The Hopes and Fears of All the Years
The Hopes and Fears of All the Years
Brad Mills / General
Advent: Now But Not Yet / Hope; Fear / Matthew 1:1–17
“Advent: Now But Not Yet” points to the reality that Jesus appeared 2,000 years ago, but he will appear again to usher us into the new heavens and new earth. Just as the OT saints waited for Jesus’ first coming, we anticipate his second coming. Christ’s birth marked the beginning of fulfillment that will culminate upon his return. There is joy and tension in the waiting.
Christmas is a time of celebration as well as unwanted pressure. There are a variety of highs and lows that all of us encounter during the holiday season. For many of us, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of fellowship around an incredible meal. But, for others, it is filled with social anxieties and family tensions that we fear will only escalate around the table.
Every generation experiences different hopes and fears. As we enter the Advent season, we want to reflect on “the hopes and fears of all the years” that were met in Bethlehem the night of the Savior’s birth. That phrase nicely sums up the opening genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew. And it relates to our own hopes and fears as well.
Matthew was one of the first disciples of Jesus, called out of his profession as a tax collector (Mt. 9:9). He was a Jew who wrote his account for fellow Jews probably just prior to AD 70. This is important because prior to the destruction of the temple in AD 70, records of important family lines were kept in the temple. Any claim that Jesus was in the line of David could have been confirmed or denied by the records.
Matthew assumes a knowledge of the Old Testament and continually informs the reader how Jesus fulfills messianic promises. In these first two chapters Matthew quotes five OT prophecies that were fulfilled at Christ’s birth. He attempts to convince his audience that Jesus is the Christ.
The opening prologue divides into six parts including the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, as well as episodes of conflict and suffering. Several of these accounts are exclusively found in Matthew. He is the only one who records the dream that Joseph had (1:20-24), the journey of the magi (2:1-12), the flight into Egypt (2:13-15), and Herod’s slaughter of boys two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding region (2:16-18). These accounts are filled with exciting tension.
But, maybe the most mundane element is the genealogy that opens the book. The opening line is supposed to be the hook to capture the reader’s attention. Could anyone come up with a more uninteresting hook? These are the passages that we skip in order to get to the exciting stuff. This is probably why most, if not all of you, have never heard a sermon on this passage. It is uninteresting to us. The genealogy of Jesus seems like good material for an appendix, not the introduction to Matthew’s Gospel.
Of course, that was not the case for the Jewish audience. They had a keen interest in the lineage, especially the lineage of the Messiah. The opening words “The book of the genealogy…” relate to a phrase found in the Septuagint version of Genesis 2:4; 5:1. This is another book of “origins” or “beginnings”. Matthew makes it clear that this is the beginning of a new era in covenant history.
Matthew also reveals his purpose by referring to the title “Christ” (the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah”) in verses 1, 16, and 17. It means “Anointed One”. The rest of the book is his attempt to prove that Jesus is indeed the Christ.
Read Matt 1:1-17.
The arrival of Jesus Christ marked the culmination of centuries of hopes and fears.
› Matthew shows this in a very Jewish way, by recording the Messiah’s heritage. We begin with…
I. An Important Heritage
Luke also provides a genealogy of Jesus (Lk 3:23-38). Whereas Matthew works from Abraham to Jesus, Luke begins with Jesus and traces 77 generations, all the way back to Adam. Matthew could have easily done this as well. He had access to the early chapters of Genesis which trace the genealogy of Abraham back to Adam. However, even when we remove the names from Adam to Abraham, Luke has many more names than Matthew.
Matthew is being deliberately selective. He is more interested in highlighting certain characters and showing a pattern than providing a precise family tree. Each section contains characters that would be worth exploring further, but the names that are most prominent are Abraham, David, and Jesus (1, 2, 6, 16, and 17).
God promised to make Abraham into a great nation. He would have an important name because God would bless him. And through Abraham “all peoples on earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). Matthew opens with this reminder in his emphasis upon Abraham, and he closes with Jesus’ commission to make disciples of “all nations”.
The promise given to Abraham connects this particular genealogy to every nation. But anyone who hopes to receive the blessing that was promised through Abraham, must receive it in and through Jesus Christ.
Matthew begins by acknowledging the humanity of Jesus. He was born into the family of man. The fact that Jesus has a family tree indicates how rooted he is in humanity. He had human parents, grandparents, and great great grandparents. Jesus had a family just like everyone else. He had some well known figures as well as several names we know almost nothing about.
Jesus had a Jewish nationality which means that we need to understand something about the Old Testament in order to grasp the significance of his birth. Likewise, we cannot properly understand the Old Testament apart from Jesus (Lk. 24). Jesus marks the division of history. Whether you call it “the year of our Lord” or “the commen era” it is the birth of Christ that marks its beginning. Jesus also bridges the two histories of God’s covenant with man. He marks the center of history as well as the center of Scripture.
Do you know Jesus? You must get to know him if you want to know God. You can only know Jesus as he has revealed himself in his word. Take time to study the person and work of Jesus in all of Scripture this Advent Season. Consider how you might personally meditate upon God’s word this month in order to understand more about the one who took on flesh to ransom us!
› Although Jesus was born into a truly human family, it was nonetheless…
II. An Impressive Heritage
From Abraham to David the two records Matthew and Luke are essentially identical. But, after David, the names are entirely different. One proposal is that Luke actually presents the genealogy of Mary, while Matthew provides the genealogy of Joseph. The main problem with this is that Luke does not state that and only traces the fathers beginning explicitly with Joseph. The better option is that Luke’s account follows Jesus’ natural descent while Matthew follows his royaldescent. The word translated “father of” can also be read “ancestor of” (similar to “son of David” in v.1). This view dates back to Eusebius in the third century and was adopted by Calvin and many modern scholars such as D.A. Carson. Matthew is intent on proving that Jesus is the true heir of the Davidic throne.
Legally, Jesus had a royal heritage. He not only came from the tribe of Judah who was always promised to bear the scepter (Ge 49:10), but he was in the line of King David. The king who had been promised to have a perpetual throne (Ps 89:3-4). During his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowd shouted the messianic title “Son of David” (Mt 21:9).
In a previous time, Joseph and Mary might have been prince and princess, but as God planned it, they were insignificant in human status. Despite his prestigious heritage, Jesus was born to a poor family that could only afford to offer a pair of turtledoves when he was presented in the temple (Lk. 2:24). There was nothing special about Joseph and Mary other than they fulfilled the prophetic promises. Matthew wants to convince his audience that Jesus was indeed the long expected Messiah.
Jesus satisfies the hopes of an impressive heritage, but not in the way anyone would have expected him to do. Michael Green summarizes this well:
The Message of Matthew The Genealogy of Jesus (1:1–17)
Just as David represented the high-water mark of Israel’s hopes and development and pointed forward to his descendant, Jesus, so the Babylonian captivity represented the nadir of Israel’s fortunes, the frustration of her hopes, and the end of the royal line; and it too points forward to Jesus the Messiah and his people in whom those fortunes will be restored and those promises fulfilled.
The hopes and fears of all the years were met in Bethlehem the night Jesus Christ was born. Very few recognized it at the time, because the King of Kings was born into the lowest of conditions. Expectations of outward pomp and circumstance were met with humility and simplicity. Hope faded into disdain when Jesus did not fit their presuppositions about how he would act.
That is oftentimes the case today. Jesus said there was only one way to the Father, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). You cannot fashion a Jesus to your own liking. You must know him as he has revealed himself to us. If Jesus is going to be your Lord, then he must be capable of correcting your false notions of him.
Jesus was the Anointed One, but he humbled himself to the point of death (Phil. 2) in order that all might come to him by faith.
› Even though it was an impressive heritage, it was also…
III. An Improbable Heritage
Like Luke, Matthew’s pattern is to only mention the fathers in the family tree. However, he breaks from that pattern on five occasions to also mention the mother (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “the wife of Uriah”, and Mary). It was very rare for women to be included in a Jewish genealogy. Instead of mentioning the wives of the patriarchs, Matthew mentions those who were the least likely candidates for such an important role. Once again, his selectivity serves an important purpose.
• When Judah’s own wife died, he slept with one he thought was a prostitute, but wound up being his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Ge 38:6-30).
• Rahab was from Jericho. She was heroic for hiding the two Hebrew spies whom Joshua had sent to survey Jericho before the attack. But many forget that she was a prostitute when they entered her home (Josh 2:1).
• Ruth was a Moabite (Ruth 1:4), one of Israel’s greatest enemies. As a Moabite she was cursed from entering “the assembly of the Lord” (Deut. 23:3-5).
• Bathsheba is not mentioned by name, but she was “the wife of Uriah” and the one who sparked David’s descent into compounding sin (2 Sam. 11). She might have been a Hittite like her husband Uriah.
Rahab and Ruth (and possibly Tamar and Bathsheba) were Gentiles who came to believe in the God of Israel and were brought into the covenant community. Each of them pointed forward to the child who would be worthy to receive praise from every nation.
Mary is the virgin (Isa. 7:14) who gave birth to the seed who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Although she was not an outsider to the covenant community, her out-of-wedlock pregnancy gave her a reputation that fits the lives of the previous women listed in Matthew’s genealogy. Jesus was born into a family of sinners, but he was never tainted by sin. The virgin birth is essential to the sinlessness of Christ.
All of these women were sinners rescued by God’s redeeming grace. Like everyone else on the list, they highlight the fallen world’s need of a Savior. Matthew selects these particular women in order to shine the light upon God’s grace. Where our sins are many, his mercy is more.
We have a Savior who entered a royal line of humanity at a time when the throne had been lost. Love came down to the lowest of lows in order to save us from the least to the greatest. The hopes and fears of all the years, including our own, are met in Christ.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 2:18 PM December 2, 2019.