A Child’s Legacy (10am)
Topic: Jesus & His Legacy Scripture: Matthew 1:1–1:17
When I was going through seminary one of the requirements was serving as a hospital chaplain for several months. As you’d expect, the experience had moments that were very tough but it also turned out to be an extremely formative time for me. One of the assignments the program required was a genogram, a family tree. The wisdom is, by understanding our own history and story, there is space created for us to be a more compassionate and understanding healer. And so I went out and I did my genogram. I scoured through my family history. It started with a few calls and emails to some family members, a trip to the library, and visiting a few online sites and services. I got a great comprehensive look at my family history. When people asked me in the past “what” I was, meaning what heritage or nationality, I would always respond with, “Well, I know I have some Irish and some English in me but I’m pretty much a mutt. A little bit of a bunch of things.” I’ve learned since, that I wasn’t that far off in my assessment, but I also discovered something really interesting about myself. I had an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower. Daniel Wilcox. I found the scanned documents and public records revealing it. I’m not normally one to get caught up in a family tree, but even I had to admit that this discovery was cool. They’ve even got t-shirts for it. Pretty neatI think that there is a lot we can learn by looking at where we come from. And I don’t mean location. I mean our origins and our family ties. We are all our own unique individual persons. We do not have to be defined by the history of our families but I think it is probably foolish to ignore that history entirely. All of us, no matter where or when we come on the scene, we enter into and exist within a legacy. Every human being has a heritage, has ancestors, has stories. Every human being. And that includes Jesus Christ. And that brings us to our text this morning.
I don’t think there are many of us who would say some parts of the Bible are less important than others. After all, we believe all of Scripture is God-breathed and able to impart divine wisdom. But there are portions that we get to where we wonder if a quick skim is enough. I’d wager to bet that our text this morning is one of those texts. This morning we’re looking at Matthew 1:1-17. It’s one of the genealogy texts. And it tells us about the legacy of a very important person. A person who is the focal point of Christmas. A person who enters this world in frailty and in a manger. Let’s look at our text. It’ll be up behind me so follow along and if you’re feeling brave try and pronounce some of these names with me.
Read Matthew 1:1-17.
So at this point, you might be thinking, “How is this a good passage for a sermon?” Scripture is packed with so many different forms of literature: poetry, story, parable, history, instruction. And all of those forms lend themselves to the kind of exposure and investigation that a sermon brings. Often times the genealogies are the skimmed over texts that get left behind. But if we simply gloss over this portion of Scripture I would venture to say that we are missing some of the richest material we have when it comes to celebrating the birth of Jesus this Christmas. We risk missing the chance to discover something incredible about of the person of Christ.
Richard Gardner wrote a commentary on Matthew’s Gospel and when he writes about why Matthew included this genealogy at the very beginning of his gospel he makes the point that not only were genealogies very important to the Jewish culture of the time but that this listing of ancestry reveals much about Jesus himself. Gardner says, “Matthew wants the reader to know how Jesus belongs to the story of Israel – and how that story belongs to him!” Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that Christianity and our faith begins at the manger with the birth of Jesus when, in actuality, the story of faith we enter into has much deeper roots. We risk cutting ourselves off from the richest heritage the world has ever known if we ignore what occurred before that first Christmas. The story of God’s involvement in this world and the faithful people who have come before us is a part of the story we find ourselves in. And that is equally true for the baby Jesus.
So one of the first things we gain from our text this morning is a realization of the family from which Jesus comes. And what a family it is! Matthew’s list goes all the way back to Abraham. And it is worth it to go through here and highlight who is on this list. In fact, by looking more closely at Jesus’ family tree we not only learn more about the centrality and importance of Jesus but we also learn about our own place in this sacred legacy.
Some of these names we know right off the bat. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon. These are familiar names and stories we hear in Sunday school. And then there are names that could ring a bell but we might not be able to quite place. Boaz and Ruth, Rahab, Uriah, Hezekiah. And then there are names like Shealtiel that you could probably go the rest of your life without ever hearing spoken out loud. But each of these names is a story and an indication of who Jesus is. Each of these names contributes to a Child’s Legacy.
For me, I see this family tree offering us a few powerful truths. The first is that Jesus is connected deeply to the promises of God. It’s funny if you read Luke’s genealogy you see his goes all the back to Adam instead of stopping at Abraham. But Matthew was intentional here. Abraham was the one whom the Lord called and said, “Out of you will I make a great nation. Your descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the sky and the sand on the shores. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. And you will be a blessing to all the world.” It was in Abraham that God initiated his relationship of promise to all of humanity. A promise that was passed to Isaac and then Jacob and so on to David. This text reveals to us that Jesus is the culmination and embodiment of God’s long-standing covenant promise to His people. Jesus is the representative and fulfillment of God’s promise. Jesus is the one who not only brings but actually becomes God’s blessing to the people.
And then there’s another section of names that begin at David. All the way down to Josiah, do you know what those names had in common? Aside from being names you probably won’t find in a baby name book? Their all kings. The lineage of Jesus is traced through royalty. Beginning with the man of David, we find the family tree of Jesus take root at the crown and throne. We know David and we’ve heard of Solomon but they were not the only kings of Israel. In fact, Hezekiah and Josiah were known as two of the greatest kings after David. And Jesus is linked directly to those histories. Craig Keener, another commentator, says this, “By evoking great heroes of the past like David and Josiah, Matthew points his readers to the ultimate hero to whom all those other stories pointed.” Jesus is the culmination of the heroic and kingly lineage. Maybe now we can understand why “King of Kings” is such an important title for Christ. All of the other kings in the Old Testament were pointing to Him.
And so from this text, we see that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s promises. Promises that have persisted and been passed down for centuries and generations. The text also opens our eyes to just what we mean when we say that Jesus is the King of Kings. Jesus does not only succeed the ancient kings of old but they actually point to Christ as the King over all. There’s another thing our text reveals to us through the names we find. It’s an important reality and one we might miss. We read names like Abraham and David in here. Names with lofty, rich reputation. But there are a few other names that reveal who else is included in Christ’s legacy.
It’s easy to look over the family tree of Jesus and assume that Jesus comes from the greatest of pedigree. And don’t get me wrong, some of those individuals were heroes of the faith and incredible servants of God. But every single one of them is just like us in one way: they were all broken, sinful people. If we really look at these names we find some people who you wouldn’t assume fit into the genogram of Jesus. Jacob was a deceitful, cunning liar. Rahab was a prostitute and an outsider. Tamar had a really awkward father-daughter relationship. David himself was an adulterer and a murderer. Solomon had as many issues as he was wise. Even Joseph. He was a fearful man consumed with his own image and almost divorced Mary. So what do we see here? We see a collection of scared, broken, messed up people. Outsiders, home-wreckers, and self-absorbed criminals. And all of their mistakes, victories, and stories lead us to one place. The manger where the infant Christ, Emmanuel, and Savior, cries in the night.
Brothers and sisters, you have a place in this story…in this family tree. When we enter into a relationship with Christ we are told we become co-heirs with him. It doesn’t matter what your past has looked like or what mistakes you’ve made or what others have said about you. Your story is wrapped up in the story of Christ. The story of an infant in the manger, yes, but also the story of a Savior on a cross.
And so this long list of names tells us a few things. It tells us that Jesus is the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s promises. That in this child we are given living, breathing proof, that God is faithful and does not forget His people. We learn why Jesus is called the King of Kings. Descended down the line of David, Jesus is a descendant of royalty. He is overall and will rule not only as the king of a country but a king over all of heaven and earth. And we find ourselves in this story. In the presence of Rahab and Jacob and Tamar. In the stories of broken, hurting people we see that there is a place for us in the family of God. We see that no matter how ordinary or tragic or complicated our story may be, that we have a place in the story of the Savior with a legacy as breath-takingly human as our own.
And there’s one more important thing we cannot afford to forget about our text. It points us to, as I’ve said, a living and breathing infant. A human being. A baby who needed to be fed, sheltered from the cold, and held by his parents. This text, more so than maybe any other reminds us that Jesus was in fact fully human. This is the mystery of the Incarnation. The infant Jesus found in all the weakness of humanity and yet being entirely and completely a member of the Triune God.
I learned a good deal from doing my family tree. Not simply where my family came from or interesting tidbits like the Mayflower piece but I also learned where I am in my family. I saw the names read the stories of the people who came before me. It offered me a rare clarity. And I pray that you would take the time to look over our text here in Matthew again later today. That you would go through those names. That you would find your place in this lineage. A lineage we gain entrance to through the work of Christ. I pray that you would be moved by what you find as you examine this Child’s Legacy.