Christmas Devotion - Day 1212-12-2018 | Matthew Campbell | YOUTH
READ all of Matthew 1:1-17
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations
At The Irish Baptist College, when learning how to preach, we were always taught that how you begin your sermon is extremely important. The first words that come out of your mouth are of profound significance because, in that moment, your listeners are deciding whether or not they are going to pay attention to the rest of your message.
Even if you've never preached or given any sort of talk before, you can probably acknowledge the wisdom in this advice. Whether we like to admit it or not, in the first few moments of listening to a talk or reading a book, we are subconsciously making the choice as to whether or not we think the rest of that particular message is worth our attention.
But it would appear, at first reading, that Matthew in his Gospel account must have skipped this class in Bible college. Think about it - The book of Matthew opens the New Testament. It follows on from 400 years of silence. All of history is eagerly awaiting this Messiah who has been promised throughout the Old Testament. Finally, Matthew is writing to tell us the greatest news in all the earth - The Messiah has come! Yet, how does he begin his message? What is his attention grabbing introduction? It's a lengthy genealogy filled with names we can barely pronounce, let alone spell.
Doesn’t this strike you as odd? What an uninspiring introduction to the New Testament and amazing news that the King has come. Imagine your pastor stood up on the pulpit this Sunday and, by way of beginning his sermon, said, ‘before I begin talking about the text, let me read you out a bit of my family tree.’ Fair to say, I think you would be unenthused. What is Matthew doing?!?
Well, it’s helpful to remember that the Bible is written for us but it isn’t written to us. Although this introduction doesn’t, if you’re completely honest, hook you; Matthew was writing originally to a Jewish audience. Would this introduction capture their attention? You better believe it! The truth is, this genealogy would be extremely scandalous for the original Jewish reader. Why? It breaks almost every rule regarding what sort of family line they anticipated their Messiah having. You would expect this long awaited Messiah to have a genealogy worth bragging about. For the Jew, there would be 3 distinct features a ‘good’ family line would have:
Firstly, the Jewish idea of a 'good' family line is one that is seen as pure. That is, it would need to be a family line whereby no Gentiles are included. Yet, although this genealogy does include many Jews, Jesus’ family line also includes foreigners like Tamar (v3) and Ruth (v5) to name a few.
Secondly, the Jewish idea of a ‘good’ family line would include some of the religious elite. In other words, it would be filled with 'good people.' Yet again, however, Jesus’ genealogy seemingly falls short. We see individuals who are anything but the religious elite. In fact, we see some real rascals in this list of names. Notice Rahab the prostitute (v5) and Bathsheba who was a part of the awkward encounter with King David (v6) as a few examples.
Thirdly, then, a family tree that a typical Jew would be proud of is one in which men are listed. In Jesus' day, the culture regarded women as second class citizens. So, when a family tree is listed, women wouldn’t generally be included. In fact, every pious Jew would begin his public prayers by thanking God he was born a man and not a woman. Yet, notice that 5 women are listed in this lineage.
Can you now begin to see the scandal of Matthew’s introduction? Matthew shows us right from his first chapter that this Messiah isn’t going to be what the Jews expect. However, in beginning his Gospel account in this way, Matthew is emphasizing an extremely important point - Jesus didn’t come for the religious elite. Jesus didn’t come for a particular type of person. Jesus didn’t come for one ethnic minority. Rather, Jesus came to seek and save all who were lost. The love of Jesus crosses all cultural, religious and racial barriers. Paul reiterates this idea in Galatians 3:28 where he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Christmas reminds us that Gods love is limitless and his mercy is far reaching. It is this same barrier-smashing love that allowed broken sinners like you and I to be accepted into God's family. For us, God didn’t just cross the cultural barrier, he crossed the cosmic barrier. At Christmas time we remember how he left the splendor of heaven and stepped into human history, so that the finished work of his Son on the cross would defeat death and sin.
Questions for reflection
1) How does the fact that Jesus came to save all kinds of people cause you to praise him today?
2) Perhaps you have friends / family who you tend to think would never be the sort of person to come to Christ. How does this devotion encourage you / challenge your thinking?
3) Read Galatians 3:28 again. Do you see this sort of diversity among God's people in your church? How can you make an added effort to talk to / encourage those in your church who are extremely different to you?
Prayer for today:
God, thank you that your love knows no bounds. Thank you that, in the gospel, there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Give me the faith to remember your limitless love today when to doubt it to be true in my own life or in the lives of other people.