This Is Our King
Today is a really good day for us. We’re able to be all together in one space as a church family for the first time in six months, and we’re also beginning a new sermon series on Matthew chapters 1-7.
I have loved Matthew’s gospel for years. I love the way that Matthew draws so regularly on the Old Testament and shows us again and again how Jesus is the main character of Israel’s story. And it was probably over ten years ago that I first thought, “When I become a pastor and start preaching through the Bible, I’m going to start with Matthew.”
I’m three years late, but here we are, about to begin this journey. I really want us to get the sense this morning that we’re on the cusp of something big and significant as we anticipate spending the next six months following along with an eyewitness of Jesus Himself.
And I hope you know how important it is that we do this. We are a Christian church. We talk about Jesus a lot. We sing about Jesus, we pray to Jesus, we teach our children about Jesus. But the question I want to ask us as we begin this series today is this: do you know Jesus? Do you know who He is? Do you know what He’s like? Your ideas about Jesus—where have they all come from? When you hear a phrase like “Christ-like,” what comes to mind? What informs your understanding of who Christ really was and is?
Isn’t it true that we have so many different sources of information today about Jesus? We have pictures and movies and books that portray him in all kinds of different ways. We have all kinds of different people living incredibly different lives who each claim to know and love and follow Jesus. Isn’t it true that our world is full of all kinds of different answers to that question, “Who is Jesus?”?
And so wouldn’t you agree that it’s really important for us to make sure that our understanding about Jesus is accurate and real and based on the truth about Jesus?
And there’s no better place to go for a true and a real understanding of Jesus than to the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Each of these four gospels captures, from a different angle, an eyewitness account of Jesus. No fabrications, no inventions, no creative fiction. Just the truth about Jesus.
We’re jumping into Matthew. This gospel is called “Matthew” and the unanimous testimony of the early church is that this book was written by the Apostle Matthew, who is described as being a tax collector. From what we understand, tax collectors were good note-takers who used a form of shorthand that enabled them to record a lot of information in a short period of time, which would have made Matthew an ideal candidate for recording all of Jesus’ teaching the way that he did.
Matthew, like the rest of Jesus’ apostles, was a son of Abraham, and his gospel shows a close awareness with the land and geography and traditions of Israel, as well as a deep knowledge of how Jesus fulfills the Hebrew Scriptures.
And my expectation is that as we follow along carefully with Matthew’s words in his first seven chapters over these next six months, we’re going to be shocked and stunned and amazed time and time again as we encounter Jesus Himself in all of His raw majesty. I know it happened for me again this week as I was preparing. I’m quite familiar with this gospel and yet still this week I was surprised to see more glory shining out from these words—the glory of Jesus.
“The Book of the Genealogy”
So let’s begin, shall we? Matthew chapter 1, verse 1 introduces the gospel to us as “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1).
Now this verse, this first verse, is just loaded with glory, and I want to make sure that we don’t miss anything. So I want to draw our attention to four main aspects of this first verse.
Number one is this phrase “The book of the genealogy.” This is where I’m so grateful for literal translations like the ESV or the NKJV which render this verse properly: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.”
This is important because this phrase “book of the genealogy” is a direct quote of Genesis 5:1: “This is the book of the generations of Adam…” And in the Greek Old Testament, that exact same phrase “book of the genealogy” or “book of the generations” is used one other time in Genesis 2:4: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4).
So we’ve got to see this connection here. Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is a book of the generations or the genealogy of the heavens and the earth and then specifically of Adam and his children.
And now Matthew opens up his gospel with a direct quote from Genesis, saying “this book that you’re reading is the book of the generations or genealogy of Jesus Christ.”
It’s almost the exact same thing that John did in His gospel. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and John opens up with “In the beginning was the word” (John 1:1). Both John and Matthew deliberately pull in this language from Genesis as they open their gospels to show that this is a story about new beginnings. A New Creation. And Matthew’s phrase deliberately draws attention to Jesus Christ as a counterpart to Adam.
The arrival of Jesus Christ into history is as significant as Adam’s creation, because Jesus is the new Adam. And just like Genesis spoke about creation and beginnings, so Matthew will speak of New Creation and new beginnings.
So that’s the first thing we need to notice in verse 1. The second is the name that Matthew uses here for Jesus: “Jesus Christ.” This is actually a rare phrase in Matthew—to use both of these names together. “Jesus” alone is the name Matthew uses most frequently.
“Jesus” was the name given to Jesus by his parents. And yet this name has significance. “Jesus” comes from the Greek “Ἰησοῦς,” which comes from the Hebrew “Yeshua” or “Yehoshua.” That’s actually what Jesus would have been called by his parents and siblings and disciples.
If we bring “Yeshua” or “Yehoshua” directly into English, without going through the Greek language first, do you know what name we get? Joshua. That was essentially Jesus’ name. It was a common enough name, just like “Josh” is today. But it was also a name with significance, because Joshua was the one who lead Israel out of the exile of the wilderness and into the promised land.
And Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus to us as the one who has come to rescue and save His people from their real exile, the exile of sin. Like we’re going to hear next week in verse 21, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Not only is Jesus a new Adam, He’s also a new Joshua. A new saviour.
Thirdly, He is not just Jesus. He is Jesus Christ. “Christ” is not a middle or last name but rather a title. “Christ” means “anointed one.” In Hebrew it was the word “mashiakh” or “Messiah.” “Jesus Christ” is another way of saying “Jesus Messiah.”
And this word “Christ” or “Messiah” means “anointed one.” In ancient Israel, prophets, priests and kings were all anointed with oil when they were ordained to their ministry, but the word “Messiah” or “anointed” came to be most closely associated with the kings, especially David as the Lord’s anointed king.
You’ll remember that God had promised David a son who would reign over the world forever, and in the writings of the prophets this anointed son of David, this Messiah, was seen to be the one whom all of their hopes rested in. He was the one who would come and set all things right and reign in righteousness. The anointed Son of David was the one everyone was waiting for.
And Matthew says, “That’s Jesus. He is not just Jesus, He is Jesus Christ, Jesus Messiah, the son of David. He is the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater son, God’s anointed king, the one we’ve been waiting for to save us and bring in the Age to Come and set all things right. He finally came, and this is who my book is about.”
But we’re not done with verse one, because there’s a final phrase here, the fourth aspect we need to notice. Jesus Christ is not just the son of David, He is the son of Abraham.
Why was this important? Why did this matter? On the one hand, this establishes that Jesus was a true child of the promise. He was from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and was a part of the people of God. He was a part of the promise to Abraham that he would have many offspring. But this phrase means so much more than this, if we remember the specific promise to Abraham that one of His offspring would bring blessing to the nations.
Genesis 22:17-18: “And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
There’s this very interesting dynamic in God’s promises to Abraham. On the one hand, because it was Abraham’s offspring who would bring blessing to the nations, it was important for Abraham and his children to have offspring, and for those children to be able to show that they were from the line of Abraham, from the line of promise.
And yet when that offspring came, he would come for more than just the line of Abraham. He would come to bring blessing to all peoples, all nations.
And this twin dynamic is on full display when we look at verses 2-16. Most mornings we read our Scripture reading out loud together, but today that would just not have worked at all. But I hope you can see what’s going on in this genealogy: it starts with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and traces their line all the way to David and the last kings and through the exile and up verse 15 and 16: “and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:15–16).
We see genealogies like this all over the Bible. And they are so important because they trace the line of the offspring, the royal seed. And what this shows us here is that yes, Jesus is indeed an offspring of Abraham, according to the flesh, at least as far as his human ancestry would be traced. He is fully qualified to fit the description as the blessing-bringing offspring of Abraham.
This genealogy is also important in how it retells the story of Israel—in all of its high points and low points. Faithful Jews reading this would have been familiar with each name and would have followed along as the remembered the call of Abraham and the sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus and return to the promised land, the glory days under David and Solomon, and then the not-so-glorious days that followed in most of the other kings.
Those words in verse 11 and 12, “the deportation to Babylon,” weren’t just historical markers. Those words were a reminder of the worst failure in Israel’s history, the low point when the line of kings had failed and the temple was burned and the city destroyed and the nation almost erased as hundreds were carried off to be assimilated into a foreign culture.
But the line of promise was not erased, and these names from verse 12 to 16 show God’s faithfulness in preserving the royal seed and cultivating the hope that the promised one was still coming.
And so this genealogy obviously shows a lot of concern for Abraham and his family and the family line of the Jewish people. We also should notice how it’s bursting with clues that this offspring of Abraham was not just coming for the Jewish people but was going to bring blessing to all nations and be the saviour for all people.
We see that in the way that this genealogy references five women—Tamar (v. 3), Rahab (v. 5), Ruth (v. 5), Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (v. 6), and Mary (v. 16).
This was highly unusual. Genealogies were very common in the Bible and the ancient world and they almost exclusively dealt with fathers. So for Matthew to include five women in this genealogy is a major statement.
What’s more, four out of five of these women aren’t even children of Abraham. They’re Gentile women. Tamar was just a Canaanite. Rahab was a Canaanite as well, from Jericho, rescued out from the midst of Israel’s enemies. Ruth was a Moabite, another enemy of Israel. We know that Uriah was a Hittite, another people who were typically Israel’s enemies, and so it’s probable that Bathsheba his wife was Hittite as well.
So four of these women are Gentiles. And what’s more, all five of them were women with suspicious back stories. If you know the story of Tamar in Genesis 38, you know how sketchy it was. Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth has had all kinds of people suspect her of doing something wrong with Boaz, even though I don’t think that’s actually fair, and Bathsheba was unfaithful to her husband.
And then there’s Mary. How many people do you think believed her when she said that the child in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit? That family would have grown up with a reputation; kids could have snickered about Jesus and called him names because he was born to an unmarried teenage mom.
Five women, four of them Gentiles, all of them with questionable and often messy stories. Do you have a messy family? Have you had a messy life? You’re in good company. Because this is the family tree of the Messiah. Matthew could hide this, but instead he highlights it. He really wants us to see this.
And do you see why? Do you see what Matthew is doing here? He’s showing us that Jesus is the son of Abraham. Yes, He comes from the line of Abraham, but even that line itself is proof positive that Jesus is not just here for the Jewish people. He’s here to bless the nations, just like God promised. He’s here for men and women, Jews and Gentiles, those who lived righteously and those who have really messy lives. He’s come to save not only His people but all people from their sins.
This is Jesus
And so this is who Jesus is. He’s the new Adam, the first father of a New Humanity, a New Creation. He’s the new Joshua, come to rescue His people out of the exile of their sins. He’s the Messiah, the Son of David, come to reign and rule and set all things to rights. And He’s the son of Abraham, come to bring blessing to all nations.
Now I could just stop preaching here, because there’s so much there for our souls here to feast on and worship. But I think it would be important to highlight some big take-aways for you and I this morning as we reflect on this passage and consider what this all means for us today. And I have four I want us to notice.
#1: God Is Not Afraid of Waiting.
The first one comes out of the genealogy, and it’s that God is not afraid of waiting. Just look at how much time is represented by these genealogies—how many generations of people lived and died, waiting for the promises to be fulfilled. Think of how easy it would have been to assume that God had forgotten and the promise had died.
This genealogy is a long line of wait-ers. And you and I today join those ranks of wait-ers. What are you waiting for in your life? These past six months have been full of waiting. Even today we’re here in this space because we’re waiting for something. Maybe you’re waiting is more personal. Is there a pain or a suffering you’re longing to have removed from you?
I was both challenged and encouraged this week by James 5:7, which speaks to suffering Christians and says, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.” The return of Christ is what we’re really waiting for. Just like He came the first time, so He will come again. Will we be patient and faithful as we wait? Will we join the long line of wait-ers who refuse to cash in our hope and instead remain faithful as we wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled?
#2: Our Heart Must Be for the Nations, Too
God has a heart for the nations. You can’t miss that in this genealogy, in this “Son of Abraham” language. And this heart for the nations, this heart for messy people from all peoples, must be ours as well.
Let me ask the question this way: who are the Tamars and the Rahabs and the Ruths and the Bathshebas here in Nipawin who need to know that Jesus has room in His family for them? And how will they find out?
I want to remind us again that we have an incredible opportunity this Friday and Saturday to show love to our neighbours in this town.
Many Christians in Canada talk as if they’re afraid of our freedoms being taken away. Well guess what? We have the freedom to do this, this weekend. What are we going to do with this freedom? We have no right to get upset about our Christian freedoms being taken away if we do nothing to use our Christian freedoms while we still have them.
So this weekend, let’s join the Son of Abraham on His mission to bless the nations, starting here in our little town of Nipawin. And if you’re not able-bodied enough to pull a rake or wash a window, then pray. Pray that we’ll have good conversations like we did last year; pray that this demonstration of practical love will bring glory to this Jesus that we’ve just read about this morning.
#3: This is About Jesus
Our third take-home lesson this week is just to re-state the obvious: that this is all about Jesus. Matthew is the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. He’s the promised one. He is the main character of this story, and He is the main character of the story today. And God’s intention is that Jesus Christ would be the main character of every story—including your story.
Life is not about you. Your life story, just like every story, is to be about Jesus. On Friday at Young Adults Josh spoke about this from Ephesians 1:10, which speaks about God’s plan “for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).
The “him” there is Jesus. He’s the one for whom it’s all about. And your own life will never make sense until you understand that your life is not about you, but that you instead have the incredible privilege to be a supporting character in the greatest story ever told, of whom Jesus is the main character.
And this is a lesson I’m so looking forward to learning again and again and again in the coming months as we see and hear from Jesus the king.
Finally, number 4. This final take-home lesson this morning might seem a little strange to you, it might seem a little out of place, but I think we’d be missing something really important if we missed it.
Did you notice how Matthew begins? “The book of the genealogy.” God chose to preserve and pass on the truth about Jesus to us in a book. A book that can be read and thought about and studied.
God chose to use the written word to pass on the truth about Jesus to us. And this has been the case from the beginning.
Just think about the Israelites coming out of Egypt, a very visual culture where their alphabet itself was pictures. And yet God told them in the second commandment not to make a carved image to represent Him. From the beginning of His relationship with His people, he wanted to be known through words, not through images, no matter how difficult this was for them.
Now it’s true that Jesus was born as a man, a man who could be looked at and seen. But we can’t miss what He left behind: no statues or portraits capturing His facial expressions. And not even writing that emphasized His mannerisms or tone of voice or emotions. But rather, four books, like Matthew, which tell us the objective truth of who Jesus is and what He did and what He said.
Here’s what I’m getting at here: if we want to get to know Jesus, we need to get to know Him on these terms, the terms that God has set for us. On the one hand, that means really knowing the Bible. And on the other hand, I’m suggesting this means being really careful about non-Bible representations of Jesus, especially pictures and perhaps especially movies.
That might seem really strange to you, because we’re so used to pictures and movies of Jesus, especially in the last few decades. You might be surprised that many Christians throughout history, especially around the time of the Reformation, have expressed this same caution over making images of Jesus.
And I think we need to be especially careful of that these days in the movie era, where a human actor portraying Jesus needs to fill in all kinds of blanks in terms of facial expression and body language and tone of voice. Those are all things which really impact how we hear the words that are being spoken, and yet they all need to really be made up because they’re not here in the text.
And this is true even if the actors are only speaking words that come straight out of the Bible, because they still need to supplement those words with tone of voice and facial expression and body language.
And I think the caution grows even more when we’re dealing with movies or shows that have Jesus saying and doing things that aren’t found in the Bible. I’m thinking of “The Chosen” here, which has been really popular lately. I have a lot of concerns about “The Chosen,” especially because some of the things they show Jesus saying and doing flatly contradict some of what we do see in Scripture.
I think this kind of thing is especially dangerous these days when so many Christians know so little of the Bible itself. I also think of the danger for children, who might read the Bible in a certain way for the rest of their life because those images are so strongly impressed in their minds.
So here’s what I’m saying here: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are books about Jesus, and this is not by accident. Getting to know Jesus on His own terms means reading and studying and thinking deeply about the written word, just like we’ve done this morning.
And I’m so thrilled that we get to know Jesus better in these coming months as we keep doing this, one week at a time. On the literature stand by the back entrance is a plan for the next few months, so you can see each week what passage we're planning to preach on. Why don’t you take one of those and make sure you read the sermon passage carefully once or twice before each Sunday? Jot down some questions or some things you want clarified.
And then after each Sunday we’ll have the study guides available, which are a tool to help you dig into the passage afterwards by asking good questions of the passage and yourself. And I’d remind you that our small groups use those study guides, so if you find them valuable and want to get together with a group of others to dig in together, then head on to our website and sign up for a small group.
I’m so looking forward to this next weekend together, of blessing our neighbours here in Nipawin, and I’m so looking forward to these next several months of getting to know Jesus better, together. Let’s praise Him together now.