The Extra-Careful Presentation of Jesus as the Christ
Text: Matthew 1:1-17
Matthew knew what he was up against when he took up his pen to write about Jesus. To present Jesus as none other than “The Christ” of God was no easy task. He had to do his homework very thoroughly before he could present his findings. He knew that critics would examine every single claim that he would make in his Gospel. Thus Matthew began with his Gospel with these words.
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the Son of David, the son of Abraham.”
THE NECESSITY OF ESTABLISHING THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS
One of the things that Matthew needed to do was to establish the identity of Jesus. He would be required to do more than present his opinions. He would have to actually furnish definite genealogical proof of Jesus’ identity.
The establishing of proof by genealogy was a practice that may be traced back to the earliest times. The following examples may be cited to demonstrate this ancient Jewish practice.
1. Simple Genealogical Records
The earliest example of an attempt to keep genealogical records may be found in this text.
“To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot
Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael,
and Methushael begot Lamech…”
2. More Complex Genealogical Records
A more complete and complex example of the keeping of genealogical records may be cited in this text.
“And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years,
and begot a son in his own likeness, after his
image, and named him Seth. After he begot
Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred
years; and he had sons and daughters…
Seth lived one hundred and five years, and
Enosh lived ninety years, and begot Cainan…
Cainan lives seventy years, and begot
Genesis 5: 3-4,6,9,12
3. Genealogical Records as Proof of True Jewish ethnicity
After the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews became even stricter, with reference to the keeping of genealogical records. An intimation of the importance of genealogical records as proof of identity may be found in the following text.
“Then my God put it into my heart to gather the
nobles, the rulers and the people, that they might
be registered by genealogy. And I found a register
of the genealogy of those who had come up in the
first return, and found written in it:
‘These are the people of the province
who came back from the captivity,
of those who had been carried away,
whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of
Babylon had carried away, and who
returned to Jerusalem and Judah,
everyone to his own city.'”
If Matthew had failed to establish the identity of Jesus by genealogy, his Gospel would have been seriously questioned.
UNDERSTANDING MATTHAEN SCHOLARSHIP
Matthew must have done his homework very well, when he decided to include the genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of his Gospel. Here are some reasons why he could have chosen to begin his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. Let us seek to appreciate Matthew’s scholarship in his Gospel.
He had his reasons for writing as he did. Let us consider some of these reasons.
a) A Jewish readership in view
Matthew wrote with a view of reaching fellow Jews. Only a Jew would appreciate the significance of having a careful genealogy presented at the beginning of a book.
b) A Gospel Worth Reading Carefully
What Matthew wrote could be easily checked up and verified. Genealogical records were kept by Temple authorities. If anyone wanted to challenge the authenticity of the claim of Matthew, all he needed to do would be to do his own research. Matthew was unafraid of anyone examining or even scrutinizing his research. He had done his work well. He could prove that Jesus did indeed come from the line of David!
Matthew wanted his readers to know that careful research work had been done before the Gospel was written. The work done surely merited serious consideration from any sincere reader.
c) Vital Contents
Matthew was presenting Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ of God. No theme could be grander or more important! Of course, Matthew had to do his utmost if he were to convince any serious reader to give his Gospel his undivided attention!