jordan.  It took a year.  And while he was away, king David had Bathsheba brought to him.  Then he sent word for Uriah to lead an attack on the city in order that he might be killed.  He was.  And David took Bathsheba as his own wife.  And from that marriage came king Solomon, another type of Christ and a legal, royal ancestor of God’s Anointed Son.  Bathsheba was another type of Mary, from whom came royal seed.  And it seems, in the design of God, that it was His purpose to show, that in establishing this kingdom, nothing at all depended on human merit, but only in the will of God.

Now, the question arises, why does Matthew include these four women?  The terrible stains in the ancestry of Christ didn’t have to be mentioned, because the genealogy could have omitted them without any difficulty.  And, along those some lines, why didn’t Matthew include all the sins known to man in the lives of the sons of Judah?  Why just the women?

Well, although it’s not mentioned in the text, there’s a very good explanation.   In the deep hatred for God’s Anointed King, and His resurrection from the dead, the Jews – especially the Pharisees – must have been using a virulent attack on Mary – Jesus’ mother saying that she couldn’t be the mother of a king, she was pregnant before she was married.  So Matthew destroys the pure descendancy model by bringing up the lineage of David and Solomon, which included incidences of incest, prostitution, adultery, murder, and Gentile blood.  Of course no argument will stop the mocking of unbelief, but the “pure, royal blood” argument becomes a non-issue under these circumstances.

The last thing that we want to make sure that we get, this morning, is the statement in verse sixteen:  “then Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, from whom came Jesus the One being called Christ.”  Christ means Anointed.  The kings in the Older Testament are called Christoi in Greek, because they were anointed as kings.

After the Babylonian deportation, there were no more anointings, because Israel was ruled by foreign nations.  Although the royal lineage is traced by Matthew and Luke until the coming of Christ, none of those men were called Christoi, since they weren’t “anointed” as kings.  And the absence of anointing is an indication of Scripture of judgment.

And the cutting off of anointed ones, Christoi, for the last five hundred years of Israel’s history can be seen as the preparation of God for His Own Anointed King as prophesied in Psalm two and Isaiah sixty-seven.

And the anointing of Christ is a pattern of the anointing of each of us who are his, as the apostle John says in I John chapter two, verse twenty-seven.  We are anointed by the Holy Spirit for the special office of prophet, priest and king after the order of Jesus, our Royal High Priest.

And we each are now constrained to perform the duties of our office as Jesus performed them as our pattern.  For there is now a new lineage – a new descendancy – a new genealogy.  A new Kingly adoption into the Royal Family.  For we are all Christoi – anointed ones to special office.

Let me ask you now – would you reflect badly on your Royal High Priest by not governing all aspects of your life as an anointed king?  Would you provide the world with an ugly picture of the God-man by refusing to present the proper sacrifices as an anointed priest?  Would you bring shame to God’s Anointed One by not speaking the words of truth to the world as an anointed prophet?

A part of Christ’s emptying Himself for you included His being born into a blood-line of sordid sin and shame.  His nativity, at the appointed time, was into a mess that only He could cleanse with His Own blood.  And I beg of you, as adopted sons into the Royal priestly family, do the work of prophets, priests and kings, as Christ did, for the glory of God the Father, Who saved you by His Grace.