Great to have you with us on New Year’s Day, on the adventure of ‘The New Testament in One Year’.
What a way to start though, with a long list of names! It shows us that Jesus is the climax of Old Testament history. The one that they had been waiting for. The Messiah (which means “Anointed One”) has arrived! Jesus’ lineage can be traced all the way back to the great Patriarch Abraham and to the great King David. The link to Abraham reminds us that Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) that all families on the earth would be blessed by Abraham’s descendants. The link to David is the fulfilled promise that his throne and kingdom would be established forever.
Lots of people are into genealogy, tracing their family history back through the generations, finding out fascinating titbits and characters. Mine peters out in the 1850s as birth records of Cornish tin miners weren’t kept rigorously and it could be one or two possibilities! Likewise, Biblical genealogies aren’t meant to be exhaustive – they were highly selective. This one is in three groups of fourteen names and arranged as an acrostic on the name David to make them easy to remember. The phrase “Father of ” isn’t meant to indicate literal Father of but often means “ancestor of”.
The first group starts with Abraham, the second with the high point of Israel under King David. The third group represents the low point of Israel as they entered exile. Jesus, the fulfilment of Old Testament promise, ends the list. There are some characters in the list – Tamar was an adulteress; Rahab was a prostitute who came to faith in Jericho; David, a man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and murderer. They may be sinners, but God rescues sinners like you and me and uses them mightily.
Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2, wrote about one of my favourite U2 songs “40” in The Guardian.
Psalm 40 is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma, and love will replace the very strict laws of Moses (in other words, fulfil them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the Scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort.
So who is this Jesus at the end of the list in Matthew 1? The child is to be called
and his name is
– Immanuel means God is with us and Jesus means the Lord saves. The one that Israel had been waiting for is nothing less than God with us; God in the flesh. God whose name is The Lord Saves. Today as you read that long list of names leading up to Jesus, find comfort that God’s plan is to choose people like you and I, turn their lives around and use them for His glory.