“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From Abraham to David” (Matthew 1:1-6a)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 2, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From Abraham to David” (Matthew 1:1-6a)

I am interested in family histories and genealogies. My own, for example. I am a direct descendant of Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, one of the first Swedish settlers in America back in 1640 and one of the founders of the colony New Sweden along the east coast. Peter Rambo’s name, by the way, was the inspiration for the movie character Rambo. My maternal grandmother was Grace Rambo Clark, and, through that Clark connection, I am related to William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and governor of Missouri. So some of my family heritage is pretty noble and famous.

On the other hand, some of it is shaded in scandal. My father was put up for adoption in an orphanage in Chicago, probably because he was born out of wedlock. So I joined up with Ancestry.com, and I’m trying to find out who I’m related to by way of my father’s birth name.

Fame and scandal, historical standouts and skeletons in the closet–this is what you find in any person’s family history. And Jesus is no different. The Bible tells us about Jesus’ ancestry. And this Advent we’re going to explore his family history, under the theme, “The Genealogy of Jesus Christ.” We begin today with the section that goes “From Abraham to David.”

Our text is the genealogy found in Matthew chapter 1. This is how St. Matthew begins his gospel, how we begins the story of Jesus. His opening words are carefully chosen: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

“The book of the genealogy.” The Greek words here are “Biblos geneseos,” “biblos” meaning “book” or “record,” and “geneseos” or “genesis” meaning “generation” or “genealogy” or “origin.” You could really translate it, “the book of the generation” or “the book of the genesis.” You see, Matthew is deliberately choosing words that recall the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis. In fact, that same exact phrase, “the book of the generation,” is used a number of times in the Book of Genesis–you know, those places where you have all those “begats.” What Matthew is saying here is that Jesus Christ sums up–he brings to fulfillment–all the salvation history that God began way back in the Book of Genesis.

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” What else is Matthew saying? He’s saying that Jesus Christ is true man, truly human. Jesus has human ancestors, real people who led flesh-and-blood lives here in human history. Jesus is no strange visitor from another planet. He is no phantom from the spirit world who doesn’t know what life is all about. No, Jesus had human ancestors. Here are their names. You can look ’em up.

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is his name. Christ is his title. His name, “Jesus,” means “Savior.” His title, “Christ,” tells us of his office. “Christ” means “Messiah,” the “Anointed One,” the God-sent deliverer promised from long ago.

“Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Now that’s interesting. Out of all the possible ancestors he could choose from, Matthew focuses on these two in particular: Abraham and David. Jesus is the son of David, who in turn was a descendant of Abraham. These two famous figures from the Old Testament get special attention. “The son of David” tells us that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. “Son of David” had that special meaning. Then it says, “the son of Abraham.” Notice that Matthew does not go all the way back to Adam in his genealogy, like Luke does. Instead, Matthew takes us back as far as Abraham, the patriarch, the father of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.

Jesus is “the son of Abraham.” Matthew here is recalling the promise made to Abraham back in Genesis 12. The Lord called Abram, as he was then known, out of paganism, and he promised to bless him. And the Lord promised to make him a blessing, that through him–that is, through Abraham and his seed, his offspring–all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

So Abraham became the father of a line of promise, a family line that would carry the Lord’s promise to bless all mankind. This line of promise would be very precise, very specific. And it would be clear that it is all by the Lord’s doing.

Our text says, “Abraham was the father of Isaac.” Which is true. But remember that Abraham first had another son, didn’t he? Ishmael was the son of Abraham’s own efforts, when he got tired of waiting, but Ishmael was not the son of promise. That son would come by the Lord’s miraculous doing, and that son was Isaac. Likewise, Isaac was the father of Jacob, who continued the line of promise, whereas Isaac’s other son, Esau, did not. You see, it all depends on the Lord’s doing, the Lord’s choosing, the Lord’s word of promise.

Then it says, “Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.” Do you notice the extra information in there? Matthew could have just said, “Jacob the father of Judah” and gone on, but he adds, “and his brothers.” This means the whole nation, all twelve tribes of Israel. The point is that all of Israel’s history, Israel’s status as the chosen people of God, comes funneled down into this one descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, namely, Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan. He is the fulfillment of salvation history. Jesus is Israel reduced to one.

The genealogy continues: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar.” Again, there’s extra information included. Not just, “Judah the father of Perez,” but the father of Perez and Zerah by their mother Tamar. This extra information–the mention of Tamar–recalls a particularly sordid affair by which those children were born. The point here is that God is able to work through weak and sinful human beings to bring about something good. The Savior of sinners would come through a line of sinners, in order to rescue them. And that means that God is able to deal with your sins, as well. Even the great patriarch Judah, the father of a line of kings, was a sinner like you and I.

The line of promise continues: “Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab.” Now we’re fast-forwarding through the genealogy. But notice the mention of Rahab. Another woman, like Tamar. Keep in mind, women were not usually mentioned in this type of father-to-son genealogy. But Rahab, a second woman now, is mentioned. Rahab the Gentile. Rahab the prostitute. God is acting to bring into his people those Gentiles he promised to bless through Abraham’s seed. And again, this includes real-live sinners. If God can rescue a harlot and make her an ancestress of the Messiah, he can certainly deal with the likes of you and me. God is in the business of rescuing sinners and turning outsiders into insiders.

“Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth.” Another woman is mentioned, this time, Ruth. Ruth the Moabitess. Another foreigner brought into God’s people and into the line of the Messiah. “In your seed, Abraham, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”

“Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.” Now there appears a king coming out of this somewhat dysfunctional family. But even among Jesse’s sons, David was not the most prominent. He wasn’t the one you’d expect to become king. Yet God works through weak and lowly means to accomplish his purposes. His ways are not our ways. All the glory goes to God. It’s not by our might or strength that salvation is accomplished. No, it is God’s doing.

So this then is our first stopping point on our way through the genealogy. We have gone from Abraham to David. Next week we’ll hear more about Jesus as the son of David, as we move from David through the time of the kings. But the main message for today–the thing that Matthew is telling us up to this point–is that Jesus is the son of Abraham. That is to say, Jesus is the fulfillment of the great promise made to Abraham. God had promised to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham’s seed, and Jesus is it.

During this Advent season, Jesus, the son of Abraham, comes to bless you and your family. He blesses you by forgiving your sins, whatever they may be. He can deal with your sordid past, those family secrets, the skeletons in your closet. The things that you’re ashamed of, Jesus forgives. He renews your life. Jesus won your forgiveness by dying in your place, as your substitute. Remember how God provided a substitute–a ram caught in the thicket–when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. And God has provided his only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice for your sin and the substitute for all sinners everywhere.

The genealogy of Jesus Christ is a line of promise. It is a line of blessing. This line of promise comes down to you and your family, to your address, right here today. Jesus is the son of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all those saints and sinners named in the first part of this genealogy. God takes in outcasts and outsiders, people like you and me, and he makes us part of his family.

In Galatians 3, Paul writes: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Listen, my fellow baptized brothers and sisters: In Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, you–whatever your history, whatever your past–you are included in God’s forever family!

Published in: on December 2, 2020 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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