I hope you are doing well today. Today we will begin our look at the Gospel of Matthew. Yes, we are in the New Testament. I look forward to this time together. I hope you enjoy this particular study. I assure you that this will be a study like no other and that you will discover things for the first time. And,, so will I. Enjoy, and invite others to join us.
*Today's scripture will be taken from the NRSV, simply because I left my other Bible in my other vehicle.
"An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of...." (Matthew 1:1-2a)
Yes, the New Testament begins with a genealogy. How exciting! Well, actually, I'm serious. I may have said at some point during our look at the Old Testament that one should never skip the genealogies. Why? Because they are often goldmines of interesting information. The genealogy of Jesus is no exception. We find two genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament; here in Matthew and in the Gospel of Luke. There are similarities,, but some significant differences that do not change the story at all.
I promise not to go through who all begat whom during this, but we need to look at the genealogy as a whole. First of all, why would Matthew begin his gospel with the genealogy? After all, Luke did not. Luke waited until the end of chapter three. I will suggest that it is all because of who Matthew's intended audience was. No, Matthew was not writing this with us in mind. Matthew was not purposely writing the first book of the New Testament. God speaks through this wonderful gospel to us, however. And please, we must not explain the reason for the differences between the gospels by using the old car wreck analogy. You have likely heard someone explain that the reason we have four gospels and they are sometimes different is because each writer saw and heard things differently; it's like a car wreck. If four people saw a car wreck and were asked to describe what they saw they perhaps would give four versions of it. Wow! Really? If these four people were called to court to testify about what they saw and they all four gave a different witness, what would happen to the case? It would be thrown out. No, along the way I will explain why four gospels with similarities and yet, some disagreements.
Why did Matthew begin with the genealogy of Jesus? Because Matthew needed to present Jesus' pedigree. Matthew was writing to an audience of Jewish Christians. Luke was writing to a more Gentile audience. Matthew was presenting the Messiah to Jewish folks. He needed for them to see Jesus, the Messiah, as being Jewish. In ancient Judaism a genealogy was of great importance. Israel was more than a religion, it was a people, an extended family claiming descent from Abraham.
The genealogy that Matthew offers is made up of three groupings of fourteen generations. The number fourteen is significant. Numbers in ancient time were vitally important. I'm sure you have heard of the mark of the beast. The number associated with the beast is 666. Numbers in ancient times were equivalent to one's name. Ancient Hebrew did not have numerals, but used letters instead. An example would be (just an example) 1=A, 2=B, etc. There were various methods. Through the years people have tried to use some of these methods to try to determine the identity of the beast. Interestingly, folks such as Michael Jorden have been identified as being the one. Oh, wow! Michael Jorden? The basketball player that was perhaps one of he greatest of all time? The guy who Nike said we should be like? (Be Like Mike-slogan). Interesting story on Michael Jorden. It is said that in high school he was so unsure of himself that he took cooking classes because he just knew he would have to cook for himself once he left school and home. No, I don't think he is the beast. Nero's name also equaled 666, along with hundreds of others.
So, what about the number fourteen? Well, the numerical value of the letters in the name of David is...ready...fourteen. Yes, if you are going to introduce the messiah to a Jewish audience it is imperative that you connect him to King David. So, there are three groupings connecting Jesus to Joseph, David and all the way back to the father of the nation...Abraham. This is Jesus' pedigree. But, hmm...as in any family story there are those few...you know...they are a part of the family, but...we don't always talk about them. Yes, the story of Jesus, the genealogy of Jesus, the bloodline of Jesus...well...includes the likes of prostitutes.
"and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar..."
"and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab..."
'and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth..."
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah..."
(All found in Matthew 1:3-6)
No other genealogy includes women. The inclusion of these women was unusual not just because they were women, or because of what they did, but also because they were Gentile women. The story of Tamar is found in Genesis 38. If you recall she dressed as a prostitute and enticed Judah. Ruth was a Moabite who "uncovered Boaz' feet" (I'll let you deal with what that meant. No, she did not massage his feet) Rahab was a prostitute in the book of Joshua. And of course the wife of Uriah was raped (yes, there is no other way to put it) by King David.
Why were these women included? Well, there are many suggestions. I will not give the one I offered at seminary. I had read something at one time by J. Vernon McGee about these four women. I thought it was neat. Well, my seminary professor did not. I never quoted from J. Vernon McGee again. Does their inclusion suggest that the Jews should be willing to include others? Does their inclusion show that God works in mysterious ways. After all, the ways in which these women got pregnant were all by unusual ways? Hmm...Maybe, and I used to think that one of these ways had to be the reason. Along with my suggestion to my professor, which I still think is neat, I would actually make two suggestions. One, by Gentile women being in the genealogy of Jesus, this shows that the messiah has Gentile blood in his veins. Two, the story of Israel in the Book of Genesis tells us that there were four women responsible for the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob (Israel) was married to Leah and Rachel who bore him six sons. They had two concubines who together bore Jacob six sons. I think this has something to do with it.
Whew! That is enough to digest for one day. Well, almost! "and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah." (Matthew 1:16) I invite you to read through the genealogy. You will discover that it follows a pattern as most do. For example: "Jehoshaphat the father of..." (verse 8) But, did you notice that it did not say that Joseph was the father of Jesus? No, it just says "Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born."
Well,, we will return to our study on Monday. We will look at the birth narrative of Jesus, or at least begin. I promise you that you do not want to miss it. Have a great weekend. This Sunday's sermon is titled: "Is My Name Written Down?" If you don't have a home church come and worship with us. Have a blessed weekend. -Pastor Rick