The Lineage of the King

4 Nov

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Mt. 1:1)”

Matthew’s Gospel begins with a genealogy.  A genealogy is a record of the descent of a person, family or group of people from an ancestor/ancestors; a family tree.  This genealogy traces Jesus’ descent back to the royal line of King David, and even further back, to the father of the Jewish people, Abraham.

What makes this significant is the promises God had made to each of these two men.  In Genesis 12, God calls a man named Abram (later called Abraham) to leave his country and go to a new land.  Following these instructions, God presents Abram with a promise:

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.  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. (Gen.12:2-3)

Through the line of Abraham, God would make a great nation who would be a blessing to all peoples.  And if we fast forward to the time of David, we see a partial fulfillment of this promise.  Israel has become a great nation on the earth, and David is their king.  It is at this time that God makes a covenant promise to this king:

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son…And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.  Your throne shall be established forever. (2 Sam. 7:12-16)

This promise found their partial fulfillment in David’s son, Solomon.  But soon after, the kingdom began a gradual decline that culminated in the Babylonian exile and the destruction of the temple.  Had God failed in fulfilling His word to His people?  No, rather these promises would be most fully fulfilled in the Promised Messiah, or Christ.[1]   God would send a chosen one who would bring salvation to the people and establish the everlasting kingdom.

Since the exile, the Israelites had been waiting for the day when the Christ would fulfill all the promises given to them by God.  This yearning for the Christ was heightened by the fact that the Israelites were under the occupation and governance of yet another foreign power, the Roman Empire.  Such is the setting at the outset of Matthew’s Gospel.

In opening his account of the life of Jesus with this genealogy, Matthew reveals to the reader that Jesus is in the line of Abraham and David; the two men to whom God had made the great promises and pledged to fulfill them through one in their respective familial line.

Thus, Jesus represents the reemergence of this kingly line and the ushering in of the kingdom.  Jesus becomes the one who has received these promises and is the one who has come to fulfill them.  What may see as an anticlimactic way of opening this great story becomes an incredible testimony to both God’s faithfulness and Jesus’ validity as the Christ.

[1] [1] Christ (Gk. Christos) is the New Testament designation of the Old Testament “Messiah.”


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