5 Gospel Truths from Jesus’ Geneaology

1. The gospel is not good advice, it is good news.[1]

Fairy tales and fantasy stories start out with phrases like “once upon a time,” or “somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away.” But Matthew begins with a genealogy, which is a way of saying, “What I’m about to tell you actually happened.”

Many religions are built on teachings and principles that would be true whether their religious founder ever lived or not. The religious founder was just the mouthpiece. It wouldn’t really matter to Buddhists, for instance, if Buddha were a real person or not.

But this is not true for Christianity. Christianity depends on a set of events that actually took place in history, because the core of Christianity is not what Jesus taught us to do, but what he would do for us.

2. Jesus is the center of history.

Matthew takes what the world considered an insignificant family line and organizes all of human history around it. It certainly didn’t seem like Jesus was the focal point of history at the time. Israel was an insignificant Roman province, and nobody in Rome was paying attention to this family tree. But God had made a promise to Abraham to bring salvation to the world. And he did it in the face of the powerful nations that thought they were truly in control.

I find this so encouraging, because it often doesn’t look like Jesus is the center of history today. CNN doesn’t look to Christianity to figure out where the world is headed. They look to the markets, to the White House, to world politics. But from God’s perspective these things are an insignificant drop in the bucket compared to what he is doing through Jesus’ kingdom.

3. God is working in all things, good and bad, for his purposes.

Matthew concludes his genealogy (1:17) by commenting that the progression from Abraham to Jesus came in 3 sets of 14. This seems almost random, especially when you realize that Matthew intentionally skipped some generations to get these numbers. Now, skipping certain generations was common practice for genealogies. But why did Matthew want to have these 14s?

Well, fourteen is (of course) two sevens, and seven is the biblical number of perfection.[2] Matthew organizes the genealogy into 14s to show that God has superimposed his seal of perfection on history.

When you consider the messy stuff in this genealogy, that’s an astounding claim. Think of the story of Tamar (1:3), the woman who tricked her father-in-law to impregnate her by dressing like a prostitute. Or of David (1:6), who slept with his friend’s wife and had him killed to cover it up. God looks at this mess and without condoning their actions, stamps his perfect “14” on it.

Some of you have messy dysfunction in your life, and I’m not saying God is pleased with your pain. It breaks his heart. But He has an over-riding purpose in your life, to accomplish Jesus’ purposes in and through you. And he’s working in the darkest parts of your personal genealogy to bring that to pass.

4. The gospel is for the outsider.

In Jesus’ day, a genealogy was like a résumé, how a person showed the world their worth. And so back then—like today—résumés were fudged to include the best parts and to omit the nasty details. They were crafted to make everyone think, “Wow, this guy just has awesome in his blood!”

Yet look who Jesus includes in his genealogy: Tamar and David (see point 3); Ruth, a Moabite, not even Jewish; Rahab, not only a foreigner, but a prostitute; Manasseh, one of the most wicked and godless kings in Israel’s history. Jesus’ line is filled with outsiders of every kind—moral, ethnic, gender.

This all tells us that Jesus came for the outcast, and that includes us. Or, as David Platt says, these names are included in the line that leads to Christ so that we can know our names are included in the line that leads from Christ.

5. Jesus is the ultimate rest.[3]

There is another detail about the sets of 14 that Matthew mentions. Three sets of 14 makes six sets of seven. This makes Jesus the seventh seven.

Remember, seven is a really significant number in the Bible. It points to perfection, but it also point to rest. God rested on the seventh day. Israel was supposed to let their land “rest” every seven years. And every seventh seven year was the Year of Jubilee, in which all debts were forgiven and all slaves were freed.

Matthew shows us that Jesus is the seventh seven; Jesus is the Year of Jubilee. In him all debts are truly forgiven; in him all slaves are finally freed. Jesus is ultimate rest. Isn’t this what he promised? “Come unto me, Jesus says, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” You don’t have to strive to earn God’s love. You don’t have to prove yourself. In Christ you have the absolute approval of the highest being in the universe.

[1] From Tim Keller’s message on Matthew 1:1–17, “The History of Grace.”

[2] William Hendriksen, Vol. 9Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, Baker New Testament Commentary, 110.

[3] I am indebted to Tim Keller for pointing this out.

Read more from JD here.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Culture >


JD Greear

See more articles by >


What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.