“Paul”, Dad said, “Pick a passage for us to read”. He usually picked the passage for family devotionals so this was quite the treat.
I picked this one.
Not because I found it interesting – I didn’t. But I DID like how the names sounded, and the challenge of reading them out loud. That was the last time my Dad let me pick the passage for quite a while, and the last time I enjoyed reading a genealogy for many years.
Why did God put it there? Why did Luke also include a genealogy? And why are they different?
Four guys– three of them members of Jesus’ inner group of disciples – wrote a ‘gospel’. Or rather, they wrote the story of Jesus’ time on earth and his message, each version geared to a slightly different initial audience.
Matthew had in mind – in the first instance – fellow Jews. People who knew that a Messiah, a Christ (‘chosen one’) had been promised by God, and for whom the whole country had been waiting for thousands of years. 1,000 years since the prophecies started increasing significantly in number.
Matthew wanted to show that Jesus didn’t simply turn up from nowhere, poor carpenter’s boy from a neglected northern village that nobody cared about and with a family line as royal as your average beggar’s.
That motivation is also an explanation for the discrepancy between Matthew’s genealogy, and Luke’s, which starts earlier (much earlier – it begins with Adam). Jesus – who referred to himself by the Messianic title, ‘Son of David’, was a biological descendant of that great king, but also a heir to the symbolic throne of Israel: i.e. Jesus was, and is, king of all God’s people, which numbers many more Gentiles than Jews. So Luke – primarily a historian for Gentiles – focused on the blood descendants, and the latter part of Matthew’s focuses on the line of kings.
Another query, about the fact that there were not literally fourteen generations separating the different periods mentioned in v.17, is accounted for by two things:
a.) the Greek word translated ‘father’ can be either a biological reference, or symbolic for ‘comes after’ in the sense of a teacher/student relationship or a throne passing to a non-family memberr
b.) many contemporary genealogies were not complete, but indicative, omitting certain generations that did not have an obvious historical significance
Why do we care about all this?
Because of the aim mentioned above, with Matthew wanting knowledgeable Jews, and now us, to understand the historical background to and prophetic inevitability of Jesus. Our Saviour is presented here as an historical and genealogical climax, the one to whom all of human history had been building.
Everything Matthew writes subsequently, has that as its foundation.
Just as everything we think and understand about Jesus can have that same, sure, footing.
As we go through the gospel over the coming few months we will have repeated cause to thank God for that sure footing. Today is one of those days.