Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 21 2020 - Matthew 1:1-2:12 – The story of Jesus the Messiah

As I mentioned on January 7th when writing of Luke's Gospel, when I started secondary school (fifty years ago now), I was given an Authorised (or King James) Version of the Bible. Some passages were produced in small print. The suggestion, I suppose, was that these were not as important as the rest – or at least, not such good reading. Matthew begins his account of Jesus with a genealogy – a section of “small print”. Not, we might think, the most promising way to start.

But the genealogy in Matthew is more than a human family tree. It traces the hand of God from promise to fulfilment. Matthew's account begins with Abraham. God chose Abraham from among all the inhabitants of the earth and promised to bless him. More than that, he promised that through him and his family all nations on earth would be blessed. Jesus is the fulfilment of that promise. He is the Saviour of the world; the one who brings the blessing of God to a cursed creation.

The promise to Abraham was God's answer to a world gone wrong; God's answer to Adam's disobedience. Humankind, male and female, were created that they might together bear God's image and rule over God's creation with loving care reflecting that of God himself. They were intended to be a source of blessing to God's world. Through disobedience they/we have enslaved God's world. God promised that from the descendants of Abraham he would raise up a king over his people. This king would be God's Son; one who would reign in God's name and bring blessing to all those under his shepherdly dominion. David seemed for a while to be such a king. But, like Adam before him, he too fell short of all that God intended him to be. Jesus is David's greater son. Jesus is the Son of God; the fulfilment of God's promises. He is God's anointed king. He is the Messiah, the Christ.

God's promises to Abraham and to David find their fulfilment in Jesus. Through all the twists and turns of history indicated in this genealogy – through human unfaithfulness, even adultery and murder – God is bringing his plans to fulfilment. The mess of human sin does not defeat the plan and purpose of God. Jesus' parentage includes an act of adultery between one of the fathers of the Children of Israel and his daughter-in-law (Judah with Tamar). It includes a foreign woman who was a prostitute and a liar (Rahab), a woman who was from a foreign nation that owed its origin to an act of incest (Ruth from Moab, descended from Lot's drunken coupling with his daughter), and from an act of adultery and murder by Israel's greatest king (David with Bathsheba). It is precisely in and through this mess of human sinfulness that Jesus is born as Saviour of the world. It is precisely such a world – thank God – that Jesus came to save.

Matthew presents his genealogy in the form of three lists, each of fourteen generations. One spans the period from Abraham to David; the second, the period from David to the Exile to Babylon; the third, the period from the Exile to the advent of Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfils the promises of God to Abraham. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of all the earth. Jesus is the one who has come to rescue his people from captivity and bring them (and all creation) "into the glorious freedom of the children of God."

There's nothing "small print" about the purposes of God in history.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, the Saviour of the world; the one in whom history has a new beginning. Help us to see more of his character and glory as we work our way through Matthew's Gospel. Open our eyes to see that you continue to work out your saving purposes through people like us and help us daily to worship and serve the Lord Jesus.

Peter Misselbrook