A Perfect Family?
Shaun LePage, Matthew 1:1-17
A. Children’s Sermon: [Invite children to come up and sit on platform and floor.]
1. Is everyone getting excited about Christmas? Does your family have any traditions—things that you do every year to make Christmas special for your family? Do any of your Daddies read the Christmas story?
2. Pretend for a minute that it’s Christmas morning. You’ve opened all 47 of your presents and your Dad says, “Okay, children, it’s now time to remember the greatest gift of all—let’s read the Christmas story.” So everyone sits down and gets real quiet and your Dad opens up his Bible. Then, he reads this: Matthew 1:1-17.
3. Is that the Christmas story? Yes! It is part of the Christmas story. Who are all these people? Jesus’ ancestors—his grandpas and great grandpas and great great grandpas. Who is your Dad’s Dad? Your grandpa. Who is your grandpa’s Dad? Your great grandpa. See how it works? Did you know the great, great, great, great grandpa of Jesus was King David—the same David who killed Goliath? Did you know the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandpa of Jesus was Abraham?
4. Why do you think we need to know all this stuff about the family of Jesus? Because it tells us about who Jesus is. A long time before Jesus was born, God told Abraham that He would bless the whole world through one of Abraham’s children. Matthew wants us to know that Jesus is that child. And a long time before Jesus was born, God told David that He would make one of David’s sons a great King—a King who would reign over the whole world forever and always. Matthew wants us to know that Jesus is that King.
5. So, when we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate that Jesus is a special gift from God—the best gift ever given by anyone anywhere. He came to bless the whole world and be the King of the whole world. Who do you know that lives in the world? You! So if you believe that Jesus is that special one sent from God and you put your trust in Him you will receive the best gift ever given—a life with Jesus in heaven always.
6. Pray and send children to Children’s Church.
B. In a 1999 national survey by Reuters/Zogby, Americans were asked this question: “Given the names of more than sixty sitcom families, which TV family would best describe your home life, and which would be the model for which you would wish?” The sitcom family that most families wanted to emulate was the Huxtables on The Cosby Show. Second place went to 7th Heaven, with Home Improvement and The Waltons following in third and fourth place. Fifth place went to The Simpsons. When asked which family is most like your own, Home Improvement took first with The Cosby Show finishing second. Third place belonged to The Simpsons and 7th Heaven came in fourth. Ward and June Cleaver of Leave It To Beaver secured fifth place. For all of the dysfunctionality displayed on TV, it’s significant that the majority of Americans see traditional TV families as that which best describes them, and that which represents the type of family they desire. (Houston Chronicle, July 7, 1999, p. 2D)
C. Dr. Henry Cloud has a humorous method for helping people understand that, because of sin, all families have a certain level of dysfunction. During a lecture he will ask everyone who did not come from a dysfunctional family to stand. He then tells the rest of the crowd to look at those who are standing so they can see what a person in denial looks like. The ever-popular practice of blaming our families for current personal struggles would be greatly reduced if more of us would accept the reality that a perfect family is impossible this side of heaven. (An Interview with Dr. Henry Cloud, Seeds Tape Ministry, May 11, 1997)
D. What seems like—on the surface—one of the most boring passages in the New Testament is actually one of the most astonishing. Matthew, chapter 1, gives us the genealogy of Jesus. Since Jesus Himself is perfect, we might look at this list expecting to see a perfect family. Doesn’t that make sense?
II. Body—Matthew 1:1-17
A. Let’s take a close look at these opening verses of the New Testament.
1. “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, NASB95).
a. As Gentiles far removed from the first century, we simply can’t appreciate the significance of the very first verse of the New Testament. It is the perfect bridge between the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the entire book of Matthew is a perfect bridge. The core message of the Old Testament is “Messiah is coming!” The core message of Matthew is: “He came!”
b. This first verse of the New Testament is like a trumpet blast! Matthew isn’t soft-selling his belief. He just lays the whole message right there on the table. He gives the bottom line up front then spends the rest of his ink explaining why Jesus (the carpenter’s son from Nazareth) is the Jew of Jews, the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the heir to the throne of David.
c. “genealogy” (v.1).
1) A “genealogy,” of course, is a family tree. A list of the ancestors of Jesus. The Greek word is γενέσεως (genesis). This word literally means “birth or origin” but that doesn’t mean this was Jesus’ beginning—as though He was just a man. This is one example of how the four gospels fit together perfectly and give us a more complete picture. John’s gospel, in chapter 1, makes it clear that Jesus was no ordinary man. His humanity began here, but His deity is eternal, according to the first three verses of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1-3, NASB95)
2) Of all the various types of literature contained in the Bible, I think few would choose genealogies as their favorite reading material. It’s like reading the phone book. You don’t sit down in a cozy chair and start with the A’s and read the phone book for enjoyment. You read the phone book for specific information about a person. A genealogy is similar. You read it for a purpose. Matthew wrote the genealogy of Jesus for a purpose: To explain who Jesus is. His identity is closely connected with His ancestry.
d. “Jesus the Messiah” (v.1).
1) “Jesus” is literally “Yeshua” or “Joshua”.
2) “Messiah” is Hebrew and “Christ” is the Greek equivalent. “Christ” and “Messiah” both mean “Anointed One”. It’s a title—by the way—not Jesus’ last name. This title grew out of the ceremonial anointing of a new king. When Samuel “anointed” David, for example, in 1 Samuel 16, the text says he “took the horn of oil and anointed him…” He poured the oil on his head. The oil of olives was thought to have healing and preservation qualities, so the ritual was a way of saying, “Long live the King!”
3) The prophecies about the Messiah are scattered throughout the Old Testament. Sometimes this Messiah was referred to with different terms such as the “Seed” in Genesis 3:15 or the “ruler in Israel” in Micah 5:2, whose kingdom would be eternal.
(a) Daniel 7:13-14 describes the Messiah as “the Son of Man”: “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14, NASB95)
(b) Daniel 9:25-26 is an incredible prophecy that actually uses the term “Messiah”: “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing…” (Daniel 9:25-26, NASB95)
4) By the time Jesus was born, Jewish scholars understood that all of these different references were pointing to the same Man. Expectations were running very high. The Jewish people were oppressed by the Roman Empire and believed that Messiah would come and be a great King who would raise up a mighty Jewish army to drive out Rome.
e. “David...Abraham” (v.1).
1) Abraham and David were considered two of the greatest—if not the greatest—Jews in history. They are extremely significant figures not only of the past, but the things God promised them made them extremely significant in relation to the Messiah.
2) The “son of David.”
(a) The Davidic covenant—a covenant God made with David—is found in 2 Samuel 7. There, God told David that his throne would be established forever through one of his descendants. God continued to reaffirm this promise even after Solomon came and went. Even as the prophets began to announce that God would send His people into exile because of their sins.
(b) Listen to Isaiah 9:6,7: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7, NASB95)
(c) The point is that Jesus was a legal heir to the throne of David. The Messiah had to be a descendant—a “son”—of David. Write this next to #1. As the son of David, Jesus showed us He was the King of Israel.
(d) Do you remember why Marv—who was from Nazareth in the North—ended up giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, in the South? Luke 2:4 tells us it was because Joseph—her husband—was a descendant of King David, who was from Bethlehem. Jesus was the legal heir of Joseph (an adopted child had all the rights and privileges a blood child would have). So He was a legal heir of David. In Luke 3 there is a very different genealogy of Jesus. Luke was trying to show that Jesus was in the bloodline of David through Mary. So, Jesus was a legal heir to the throne through Joseph and a lineal—or blood heir—to the throne through Mary.
(e) One more thing about David in Matthew 1. Look at the end of the passage—verse 17. Matthew left out several people from the genealogy of Jesus. This was common in order to shorten very long lists, but still show the line of descent. For example, if someone told you he was going to drive from New York to California, he might say he was driving through Virginia, South Carolina and Texas to indicate he was taking the Southern route, not the Northern route. You would understand he had to drive through all the states in-between even though in his description, he skipped several states. Matthew “skipped” through Jesus’ genealogy to show a line of descendents, not every single descendent.
(f) Why 14? Apparently, Matthew chose three groups of “fourteen” because the numerical value of “David” in Hebrew is fourteen. Ancient Hebrew did not have vowels or numbers. The different consonants represented numbers. For example, the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet was daleth. So, the daleth—or D—was used to represent the number 4. The sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet was vav. So vav—or V—represented the number 6. David’s name would have looked like this: DVD, and the numerical equivalent would have been 4-6-4. I know it seems odd, but David’s name would have the numerical equivalent—when you add up 4+6+4—of 14. This was a way of emphasizing that Jesus was the “son of David” and a way of making it easier to remember. It’s a memory device—three sets of 14 names. Many scholars believe this is why Matthew arranged Jesus’ genealogy here in 3 sets of 14—to emphasize that Jesus was the “son of David” and to make it easier to remember.
3) “The son of Abraham”
(a) Not only did Jesus fulfill the “Davidic Covenant” (God’s covenant with David) but he also fulfilled God’s covenant with Abraham—the “Abrahamic Covenant.”
(b) When Abraham obeyed God and went up Mt. Moriah to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, God stopped him and made this promise in Genesis 22:15-18: “Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:15-18, NASB95)
(c) Now, look how Paul understood this passage and interpreted it for us in the New Testament. Listen to Galatians 3:16: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.” (Galatians 3:16, NASB95). So, the “offspring”, the promised blessing was Jesus—the Christ.
(d) Go back to Matthew—the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus made it clear that His good news was for all nations. His disciples were to “make disciples” (followers of Jesus) in every nation because the good news of the Gospel is for every person on earth. In other words, as the “son of Abraham”, Jesus showed us He was the “blessing” for “all nations”. He had fulfilled God’s covenant with Abraham and that fulfillment continues as we—His disciples—extend the blessings promised to Abraham by “making disciples of all nations.”
(e) Write this next to #2. As the son of Abraham, Jesus showed us He was the blessing for all nations.
2. So really, the rest of this genealogy ties Jesus to Abraham and David. But verses 2-18 aren’t just boring documentation. Matthew clearly wanted to make another point here. These verses contain history with a very significant message for us. We could go through almost every name on this list and see what the Old Testament tells us about that person.
a. Several chapters of Genesis are devoted to Isaac and Jacob and Judah.
b. Someday we’ll study the lives of David and Solomon in great detail.
c. Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Zerubbabel—all potential names for our next boy. Great stories with wonderful lessons for us.
d. Josiah—I’ve got an entire sermon about Josiah and why I love that name so much. He was a tremendous example and I can’t wait until my boy asks me, “Daddy, why did you name me Josiah.” “Well, son,” I’ll say. “The Bible says ‘Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.’” (2 Kings 23:25, NASB95)
3. But, we’re not going to go through all these names right now. In order to get what Matthew—led by the Holy Spirit—wanted us to get, let’s look at the women in this list.
a. Did you notice this interesting phrase in vs. 3, 5 and 6: “...whose mother was...”? Women were not usually mentioned in Jewish genealogies and even if you didn’t know that, you have good observation skills if you noticed that the pattern of “...the father of...” is broken four times with “...whose mother was...” Take a look at these four women:
b. “Tamar...Rahab...Ruth...Uriah’s wife” (vv. 3, 5, 6).
(a) Genesis 38 tells us the story of how Tamar “played the harlot.” She posed as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law. That’s Jerry Springer stuff there!
(b) She got pregnant and gave birth to twins. Their names are listed in Matthew 1 also: Perez and Zerah (v.3).
(a) Rahab’s story is told in Joshua 2. She didn’t pretend to be a prostitute, she was one. A gentile prostitute. By the time we meet her, though, she had changed her ways. She protected the spies Joshua sent into Jericho and helped them escape. She told those spies that they had heard of the great things God had done for the Israelites and she acknowledged that the God of Israel was the Lord of heaven and earth.
(b) Matthew tells us this same prostitute married an Israelite man named Salmon and they had a son they named Boaz. Boaz was the great grandfather of David—Rahab was an ancestor of Jesus.
(a) An entire book was written about Ruth. She was not a prostitute. She was a wonderful, faithful woman.
(b) But Ruth, chapter 1, tells us Ruth was gentile, but not just your average, run of the mill gentile woman. She was a Moabitess—a descendant of Moab. Who was Moab? Well, hang on Jerry Springer fans! Moab was the product of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter. Most Jews despised the Moabites.
(c) Matthew tells us Ruth married Rahab’s son, Boaz. Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed and Obed was David’s grandfather.
4) Uriah’s wife
(a) Her story is told in 2 Samuel 11. Matthew did not list her as “Bathsheba”—her first name. She’s not listed as “the mother of” Solomon. She’s called “Uriah’s wife.”
(b) This highlights the fact that she committed adultery with David—she and David conceived their first child while Bathsheba was another man’s wife. Their second child was Solomon.
5) Mary—one more woman.
(a) Notice v. 16: “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” (Matthew 1:16, NASB95)
(b) First of all, no other man in the list is described as “the husband of” his wife. Only Joseph.
(c) Then, Matthew give us this important phrase: “…by whom Jesus was born…” Matthew tells us that Jesus was born of Mary, not Joseph. The English translation “...of whom...” is not clear—it might be “of Joseph” or “of Mary”. But, the Greek is clear. “Of whom” is in the feminine gender. In other words, “of whom” refers to Mary. Joseph was not “the father of” Jesus. Jesus was born of Mary, but not Joseph. Now, if you were reading this with no knowledge of the virgin birth, what would you think Matthew was telling us? Of course—Jesus was illegitimate. That’s exactly the charge Matthew is answering at this point. He explains this vague statement later in the chapter—we’ll take a look at it next week.
III. APPLICATION—SO WHAT?
A. How should we respond to the fact that Jesus is the King of Israel? Do you remember what the Magi did when they found the boy King? [Read Matthew 2:11 if no one knows the answer.] They worshipped Him! 1. We should worship Him. He is our King and should be honored and obeyed.
B. How should we respond to the fact that Jesus is the blessing for all nations? What were the final instructions of Jesus in Matthew? Make disciples! 2. We should “make” disciples for Him. In other words, share this blessing with “all the nations.”
C. How should we respond to the fact that Jesus is the God of grace—the God who saves sinners? Two things:
D. 3. We should receive His grace. Who can quote Romans 6:23? [If no one can, turn there and read it.] We should agree with God that we are sinners and receive Jesus as the only remedy for our sin.
E. 4. We should be people of grace. We should be patient with sinners just like our God is patient with sinners. We should help sinners understand the good news of the God of grace.