Today’s reading is Matthew 1
Every story has a beginning and we read the beginning of Jesus’ story today in Matthew 1. But think about some of the biographies you may have read. They typically begin with the birth and early life of the person whose life is being profiled. You learn about that person and his or her parents and that’s about it. If any other ancestor is mentioned, that person must have been famous or contributed to the story of the person in the biography.
The four Gospels of the New Testament are not biographies. They focus on Jesus, of course, but with a much greater purpose than any biography ever written. Yet Matthew spent the first seventeen verses of his Gospel tracing the family tree of Christ all the way back to Abraham. Why?
There are several reasons for this. One is that Matthew is a Jewish man writing to Jewish people. The Old Testament contains several genealogies in order to connect God’s people to God’s promises over many generations. A second reason Matthew included this long genealogy was to connect Jesus through Joseph to David. This was necessary because God had promised Messiah would come from David’s line.
I want you to consider a third reason why Matthew included this genealogy: to establish Jesus Christ as a real member of the human race. Right after this genealogy, Matthew described the virgin conception of Jesus (vv. 18-25). This was the first of many, many miracles connected to the life of Christ. Were it not for these genealogical records–which could be checked–many people might dismiss Jesus as a mythological character rather than a real person who lived in human history. In fact, people throughout history and today try to do this! They try to deny that Jesus existed as a historical person, despite Matthew (and Luke’s) attempts to trace the ancestry of Christ, specific the name of his parents, the place and circumstances of his birth, and tell us enough historical facts to certify his place in humanity. The truth of the matter is that we have far more evidence that Jesus existed than we do for guys like Plato and Socrates and others. Nobody denies that they were genuine historical people. But because of the uniqueness of Jesus, the testimonies about his divine power, and his death and resurrection for us, unbelievers would like to relegate him to the land of mythology.
As we start our journey through the New Testament this year, I hope it will strengthen your faith and cause us all to greater understanding, worship, devotion, and obedience to Jesus. That begins today by understanding that Jesus is real. The things he did and said happened in human history and have been recorded in scripture with enough historical detail to erase any questions about him. People may try to deny his virgin birth or his healings, or that he rose from the dead but only a fool would question whether he really lived on earth. Let this give you confidence as we learn more about him in the days ahead.