Introduction to Matthew 1
During Christmas, it is important to reflect on one of the greatest gifts God gives us: his love.
What is love? Biblical love is agape. It is covenantal, self-sacrificial and others-oriented. It’s shown in Christ and displayed through this genealogy in Matthew.
Often, we take no interest in the genealogies in Scripture. But in Christ, they are our family tree.
Context of Matthew 1
- God has been silent since Malachi.
- Matthew is writing to Jews, so he is demonstrating the fulfillment of Old Testament themes and references.
- Matthew uses fulfillment language 12 times and quotes the Old Testament nearly 50 times.
The Promise-Making Love of God (1:1-6)
The Old Testament begins with how the world was made. The New Testament begins with who made it. Verse one of Matthew is the historical record (genealogy/genesis) and shows that Jesus has legal standing/authority to be Messiah. Matthew frames the birth of Christ through the promises of the Son of David and the son of Abraham.
Four loving promises that shape the Christmas story
1. Loving promise of a family
- Abraham (1:2)—Gen. 12:1-3, 7: Demonstrates the promise of blessing and land to Abraham’s offspring. Who is Abraham’s offspring? Not Israel, but Christ (Gal. 3:7-9, 16, 29).
Application: Do we live and love like we are the family of God?
2. Loving promise of a victory
- Judah (1:3)—Gen 49: Emphasis narrows the line and gives the promise of royalty/scepter.
- God fights for his people in faithful obedience and against them in sinful rebellion.
Application: We have victory in Christ, so we can stand against the temptation to sin.
3. Loving promise of a people
- Rahab & Ruth (1:5): Both are not Israelites. Shows that all nations and all types are brought together by God. God has global purposes.
- Jacob & David reveal that God’s chosen ones are not always the firstborn. He chooses who he wants and uses foolish, unexpected things.
- Verse five and the inclusion of women show that all are involved in his plan and purposes. There is no promise-receiving distinction between male and female.
Application: Christmas is the most spiritually receptive time of the year and should warrant us actively sharing the gospel.
4. Loving promise of a kingdom
- King David (1:6): He’s the only one called king in the genealogy, though many others were (2 Sam. 7). Connects the fact that the one who comes humbly as a baby in a manger is actually a warrior king.
Application: Our lives are training grounds to rule with the Lord for eternity. We need to live out that truth in our everyday choices.
The promise-making love of God is the foundation of Christmas. All of the Father’s promises are a “Yes!” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20-22).
The Promise-Breaking Love of Man (1:7-11)
Just like there are bad bulbs on a string of Christmas tree lights, there are bad bulbs in the family tree of God. We often seek the things of this world, not the things above. We respond to God, our promise maker, by being promise breakers, failing to keep his commands (1 John 5:3).
Three loves that pull us away from the love of God
1. Love of forbidden goods
- David (1:6): The man after God’s own heart breaks his promise. He lusts after/desires Bathsheba. He covets her, wanting what he can’t have. He envies Uriah, just as we get jealous of those who have things we don’t have.
- Ultimately, we are dissatisfied with God. We do whatever it takes to get whatever we want, whatever it costs. The example of David reminds us that we either worship God or we worship goods.
Application: How should this reshape the way we approach shopping this Christmas?
2. Love of forbidden power
- Solomon (1:7): He’s a man of wisdom, wives, and wars (chariots). His pattern continues for many of the kings listed in this genealogy. They all misuse the authority and position that they have. For us, there is nothing wrong with ambition, but there is a problem with craving and seeking forbidden power.
Application: If you got everything on your Christmas list, whose world would it change?
3. Love of forbidden gods
- Exile (1:11): Israel is removed from their land because of their sin. The relentless exposure to sin and idols causes them to turn from God to other gods. Their idolatry leads to exile—the promise breakers are removed from land of promise. Apart from Christ, all of us are exiles because of our sin. The wages of our sin is death.
Application: Christ restores all those who trust in Him into the promised land—fellowship with God and eternal life.
The Promising Keeping Love of Christ (1:12-17)
The promise-making love of God is rejected by the promise-breaking love of man. But the promise keeping love of Christ overcomes our sin and restores us to God. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
3 ways this passage shows the promise keeping love of Christ
1. The anticipation of Christ
- After the exile (1:12): God’s land is restored but not his kingdom. There is a mixture of despair and anticipation among the people.
Application: When we are waiting on God, do we respond with despair or anticipation?
2. The birth of Christ
- Mary who gave birth (1:16): This breaks with the “fathered” pattern to highlight Jesus’s special birth. Bible studies often skip to verse 18, but we can’t understand the virgin birth apart from genealogies. We have to look at why this birth was special—how he was born; who was born; why he was born. The birth of Christ was unexpected in every way.
- Jesus’s name means “God saves.” God preserves the bloodline through which redemptive bloodshed would come.
3. The love of Christ
- Messiah (1:16): The anointed one who will restore the kingdom. The Messiah is connected to the promise of a kingdom to David, highlighted in the genealogy.
The promise maker becomes the promise breaker so that he might become the promise keeper.
Application: At Christmas, God’s love came down to us so that our love might go out and share the love of Christ with others.