Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 1 2013 - Matthew 1:1-2:12 – The story of Jesus the Messiah

When I started secondary school (fifty years ago now), I was given a Bible. It was an Authorised (or King James) Version bound in dull red cloth. One of the features of this particular Bible was that sections of it were reduced to small print. The suggestion, I suppose, was that such passages were not as important as the rest – or at least, not such good reading. You could get the substance of the story without ploughing through the minutiae of Levitical legal code or the endless lists of names that dominate the book of Numbers and occur regularly elsewhere.

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; it is precisely the context in which he is at work to bring salvation to the world.

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 the New Testament in the year ahead. 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