When we start a new Bible reading plan, it’s easy to become discouraged the first time we come to something in the Bible that doesn’t correspond to our 21st century ideas of “interesting” writing. Right away in Matthew 1, we find ourselves immediately confronted with a daunting, 17-verse genealogy of Jesus.
But in fact, this genealogy is fascinating. By placing this genealogy at the front of his gospel (the books that tell the stories of the life of Jesus are called “gospels”), Matthew is telling us that this genealogy is of extraordinary importance.
You see, Matthew’s gospel is written to tell the story of Jesus to Jews, and so it’s critical for him to explain to the Jewish people that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises that God had made to Israel through two key individuals: Abraham and David.
All the way back in Genesis, after God’s perfect creation had been ruined by the sin of Adam and Eve, God chose to save the world through one man, Abraham. To Abraham, he said:
1“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3)
One of Abraham’s descendents was named David, to whom God also made special promises:
9“And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth….12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” (2 Sam. 7:9-14)
So, if Jesus hadn’t been the descendent of Abraham or the descendent of David, then Jesus could not have been the promised Messiah:
17So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. (Matt. 1:17)
Jesus is the promised offspring of Abraham, he is the heir to David’s throne, and (as we will discuss more tomorrow) he is the only one capable of restoring the people of God after their deportation (i.e., exile) to Babylon.