Matthew 1: 1 – 3
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
We lived for several years in a small fishing village on the Moray coast where it was quite common for several generations of a family to have the same Christian name. So common was this practice it often overcame given names. Our next door neighbour was called Jock like his father and grandfather but he called his eldest son Ronald by which name he was known for thirty years until Jock died very suddenly overnight Ronald became known as Jock and I never heard him called Ronald again.
Family memories and loyalties also ran deep. When I was President of the local Bowling Club we filled the post of Treasurer with a long standing club member who until him retired ran a local shop. I was stopped in the street a day or two later by someone who enquired if I and the committee ‘were nae wise’. The new treasurer, he assured me, was a crook, his father had been a crook and his grandfather had been the worst crook for miles around, so bad that all his descendants were crooks. He then walked away, leaving me wondering why the committee had agreed to someone who made Al Capone look like a choirboy becoming treasurer. In a small village it did not take long to find out the story. Before the First World War the two men’s grandfathers had been partners in a fishing boat, but the fishing was not good in the early 1910s and one had asked if the other would buy him out. The boat was valued and a price agreed and paid to dissolve the partnership. Move on to 1915 and the war meant that fish prices had risen considerably, the remaining partner, our treasurer’s grandfather, received an offer for his boat so good he could not refuse. His former partner demanded a share of the sale price and was rebuffed. 70 years later it still cast a shadow over the relationships between the two families.
Names and family history were important to the Jews too and Matthew knew this which is why he starts his Gospel story with his extensive genealogy of Jesus to show that he was a true son of both Abraham and David. All the prophets had said that the Messiah would be of David’s line and Matthew needed to show right from the start exactly who Jesus was.
The Jewish nation had dreamed for centuries since before the exile in Babylon of the coming of the Messiah. It was that dream which held them together in exile and enabled them to rebuild on their return to The Promised Land. Matthew sets out immediately that Jesus is the fulfilment of that dream.
He also wishes to make it clear that the prophets’ visions have also been made flesh.
It might seem strange to us to spend so much effort to establish Jesus’ heritage but it was important to the people Matthew was addressing then. We have the benefit of two thousand years of experience of Jesus sacrificial love for us. The first century Jews were wondering still what was going on and Matthew’s purpose was to tell them.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, we know your name Father Son and Holy Spirit, we know you created us, we know you saved us, we know you guide us, but we only know that because so many have told your story through the years. May we help to keep the story alive for future generations.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,