October 22 – Matthew 1:1-17


Main Focus: Multi-ethnic inclusion is a necessary and intentional ingredient for and outcome of the gospel.

In his Gospel, Matthew sets out to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah-King of Israel, and he starts by tracing Jesus’s lineage. But don’t be fooled, this is no boring list of old names. One trick to reading genealogies is to look for when the pattern breaks, and you’ll find four interesting interruptions to “and _____ fathered _____,” with a surprise virgin-birth ending. Interspersed between these are sinners and saints, faithful and unfaithful, outsiders and insiders, nobles and nobodies. This helps us see the diversity and inclusivity of Jesus’s earthly family to better understand his heavenly one.

Matthew introduces Jesus’s genealogy by calling him “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” In Jewish literature, a descendant of someone can be called a son or daughter. Which, if you do your homework on this list you’ll notice some gaps in the record. For instance, Josiah is listed as the father of Jechoniah (also known as Jehoiachin), but Josiah was actually his great-grandfather (2 Kings 23:28-24:9). This is not to say Matthew was irresponsible or ignorant, but to point out two things: 1. Matthew was likely referencing 1 Chronicles 3, which reflects this same tendency to skip over certain generations (likely because they were less memorable), and 2. Matthew made intentional editorial decisions in order to highlight certain things. That doesn’t undercut his dependability; it helps us know what Matthew’s trying to do here.

Also, FYI, there are a lot of opinions about verse 17 and people get real weird with all the numbers there; suffice it to say that Matthew was likely just connecting Jesus’s story to the big-picture story of God’s people. He’s not giving a stodgy account of Jesus’s lineage or a half-baked conspiracy theory—he’s making a point.

In looking for that point, you’ll notice those interruptions mentioned above. Those breaks in the pattern highlight four women, and three of them we know for sure were Gentiles: Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites, while Ruth was a Moabite. And while we’re unsure of Bathsheba’s ethnicity, her first husband, Uriah, was a Hittite. Either way, the mere presence of women in this genealogy was a rarity in Jesus’s time, and when women were included it was in order to provide further backing for one’s prestige (ex. If your great-grandma was a princess or something). So, the presence of these four women, of all the 40+ that could’ve been mentioned, shows that Matthew is making a point: the Jewish Messiah is of multi-ethnic lineage, a multi-ethnic king for a multi-ethnic kingdom.

In discussion we’ll connect this back to Genesis 12:1-3 (as we’ve done before), to see how this is a foretaste of the fulfillment of God’s promise to bless the nations of the earth through Abraham’s family. Thus Jesus is the son of David, the Messianic heir to the throne, and the son of Abraham, the promised one through which an earth-wide blessing would come: the blessing of redemption. This theme is underlined even sharper when you come to the fifth woman in the genealogy, Mary, to whom Jesus was born by no earthly father, revealing God’s cosmic purposes for this final, supernatural link in the chain.

We also get a sense for this theme of redemption through the other names in the list. Beside Tamar the Canaanite we see Judah, her father-in-law who slept with her because he thought she was a prostitute (Gen 38; the Bible is wild y’all!). Beside David’s name Matthew lists Bathsheba not by name but by David’s impropriety: “And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” Awful kings like Manasseh and Jechoniah stand there, too. All these sinners remind us of humanity’s desperate need for a savior.

Matthew pulls no punches in showing the sordid past of Jesus’s family, and adding in the presence of Gentiles, poor folks and rich folks, famous and infamous and un-famous, helps us see how all the members of Jesus’s family are only there because God was graciously fulfilling his promise to redeem the world even through sinners like them. That tells us some things about Jesus—he’s working out his purposes even through sinful humans like us, he’s always been including the outsiders, and this eternally comforting truth: if Jesus isn’t ashamed to call these people family, then he’s not ashamed to call you and me family.

Finally, with our last question we’ll conclude how that dictates the way we relate to others in God’s family. This genealogy highlights how we all come to Jesus on equal footing, as sinners in need of a savior. We all equally grasp onto the promise as strangers offered a place to belong (Eph 2:11-22). This means that one of the ways we reflect this good news is by manifesting the same sort of inclusivity among God’s people in the church. The equity and unity of God’s multi-ethnic people is merely a reflection of the gospel we believe (and its absence shows our unbelief). This has everything to say, practically speaking, about how we relate to others that are different from us, how we think about them, and how we think about our own culture-of-origin.

Questions for Discussion

Let’s turn to Matthew 1. When you hear this read aloud, listen for the pattern, for breaks in the pattern, and for any names you recognize.

• Could someone read Matthew 1:1-17 for us?

• What stood out to you in the passage?

• Jesus’s genealogy contains five women, most of whom were not Jews. Why do you think those women are specifically mentioned here?

• A few weeks ago we looked at Genesis 12:1-3 (feel free to turn there and reread it). How do you think this genealogy connects back to the promises God made to Abraham?

• What do you think the Bible is telling us about Jesus through this genealogy?

• What can this tell us about what it means for us to be a part of God’s family?

• Practically speaking, how can this help us know how to relate to one another in God’s family?

• Prayer Prompt: Thank God for welcoming you into his family even when you didn’t belong, and ask him to grow our love for others.