Genealogies Aren’t Boring, You’re Boring | Matthew 1:1
By the time we get to Matthew’s Gospel, we’re in the fifth act of a five act play, we’re at the end of the story. So where are we in the story, what’s happening?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And he created man and woman and designed a home for them in the Garden of Eden and gave them jobs to do to expand God’s kingdom of Eden to the whole wild world. And they had 1 rule, that Adam and Eve broke. So they were kicked out, exiled from the garden.
The interesting thing about the rest of the story in Genesis is that the book of Genesis is organized around 10 genealogies. And these genealogies start with the phrase, "The book of the genealogy of" some person. So the first book in the Bible has 10 genealogies and this is very different from every other book in the Old Testament.
The story goes on and that same story that happened in the garden will happen again with Israel writ large. That is, God will make another special home (Israel) and bring his people Israel into this place and give them rules again. And once again they will disobey and be kicked out, exiled from the land.
This is the grand story of the Old Testament. It starts high and it ends low. We start with God in God's place and we end up without God out of God’s place.
So what if you were Matthew and you wanted to communicate that something different, something new was going to happen, how would you communicate it. Matthew does this by going back to the first book of the Bible and uses that same phrase that was used 10 times in the beginning: "The book of the genealogy". Matthew was saying the what’s happening with Jesus is so fundamentally different and new that it’s like having a whole new Genesis. And this whole new thing starts with Jesus Christ: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ..." (Matthew 1:1).
Matthew has done some subtle things here it is easy to miss. In order to understand what he’s doing we have to compare this genealogy to the genealogies in Genesis. The purpose of this genealogy is to tell us about who Jesus is. For instance, he’s the "son of David" which means that he is in the kingly line and he’s the "son of Abraham" which means so he’s in the line of the covenant (Genesis 15 and 17). But the way that Matthew structures this first sentence hints at something even deeper about Jesus and his identity.
In the genealogies in Genesis, they will say that it is the genealogy of a certain person, for instance Adam, and then the rest of the genealogy will tell us all the people who came from him, who were generated from Adam. So Adam produced, generated Seth. But notice the way that Matthew structures the genealogy, “...the genealogy of Jesus Christ son of David son of Abraham.“ This would imply that Jesus generated these people. In some mysterious way, Jesus was the source, the origin of all of these people. Now who is able to do that?
The three synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, all communicate Jesus' divinity but do so subtly. This is different from John’s Gospel. John starts out saying that Jesus is God in the flesh and so if you’re ever wondering what God would do, what he would be like if he were a man then John’s Gospel is for you. The whole book, everything that Jesus does is explaining the divine character. The other three Gospels in general and Matthew in particular will focus on other aspects of Jesus his identity but they will also provide fascinating and subtle clues about Jesus' divine nature.
Matthew begins his gospel by telling us there’s a whole new world that’s coming and it’s centered around this one man, Jesus Christ. If I told you that there was a new world and it was starting with one man your natural question would be, "who is this man and what is he like?" And that is the question that this genealogy is designed to answer. And we will see that out of the thousands and thousands of people that he could have chosen from the family he selected only a few and arrange them in a fascinating way and that’s what we will look at next week.