Matthew is a Gospel (an account of “good news”).
One of four Gospels, each telling a different story of Jesus. Matthew - Jesus is the Sovereign King; Mark - Jesus is the Suffering Servant; Luke - Jesus is the Son of Man; John - Jesus is the Son of God.
This is not a letter to a church, as we see in Paul’s writing, but is simply a presentation of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done to everyone. In each Gospel, we will find different details and different events. Not that this lessens the significance or accuracy, but it shows a different aspect and interpretation of events happening in Christ’s life.
We start Matthew with the genealogy (parental lineage) of Jesus.
Why was the genealogy important?
Christ had been promised through the lineage of:
Abraham Genesis 12:1-3
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”
and of Joseph.
From the beginning, we see the importance of the covenant, the promise that was made to Abraham and the generations afterward, and the significance of the Gospel of Christ.
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
How many groups of family are given, what are the significance, and how many generations are listed?
There are several significant names throughout the genealogy given. Consider the following: David (1), the first name mentioned, is the king whose line God promised to establish for all time (2 Sam 7). Abraham (v. 1) was the one through whom God’s promised blessing would come to the whole world (Gen 12:1–3; 15:1–6). Isaac (v. 2), Abraham’s son, was a miracle-baby born to a mom named Sarah, who was shocked to find out that she would have a child. This supernatural birth would set the stage for Mary (v. 16), who was also pretty shocked (though for different reasons) to find out that she was going to have a child. Tamar is the first woman mentioned (v. 3). According to Genesis 38, Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law, and it was sinful incest that led to the birth of the twins mentioned in verse 3, Perez and Zerah. The second woman mentioned is Rahab (v. 5), a prostitute who was spared when the people of God came into the promised land (Josh 2). Ruth is the third woman mentioned (v. 5). She was a Moabite (Ruth 1:4), a people known for their sexual immorality, and who at one time were forbidden to come into the assembly of God’s people. These 14 generations leading up to King David make up the first of three sets of 14 generations.
In the second set of 14, we see the fourth woman mentioned (she is not explicitly named here)—Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (v. 6). Bathsheba was brought into David’s kingly line through adultery and murder (2 Sam 11). Then, picking up with Solomon, Matthew lists the kings in Israel leading up to the exile (vv. 7–11). A few of these kings honored the Lord, but most of them were evil, leading the people of God into sin and idolatry. This eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon (Jer 52). Thus ends the second group of 14 generations, which, again, would have sparked images and conjured up emotions and stories in the minds of Jewish readers who knew their Old Testament.
In the third set of 14 generations, in verses 12–16, Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy from the deportation to Babylon to the birth of Jesus Christ.
So why is this genealogy important? Why was it significant for Matthew to begin his Gospel in this way, both for the original hearers and for us today?
First, consider the original audience. Most of Matthew’s readers were either Jewish people who had put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, or they were Jewish people who were contemplating trusting in Jesus. Either way, this thoroughly Jewish genealogy would have been massively significant. Mark, by contrast, likely had a predominantly Gentile audience in mind, so it wasn’t as critical for his original hearers to understand the Jewish lineage leading to Christ. But for Jewish men and women who were considering trusting in Christ as the Messiah, or for those Jews who had already trusted in Christ as the Messiah and were as a result losing their families, their possessions, and their own physical safety, this genealogy was extremely significant.
The opening of Matthew sets the stage for Christ, His deity, and the establishment of Him as the Son of God in human flesh.
Birth of Christ
Birth of Christ
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
What is the most significant part of the second part of Chapter 1 to you?
In the latter half of Matthew 1 we encounter the most extraordinary miracle in the whole Bible, and the most remarkable mystery in the whole universe. This miraculous mystery is described in eight simple verses. Referring to this miracle, J. I. Packer said, “It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie” (Packer, “For Your Sakes He Became Poor,” 69). Our souls ought to be captivated with fascinating glory in the midst of a familiar story.
It is a wonderful story of adoption, of accepting one as their own knowing they are different. While Jesus was not Josephs biological son, he knew he had been chosen as the earthly father of the Son of God.
Several aspects of this passage call for some explanation. Matthew begins by talking about the “birth of Jesus Christ”. Remember that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name; rather, it means “the Messiah,” the Anointed One. The word “engaged” in verse 18, which the ESV translates as “betrothed,” is also important to consider, since an engagement was much more binding in the first century than it is in the twenty-first century. Once you were engaged, you were legally bound, so to call off an engagement would be equivalent to divorce. After the engagement, the only thing left to do was for the woman to go to the man’s home to physically consummate the marriage and for them to live together (Blomberg, Matthew, 57). This would happen approximately a year after the engagement began. So when Matthew says that she was pregnant “before they came together” (v. 18), he is saying that Mary was with child before she and Joseph consummated their marriage physically.
Also of note is the comment in verse 18 that Mary was pregnant “by the Holy Spirit.” Matthew is clueing us in to something supernatural that was going on, though Mary and Joseph would not find out this “by the Holy Spirit” part until a little later. Put yourself in this young couple’s shoes: Mary, having never had a physical relationship with a man, finds out that she’s pregnant. Imagine the thoughts and emotions, the confusion and the worry, that would be going through your mind. Or consider Joseph: as a husband, you’ve yet to bring your wife into your home to consummate the marriage, and you find out that she is pregnant! There is only one possible explanation in your mind—she has clearly been with another man.
What would you do if you discovered that the woman you love, the one you’ve chosen to marry, was pregnant right before you took her into your home? Verse 19 gives us a glimpse into Joseph’s thought here: “So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.” Joseph had a couple of options at this point. He could either go public and shame Mary, or he could quietly divorce her. In righteous compassion, he resolved to do the latter.
Notice that Joseph is addressed by the angel as “son of David,” which reminds us that Joseph is in the line of King David. The angel gives Joseph the shocking news that “what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit” (v. 20) The virgin birth may be familiar to us, but such a reality was absolutely unheard of for Joseph. Then the angel tells Joseph that Mary will “give birth to a son” (v. 21), a son whom Joseph had no part in bringing about, and that this son would be named “Jesus” because He would “save His people from their sins” (v. 21). So, Joseph was told to adopt this boy as his son, and the legal name by which He would be called—Jesus—means “Yahweh (the Lord) saves.”
We don’t know exactly what Joseph felt at this point, but I imagine he was puzzled. Nevertheless, Matthew gives us a great picture of Joseph’s obedience in verses 24–25: “When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.” Joseph obeyed without questioning God or laying down conditions. He didn’t ask for another night’s sleep to see if anything changed; he simply obeyed. And when it says that he “did not know her intimately” in verse 25, Scripture is telling us that Joseph did not have physical relations with Mary. Matthew ends the chapter by telling us that Joseph called the child “Jesus,” just as the angel had said. This is how the King of creation came into the world.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, we can say several things about how Jesus came. First, He was born to a virgin mother. This is an absolutely shocking pair of words—a “virgin mother” is naturally impossible, which points us to the supernatural aspect of Jesus’ birth. Physically, Jesus is Mary’s son, for even in the genealogy, where we read over and over that one individual fathered another, verse 16 identifies Joseph as Mary’s husband and Mary as the one “who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.” The text is careful not to call Joseph the father of Jesus. Instead, it points out that Jesus was biologically the son of Mary.
The fact that Matthew never explicitly refers to Joseph as Jesus’ father reminds us that Jesus was born to an adoptive father. After being named and taken into the family by Joseph, legally, Jesus is Joseph’s son. And being Joseph’s son means that this adoption ties Jesus to the line of David as a royal son. Finally, in terms of how Jesus came, Matthew tells us that all of these things happened amidst a fallen world. Jesus came to a world of sin in need of salvation, which is why it is crucial to see that ultimately, Jesus is God’s Son. The problem of sin needed a divine solution.
Part of the purpose of the virgin birth of Jesus is to show us that salvation does not come from man, but from God. Salvation is wholly the work of a supernatural God, not the work of natural man. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves from our sins, which is evident even in the way in which Jesus entered the world. This baby born in Bethlehem was and is the center of all history.
In this first chapter of Matthew we see Jesus to the be legal heir out lined in the covenant with Abraham. It shows all the descendents of faith that have a part in Christ, we see a symbol of God’s glorious mercy, a picture of God’s grace that is not inherited, but given to those who obey and follow, we see a picture of God’s power in keeping His promises, and we see three generations of spiritual history.
Now, how can the Jews, who believe these promises given by God see the evidence presented by Matthew and still reject Jesus as the Son of God? Better yet, how can WE read of the promises (covenants), the lineage, the birth, and the miracles afterwards (including the death, burial, and resurrection) and still reject Jesus as the Son of God?