“Fulfillment Not Failure”: What Jesus’ Genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 Really Means

Jesus' GenealogyMatthew 1:1-17 is one of the most unappreciated and misrepresented texts in the entire New Testament. Preachers miss its point entirely and preach shallow, self-centered, incorrect sermons at the beginning of December. Did you hear a sermon about Jesus’ genealogy this Christmas season? Your preacher probably got it wrong. Let’s see what the Bible says about Jesus’ genealogy and what it really means for us today.

A Flawed Trend

Preachers seem embarrassed by Jesus’ genealogy. They try to read the names quickly and confidently, throw in a joke or two, and pull out a few morals or principles. They give the impression that this list of names has no meaning unless we can relate to some of its characters. One famous preacher demotes it to the status of a “Jewish phone book.”

What the Bible Says

The first verse tells us all we need to know: “The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). A “genealogy” traces someone’s ancestry. “Christ” (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah”) refers to the one whom God promises to anoint with His Spirit to accomplish His purposes on behalf of His people. David is Israel’s greatest king. God promises him, “Your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). Abraham is Israel’s founding father. God promises him, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3, etc).

Jesus fulfills all of God’s promises to His people in the Old Testament. Matthew summarizes all of Old Testament history at the start of his Gospel to show that it all points ahead to and finds fulfillment in Jesus.

What It Means For Us Today

If you don’t understand what Matthew 1:1-17 says, you won’t understand what it means for us today. The best most preachers can muster is, “God uses imperfect people to do His will” or, “Jesus was born into a family of sinners who need a Savior.” Both of these statements are true but beside Matthew’s point. God doesn’t work through these people in spite of their failures. He works through them to fulfill His promises.

Jesus is the guarantee that God will fulfill His promises to us. Just as He promised to send Jesus the first time, so He promises to send Jesus a second time. His promises sustained Israel’s hope and obedience throughout their long history of persecution, oppression, and exile, and in the face of such temptations as idolatry, immorality, and false teaching. The church faces the same threats as the people of God today.

The promise of Jesus’ coming secures our hope and obedience as it did for ancient Israel, for God has proven Himself faithful to fulfill His promises. The fulfillment of prophecy is a dominant theme in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus’ genealogy highlights the fulfillment of God’s promises – not the failures of His people.

Question for Comments:

Do you think we should focus on the faithfulness of God or the failures of His people?

6 thoughts on ““Fulfillment Not Failure”: What Jesus’ Genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 Really Means

  1. With any genealogy people will roll their eyes and skip over the section asking the questions, “Why is this important? How can I apply this to my life?” I admit I’ve done and said this numerous times. I’ve heard only one solution from preachers and others; “Even God uses sinners!” What’s the problem here? Focus. It’s becoming people focused instead of God focused.

    So, do I think we should focus on the faithfulness of God over the failures of His people? Absolutely. Otherwise, we’re taking the Bible and focusing on ourselves instead of on God; thus proving our selfishness.

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