Matthew's Account of Jesus' Genealogy:Strong Evidence for the Messiah

The Legal Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Matthew launches into his gospel in a unique way. He starts with the genealogy of Jesus. This is an interesting approach because he doesn’t start by telling a story, he doesn’t start with some background about who Jesus was personally, or some commentary on Jesus’ life, he starts with the ancestral line of Jesus. More importantly, he lays out a legal lineage for Jesus. This is extremely important because Matthew is making an argument to the Jewish people. He is arguing that their Messiah has come, and He has come in the fulfillment of the prophecies. It’s no accident that Matthew starts here with the genealogy because he knows that there are two factors that must exist if he is going to successfully create a case for Jesus being the Messiah.


Two Critical Requirements to be Messiah

The first one is that Jesus must be from the tribe of Judah. The Redeemer was to come as the lion of the tribe of Judah. This goes all the way back to a prophecy from the Old Testament which said that Judah would remain on the throne of Israel. This meant that the ultimate King, the ultimate Messiah of Israel had to come from the tribe of Judah.


The second was that the Messiah must come from the line of David. This goes back to a promise that God made to David while David was on the throne; that God was going to raise up an heir from David’s line that would sit on the throne forever and would establish an eternal Kingdom over which He would reign. This Messiah would be God Himself, and so, Matthew understood that if he could not satisfy these two requirements, immediately, there was no further discussion to be had about Jesus being the Messiah. This was why he began his gospel with the legal genealogy of Jesus.


The Son of David

The central theme of this genealogy is “The Son of David.” If you notice as you go down through the genealogy, David is not referred to as simply David, he is referred to as David the king. This is important because Matthew is going to continue to position Jesus as the Son of David throughout his gospel, and because of this, the rightful heir to David’s throne. As Jesus revealed His Deity throughout the book of Matthew, and Matthew recorded His Deity, it becomes clear that the Son of David is also the Son of God, and the Messiah, and the eternal King of Israel that is to sit on David’s throne forever.


This truth is immense because it is more fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus had come not just to be a savior of the world, He had not come just to die, He had not come just to do miracles, but He had come to fulfill thousands of years of prophecy and complete the promises that were made to the patriarchs and to David.


Women and Gentiles in the Line of Jesus?

It is interesting to note that, in the genealogy, Matthew broke with tradition. Generally, genealogies in Israel were only about men, meaning only the male names were mentioned in a genealogy. However, Matthew completely broke with that tradition by adding into the genealogy several women. More than that, he added several Gentile women, and this is an incredible picture that Matthew created here as he built this genealogy. Jesus Christ has come to be the Messiah to the Jews, and also the Savior of the world.


Matthew crafted this message very beautifully into the genealogy by mentioning people like Tamar, whose life story is scandalous, however, she was added into the line, and Rahab the prostitute from Jericho, who again, is marked by a life of sin until she was confronted by the children of Israel and by the ultimate doom of her city and chose to put her faith in the God of Israel. Also, Ruth the Moabitess, an idol worshiper but followed her mother-in-law back to the people of Israel and left her idol worship in the past to become a follower of the one true God. She would ultimately be redeemed by the kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, in an incredible picture of what the Messiah was ultimately going do for sinners.


The fact that Matthew included these people into the line of the Messiah shows that He was explaining to the Jewish audience that he was trying to reach, “Yes, Jesus is from the tribe of Judah. Yes, Jesus is from the line of David, and yes, Jesus is the Savior of the world. In him, all mankind, both Jew and Gentile, find hope.”


The people in the line of the Messiah were not perfect people, they were fallen people, and they were sinful people. They were people who are as much in need of a Savior as anyone else, and that’s part of the beauty of this genealogy in the opening section of Matthew. Jesus didn’t come from this line of super people. Jesus came from a line of people that were broken and fallen, and through His perfect life, He was going to overcome all of that; all of the sin of the world, all of the broken people, all of the fallen people of the world, and He was going to become a message, a center of hope for lost people. This is a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ humanity. He is incarnate, His full God nature, combining with fully human nature to become the ultimate man, fully man, fully God, perfect in every way, the only one who could ultimately accomplish the work that He accomplished.


The Messiah came from Abraham and David

There are several super important verses in this genealogy. The most important one is the first verse because, in it, Matthew lays out exactly where he is heading with his argument. He begins by making a very blunt statement, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.” He is saying, “Hey, this man, He is the fulfillment of the promise. He is the one who has been looked for and waited for, and in verse one, I’m going give it to you, right here, He’s the son of David, He’s the son of Abraham, He is the coming King, He is the Messiah.” From this point, Matthew begins to bring his argument together for why Jesus is the Messiah. However, all of it, everything else that he says afterward is pointless, if he doesn’t first make this claim and make this claim well and founded on evidence.


The next major verse is the sixth verse. This is where David is specifically noted as King David. Matthew is making it clear who he is talking about. This is not a nice family tree, this is not so that people can say, “Oh, this is the great, great grandpa of, of Jesus.” This notation “David the king,” is so that Matthew has a foundation for his argument to say, “David is King, Jesus is his heir. Therefore, Jesus is royalty, and He has the right to ascend to David’s throne.” That is the whole purpose of this genealogy.


A Foreshadowing of Divine Adoption

The last important verse in this passage is verse sixteen. The reason verse sixteen is so incredibly important is that, depending on the translation, there is language throughout this passage of “so and so was the father of so and so, or so and so begat so and so.” This is genealogical language. In verse sixteen it says, “and Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” It is important to understand that the statement “of whom Jesus was born,” is the same Greek word, as “the father of” or “begat.” The reason this is so important is that Matthew is recognizing that Joseph is not the earthly father of Jesus. He is recognizing that Mary is the earthly mother of Jesus, but that Joseph is the adoptive father of Jesus. Joseph, in the beginning, did not want to take Mary; he was planning to end their betrothal. However, he was given a dream in which an angel spoke to him, and he obediently took Mary as his wife. By virtue of taking Mary as his wife, he adopted her offspring! He adopted Jesus to be his legal son, and that brings Jesus into the line of King David because the line of King David ran through Joseph.


This is an incredible picture of the adoption of sinners into the family of God. Jesus, the God-man, born of a woman, through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, was adopted by his earthly father into a royal family. Through the work of Jesus on the cross, dying for the sin of mankind, sinners who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and in His work, are adopted by their Heavenly Father into the Royal Family of God. This parallel is stunning! However, if you were to just skip over this passage because it’s a genealogy, you would miss all of this.


That is why it is so important to see what Matthew is saying here. He is saying, “Hey, look, Jesus is a part of the line of David by virtue of the obedience of Joseph in taking Mary as wife and thereby taking Jesus to be his son. We who are outside the family of God, are adopted by God through the obedient work of Jesus Christ and are brought into His royal family. It is plain to see that this genealogy creates a beautiful backdrop for the case that Matthew is going to go on to make throughout the remaining chapters of his gospel; that Jesus is indeed the Christ, that He is the Messiah, that He is God, that He is the Savior, and that He is the hope of all mankind for salvation.


Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy because He is the Messiah

The main core of Matthew’s argument throughout the remainder of this book is going to be Jesus’ fulfillment of the prophecies. The Jewish people knew the Scriptures, they learned the Scriptures, they knew the prophecies, they knew that a Messiah was coming, and they knew some of the things that they needed to look for. Matthew was aware of this, and that is why Matthew used more Old Testament Scripture than any other gospel writer. He understood that if he was going to make a case that Jesus was the true Messiah, then he was going to have to show his Jewish audience, that Jesus fulfilled the prophets, and he talked a lot about that, even here in the genealogy.


Matthew showed that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy that the Messiah would come from the line of David. However, he went even further. In Genesis 22:18, God promised to Abraham that, through him, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. A quick look at the genealogy shows two Canaanite women! They represent the gentiles of the world! They are different people who are outside of the Kingdom of Israel, and they are blessed by being in the line of the Messiah, and through the Messiah, salvation will eventually come to the Gentiles! It is clear to see, even in this genealogy, that God is fulfilling His promise to Abraham, through Jesus.


God was also fulfilling His promises to Israel through the prophet Isaiah found in Isaiah 9:6-7, that a child would be born, and He will be elevated to the level of King. He would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, of the greatness of His government and peace, there will be no end, and He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness, from that time on and forever.” See, God was bringing these incredible promises that He made hundreds even thousands of years in the past, He was bringing them into fulfillment at that moment, and Matthew understands that he is capturing it for his audience! He’s excited and saying, “Wait, you got to see this! I have to start with this genealogy because if you miss this, you miss everything!” He is telling his Jewish audience, “See, this is what we have waited for! This is the Messiah! This is the fulfillment of the promises to our forefathers! We can’t miss this! We have to see this!”


All of Scripture is Relevant

If you miss that, you miss Matthew’s entire point, because what Matthew is trying to say to his audience, to his readers, to the Jews of that time, and to the believers of today is that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. Jesus is the “waited for one.” Way back in Genesis, when God Himself declared that He would raise up a deliverer from the seed of the woman; this is it! Matthew has understood that! He has seen it for what it is, and now he is so excited to share this with his people. Matthew would not be alone in seeing this. Luke was also going to write about this, and Paul was going to confirm this truth in Galatians 3:16, which reads, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, Scripture does not say and to seeds, meaning many people, but to your seed, meaning one person who is Christ.”


The authors of the Gospels, Paul, and the early Church understood this, that all of the promises that God had made were found in this one man, Jesus Christ, who was fully man, fully God, the lion of the tribe of Judah who had come to prevail, and He was going to reign forever. He was the hope that had been looked for through all of Israel’s history, and through this genealogy, Matthew began laying down a solid foundation to say, “All of the arguments I am going to make that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, that He is God, they sit and they rest on this one point; that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy, that He is the son of David, that He fulfills the promise of Abraham, and that He will bring blessing to all the families of the world, through Himself, through His life, through His death, through His resurrection, and through His eternal kingdom that He is already reigning over!


So, Why Should We Care?

So, what does this all mean for people today? It screams the legitimacy of Jesus! It says that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be. CS Lewis put it best when he said this, “A man who was merely a man, and said the sorts of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher, he would either be a lunatic on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the devil of hell.” CS Lewis is saying, Jesus either was who said He was, He was insane, or He was satanic. There are only three options! However, the evidence of who God is plainly visible, and Matthew is just getting started! He is going to lay out twenty-eight long chapters of evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, and you know why? For the simple fact that God doesn’t ask for blind faith or faith in something that is ridiculous that can’t be understood or that has no evidence. It is faith in a God who has revealed Himself to humankind, both in person and in His Word, throughout the pages of history, by promising and fulfilling, by meeting and providing, by judging and forgiving, and by giving humankind His perfect Word.


The evidence exists to such a degree, that now if one does not want to believe in God, they must actually turn away from revealed truth. If one choose not to believe in God, they must close their eyes to firm evidence and to a firm foundation and say, “No, I reject this because I do not want God to be a part of my existence.”


The Evidence for Jesus is Overwhelming

It is estimated that Jesus fulfilled somewhere between seventy-two and three hundred prophecies. However, if you take just the minimum 72 prophecies, which is fairly agreed upon amongst believers, then it is important to understand the probability of one man fulfilling seventy-two ancient prophecies about himself. The mathematics and astronomy professor Peter W. Stoner actually said, “Let’s just take eight prophecies, and let’s look at the probability of that.” Eight ancient prophecies being fulfilled by a man like Jesus is a chance of 1 in 10, to the 17th power. To illustrate this, Professor Stoner gave this example. Such a probability would be equivalent to covering the whole state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep. Then expecting a blindfolded man to walk across the state, and, on the very first try, find the one coin that was marked beforehand. You see, God has given us evidence of Himself, and Matthew has laid out the foundation for his gospel’s argument in this genealogy, and He continues to lay out the evidence for why people can confidently believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the savior of the world.