Matthew 1:2-17 — What’s In A Name? This Is Not Just Another Boring Biblical Genealogy

Posted: August 19, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 1:2-17 — The genealogy of Jesus Christ. What can we learn from who beget who? This seems like some stale genealogical list that you have to suffer through in the Bible to get to the good stuff. But as with anything in the Bible, if you just gloss over something, you might miss its value and what it means to our lives. So, let’s not gloss over it and see what revelation God has for us. There are several things here. First, this genealogy assures us God don’t mess around – there is a symmetry to what He does. Second, it reminds us that Jesus had an earthly family line. Finally, it reminds us even less than perfect people can be a part of God’s plan. All of these things together make us realize that God does really have a plan not just for mankind but for you and me.

The first thing that you notice here (which is different from Luke’s genealogy of Christ) is that Matthew only traces Jesus’ bloodline back to Abraham. Luke traces the genealogy all the way back to Adam. Luke’s gospel emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and compassion so it was important to him to show that Jesus could be traced back to the beginning of humanity. On the other hand, Matthew was interested in demonstrating to his audience that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah promised to the people of Israel. His genealogy ties Jesus to the father of Israel, Abraham. God promises Abraham that the world would be blessed through Him. Jesus is that blessing for the nations. This genealogy shows that once God saw the faith of Abraham, in a world completely lacking in faith, He promised that Abraham’s faith would be rewarded. A plan was put in place beginning with Abraham to bring forth the seed that would save. The plan was executed quietly as history swirled forward and many things happened from Abraham to Jesus. So much history in between these two men. But all the while the plan was being worked by God. It was all pointing to Jesus. So, during those times in my life where it seemed pure chaos and everything seemed hopeless, God is working His plan for my life. All the history of my life, the good, the bad, the ugly, all of it, is part of the plan to ultimately form me into the man that God wants me to be. There is a plan!

The second thing about this genealogy that is worth seeing is that we are reminded that Jesus, the divine Son of God, God in the flesh, was also a human being who had a family that could trace its roots back many generations. It reminds me that Jesus was a family guy. He was man who loved his mother and father. He was a man who grow up as a kid with brothers and sisters. He was part of a human family. It makes me think of the kid Jesus who ran and jumped and played. It reminds me of the teenage and young man Jesus who was learning a trade from his father. It reminds me that Jesus probably worked with his father. Yes, Jesus most likely as a good Jewish son worked with hands, got dirty, sweated and was tired when the day’s work was done. As we are often comforted by the family lineage of which we are a part, I am sure the humanity of Jesus took comfort in that – that He had an earthly family. This genealogy reminds me that Jesus knows the things we know. He was part of a family. He was part of a family line. He knew and experienced everything that we experienced as a man born into a family, as a man who was a kid at one time, as a young man learning to earn a living in life, all of it. He knows it. He experienced it. So, when I pray, Jesus knows all the pain, heartache, humiliation, sadness, happiness, joy, strength, all of it, of being human. When I complain about my brother, Jesus knows. He had brothers. When I complain about my job, Jesus knows. He had a job. Everything about being human, Jesus understands. You get that from a genealogy, Mark? Yes, I do. The genealogy tells me of the humanity of Jesus.

The final thing here about this genealogy that is important for us to see is…well…just look at the people in Jesus’ genealogy. There are two things about the people here. First, you will notice that there are women in it. You chuckle and say well it takes women to make a genealogy right. Well, let us remember that we today mainly trace our ancestry through our fathers. But it was even more pronounced in first century Palestine. Women were not mentioned in genealogies at all. They traced only sons to fathers to grandfathers, to great grandfathers and so on. The fact that Matthew mentions women here is to point out the valuable role that women have played in God’s plan and it is a reflection of the value that Jesus placed on women. In Christ’s church, women are of great value. You just look through the gospels and the letters of the New Testament, women are strikingly central to the growth and health of the church. Just as women played critical, but often unheralded roles in getting us from Abraham to Jesus, we as the church today should place high value on the work of the Lord that Jesus would have them do. Just because God has an order for marriage as noted in Paul’s writings, it does not mean that women are not of great value to the cause of Christ. You get that from a genealogy. Yes, because women are named in first century genealogy. It makes a powerful statement about the women being of high value to God even amidst a first century society that gave them little value at all.

The second thing about the names that you see here is the fact that there are some people here that have a past. Matthew’s readers, who knew the Hebrew Scriptures well, must certainly have been jolted at finding Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba on the list. They might even have been embarrassed, especially when they saw Tamars name. The Book of Genesis (38:15) recounts that she pretended to be a harlot and seduced her father-in-law, Judah. The twins born of their illicit union, Perez and Zerah, are two of the names Matthew lists. Another infamous inclusion in this list, Matthew does not mention her name, describing her simply as Uriahs wife. The infamous Bathsheba, as readers will remember, committed adultery with David, who, in an attempt to make Uriah think that the child in Bathshebas womb was his own, called her husband back from battle and tried to induce him to have sexual relations with her. When Uriah abstained, David had him murdered (2 Sam 11:11). Man, there are some messed up, flawed people in this list of Jesus’ ancestry. It is of course an adopted human ancestry but nonetheless there are some shady characters in Jesus’ lineage. Jesus comes at the end of the ancestral list. He redeems the whole sordid bunch. This speaks volumes to me as to the fact that Jesus can make even the most lowly person with the most sordid past a new and meaningful person in the sight of God. He can redeem the most foul past. No matter what we have in our past, Jesus can redeem it and make it holy. No matter what you have done, it can become part of your testimony as to what Jesus can redeem. All the bad things end in Jesus’ name. All things are made new in Jesus’ name. All things begin again in Jesus’ name. All things are made whole in Jesus’ name. All things are made right in Jesus’ name. If you think you are too far gone to be reached by the grace of Jesus Christ, just look at Jesus’ genealogy. He made these people’s live matter. He can make your life matter too!

Father, thank you for the insights we gain from Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ. We know that you’ve had a plan all along that will redeem me and all of mankind from our sinful selves through Jesus. The plan has been working all along. The plan will continue to work through the end of the age when Jesus returns to close out this earth as we know and establish His kingdom. Thank you Lord for teaching us through simple genealogy of your power and your majesty and your redemptive plan. Amen.

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