This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1
The first of the four gospels (that tell the story of Jesus) begins by describing His earthly family history. It isn’t uncommon that someone from antiquity would have been ‘verified’ by describing their lineage; it’s one way bona fides were transmitted. But it is extraordinary that someone’s genealogy would be listed going all the way back over a thousand years. Then again, it’s God Immanuel we’re talking about; God Himself come to live with us as a man, another person with whom & to whom we can relate.
Merry Christmas and welcome to the Good News, which is what “gospel” means. Years ago, we discussed Mark. Now, we’ll spend the next few months unpacking this gospel. After we’re done (or maybe even during), if you haven’t done so, I hope you’ll go read Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar in construct, while John is quite different. All four fully describe the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah while presenting different takes and descriptions of the events they witnessed.
All this matters because, when God appeared, it had been a very long time since His chosen people, Israel, had heard from Him in person. The time between the end of the Old Testament period and the beginning of the New Testament period was over 400 years. He stopped talking through prophets. During this time, Israel, taken captive by Babylon, returned home and rebuilt the temple. In this new temple, God’s presence no longer resided. Political and military power in the region moved from Babylon to Persia to Greece and eventually to Rome, who occupied Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth. Israel the nation had long-since ceased to be a national entity, with Jews spreading all over the Mesopotamian region. Cut off from worship at Temple, Jews developed synagogues as the local centers of culture and faith. In doing this, as my Concordia says, “Judaism became a faith that could be practiced wherever the Torah could be carried.” This became a model for Christianity.
The Torah itself, the first five books of the Old Testament, was translated into Greek, the common language of the period. The Pharisees, teachers of Jewish law, took on prominence in Jewish communities, interpreting the law to both preserve it and the Jewish ‘nation.’
This is the world into which Jesus was born. This is the world that spanned the time between the end of the age of Abraham and the start of the age of his descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Over the next few days, we’ll discuss some of the folks in Jesus’ family tree. Merry Christmas. Welcome back to the Good News.
For more reading: Genesis 22:18, 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Luke 3:23-37, Galatians 3:16, Revelation 22:16, Matthew 1:1
Lord Jesus, thank You for letting us know, through Your servant, Matthew, of your family history.