Royal lineage of Jesus of Nazareth
By Matthew, the apostle
All the Gospels are anonymous. But when early Christians began collecting them in the second century, they needed a way to distinguish each one from the others. So they gave them titles. The title “According to Matthew” is affixed to this Gospel because church tradition had credited it to Matthew, one of the twelve.
It is fitting that Matthew’s Gospel is the first book in the New Testament because it was the favorite Gospel of the early Christians. You see, the first disciples were all Jews; and Matthew sought to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of David, sent by God to rule His kingdom.
So Matthew, more than the other Gospel writers, found Jesus’ messiahship in strange and wonderful places where Jews would know to look: in genealogies, titles, numerology, and fulfilled prophecies.
Filling The Scriptures Full
Matthew wants his mainly Jewish audience, as God’s chosen people, to consider how Jesus is the true son of Abraham, the ideal for Israel, even the perfect candidate to be the Anointed One.
So he shows how Jesus identified with Israel—even with their spending time in exile in Egypt—and yet, unlike Israel, He did not fall into disobedience. As Matthew tells the story, Jesus has come to fill the Scripture full by His teachings and His example.
In this way, Jesus is a new Moses, a new Lawgiver. But again, He is greater than Moses because He gives the law and writes it directly on the hearts of His disciples and of any who care to overhear the message of the kingdom of heaven. According to Matthew, five sermons of Jesus complete the picture of Jesus as Lawgiver.
They don’t replace the five books of Torah, but His words refine and complement God’s instruction to the people of the new covenant.
More Than The Messiah
For Matthew, Jesus is more than the Messiah, the fulfiller of prophecies, the true son of Abraham, and the new Moses who brings a new law: He is “God with us” who promises to be with us forever.
That means that Jesus is no mere mortal: He is God in the flesh who saves us from our sins. The coming of Jesus into the world fulfills God’s earlier promises to bring about redemption and a new creation.
These images of Jesus that Matthew paints so beautifully fired the imaginations of Christians for centuries so that today, when we open our New Testaments, we find Matthew is first in line.
This is the story of Jesus the Son of David, the Anointed One, as told by Matthew, a disciple of the Lord. Now this account has been recorded for all those children of Abraham who have become followers of the true heir of the line of David so that they may know in whom they have believed.
Because of the common Jewish heritage, Jesus of Nazareth can be understood — His miraculous healings, countless teachings filled with parables, righteous life, and lineage traced back to Abraham — as the One the prophets have spoken of since the early days.
This same Jesus is the One whom the Jews have been waiting for all these years. From the time when John was ritually cleansing people through baptism in the Jordan, as a sign of rethinking their lives of sin, to the wonderfully inspired teaching on the mountain in Galilee, throughout His parables, in His horrible death, and after His marvelous resurrection just days later, Jesus Himself is the King of the kingdom of heaven whom He taught about.
There is no one like Jesus. The prophets of old looked for Him, David sang of Him, and Jewish leaders feared Him. He is the great King, the Teacher of wisdom, and the Prophet that Moses said was coming into the world. The story begins with the lineage that establishes Jesus as the true Son of David.
Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, a soldier in David’s army. She was bathing in her courtyard one evening when David spied her and became interested in her.
Later Bathsheba got pregnant during an adulterous liaison with David, so David had Uriah killed in battle and then married his widow. David and Bathsheba’s first baby died, but later Bathsheba got pregnant again and gave birth to Solomon.
This long genealogy is given for a good reason: to show how this Jesus fulfills the prophecies that tell us the Anointed One will be a descendant of Abraham and of David. Some of the women in Jesus’ line are given to show how God is gracious to everyone, even to prostitutes and adulterers.
Because some of the women listed weren’t Israelites, but were strangers and foreigners, they foreshadow all the foreigners God will adopt into His church through Jesus. Some of the children in God’s family are conceived under strange circumstances (like Tamar’s twins being conceived as she played the harlot, and like King Solomon being born to adulterous parents).
Now that it has been established this is an unusual family, what happens next shouldn’t be a surprise — the conception of a baby under very strange circumstances.
This is remarkable, because Mary has never had sex. She and Joseph have not even spent very much time alone, but they are pledged to each other and their wedding feast has been planned.
She has never even kissed a man. She is a virgin, yet she is pregnant. Miraculous! On the other hand, Joseph suspects that Mary has cheated on him and had sex with another man. He knows he will have to break their engagement, but he decides to do this quietly.
Mary understands that it is God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who has made her pregnant.
Mary and Joseph name their baby Jesus, but sometimes He is referred to as Immanuel, because by coming to dwell with us, living and dying among us, He would be able to save us from our sin.
From that prophecy we learn that the Savior would be born in the town of Bethlehem, in the province of Judea. This information in hand, Herod orders the wise men to come to his chambers in secret; and when they arrive, Herod quizzes them.
These are exceptionally good gifts, for gold is what is given a king, and Jesus is the King of kings; incense is what you expect to be given a priest, and Jesus is the High Priest of all high priests; myrrh ointment is used to heal, and Jesus is a healer. But myrrh is also used to embalm corpses — and Jesus was born to die.
Herod knows ordinary babies will die in this purge, but he doesn’t care — Herod is not so much cold-blooded as pragmatic, willing to do whatever is necessary to kill this new supposed King. And so all those other baby boys die.
But, of course, Herod’s plan ultimately fails. He doesn’t know the baby Savior has been whisked to safety in Egypt.
Sometimes when people see John they are reminded of the last time God’s people had wandered in a wilderness — after the exodus from Egypt. John is all about wilderness. He preaches in the wilderness, and he wears clothes just like the prophet Elijah had worn.
They think perhaps John is inaugurating a new exodus. Actually, that is a pretty good way to think of it. The Anointed One, whose way John comes to prepare, will call humanity away from comfort and status; He will call His followers to challenge their assumptions and the things they take for granted.
The point, of course, is not that Jesus couldn’t have turned these stones to bread. A little later in the story He can make food appear when He needs to.
But Jesus doesn’t work miracles out of the blue, for no reason, for show or proof or spectacle. He works them in intimate, close places; He works them to meet people’s needs and to show them the way to the Kingdom.
By now Jesus desires a community around Him, friends and followers who help Him carry this urgent, precious message to people. His message is not dissimilar to John’s: Turn away from sin; turn toward God. And so He calls a community to join Him.
These first beloved followers are called “disciples,” which means “apprentices.” The first disciples are two brothers, Simon and Andrew. They are fishermen.
V People talk about this Jesus, this Preacher and Healer. Word spreads of His charisma and wisdom and power and love.
People who are too sick to walk persuade their friends and relatives to carry them to Jesus. These cripples and demonized and ill and paralytics come to Jesus, and He heals them, and they follow Him.
There on the mountain Jesus teaches them all. And as He is teaching, crowds gather around and overhear His teachings, listen in, and are captivated. This, the Sermon on the Mount, is the first of the five Mosaic-like sermons in Matthew.
When Jesus speaks of eyes and light, He means all people should keep their eyes on God because the eyes are the windows to the soul.
Eyes should not focus on trash — pornography, filth, or expensive things. And this is what He means when He says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So when someone is tempted to criticize his neighbor because her house isn’t clean enough, she seems ill-tempered, or she is a bit flighty — he should remember those same standards and judgments will come back to him.
No one should criticize his neighbor for being short-tempered one morning, when he is snippish and snappish and waspish all the time.
Does Jesus say, “Fair enough, you must of course bury your father. Just catch up with Me when you are done”? No. This is one of the strange and radical things Jesus brings about — our families are no longer our families. Our deepest bonds are not those of blood. Our family now is found in the bonds of fellowship made possible by this Jesus.
Matthew gives a summary of what Jesus has done — teaching, preaching, and healing — and why He has done it — because of His compassion. Jesus then calls His disciples to this same type of ministry. The following sermon that Jesus gives to His disciples is the second of the five main sermons in Matthew.
Up to this point, the disciples have been, mostly, following Jesus around, listening to Him teach, watching Him heal. And so now we call these twelve beloved men not merely “disciples,” or “apprentices,” but “apostles,” which means “those who are sent as representatives, emissaries.” Jesus is preparing to send them into the harvest field to do His Father’s work.
Jesus calls His disciples to a radical commitment. Those who truly follow Jesus must be willing to follow Him to the point of death, just as He will later die for His commitment to God and others. Thus, whether they die literally or figuratively, His followers give up their lives for Him.
Quite frankly, John is perplexed. He has been awaiting the Anointed, but he believes that person will be a great political ruler, a king, or a military hero. Jesus seems to be all about healing people and insisting that the poor and the meek are blessed.
The Sabbath is a day of rest when one creates nothing, breaks nothing, gives nothing, makes no contracts, cuts no flowers, and boils no water; it is a day set aside by the Lord to remember the creative work of God, to experience the peace of the Lord, and to rest in the provision of God.
Now at this time in Judea, the Jews, the children of Israel, are a diverse bunch. One group of Jews, which Jesus has already encountered, is called the Pharisees. Another group of Jews is called the Sadducees.
The two groups do not agree about how to read Scripture, they do not see eye-to-eye, and they do not get along. They rarely partner with each other, but here they are partnering — because they are so perplexed, befuddled, and panicked about this Jesus.
With Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Anointed One, the foundation of the church is laid. In the days ahead, the church will storm the gates of hell and nothing will be able to stop it. No darkness, no doubt, no deception — not even death will be able to stand against it.
Jesus is providing an entirely different perspective on success and happiness. The new Kingdom is breaking in, and the new community is coming together. This is the logic of that Kingdom and that community: to inhabit God’s story, this is what must be done.
To accrue fame and comfort and riches is counter to this new community. In the economics of this new community, real success is marked by a willingness to sacrifice one’s very life to God, and the promised rewards are immense.
This is but an echo of the Voice that spoke at Jesus’ ritual cleansing in baptism. It is an echo of what God said through Moses during his final sermon on the mount. God promised that although Moses could not enter the promised land, He would send His people another prophet. Moses’ very last wish for his beloved people was that they would listen to this new prophet when He would come.
Why does Jesus often instruct His disciples to keep secrets? In this case, perhaps He does because He realizes they will not understand the meaning of the transfiguration until they live through that other hilltop event, the death of Jesus on the cross.
Believers, like the disciples, will better understand this bath of light and revelation when they, too, come to Golgotha and the cross.
Jesus knows that He and His followers are the true temple, and yet Jesus is canny. It is not quite time to shake the foundations of the temple or of the old way of doing things. And so He pays the tax and bides His time.
The disciples struggle with the concept of the kingdom of heaven. They do not yet understand that who is most important or most powerful is a contradiction in terms. This is the fourth of the five great sermons in Matthew.
The wisdom of the world says the shepherd should forget that one missing sheep and chalk it up as a loss. In God’s economy, each soul has its own value apart from all others. Jesus calls the people of His kingdom to help the weak and the friendless, the small and the frail, the mute and the poor, the ugly and the disfigured.
The response of Jesus is like the story of Lamech in Genesis. He was Adam and Eve’s great-great-great-great-grandson who had two wives. One day he said to his wives, “Wives of Lamech, I need to tell you something! I killed a man who struck me.
Surely Lamech must be avenged seventy-seven times” (Genesis 4:23–24). In this new Kingdom of forgiveness, we reverse and invert Lamech’s plan. As Christians, we should forgive others’ transgressions more readily than the world would avenge them.
Why? Because adultery itself is the divorce. Adultery is the thing that breaks the bond of marriage. Just as an excommunication merely recognizes the fact that someone has already been removed from the people, a divorce merely legalizes what harlotry has created.
But should someone leave his wife for any other reason — because he has nothing to say to her, because she continually burns his food, because she is profligate with the household resources, because he simply cannot stand the sight of her — this is outside of the message Jesus offers here.
If we behave as if a marriage has been undone — indeed, some may believe that a marriage has been undone — then we are deluding ourselves. In the eyes of God, the marriage bonds still hold a man to his wife.
God’s glory and kingdom are His, so He is free to lavish goodness on anyone He pleases.
If someone feels jealous because her friend’s husband seems nicer than her husband, or because another’s brother works no harder than he does but somehow earns far more money, or because another’s classmate who has the intelligence of a sponge always seems to get better grades, then God’s generosity will indeed undo all we have come to know and expect.
Apparently the wife of Zebedee secretly thinks her sons have worked harder and sacrificed more for Jesus than the other disciples, and she probably suspects that Jesus loves them best.
She thinks He will at least do the right thing and reward their hardest work and most loyal service. She also hopes that if her sons are there on the nearest, closest thrones, she may spend eternity near and close, too, clutching onto their coattails.
After a great parade, Jesus and His disciples walk into the temple area, and what He sees enrages Him. He sees money changers, buying and selling. He sees men sitting on benches, hawking doves to those who have come from the countryside to make a sacrifice.
He sees that the salesmen and teachers have turned a sanctuary of worship into a place of spiritual prostitution. This is the place where Jesus came as a boy to sit with the great teachers. It is the place where His Father receives the offerings of His people.
It is more than Jesus can take. Can anyone be surprised at this other side to Jesus? He has turned out to be not just a kindly teacher; instead, He is the Anointed One, not to be taken lightly. In the midst of this scene filled with joy and chaos, there are extremes. Some are beginning to understand who this man from Galilee is — the Anointed — but the rulers are having great difficulty with the disruption to their orderly world.
As Jesus says this, one or two disciples probably glance around the shadows of the early morning, confused and afraid. Jesus has just paraded into Jerusalem and upset the vendors and leaders with His bold talk. Now He is challenging His disciples to expect the physical creation to respond to their commands and faith. But Jesus isn’t finished.
Jesus has just confronted the spiritual leaders of the land with hard reality. They have two choices: they can believe Him and repent, or they can disbelieve Him and call His stories rabble-rousing and craziness.
In their minds, the cost of believing is just too high. Everything they have — their positions and standings in the community, their worldviews, their own images of themselves — is at stake. But they can’t openly condemn this popular teacher of the people.
According to Deuteronomy 25:5–6, a family member is supposed to marry a relative’s widow to carry on the deceased’s family name. Each man in this story dies, having fathered no children; that poor widow keeps marrying these brothers, and they keep dying. So in heaven, who is the husband?
Jesus with the Pharisees listening uses them as an example of the pious but truly unrighteous. He calls the people to mind the Pharisees’ words, not their examples, because they talk about righteousness and faithfulness, but they are a faithless and unrighteous crew.
In this, the last of the five major sermons, Jesus focuses on prophetic and apocalyptic themes of judgment and the end times. The disciples have been listening to the prophetic judgment Jesus has issued on the religious leaders.
They have images of collapsing temple buildings, of prophets pursued from town to town, of floggings, and of blood-soaked garments. They can imagine themselves blood-soaked. When will this all happen, and what does it mean?
Jesus provides a picture of the coming reality of the kingdom of heaven. As they approach the time of His sacrifice, Jesus makes sure the disciples know that soon it will be too late; the door of opportunity will close, and for many the door will remain shut.
He gives them another image of the same reality to bring the picture into focus. Once they were bridesmaids waiting for their bridegroom; now they are slaves waiting for their Master. This time they are given responsibilities that will be rewarded. The blessings of the Kingdom bring risks along with the benefits.
Pilate could call Him “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Carpenter,” but he says, “whom some call the Anointed One.” It is significant that Pilate is in a position where he passes judgment. He determines who will live and who will die, and he is preparing to hold court.