“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From the Deportation to the Christ” (Matthew 1:1, 12-17)

Midweek Advent Matins
Wednesday, December 16, 2020

“The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: From the Deportation to the Christ” (Matthew 1:1, 12-17)

During this Advent season, we are preparing to meet and greet our coming king. The king is coming–to us, for us–coming at Christmas, coming at the end of time, coming now into our midst through Word and Sacrament. So we prepare to meet him–in repentance, in faith, in holy joy. That’s what Advent is all about.

But this king we are preparing to meet–this king who comes to us–this is a lowly king. Lowly, not high. Lowly, humble, coming in a way you might not expect. Our lowly king comes to us in a very surprising way. Surprising, yet faithful to God’s promises. While we may forget God’s promises–when we think God may have forgotten his promises–here comes this surprise. It is a lowly surprise that brings salvation and hope and joy to our hearts. We realize that God does remember. God does keep his promises–even when things are looking their worst.

Lowly, surprising, and faithful–that’s how God works. That’s the message we can take from our text today. At first glance, though, it looks like just a bunch of names–most of which you have never heard of. But when we take a closer look, we see how God deals with us by the gospel. And we gain strength, courage, and confidence in God’s promises.

Our text is “The Genealogy of Jesus Christ,” as recorded in the opening verses of Matthew. More specifically, today we focus on the last third of the genealogy, the part that takes us “From the Deportation to the Christ.”

We began two weeks ago with the first third of that genealogy as Matthew gives it, starting with Abraham: “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah,” and so on. Jesus is the son of Abraham, the fulfillment of the promises made to the patriarchs: “I will bless you and make your name great. And through your seed–through your offspring–all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Jesus is that seed of blessing, the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.

We traced the line of Abraham down through Jesse and to his son, David. The middle third of the genealogy starts with King David, as we heard last week. The Lord made a promise to David, that one of his sons would reign on his throne in an everlasting kingdom. The Messiah, the Christ, would come through the line of David. But it wasn’t Solomon. Solomon started out so promising, but he ended up failing, he didn’t measure up. And so it went through all the kings after him. None of them lived up to the great things spoken of about that one great son of David who was to come. In fact, after David and Solomon, the nation and its kings basically went into a long downward spiral, ending in God’s judgment coming upon them in the form of the Babylonian Captivity. From the heights of King David’s reign, down to the low point of conquest and defeat and exile at the hands of their enemies. The nation had been brought down. The king was taken off his throne and hauled off to exile in Babylon.

This was a real low point, this exile or deportation to Babylon. A low point in Israel’s history, but it would get even lower. This was no brief, temporary setback. No, from this point on, Israel gets locked into a pattern of never getting back to where they once were.

The exile to Babylon lasted about seventy years, until Babylon itself was conquered by another power, Persia. Then the Israelites were permitted to come back to Judah, back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. The returnees were led by Zerubabbel, who is mentioned early in this part of the list. But Zerubabbel was really never anything more than a governor. He was not a king. So there was no king to sit on the throne as David had. The royal line was still alive, physically. But politically, Israel never again would be strong enough to where they could be their own independent kingdom. No son of David would be reigning on a throne anytime soon.

Do you realize what that meant? What it meant to the people back then, during those six hundred years covered in this part of the genealogy? They must have been asking: Where is God in all of this? Has he forgotten his promises? Where is the Messiah that he promised? We don’t even have a son of David on the throne at all, much less one who might be the Messiah. When will he come? When will God do what he promised? How long, O Lord, how long? How long must we bear up and endure under foreign domination?

Maybe you have had similar complaints and confusions. Has God forgotten about me? Has he forgotten his promises? And the longer this goes on, the more likely I am to forget his promises, to lose confidence in them and in him. Have you ever felt that way?

But to people sitting in darkness, like Israel was so long ago, suddenly the light comes. In a surprising way. In a lowly way. At a time and in a way that we maybe weren’t expecting. After a long list of nobodies–and I do mean nobodies; most of these names are not even mentioned in the Old Testament–from out of a long string of obscurity, we come to a name that likewise would have remained obscure, except for the surprising thing God was about to do. We come to a man with the common, ordinary name of Joseph–just an “ordinary Joe,” literally. But this fellow happened to marry quite well. He’s listed here as “the husband of Mary,” who herself would have been totally forgotten by history, except for what the Lord did in her and through her. For of Mary was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Finally, the Christ has come! From out of nowhere, out of the long and undistinguished list of nobodies in this part of the genealogy, after Israel had hit its lowest point and then got stuck at that low point for centuries–now, in this lowly and surprising way, here comes the Christ! Here comes the Messiah! God has not forgotten his promises! He is faithful and keeps his word. You could have predicted it. In fact, the prophets did predict it. But it still came as a total surprise. God keeps his promises, even when you least expect it.

Lowly, surprising, faithful–that’s how God works. Lowly: The Christ came to a humble carpenter–an ordinary Joe–and his wife. Surprising: This king, this son of David, would bring in God’s everlasting kingdom in a way you wouldn’t expect: by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. He did that as the sacrifice for your sins, so that you would not die forever but instead share in his resurrected, eternal life. Lowly, surprising, and faithful: God kept his promises to Abraham and David. He fulfilled them at a time when it looked like he may have forgotten them. But God is faithful. He does what he says he will do.

God is faithful to his promises. The genealogy of Jesus Christ shows this. And so you can know from this, dear friends, that God has not forgotten you. From out of nowhere your Savior came, so that you could really go somewhere. From out of a long line of nobodies he came, so that you would no longer be a nobody in God’s sight. Now you are somebody. Now you are God’s own child, baptized, forgiven, nourished with Word and Sacrament, those lowly means that do so much. Now you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. You are a new person in Christ, headed for heaven. Now your name is listed in God’s family line of blessing and promise. You’ve been adopted in, and you will share in the inheritance.

And it’s all because of this one who was born, who lived, who died on the cross for your salvation, who lives and reigns forever over God’s eternal kingdom. All your blessings come to you because of “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Rejoice this Advent, for Christ, your lowly, surprising, and faithful king is coming to you!

Published in: on December 16, 2020 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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