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What do you do with Jesus? This is an age old question. Is he a great teacher? Is he a prophet? Is he just another religious leader? Or is he something more? In a world that seems to be searching for answers about who Jesus is, Matthew’s gospel does not leave room for a lot of doubt. In the opening chapter, Matthew has taken great pains to show us that Jesus heir to the promises to Abraham and to David the king.

Now here in Matthew chapter 2, we begin to see that Jesus is not a neutral figure. It is not uncommon to see Matthew 2:1-12 retold each year around Christmas. I mean after all many of us justify the tradition of giving gifts, because the wise men brought gifts to Jesus. However, it is unfortunate that fundamental message of these verses is lost by our modern depictions of these magi from the east.

We see them show up in Jerusalem asking “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews?” (2:2). But this question is not met with joyous celebration but uneasiness and agitation. We read that “Herod…was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (2:3). In a city that should have been longing for God to send a king in the line of David, this announcement should have been met with great joy, but it wasn’t.

While it might be understandable that Herod was upset by this announcement, the response of “all the chief priests and scribes of the people” is particularly troubling. They know the scriptures. They know that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, but they don’t care. Now you might say that is a little harsh, but don’t be quick to excuse them. They have heard that a Messiah-like figure has been born and know where to find him, but they don’t go anywhere!

This is what makes the wise men, such important characters. They have traveled hundreds of miles to find a Jewish king. Instead of responding in apathy or agitation, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” at just seeing the star that mark the Messiah’s location (2:10). They did not just come to see Jesus, they came and “fell down and worshiped him.” That is the bottom line. There is only one one proper response to Jesus: Worship!


Matthew opens his gospel by tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham to David, from David to the deportation to Babylon, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ. Matthew wants to establish for us up front that Jesus is the seed of Abraham through whom all the nations would be blessed. Furthermore, he wants us to see that Jesus is an heir of David the king. Yet when Jesus enters the scene it is not against the backdrop set by the prosperity of Abraham’s seed, but against the brokenness of a people still feeling the effects of Babylonian conquest and exile. When Jesus enters the scene the throne of David is almost forgotten and a Gentile rules of Israel.

However, as you read Matthew 1, don’t miss the importance of Joseph. The entire genealogy of Jesus account in the opening 16 verse traces from Abraham to Christ through “Joseph, the husband of Mary.” So let me observe 4 things from Matthew 1:18-25 that highlight just how significant Joseph’s role in coming of Christ.

  • First, Jesus is conceived while betrothed to Joseph. (1:18). Matthew is quick to qualify the conception by indicated that the conception occurred after the formal betrothal, but before they had become intimate. In other words, there was a formal, possibly even legal, aspect to their relationship when Mary got pregnant. They were not just friends or acquaintances. They were more like an engage couple, though our modern engages carry with them far less commitment.
  • Second, we should observe that Joseph was a “just man.” He feared God and had compassion for others. When he discovers that Mary is pregnant, he understands the sinfulness and shame that would have accompanied the announcement that the child was not his. Yet rather than make a public spectacle of her, Joseph “resolved to divorce her quietly.” Maybe we can all learn something from Joseph about how to deal with sins against us by trying to deal with them privately rather than publicly.
  • Third, God goes out of his way to convince Joseph to stay. God sends and angel to explain the situation to him in a dream. Joseph is addressed as a “Son of David.” In one sense this is why Joseph is important. If Jesus is to be a son of David, then his “father” must be a son of David. So while Jesus may have been conceived by the Holy Spirit,” he would be regarded as a son of Joseph, son of David.
  • Finally, we notice Joseph’s response; he obeys God. He takes Mary as his wife, yet does not consummate the marriage until after Mary had given birth. And Joseph assumes his proper place as Jesus father by exercising his fatherly rights in naming the child, Jesus. We may miss this in our modern culture, but in 1st century Israel, the practice was for fathers to name their children, so by naming Jesus, Joseph places a final stamp on recognizing Jesus as his son and therefore a son of David and an offspring of Abraham.

I want to draw attention to three observations from the genealogy of Jesus recorded in Matthew 1:1-17. While a list of fathers and sons might seem dry and boring, these verses are anything but. They stand as a reminder that God is intentional, God is gracious, and God is faithful.

God is Intentional.

First, the passage opens by drawing attention to the fact that Jesus is “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). The story that begins here at the beginning of Matthew is not really the beginning. If we read Matthew without an understanding of the Old Testament, it is like watching the original Star Wars movies without knowing the back story. We might understand what is going on, but we would have a greater appreciation if we took the time to learn about what happened first.

If we go back and read Genesis (especially chapters 12, 15, and 17), we find out pretty quickly that God made promises to Abraham that among other things nations would be blessed through him and kings would come forth from him. Then in 2 Samuel 7 we see God making promises to David about a future kingdom for his offspring. The idea of a coming King did no begin with the Gospels it began with Genesis.

God is Gracious.

The genealogy of Jesus is not just dipped but drenched in grace. Take Abraham for instance. He was a pagan from the land of Ur when God called him and told him to go to a foreign land (Genesis 12). Then there is Judah who engages in prostitution (Genesis 38) and David who participated in adultery with the wife of Uriah. Yet despite these moral imperfections we seem them used by God to preserve the Messianic line.

At the same time, from Rehoboam on the throne of Israel is occupied by one bad king after another.  That is not to say that all the kings were evil, but a general reading of 1st & 2nd Kings or 1st & 2nd Chronicles reveals the general tenor of the kings as evil in the eyes of God and prone to idolatry. It is a wonder that God continued to bear with the sons of David as long as he did. Even after the deportation, God continue to preserve the line of David.

God is faithful.

The genealogy ends with “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (1:16). After generations of waiting for the promises to Abraham and David to be fulfilled, the long await Messiah had come. While some may have thought God had forgotten about his promise, the reality is that God was simply waiting for the appropriate time to bring forth the One who would save his people from their sins.