(Christian Today posted an article about 5 Scriptures that most pastors won’t tackle from the pulpit. I decided that see if I could. This is number 1 of the 5 Scritpures from their article, which you can read here.)
There are some passages that are routinely passed over in favour of those Scriptures, but we want to change that. If “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)” then there shouldn’t be any Scripture that isn’t covered from the pulpit. And that includes Matthew 1:1-17.
So, let’s talk about it.
Right of the hop, I’ll agree with you. This looks like a terribly boring chunk of Scripture.
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. 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.” – Matthew 1:1-17
It’s just names and names; some easy to pronounce and belonging to people we know, and some so difficult we don’t even try. I understand why pastors avoid these verses, and for more than just the problem of pronunciation. But there are great truths in these verses that needs to be shared. Each one could be their own sermon, but I will keep them brief to show that these neglected Scriptures are worth reading, and definitely worth preaching.
1. The Humanity Of Jesus Is Without Question
The question about Jesus being the Son of God, or “very God of very God” as the creeds say, has been one that has been raised time after time, for millennia. Whether it is the Body of Christ trying to find language to describe this God-man, or other religions trying to deal with the radical claims of Christ, the issue of Jesus’ divinity never seems to be “settled”. That isn’t the case for his humanity.
When there is striking evidence, like orienting the calendar around his death or having the largest religious following, it is hard to deny the existence of the person of Jesus Christ. And while that evidence is from outside of Scripture, these verses serve as evidence as well.
For the original audience, who may have never met or heard of Jesus, they would have had similar questions to our own. “How do we know that this Jesus was a real person? How do we know that you didn’t make up these stories?” This genealogy grounds Jesus in reality and to reality.
Having a family that is well known might have been a plus if Jesus was trying to set up his own kingdom on Earth, but in this case, having a well known family gives him credit. People know who Abraham was, his story, his promise from God, even where he was buried. To say that you were related to Abraham would help establish the truthfulness of the story about Jesus. But it isn’t just that Jesus is related to Abraham. He is connected to many prominent people in Israel’s history; Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob; Boaz, the redeemer of Ruth the Moabite; Jesse, the father of David the King, and the son of David, Solomon, by way of wife of Uriah the Hittite; and finally Mary, the wife of Joseph.
When you have connected this Jesus to so many figures throughout history, and in a way that first century Jews would have understood and affirmed as true, how can you deny that Jesus was a real person? If you can and have convinced your listeners that this is not a story from the imagination of Matthew, but the truth of a Man with a lineage all the way back to Abraham, how can they refute it?
There is no getting away from the real, human person of Jesus Christ. This seemingly boring chunk of Scripture speaks to that. And if the human person of Jesus Christ was and is real, what do you make of the claims that he made, about his death, resurrection, and return?
2. God Is Pro-Women
The first century was not a particularly good time for women. In all honesty, most of the bible spanning the record of the Bible was not a good time for women. Women couldn’t vote. They had no right to speak or be educated. They were treated as second class citizens at best, and property to be sold and used at a man’s discretion at worst. More often the worst was the societal norm.
But look what Matthew purposefully recorded, the names of women. 4 names of unique women in the history of Jesus’ lineage, a 5th when you count “Uriah’s wife” who was Bathsheba.
Matthew didn’t have to name them. Why remember second class citizens? Why remember the name of lesser beings? Matthew recorded their names, because they mattered. Matthew record these women’s names, because they were important. They had value. Without them, the history of Israel would have looked radically different. The Scriptures would have looked different.
But, inspired and moved by the Holy Spirit, Matthew makes sure that the hearers of his gospel know that women were an important part of the story of Jesus. They were not relegated to position of property or simple “baby makers”. Their stories, their attitudes and actions, their faith and conviction were so spectacular that they deserve mention in the lineage of the Savior of the world.
That is not the attitude or action of a God that thinks lowly of women. That is the attitude and action of a God that loves women, that values women as His prized bride. Not a possession or someone that is less than significant. God is for women, pro-women. Even in the telling the story of Jesus, God is pushing mankind toward the realization that women are worth so much more that previously thought.
May we men realize this and join God is a movement to value and honour all women.
(Please note, this is not the limit to what God did to bring about a proper understanding of women and their value. This is a single example, there is much more throughout Scripture.)
3. God Takes The Bad And The Good & Still Accomplishes His Will
This genealogy has heroes of the faith in it. It has records of important women. It shows us all the great characters of the Bible, people that we often look up to and try to imitate. But it also records people that did truly horrendous things.
While we remember King David for his victory over Goliath, for his many psalms, we also remember him for his affair. David and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and what that happened is something that isn’t whitewashed. It is not omitted. It is not removed from the record, though some would think it should.
We remember that Judah was the fourth son born to Jacob, we remember most that he was the father of the largest tribe in Israel. But the record of this genealogy also records something less than wonderful. Judah had sex with his daughter-in-law, but he thought she was a prostitute. Though she had disguised herself in that way, she was exposing his hypocrisy and lack of righteousness.
These are not good stories. They are also routinely skipped on in Sunday School and church, because they feel like embarrassments to our faith, to our religion. What kind of people have sex with their daughter-in-law who was disguised as a prostitute? Who sleeps with a married woman, tries to pass of the one night stand pregnancy as the husband’s baby, and then has the husband murdered in the guise of war? People in the bible do. People in our world do.
Matthew records the raw truth of the human condition. We are stained by sin. We do evil things one day, and righteous things the next. And while we live in a spiritual paradox, God is not confused or overwhelmed by any of this.
Through the many sins of the people of Israel, God worked out his perfect plan of salvation for all mankind. The sin of Judah or David didn’t halt God’s plans. It didn’t deter Him from loving humanity. God took the good and the bad, loved us all despite it, and sent Jesus.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” – Romans 8:28-30
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6-8
There are some passages that are routinely passed over in favour of those Scriptures, but we want to change that. We do believe that “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)”. And that includes Matthew 1:1-17.
Those are just a few thoughts about what is worth preaching and talking about from this often skipped portion of Scripture. Hopefully it will not stay that way.