Sermon — Matthew 1:1

20 Apr

The Four Gifts of Matthew 1:1

I wanted to look this morning at the whole genealogy from verses 1-17, but I could not get past verse 1. As I kept looking at this verse, I just began to see it as the place to start and stop this morning. I believe that verse 1 of Matthew’s gospel opens up the whole book to us. It is like the key that unlocks the treasure box of blessings in this great book. If you understand this verse, you will understand the major themes in Matthew’s gospel and four major, life-changing themes about Jesus. These four truths are like four different gifts to unwrap under the tree. So here it is, Matthew chapter one, verse one . . .

 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Not impressed? I hope by the end of our time together this morning, you’ll see the greatness of this verse. This verse opens up four themes for us which are really the themes of Matthew’s gospel.

Gift Number One: One Story

First, there is theme of continuity with the Old Testament. It is the “book of the genealogy.” In the Greek translation of the Old Testament this phrase was the title of the book of Genesis. Matthew’s Jewish readers would have known this connection and would have seen Matthew’s efforts here in chapter one as an attempt to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. For a Jew, ancestry was tied to the covenants God had made with Israel. God’s greatest covenant was that one day He would send the Messiah to save His people. So Matthew, by going immediately to the record of Jesus’ genealogy, is showing us that Jesus is not abolishing the Old Testament, He is fulfilling it. This word “fulfilled” will become one of the most important words in Matthew’s gospel, as he will show many times how different events in the life of Jesus were the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Matthew is the gospel of fulfillment.

As Christians, we do not need to shy away from the Old Testament, we just need to understand it rightly. The old saying is right. “The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed and the Old is in the New revealed.” Three out of every four pages in your Bible is the Old Testament, so God put it there for a reason. One of the biggest reasons God gave us the Old Testament was to help us see Jesus more clearly when He came on the scene. So one of Matthew’s main themes is continuity with the Old Testament. Jesus doesn’t stand opposed to the great leaders of God’s people in the past, He stands at the end of the line as the fulfillment of that great line, a new and greater Abraham, a new and greater Moses, a new and greater David. The Pharisees and other religious leaders will try to undermine Jesus on the grounds that He is not teaching and living as a true Jew, so Matthew is careful from the start to show us right out of the gates that Jesus is the culmination of what God has been doing all along as recorded in the Old Testament. He is not a outsider to the people of Israel, He is Israel’s Messiah.

Gift Two: One Savior

And this Messianic theme is the second theme that emerges in Matthew 1:1, the name “Jesus Christ.” This name points to Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior-deliverer. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Joshua, which means “God saves.” It was a common name in Jesus’ day but what an appropriate name for Jesus. And of course the title “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, “Messiah,” the anointed One, the One the Jews expected to come and righteously rule God’s people. This is Jesus’ mission, as we will see in the coming weeks . . . He has come to save. We see this throughout Matthew. He has compassion on the outcast, He has authority over nature and demons and forgiveness of sins, He delivers people from hopelessness. As Isaiah had prophesied about the coming Savior, “the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the good news is preached.”

And here’s the good news for us . . . Jesus hasn’t changed. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Jesus will still save all who call on Him in faith. He is the Messiah, the Christ. He will save you and walk with you in life and give you hope and help. But the truth we will see in Matthew is clear: He walks with those who draw near to Him. His disciples, the needy, people who trust Jesus, they all find help. The religious, the self-sufficient, the proud all find themselves on the outside looking in. So if we will humble ourselves and really seek to walk with Jesus we will see His goodness and grace and find help in time of need, both for the problem of our sins and separation from God and for the struggles of daily life. Nothing is more tragic than a person who is in the midst of truth about Jesus but doesn’t take up all the things God has provided them for growth in grace. It is like a child at Christmas surrounded by gifts but refusing to open any of them. It is unimaginable. But many Christians do precisely that. They are distracted or discouraged or riddled with guilt and they do not open up the blessings of Jesus for their lives. They profess faith in Christ but their lives are without the power of Christ. May we never lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus has come to save us from our sins. This means deliverance from the penalty of sin, deliverance from the power of sin and in eternity deliverance from the presence of sin.

Gift Three: One King

The third theme in the gospel of Matthew that we see in this first verse is the phrase “son of David.” This phrase points to the theme of kingship. Jesus is from the kingly line of David. This is important not only because it was the expectation of the Jews that the Messiah would be from the line of David. This is important not only because Jesus’ kingly line fulfills the Old Testament scriptures. This is important because one of the biggest subjects of Jesus’ teaching in the gospel of Matthew is His teaching on the kingdom. The King has a kingdom. And the kingdom is a very important subject to Matthew. He quotes Jesus talking about the kingdom more than fifty times while Mark only mentions the kingdom fifteen times and Luke thirty five times. Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Jesus tells parables that center around the kingdom. He pictures himself at the end of the age as the King sitting on His throne, separating the sheep and the goats. All through the Old Testament we saw Israel with kings, most of them mediocre at best. Even the great David had his sins and flaws. And Israel under her kings never achieved a real and lasting supremacy in the world as God’s people. But then comes Jesus, the true and better King, who establishes a kingdom not bound by national borders and not focused on the external. It is a kingdom of God’s work within the human heart. A kingdom that transforms from the inside-out. A kingdom with small beginnings that changes the world.

Paul says it best in Philippians, “our citizenship is in heaven.” In Jesus we are called not to pursue the American dream of self-satisfaction. We are called to pursue the glory of God in the face of Christ. We are called to a new focus, new priorities and new allegiance. We are called to serve our King with the strength He gives so that the first request of the Lord’s Prayer can be fulfilled, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Gift Four: For All Nations

Finally, we see in verse one the phrase, “the son of Abraham.” These words tie Jesus to the father of the nation of Israel, the great patriarch Abraham. It was this man who received God’s promise. “Leave your father’s house and go to the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will make your name great. I will bless those who bless you and those who curse you I will curse. And in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” I believe Matthew’s focus in bringing up Abraham is not to show us Jesus is a Jew, for His relation to David already does that. I believe rather that Matthew is picking up on the last part of God’s promise to Abraham, that through him all nations would be blessed. The reason I believe that is because Matthew’s gospel puts the focus on the gospel going to all nations quite often. Even in the next passage we will look at, the genealogy in verses 2-17, there are four Gentile women included in the listing. The baby Jesus will be worshiped by wise men from other nations. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that His followers are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Jesus healed the Roman Centurion’s servant in chapter 8. He tells us in His parables that the harvest field of souls is the world. He blesses the Canaanite woman for her great faith. He tells us in his teaching in chapter 24 that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world. And at His crucifixion, the Gentile Centurion said, “Surely this man was the Son of God.” And to top it all off, we have the Great Commission, where Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” The good news of the gospel is that it is for all nations. People of all skin colors. People of all economic classes. The sexually immoral and the self-righteous. Jesus is the way for all to enter the kingdom of God.

How exciting to serve Jesus! We don’t discriminate against anyone. All may come to Jesus. All may trust Him. You don’t have to clean up to come to Him. You don’t have to have it all together. You just have to come to Him. We will stand on God’s truth but we don’t want to use that truth as a weapon to beat people over the head. We want to say as Paul does, we are the chief of sinners, but we have found mercy. Jesus is changing us and though we’ve got a long way to go we are glad to be on the journey with Him, followers of the Way.

What great gifts God has given us in this first verse of Matthew! We are followers of one story, delivered by one Savior, ruled over by one King who is working out His saving purposes for all nations. Jesus makes sense of the past, is a present rescuer and ruler and gives a future and a hope to a world in need of grace.  I hope these will be the great gifts that will guide your heart this Christmas.

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