Matthew 1:1-17: God’s Saving King
January 1, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Genealogies are not normally thought to be best-selling literature. But in certain contexts, and when rightly understood, they are thrilling. Missionaries tell me that in some cultures the translation of the Bible most eagerly anticipated is the genealogy. That is because, in cultures where family and heritage are greatly prized, these descriptions make it clear that Jesus is both real and of significant descent to claim the adulation rightly due his name. They also proclaim a message.
In general, that is the key with reading genealogies: think of them less as a family tree, with every branch arduously and specifically recorded, and more like a CV or resume, which are written truthfully but with an eye to telling a particular story about the individual.
This story, this genealogy, in Matthew’s Gospel is particularly concerned to establish Jesus as son of Abraham and son of David (1:1). The genealogy is then structured around those two facts to prove and establish, with a third section from verse 12, that he is the Rescuer who will bring Israel (and all God’s people) finally out of their real and spiritual Babylonian exile.
The message is that Jesus is God’s saving King. The fourteen generations (1:17) in which it is structured is thought by some to be a further numerical echo of the name of David—Jesus’ kingly nature. His reference to Abraham establishes him as fulfilling the full Abrahamic promise to be a blessing to all nations. The reference to the Babylonian exile establishes that he is the Redeemer from this new exodus, this new exile.
And throughout the narrative (each name stands for a story, remember), there are interwoven some highly surprising and unusual figures that tell us that Jesus is God’s saving King. The women are in the main controversy—not just because they are women, though women would not have sufficed for legal claims to heritage at the time—but because of the kind of women they are. Look them up in the Old Testament: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and most remarkably, the oblique reference to the “wife of Uriah,” that is, Bathsheba. Then there is Manasseh, a wicked king who repented and was saved.
So Matthew starts to introduce this King, this saving King, this Jesus, who is the Christ. Would you bow before him at the start of this New Year? Would you commit your life to serve him? Would you come to him, as God’s Saving King, and ask him to rescue you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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