Here is a chapter that begins with the words “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” and closes with the statement, “And he called His name JESUS.” When we read Matthew chapter one, let us not be in too big of a hurry and simply skim through it.
It seems clear that the purpose of Matthew’s entire book was to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. As part of that overall theme, chapter one can be divided as follows: (1) Jesus’ genealogy (1:1-17); (2) Mary’s conception and Jesus’ birth (1:18-20,24,25); (3) Jesus’ name, mission, and fulfillment of prophecy (1:21-23).
First, there are some mighty matters to observe in Jesus’ genealogy. It is more than a list of names.
It proves that Jesus was Abraham’s seed (1:1), and that was a must if He really was the Messiah (Genesis 22:18).
It proves that Jesus was David’s offspring (1:1), which also was necessary if Jesus was the Christ and King (2 Samuel 7:12-14). Jesus, because He was counted as Joseph’s adopted son, could be legal heir to David’s throne (Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:30-33). In A.D. 70, Jewish genealogies were destroyed, so after that time no Jew could prove his lineage. This means that the Messiah had to come before A.D. 70.
Women are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy. We read of Tamar (1:3), Rahab (1:5), Ruth (1:5), and the former wife of Uriah (1:6). Their inclusion in this record may hint at the elevated status of women under the new covenant (Galatians 3:28).
Non-Jews are included in His genealogy. Tamar (1:3), Rahab (1:5), and Ruth (1:5) were not the offspring of Jacob. Jesus, though, came to save both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 10:12,13).
Some of those who are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy committed horrendous sins. We read of Judah and Tamar (1:3), Rahab (1:5), and David’s relationship with another man’s wife (1:6). The sinless Christ would save sinners (Luke 5:31,32).
Next we see Mary’s conception that resulted in the birth of Jesus. In verse sixteen, we see a major change in the text. Prior to that, we read repeatedly of a male begetting a male. However, the message of verse sixteen is, “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” The point is clear: Mary was Jesus’ mother, but Joseph was not His biological father.
Four times in this section we read of Mary’s status as a virgin when she conceived Jesus. The text declares that she was “with child of the Holy Spirit” (1:18), that which was conceived in her was “of the Holy Spirit” (1:20), she was a “virgin” (1:23), and Joseph “did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son” (1:25). For anyone who believes that the Bible is God’s inspired word, there can be no denying the truth that Jesus was born from a virgin woman – the first and last instance in history when no male was involved in the process of reproduction. Truly, Jesus was the Son of God.
What about Jesus’ name, mission, and fulfillment of prophecy? Prior to Jesus’ birth, God’s angel told Joseph, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins” (1:21). Look at how our Lord is described in this chapter. He is called “Son of David” (1:1), “Son of Abraham” (1:1), “Jesus,” which means “salvation/Savior” (1:1,16,18,21), “Christ,” which means “the anointed one,” (1:1,16,17,18), and “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us” (1:23).
That name “Jesus” was not given by accident. Joseph did not choose that name (1:21), nor did Mary (Luke 1:30,31). God Himself selected the meaningful name by which His Son would be called. Again, why was the name “Jesus” chosen? Because He would “save His people from their sins” (1:21). Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was not simply to do good things, nor was it just to do miracles and heal the sick. He came to save people from sin! Those whom He would save would not be limited to His own Jewish race; rather, “the saved” would include any person from any nationality who would submit to Him in humble obedience (Hebrews 5:9). As the old spiritual song says, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know.”
About 700 years prior to Jesus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah foretold His virgin birth, declaring that a virgin would conceive, bear a son, and call His name Emmanuel (1:22,23; Isaiah 7:14). An amazing prophecy that was fulfilled in an amazing event!
The next time you read Matthew chapter one, please do not just run through it. Its lessons are immensely valuable, and we are blessed by them.
— Roger D. Campbell