A book of the beginning of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
READ: Matthew 1
Today we are going to focus one one verse - the opening verse of the gospel written by Matthew. I know that when I talk to people about the first chapter of Matthew, most people are honest enough to admit that they skip the genealogy in verses 1-17. They are just names, right? Well, actually, there is some pretty amazing stuff in here! But before we dive into the genealogy, I think we need to spend some time marinating on the opening words of this book.
Matthew has the entire life and ministry of Jesus in mind when writing this account since it was written about 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus, and as he is writing to a Jewish audience, he would want to connect the Law & the Prophets with Jesus.
To understand what might be going on in the head of Matthew, let’s unpack verse one together. We are going to be jumping back to the OT, the other gospels and then to the NT as we do so.
Let’s start at the beginning…
Matthew 1:1 CSB
1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
⚡ In only 8 words in the Greek, Matthew connects the entire history of the nation Israel and the meta narrative of scripture with Jesus. #genius
Matthew is a bridge book. His gospel is designed to bridge the Old Testament to the New, using over 100 direct and indirect references to the Old Testament. More than any other gospel writer and almost as many as the other 3 combined.
Since he was writing to a Jewish audience,many of the references are made without explanation. Their familiarity with the story allows Matthew to make some amazing connections and some brilliant writings.
In this introduction, there are at least 4 major themes that will run through the book of Matthew. This intro verse provides some signposts, if you will, to point us in certain directions as we continue to read.
Our first signpost is in the beginning.
We start with “an account of the genealogy”. The word translated “genealogy” is the Greek word, γένεσις from which we get our English word, “genesis”. This Greek word only appears 7 times in the New Testament and ONLY in Matthew has it been translated as “genealogy”. γένεσις can be translated as birth, beginning or existence (life).
All three of these meaning can be assumed in this gospel.
This is the record of the physical birth of Jesus, the human. Tracing his ancestry through humans and culminating in Mary “giving birth” to him in 1:16 and 1:25.
Matthew 1:16 CSB
16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary,
who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Matthew 1:25 CSB
25 but did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. And he named him Jesus.
So, recorded in Matthew 1 is the actual, physical, human birth of Jesus.
However, it is imperative to note that though this is the beginning of the physical life of Jesus, this is not the beginning of the person of Jesus who is part of the Godhead.
John 1:1 CSB
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Jesus was both human, with a physical birth and death, as well as divine with no beginning or end. This is made a bit clearer in Matthews own writing in 1:23
Matthew 1:23 CSB
23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”
Though Matthew is recording the physical birth of Jesus, he also acknowledges the divinity of Jesus as being God himself. It is from passages like this that we begin to understand a bit of the complexity of a phrase only referred to in Christendom: “hypostatic union”.
“Hypostatic union” sounds fancy in English, but it’s actually a simple term. Hypostatic means personal. The hypostatic union is the personal union of Jesus’s two natures.
“The hypostatic union is the mysterious joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus.”
Jesus has two complete natures: one fully human and one fully divine. What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person in the God-man. Jesus is not two persons. He is one person. The hypostatic union is the joining (mysterious though it be) of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus.
So, with the birth of Jesus we have God among men as a man. We will cover that more in a future message.
The most literal interpretation could be that Matthew 1 is meant to be a record of the BIRTH of Jesus.
The word “beginning” or “genesis” would also be an instant connection for Jewish readers to connect this account with the first book of the Torah - which we title “Genesis.” By using the word “genesis” Matthew could be connecting Jesus with creation.
John’s gospel account paints this connection even more vividly:
John 1:1–4 CSB
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
However, the good news of Jesus was not about the creation of the world. Just as Genesis was the account of the beginning of creation, the coming of Jesus marks the beginning of the NEW creation:
2 Corinthians 5:17 CSB
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
New Creation is the rebirth of men and women into the family of God. This new creation is not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles:
Galatians 6:15 CSB
15 For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation.
Jesus was the beginning of the New Creation for all who would believe. In John’s revelation, Jesus is even called the “beginning of God’s creation”
Revelation 3:14 (NLT)
14 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:
So, it could also be argued that the genesis of Matthew 1:1 is mean to point us BACK to creation to then point us to the new creation that comes through Jesus - both the immediate new creation of changed lives, and the future new creation of the new heavens and new earth.
The BEGINNING of Life (existence)
This is also the beginning of LIFE. As the sin of Adam brought death into the world, the promise of the second Adam, the anointed one of God, was that he would bring life. Romans 5 is a GREAT chapter about this. Here are some highlights:
Romans 5:12 (CSB)
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.
This beginning is a reminder of the faithfulness of God to keep his promise from the beginning:
Genesis 3:15 (CSB)
15 I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.
That was a promise that God would some day provide a human that would undo the curse. It would be one born of a woman and that would put an end to death. by bringing LIFE.
Romans 5:17–20 CSB
17 If by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone. 19 For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more
Paul actually gave us us an exposition of the connection of Jesus to life and the undoing of the curse of Genesis 3.
John’s gospel account also connects Jesus to life - perhaps better than any other gospel writer. As we read John 1:4, “in him was life”. But John writes a lot more!
John 5:26 CSB
26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he has granted to the Son to have life in himself.
Later in John’s gospel we have the words of Jesus himself regarding life:
John 10:10 CSB
10 A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
John 11:25 CSB
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live.
John 14:6 CSB
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
So, perhaps the entirety of Matthew’s gospel is designed to be a record of not only the life of Jesus, but the life we have THROUGH Jesus.
As we look further into the genealogy, we will see that the words used by Matthew are very carefully chosen. Therefore, I am convinced that the choice of the word “genesis” or “beginning” used in this passage, and the very beginning of the gospel, is intentional.
Similarly, I believe that just as much of the literature of the OT can be understood in layers, often with literal, figurative and prophetic layers, the same is intended not only in this introduction, but also throughout the entire gospel. Therefore, I would rather not choose one of the three possible interpretations of the “genesis” of Jesus, but would instead embrace all three of them as an even richer understanding of the person and work of the Chosen one of God.
In this genesis we are reminded that God is faithful and can be trusted to keep his promises.
Our second signpost shows up in the name and title given.
⚡ Jesus was the name that the angel told Joseph to name the baby. The name “Jesus” [Iesous] is the Anglicized version of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Yehoshua. The same name is also translated elsewhere as “Joshua.” The meaning of the Hebrew name is “Yahweh saves”. The meaning of the name is actually given to us:
Matthew 1:21 CSB
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
In making this claim, Matthew could be claiming that Jesus is Yahweh, OR that he is the instrument that Yahweh will use to save his people. Because the name and title are both given here, it seems to point towards Matthew directing us specifically to Jesus’ role as Messiah. ⚡
That word, “Christ” is SO significant for us today! We are a “Christian Church”. We are part of “Christianity”. We identify as “Christians”. The word, “Christ”, is one that we have transliterated into English:
Χριστός - Christ
Bible translations are all over the place on this:
NLT = “Messiah” 100% of the time in Matthew
ESV, LEB, NIV, NKJV = “Christ” 100% of the time in Matthew
NASB = “Christ” 75% [12 times], “Messiah” 25% [4 times]
CSB = “Christ” 31% [5 times], “Messiah” 69% [11 times]
When you read the word, Christ, you should be connecting it to the Messiah! They are truly interchangeable - the same word in two different languages. And BOTH of them are transliterations - words from other languages that we brought into English - mainly because we did not have a single word that could carry the same meaning.
As David pointed out last week, the Roman empire was the dominant power, and Greek became the dominant language. therefore is makes sense that the Greek word, “Christ” gained greater adoption among the world, especially outside of Israel.
However, Matthew is taking us back to the Old Testament and the “anointed one” of God. - the meaning of the Hebrew word, “Messiah”. The Hebrew word appears 39 times in the OT and is translated “anointed” (or Messiah).
Where the name Jesus refers to his calling (to save his people from their sin) the title “anointed one” refers to his appointment as the one selected by Yahweh, the God of Israel.
The most literal translation of the introduction could possibly be, “A book of the beginning of Yeshua the chosen one.”
While the introduction is designed to make bold claims of the deity, humanity, calling and appointment of Jesus as the Messiah, the majority of the book will stress the humanity of Jesus and his role as Messiah. For instance, only in 1:1 and 1:18 does Matthew put “Jesus” and “Messiah” (or “Jesus the Messiah”) together. He uses the word Messiah/Christ 16 times and the name Jesus 152 times but only twice does he pair the two together and they are both in the introduction.
In his name, Jesus, and his title, Messiah, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and that he can be trusted. He promised to save his people (Gen 3:15) by sending his chosen one.
The next connection is to David - and this is our third signpost. Jesus was a son of David. Matthew uses the phrase, “son of David” 9 times. As we traverse the gospel of Matthew, each encounter will shed more light on the person and work of the Messiah. We will find blind men calling him the son of David, a Canaanite woman calling Jesus the son of David, the crowds acknowledge him as the son of David - but the Pharisees and religious leaders do not.
So what is up with this title? Why refer to him as the son of David?
David was THE king of Israel. Notice that though many kings are named in the genealogy, including Solomon the wisest and Hezekiah the godly, only David is explicitly referred to as a KING:
Matthew 1:6 (CSB)
6 and Jesse fathered King David.
There is a connection Matthew is making - he is taking us back to the Davidic Covenant. ⚡ A promise God made to David about there being a son, or descendant, given to him that will one day sit on the throne of God’s kingdom.
2 Samuel 7:12–17 CSB
12 When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will discipline him with a rod of men and blows from mortals. 15 But my faithful love will never leave him as it did when I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever, and your throne will be established forever.’ ” 17 Nathan reported all these words and this entire vision to David.
Solomon was NOT that descendant. He was a type of Messiah, at least for a while. But he fell way short of God’s standards. So to whom was God referring to when he said this:
Psalm 89:3–4 CSB
3 The Lord said,
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever
and build up your throne for all generations.’ ”
After reading about the prophets and exile, I have not seen THAT promise fulfilled in the OT. Remember, the Jews have returned from exile a broken people, with no king, living under the rule of the Romans. Many felt the promises of God had failed, but for others there was still hope for the fulfillment of the promise.
Matthew is declaring that Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise to David.
Luke gives us greater detail on this “son of David” concept when he recorded the message of the angel to Mary:
Luke 1:30–33 CSB
30 Then the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”
During Paul’s first public speech as a missionary for Jesus, he addressed the Jews and God-fearing people who had gathered at the synagogue:
Acts 13:16–23 CSB
16 Paul stood up and motioned with his hand and said, “Fellow Israelites, and you who fear God, listen! 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors, made the people prosper during their stay in the land of Egypt, and led them out of it with a mighty arm. 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness; 19 and after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 This all took about 450 years. After this, he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 After removing him, he raised up David as their king and testified about him, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my will.’ 23 “From this man’s descendants, as he promised, God brought to Israel the Savior, Jesus.
So, by declaring Jesus as the son of David, Matthew is declaring that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of God to place a king on the throne of David - a son/descendant of David, that would rule completely in harmony with Yahweh and that would be both righteous and eternal.
UNLIKE the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant was UNCONDITIONAL. There was nothing David could do that would change God’s mind - even pride, adultery or murder. Though David committed all 3 of those things, God still kept his promise.
For a third time we see God’s faithfulness by keeping his promise to David and we are reminded that God can be trusted.
Abraham is, of course, the father of the nation of Israel. We are being taken back in time, before David, to the genesis of the nation. In Genesis 12, ⚡ God picked Abram and made an unconditional covenant with him -
Genesis 12:1–3 CSB
1 The Lord said to Abram:
Go from your land,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
2 I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
The last part of verse 3 is meant to point us to the fulfilment of the promise of the Messiah from Gen 3:15 - through Abraham, from one of his descendants/sons, all people on earth will be blessed. Not only is this the opposite of the flood, it is non-exclusionary.
In verse 2 God says Abram will become a great nation. In verse 3 God says that ALL NATIONS (peoples) will be blessed. In other words, the promise to Abraham was that one of his descendants would be the one who undoes the curse.
Peter, in his first sermons in front of the temple, addressed the Jews after healing a lame man:
Acts 3:13–26 CSB
13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied before Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer released to you. 15 You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. So the faith that comes through Jesus has given him this perfect health in front of all of you.
17 “And now, brothers and sisters, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your leaders also did. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had predicted through all the prophets—that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, 20 that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Jesus, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning. 22 Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to everything he tells you. 23 And everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from the people. 24 “In addition, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also foretold these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. 26 God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Peter made the connection for his Jewish audience that Jesus was the descendant of Abraham whom God would use to bless all the nations. This was not blessings by way of possession of lands or belongings, but a blessing of belonging to the family of God - restored relationship with the Father which was lost when Eden fell.
I think Mary’s song after meeting with Elizabeth, a song we refer to as the Magnificat, demonstrates the connection between Jesus and God’s faithfulness to Abraham.
Luke 1:46–55 CSB
46 And Mary said:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 because he has looked with favor
on the humble condition of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations
will call me blessed,
49 because the Mighty One
has done great things for me,
and his name is holy.
50 His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear him.
51 He has done a mighty deed with his arm;
he has scattered the proud
because of the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has toppled the mighty from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he spoke to our ancestors.
For at least the fourth time, we are reminded that God is faithful and can be trusted. God made a promise to Abraham around 2,000 BC - then we have Jesus. It might seem like a long time to us, and many generations had come and gone, but the faithfulness of God cannot be questioned.
Lt’s go back and re-read verse 1 together and summarize all that it is saying and implying:
Matthew 1:1 CSB
1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
I suppose if we wanted to rewrite the first verse with the context that Matthew’s Jewish readers would naturally have, it might read like this:
⚡This is a book of the beginnings of the blessing of mankind through God’s chosen, eternal king who came to rescue people from death and restore their relationship with God.
Matthew is basically claiming that Jesus is the NEW Abraham - creating a new people of God. Jesus is a NEW David, ushering in the kingdom of God. Jesus is the Chosen on of God, ushering in new creation and new life.
The introduction to this book is meant to set the tone and topic for the rest of what we will be reading. Matthew wants his readers - whether Jews around 60 AD or the church 2,000 years later, to be confident that:
⚡God is faithful to his promises and can be trusted.