I want to do a series of brief posts reflecting on the gospel that Christmas declares. I begin today where the New Testament begins with the gospel: the genealogy of Matthew (1:1-17). Here we find a list of names, but the names are ordered into a message.
There are three major points in the geneaology: Jesus is the King/Messiah, Jesus is a descendant of David, and Jesus is a descendant of Abraham. There you have it : from Abraham to David to Jesus, the Messiah/King. The gospel, which is what Matthew is, begins by telling us something vitally important about Jesus: he is the fulfillment of the Story that runs from Abraham’s election to David’s appointment as king (forever). The genealogy is a nutshell expression of the New Testament’s gospel: see my book, The King Jesus Gospel.
Abraham can represent both Israel and the Gentiles. How so? Clearly, God’s way of dealing with human problems in Genesis 4-11 is to form one covenant people, eventually Israel, and Abraham was that person. But the Jewish context also tells us that Abraham was a Gentile, that he was eventually classed as a proselyte, and that he represents in Matthew’s gospel the expansion of the gospel to Gentiles, beginning with the magi of Matthew 2:1-12 and finishing off with the mission to the world in Matthew 28:16-20.
David’s place in this geneaology is clear: he was the king and he became the ideal king and he was the one on whom Israel focused its hopes from the exile on. Someday, it was said, we will have a king like David and borders as wide as David’s. That Matthew orders the genealogy into groups of fourteen carries on this “David” theme: David’s name in Hebrew, which did not have numbers but used letters, is D-V-D and that adds up to “14.” So the 14 theme is all David. The genealogy of Jesus is a 14 genealogy.
Yet, I see one more theme here: not only is Jesus Abrahamic and Davidic, he comes from some odd inclusions: there are four unusual women in the geneaology of Jesus, each noted for what could be seen as a sexual irregularity overcome by God’s grace and plan: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and the wife of Uriah. This sets the stage not only for Jesus but also for Mary.
So, what is the Christmas gospel? It is to tell the Story of God in this world beginning with Abraham, flowing through David, finding its way to King Jesus but also including all sorts of folks who find their way into the People of God.
1 This is the genealogyof Jesus the Messiahthe son of David, the son of Abraham:
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiahand his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 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.