Jesus is the King of Kings. He is God in the flesh, born as the God-Man to rule over not just this world but the next, too. He came to earth in His Father’s perfect timing as the Messiah or Promised Savior of the Jews but also of the whole world, offering the hope of eternal life for all who would turn from their sins and trust in Him. The incarnation, or earthly birth of Jesus as the God-Man, is what we celebrate as Christians each Christmas season. We remember that our God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to become one of us in every frail and human way yet without sin. The first two chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke both tell us about some of the key events right before and after the birth of Christ. Many of our middle school students have already been studying Luke’s account, which is longer and more detailed. I thought I would post a few devotions over the break teaching through Matthew’s shorter but equally important history of the incarnation.
Matthew’s gospel was written to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah and King to the Jewish people. A long tradition throughout church history held that Matthew’s gospel was written first, which makes sense when we remember that Jesus always taught that He came first to save the Jews, and then opened up salvation to everyone else (Gentiles). Jesus’ first disciples were Jews, and Paul’s strategy in the book of Acts as he planted churches all over the known world was always to preach salvation in Jesus to the Jews in each town first before then teaching the gospel to the Gentiles. With Matthew’s Christmas story, then, the main focus is show Jesus’ birth as the Great King of Israel and the world, a King whose throne and kingdom are everlasting.
This explains the opening of Matthew’s gospel, which is a really long list of names. This is a genealogy, or family history, of Jesus’ ancestors through His earthly father Joseph. While Matthew is careful to note that Joseph was not Jesus’ physical father (all the other fathers “begot” their sons, but Joseph is only listed as the “husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus”), this genealogy would still have been powerful evidence to Jewish readers that Jesus was their rightful King. In our culture today, discovering one’s family tree is seen as a fun and interesting activity, but not crucial to our sense of who we are. But for first century Jews, knowing your heritage was very important. Being able to trace a family line through your father was especially critical to knowing your identity as one of God’s chosen people. As verse 1 says, Jesus was a descendant of King David and a descendant of Father Abraham. The rest of the line, while not given in its entirety (some names are left out to shorten the list), would have been proof enough that Jesus had every right to rule over His people. And as the rest of Matthew’s gospel and the New Testament show us, Jesus has every right to be our King, too. The challenge for us this Christmas is this: Will we let King Jesus rule in our hearts and lives as He wants and deserves?
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.
David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.
Questions to Think About
1. Have you ever thought much about the miracle of the incarnation? We rightfully think and talk a lot about the miracles of the atonement or death of Christ for our sins as well as His resurrection from the dead to make the resurrection possible for us. But how about the amazing fact that God Himself would come to earth as one of us? A great passage to help us meditate on this miracle is Philippians 2:5-11. Check it out and give thanks to Christ for being willing to temporarily set aside His glory to come to earth and save us.
2. Are there any areas of your life where you are struggling to let King Jesus rule? How can you use the Christmas break to help refocus your life on letting Jesus be your King?
- Even though family lines were traced through fathers, Matthew includes five women in Jesus’ genealogy. Three of them had immoral backgrounds (Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba) while another, Ruth, was a foreigner and idol worshipper before marrying into the Jewish heritage. We also see some ungodly kings and should remember that even the most godly men from the list like Abraham and David were guilty of famous sins. The point of this observation is that God’s grace overcame the family’s human sinfulness when He sent Jesus to this earth, just as His grace can still overcome our sinfulness today.
- Matthew skips several generations and names, which seems strange to us but was considered an acceptable form of shorthand (think Cliff’s notes) for ancient Jews. The biggest gap is from the time of Joshua and Judges to the time of King David (verses 4-6), but there are also a few missing kings in verses 7-11. We must trust that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to include enough names to prove that Jesus was a rightful Jew (“Son of Abraham”) and our rightful King (“Son of David”).