Broxbourne Parish Church has kindly invited me to give four talks for Lent. This Wednesday I gave the first one and was encouraged that the hall was packed. The plan is to give four talks on Matthew’s Gospel. In the first talk I looked at Chapter 1 with the genealogy of Jesus and then his names Jesus and Immanuel. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus has three unique features which introduce his account of Jesus’ ministry.
1. Jesus has evil people in his background whereas normally contemporary genealogies airbrushed out any skeletons which might have been in the cupboard. We see this in the inclusion of Rahab who was a prostitute. David’s sin with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, the listing of fearfully evil kings in his family tree. This may be linked to the name ‘Jesus’/the Lord saves. All people, both Jew and non-Jew, who become ‘his people’ and follow him can experience the reality of all our sin being washed clean through Jesus’ cross and resurrection. In Jesus Yhwh comes down to earth in order to save.
2. Jesus has various non-Jews in his genealogy. It might seem a scandal that Jesus should have foreigners and Gentiles in his ancestry. But despite his strongly Jewish emphasis Matthew stresses Jesus’ wider ministry not only to his own Jewish people, but also to all peoples. This emphasis on the universality of Jesus’ purposes is so relevant to our multi-ethnic society and also to mission worldwide.
3. In spite of the chauvinistic culture of 1st century Jewish life Matthew includes various women in Jesus’ background. We may smile and point out that most of us have women in our family backgrounds – they do play a part in our birth! Matthew purposely underlines how Jesus exalts women and their role in the Christian faith. Indeed in Matthew 28 the only witnesses to the resurrection are two women and Jesus commands them to “go and tell” (28.10). The Greek word for ‘tell’ has a proclamatory significance, so they were the first preachers of the resurrection, the very heart of the good news of Jesus. We may add that it is still also allowed for men to preach!
The genealogy starts with the assertion that Jesus the Messiah is the son of David and the son of Abraham. He is the king of God’s kingdom and he is thoroughly kosher in his messianic identity. The climax in 1.17 underlines the absolute glory of Jesus with its threefold repetition of the number 14 – the letters forming the name David in Hebrew add up to 14; and 14 is 2 x 7, the number of fullness and perfection.
In coming weeks I will share a little more of what I will be teaching on this course. You may also like to read more on Matthew in my book *Matthew and Mission – the Gospel through Jewish eyes” which is available through Jews for Jesus.