Genealogy of the King (Matthew 1:1-17)
The Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of our Lord from Abraham to Joseph. But this was not the bloodline. It was the royal line, however, and carried with it the throne rights. As Son of Abraham, our Lord is the promised seed in whom all nations of the world shall be blessed (Genesis 22:18). As Son of David, He is the King who is to reign in righteousness upon David’s throne (Isaiah 9:6-7). His actual descent from David was through His mother Mary, who was the daughter of Heli. She was married to Joseph before her holy child was born, thus giving Him legal, full title to the throne, though the curse on Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:30) would have precluded His occupancy of it had He actually been the son of Joseph.
Matthew 1:17 epitomizes the genealogy, dividing it into three groups of fourteen generations each. In order to do this, certain names are omitted and in the last instance Mary’ s name has to be counted to make fourteen, unless, as others have suggested, we are to consider the birth of Jesus as the thirteenth and the second coming of Christ as the fourteenth.
Others have drawn attention to the inclusion of the names of five women in this list, all of whom no Jewish chronologist would naturally have desired to recognize. These are Tamar, whose shameful story is recorded in Genesis 38; Rahab the harlot, a Gentile who, though a woman of evil character, became the wife of an Israelite prince; Ruth the Moabitess, also a stranger from among the Gentiles, who entered this royal line only through her levirate marriage to Boaz, her first husband’s near kinsman; Bathsheba, definitely mentioned as “her that had been the wife of Unas,” thus bringing to mind David’s terrible failure; and last of all, the sweetest of all, Mary the virgin of Nazareth, the one whose fair name has been impugned by unbelieving Jews because she became the mother of Jesus apart from the natural order.
What a list is this! How it reveals the grace that is in the heart of God, who in His sovereignty chose to bring these five women into the line of promise. The names of unchaste Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba tell us of mercy that goes out to the most sinful and depraved. The name of Ruth, loyal and devoted, yet a stranger, speaks of grace acting in spite of the ban upon the Moabites (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). When we think of Mary the virgin mother, we adore the God who gave us His holy and blessed Son through her as the human instrument.
Birth of the King (Matthew 1:18-25)
“Before they came together.” The Scriptures are clear about the virgin birth of Jesus. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but had not yet been married to him when he learned that she was to become a mother through direct operation of the Holy Spirit and altogether apart from natural generation. “Minded to put her away privily.” If Mary was not a virgin, the penalty for her condition according to the law was death. Joseph thought to save her from this. “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife.” The wonderful mystery of the incarnation was revealed to Joseph by angelic ministry.
“Thou shalt call his name JESUS.” Jesus from the Greek and Joshua from the Hebrew are one name, and the meaning is “Jehovah the Savior.” “That it might be fulfilled.” This is a distinctive phrase in this Gospel, used often because the object of the inspired writer is to show that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the prophets. “They shall call his name Emmanuel…God with us.” Isaiah made this prediction nearly seven centuries before its fulfillment (Isaiah 7:14). The name given is an intimation of the mysterious union of the divine and the human in the virgin’s Son.
“Took unto him his wife.” He married her notwithstanding her condition, that she might have the place in Israel of a wedded wife before she became a mother. “He called his name JESUS.” Obedient to the last detail, by calling the child “Jesus,” Joseph evidenced the reality of his own faith.
The name “Jesus,” as intimated above, is simply the Anglicized form of the Greek lesous, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew Joshua—“the salvation of Jehovah.” Many had borne that name before the Savior came into the world, and even in its Greek form it was not uncommon. We read of a “Jesus, which is called Justus” in Colossians 4:11. But throughout all the centuries since the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our blessed Lord, that name has stood out as distinct from every other. To Christians it is the name above every name at which every knee shall bow. Having taken it here on earth, He will keep this name “Jesus” for all the ages to come. The two shining ones who announced His future coming (Acts 1:10-11) spoke of Him as “This same Jesus.” In Revelation 22:16 He says, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.” In response to His last message from Heaven, “Surely I come quickly,” the seer replied, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)! By this name we shall know Him throughout a blissful eternity, provided we know Him now on earth as our very own Savior, Jesus, who has redeemed us to God by His blood.