Sunday, September 24, 2023

A Walk in Matthew: Flipping the Script

We are going to tour the book of Matthew, to see where Jesus flips the script of what this world thinks is right to what His Father says is right. I chose Matthew because his gospel is aimed at primarily a Jewish audience.  He wanted to them to understand that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Deliverer of Israel, the Messiah.  Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God once more--Adam and Eve having lost the first one due to disobedience.  Think of it this way:  God told them that they could eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden, including the Tree of Life.  But I believe Satan distracted them to that other tree, because that is the one that led to sin and death--the very business he's in.  

The Fall came because they disobeyed God's command about the tree; they ate of a fruit that allowed them to not only see good (they already had this with a beautiful garden inhabited by God) but to see evil as contrary to good, making good relative, as opposed to absolute.   

If you can see evil, you can do evil.  They ran and hid from God.  That is one definition of evil: You hide from God Who embodies good and you then define it based on your own knowledge, subject to the continuous whisperings of the enemy of your soul.     

Enter Jesus.  The D-Day of Redemption hit the shores of this sinful earth, and He came to undo, one person at a time, all of the evil pervading everywhere He looked. 

But to a Jewish audience, a claim of leadership, especially of Messiahship, required sterling credentials.  Sure, anyone could claim to be king or the Messiah, but was this person fulfilling the  requirements laid down by the prophets?  Excellent question and one Matthew hopes to answer by  Jesus's genealogy.  

Several reasons existed for why the Jews kept such detailed records:

A. Identity: You are a true child of Israel, inheriting all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
B. Tribal Lands: Your tribe meant land and so who you are meant which real estate is rightfully yours.
C. Priest: You must prove descent from Aaron and the tribe of Levi; otherwise you could not serve as a priest.
D. Famous: If you were descended from one of the influential people of the Old Testament (Moses, Gideon, etc.) you were thought to receive a special blessing.
E. Family: The family was essential in Jewish culture and the parents handed down to their children their legacy and history.
F. The Messiah: The Old Testament said He would be the "Son of David," so being able to trace that lineage was crucial. Matthew places Jesus as being descended from David as well as from Abraham. Luke wrote for the Gentiles, thus tracing Jesus' lineage back to Adam. (1)

Matthew reinforces Jesus' Messianic claim by showing His direct descent from King David.  But who else is in the genealogy?  Wouldn't you expect it to be full of righteous people, noble and honorable?  The Messiah can't be descended from, well, those people!  But, guess what?  Those people are just like you and me, and the Messiah unites with us in kinship with fallen people.  He is perfect, but the people He's descended from are not. 

He reverses our notion that election comes from perfection.  Jesus makes common cause with humanity to save humanity. 

Here are just a few highlights of His predecessors:
  • Abraham:  Faithful man of God who also tried to bypass the promise of an impossible conception by sleeping with his servant girl.
  • Jacob:  Rascal, deceiver, and father of the nation of Israel, having been named as such after  fighting with God all night.
  • Judah:  Sleeps with a supposed prostitute, then wants to have her killed, until he finds out he is the father of her children. 
  • David: Great king but terrible father, adulterer and murderer.
  • Solomon: Wise guy but had to figure out that all is vanity by indulging in it. 
  • Manasseh: Brought back idol worship in Judea, undoing his father's legacy, practiced it himself and sacrificed his own son. 
See my point of reversal here?  God used ordinary, sinful, confused, conniving, immoral, well-intentioned people (like you and me) to lay the genealogical foundation for the Messiah, who would wrap Himself in our frail flesh to redeem our frail flesh.

Takeaway?  God uses us, whatever is in our past, to further His kingdom.  The perfect, the self-righteous, the I-am-no-longer-a-sinner types He passes on and looks to us: humble in our assessment of ourselves and knowing that we need a Savior. 

The Kingdom of God is made up of people just like you and me. 

(1) "Why Were Genealogies So Important to Israel?"  

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