Matthew’s Story: The Long-Awaited Messiah
Think about the genealogy recorded in Matthew 1:1–17. If we, in our 21st-century Western context, were tasked to write the beginning of the New Testament, we probably would not have started with such a list of names. While this approach may seem foreign, the timeline recorded in this genealogy has much to say to us.
To view the video on “Matthew’s Story” in The First Days of Jesus course offered at the The Gospel Coalition, click here.
The Son of Abraham
Matthew’s genealogy goes all the way back to Abraham, around 2,100 BC. We know from the Old Testament that it is Abraham’s offspring who was going to be a blessing for all people. There would be a kingly ruler who would come from Abraham’s line, who would be honored worldwide (Genesis 49:10).
The Son of David
Over one thousand years later, around 1,000 BC, these promises were realized through David’s kingship. And yet, God issued an even greater promise: a descendent of David would rule on his throne forever. As the timeline progresses, some might have wondered if God’s promises had failed. The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 722 BC, and the Southern Kingdom was conquered and sent into exile between the years 605 and 586 BC. Where was the Davidic king now? Though God eventually brought a remnant of his people back to the land, the Old Testament ended with the messianic promises unfulfilled, still looking forward to God’s provision of salvation. With this background in place, Matthew’s genealogy explodes with new meaning: [tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Jesus is the true seed of Abraham, the son of David, who will reign forever and ever![/tweet_box]
Taking a Closer Look
There are four specific features of Matthew’s genealogy that deserve further comment. First, the first two words of Matthew’s Gospel, biblos geneseōs (“The Book of the Genealogy”), point the reader back to God’s original creation, thus linking Jesus’ birth with God’s sovereign plan for his creation. Second, five women are mentioned in the account of Jesus’ ancestry: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. For a first-century genealogy to mention women at all is out of the ordinary; for these women (besides Mary) to be outsiders with a touch of scandal is astonishing. Third, the genealogy also breaks normal form in introducing Mary: Jesus is specifically mentioned as the biological son of Mary but not of Joseph. Finally, the divisions of fourteen generations between major sections of salvation history shows that God is sovereign over all time and history.
Many have wondered about the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies. The most plausible explanation is that Matthew’s version is a “dynastic document,” whereas Luke’s version is more biological. In other words, “Matthew provides the legal line of royal inheritance; but those who wish can connect this lineage with Luke’s physical line by means of two adoptions” (42).
To access the rest of The First Days of Jesus course offered at The Gospel Coalition, click here. You can purchase The First Days of Jesus here. The chapter summaries for this course were written by Mark Baker and edited by Andreas Köstenberger.