Updated: Dec 26, 2022
A GENESIS STORY (pt. 1)
This season is when many consider the birth of Jesus and the story of Jesus. Considering the significance of Jesus' birth, this two-week series will explore the names given to Jesus in the genealogy of Matthew's gospel.
The first is Jesus (Matt. 1:21). "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins." The second name we are told is Immanuel (Matt. 1:23), "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us”)."
Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus. Passages that are often skipped over in our Bibles are the genealogies. You know, long lists of names that are difficult to pronounce. Sometimes we are curious why they are in our Bibles. However, we typically will pass right over them. I get it, and I've done the same thing at times.
Matthew assumes a few things as he records his account of Jesus. First, he assumes his readers have a background in the Hebrew Scriptures. Also, he assumes his readers have background knowledge of the story of Israel. From here, Matthew presents Jesus and the story of Jesus. He throws all this information out there about Jesus for us to decide. Who do you believe Jesus to be?
Many have studied the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew. Doing so, they have discovered some amazing things in what Matthew records. Tim Mackie, one of my favorite Bible scholars, shared much of what I will share with you. If you want a deeper dive, I recommend his teaching on Matthew. Let's notice a few ourselves.
Matthew 1:1 (NIV)
"This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham"
Pause here. I checked a few translations, and they all recorded, "This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah..." The word "genealogy" is interesting. The word is genesis. It is also the origin. So Matthew is about to provide the genesis or origin of Jesus for us.
Families are important. I know my oldest daughter enjoys following our family ancestry back. Knowing our origin story helps give us a sense of identity. Jesus has an ancestry, and this provides, in part, his identity. The origin story shapes the story of Jesus. Matthew intends to place Jesus right amid the story of Israel. As readers, we need to recognize what Matthew is doing in the first few words of his gospel account.
Without reading through the entire genealogy, I would like to notice how I believe Matthew presents Jesus' origin story. The word genealogy is tied to Genesis. Let's look back.
Genesis 12:1–3 (NIV)
"The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
God makes a promise to Abram (Abraham). The promise is to bless him and make him a great nation. God was to make his name great, and Abram was to be a blessing. All the peoples on earth were to be blessed through him.
The nation that would come through Abraham would be Israel. But how does Israel do with honoring God and upholding the covenant? Their history is full of ups and downs. They struggle in covenant faithfulness to God. They slip, they fall, God restores them, and they slip and fall again.
When Israel entered Canaan (the promised land), they demanded a king to be like the nations around them. So Saul is anointed as king, but he fails to honor God. God calls David to be king and lead his people Israel. However, David struggles. He takes advantage of his position with a woman named Bathsheba and has her husband, Uriah, killed. Although David was the great king of Israel, the period of the kings is littered with kings who honored themselves, not Yahweh.
Israel's story leads to exile in Babylon. A few come back, and it does not go well, then the Hebrew Scriptures end (the Old Testament). That's an odd ending! Where do we go? What do we do? Who is going to deliver Israel? There is an unfinished story.
Matthew presents Jesus as the answer for Israel. Not just Israel but the problem of humanity, sin. We have started reading the origin story as Matthew gives us in the genealogy of Jesus.
Matthew 1:17 (NIV)
"Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah."
We are tracing the origin story through the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew's gospel.
He Will Save His People
We have gone from Abraham to David and from David to exile. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream (Matt. 1:20), and he tells Joseph, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21).
As we follow the origin story, we see moral failure, people who are unfaithful to the covenant of God, and people who honor themselves and not the Lord. All of this is defined by the word sin. Matthew is presenting the answer for this failure, Jesus, "he will save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21b).
Matthew does not write a theological paper, but he gives us a story and a name to tell us about the identity of Jesus and the purpose of Jesus. His name is Jesus, in Hebrew, Yehoshua. Over time, this was shortened to Yeshua. From Greek on through to English, we come to the name Jesus. The meaning of his name is "Yahweh-Saves."
Consider (Matt. 1:21), "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Who will save Israel? Jesus or Yahweh? Yes, and this is the first claim Matthew makes about Jesus. The Divine and Human Jesus have come to save his people.
Bridging the Context
Matthew presents Jesus as the answer to humanity's failure, sin. Yahweh saves! As he does so, he is showing us how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. The questions, "What do we do?" "Who will save Israel?" these questions will find their answer in Jesus.
The birth story of Jesus is, in some ways, a new beginning. However, it is also a story that originates in the Hebrew Scriptures and the history of Israel.
Reading the story, Matthew says that Jesus will come to save "his people." Who are his people? We have just been given the genealogy of Jesus and his people. What about everyone else? Matthew and Jesus answer this as we keep reading forward in the story. It's found in the last paragraph of Matthew's gospel account:
Matthew 28:18–20 (NIV)
"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The good news of Jesus’ salvation is for all people, all nations.
Question To Consider
Do I need to know Jesus and his salvation today?
Unless otherwise noted; Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.