Imagine meeting someone who told you things you had never heard before…things you knew were true somehow. What if He started doing things that nobody else could do…healing the blind, making paralyzed people walk, bringing the insane to their right minds? Suppose you started to hang out with Him and His friends. What if you started to believe He was a prophet of God? What if you started to believe He was God?
That is what happened to the first men who followed Jesus. They came to believe that the Man who walked among them was the Messiah. They wanted to keep a record of all the amazing things He did. He was their beloved friend. He was also the Savior of the world. As they walked with Him and listened to His perfect words and watched His wondrous miracles, they began to see how He was fulfilling the prophecies of God from the Old Testament.
After He died and rose again, many others put their faith in Christ. The new followers of Jesus were a part of God’s new work in the world. They were the Church! His disciples wanted them to hear the beautiful stories of His life so they could know Him and love Him, too. So they recorded the story of His life in the first four books of the New Testament. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and they are called the Gospels.
Each story in the Gospels was specially written to explain something very important about the Lord. No story or detail about the life of Jesus was written by accident. Some stories were told to show how Jesus was a fulfillment of ancient prophecy. It was very important to prove that Jesus really was the Messiah that had been foretold. Other stories share the lessons Jesus taught about loving God and living a life of goodness and purity. Some of them teach how the coming of Jesus brought a whole New Covenant between God and those who put their faith in His Son. And some of them explain to us what will happen at the end of time. Each story has a very important purpose, but in each one, Jesus is the center. He is the great treasure. Each sentence in each of the Gospels is there to teach us something precious about the One who died for us so that we can have life!
The first book of the New Testament is Matthew. It was written by one of Jesus’ disciples. As Matthew wrote his book about Jesus’ life, he wanted to prove to the Jewish people that Jesus really was the Messiah. Over and over again in Matthew’s stories, he will quote the Old Testament to show how the life and death and resurrection of Jesus prove that He was the One they were waiting for. Matthew also wanted to explain why Jesus didn’t fulfill every prophesy at that time. Some of them will come true when Christ returns, and Matthew makes sure his readers know how they fit into the big picture of God’s plan.
The first thing that Matthew wanted show his readers was the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. A genealogy is a record of a person’s ancestry. In the traditions of the Ancient Near East, genealogies followed the line of the father.
Do you know who your father is? Do you know who your great, great, great grandfather was? Most of us don’t! But the people of Israel kept very careful records. These records were so important that they were stored in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The family that each Israelite was born into helped them understand their role in the greater family of God. For example, the boys born into families from the tribe of Levi were set aside to act as a priests. The descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother, were the high priests. They had the high honor of ordering the spiritual life of the nation. They offered its most sacred sacrifices in the Temple.
The tribe of Judah had a very special honor as well. King David belonged to that tribe, and God had promised that the Messiah would come from his line! He would be a direct descendant from King David himself! The Jews kept very careful track of who David’s descendants were so they would know who was eligible to be King and the Messiah. Matthew knew that if he wanted to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, the first thing he had to do was show that He came from the line of David.
As a Jew read Matthew’s genealogy, it would have been full of reminders of the history of their nation. They would already know most of the names on the list. They would be able to tell the stories of their ancestors as if they were describing their own immediate family. Some names, like King David or King Solomon, would make the great successes and failures of the nation jump off the page. Many of the kings had rebelled against God. There were times when the nation of Israel would spend whole centuries in terrible wickedness. The crippling sins of the nation through hundreds of years of God’s patient endurance would stand out like a very sore thumb.
By the time a Jewish person finished reading the genealogy of Christ, they should have been absolutely convinced of their need for a Savior! Their nation had never fully honored God with holiness, and they had never acted as true priests to the world. Not one single human in their whole history was able to live out the holy standard of their Most High God! Someone had to come who could obey the will of God with total purity and perfection. The world had never seen such a Man. What was going to happen to the nation of Israel? What was going to happen to the world? Was it doomed to rebellion and separation from God forever?
The coming of the Messiah answered the Great Crisis of the human race. Matthew was one of the honored souls chosen to tell the world all about it.