Matthew 1:1–17 Luke 3:23–38
Article 3: Making sense of Matthew
There’s so much I could write about this guy, and I’m sure you’d love to read a million page article… However as I respect your time I’ll make this one shorter than the last.
Purpose of the gospel
To prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal King
Matthew (also known as Levi)
Matthew’s gospel is clearly written for a Jewish Christian audience living within the immediate proximity of the homeland itself. Matthew’s is the most Jewish of all the gospels.
Approximately AD 60–65
Matthew was a Jewish Tax collector who became one of Jesus’ disciples. This Gospel forms the connecting link between the Old and New Testament
Key verse from the gospel
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose”. — Matthew 5:13
Matthew is filled with messianic language (“Son of David” is used throughout) and old testament references (53 quotes and 76 other references). This Gospel was not written as a chronological account; it’s purpose was to present the clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Saviour.
Introduction to Matthew
Not a fan of paying your bills? Nor me really, but I understand they’re necessary. But I often think of all you could do with those extra pennies.
What if you’re bills were higher than they should be and you knew the government had been fiddling with the payments to increase them unfairly against you but your neighbour kept the cheaper rate? Well now let me introduce you to Matthew’s life.
Matthew was one of Jesus’ 12 close disciples. Once Matthew was a despised man, he was one of these tax collectors who, despite being Jewish would collect tax from the Jews (strike one!), many tax collectors overcharged because they misused their authority to their gain(strike two!). And if that wasn’t bad enough, he worked for the Romans! (strike three!) Safe to say many Jews were not fans of tax collectors, neither did they love the Romans, their oppressors who over the years treated Israel like dirt.
So no wonder in this time were many Jews talking about the coming Messiah! A king to overthrow the Roman empire, to set their people free, to reign over the whole world, charging down with chariots of fire. Matthew may well of been one crying out for the Messiah, yet working as a tax collector he would have been heavily burdened and wondering if he really was doing what God wanted him to do when so often, he seemed to be opposed by his own people on a daily basis because of his job.
I believe the testimony of Matthew is one of absolute fascination and hope which we can all relate to today.
Jesus Calls Matthew (Matthew 9:9–13)
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.
11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do.”
13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Imagine the scene; Jesus, potentially with flocks of people around him, (The pharisees watching him closely also) walks through town and as he approaches the tax collectors district, you hear a follower of Jesus say “Jesus don’t bother with those people, they’re only in it for themselves, they betray their own people” and with a collective jeer they all rally behind the followers outcry. But Jesus stops, walks toward the tax collector, calls him by name and says “follow me and be my disciple”.
and all the Jews in the house say.. WHAT?
And then Matthews like What?!
The crowd are either in hysterics or shock, they cannot believe what they’re seeing, a tax collector, a filthy Roman-Jew in their eyes being invited into Jesus’ close circle and they’ve only just met!
Matthew, in tears of joy or close leaps at the offer and finally understands that feeling of joy and acceptance he’s longed for and from such a famed man. And we read immediately after, Jesus and his disciples were invited back to his for dinner, along with many other tax collectors and sinners, The crowd following Jesus now were no longer individuals chasing a Jewish celebrity, they were broken, lost people who were hated by everyone around them.
And the pharisees bubble up with rage and pride for they think they see a fault in Jesus’ ministry. They proceed to question why Jesus would sit with such “scum” to the disciples, as if Jesus couldn’t hear. Then Jesus rises up and says:
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do.”
and He challenges them at their own game! Jesus says;
“Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Now.. that’s a bit awkward really for those pharisees… The very essence of a pharisee is to know, teach and live out the scriptures yet in one verse he’s debunked their whole ministry! and we know from the rest of Jesus’ ministry they responded in anger and vengeance, they refused to take advice or understand someone greater than they were, someone who understood things they did not for they had made their own religion to suit their needs in their own legalistic way.
And we know later Jesus got to the heart of this problem with a brilliant illustration we see here;
Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke 18:9–14)
9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else:
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people — cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!
12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Matthew recognised what Jesus brought to the table, a life that he never thought he could have, a vision beyond what he valued himself at and a heart he didn’t know was in the right place. Many of us, like Matthew have a good heart but do not see the full potential of what you can do with it. We scheme and plan our great visions, give to charity, give a sandwich to the homeless here and there and we know we do good as it makes us feel proud.
But what Jesus has said here to Matthew, and to us is don’t just do because it is good, don’t live for “I’ve done my good deed today” give yourself to something more. Matthew here became a follower of Jesus, through this he didn’t weigh up what good deeds he could do, a life with Jesus made it as natural as breathing. He had purpose, meaning and understanding for who he was, why he was here and what was his mission.
God called Matthew out specifically to speak on behalf of Jesus to the Jews after the resurrection because news of Jesus, which was already well known beyond Israel began to spread like a wildfire. We know Jesus had appeared to over 500 people post-resurrection which was bound to stir up many to travel far and wide to preach about what they had seen. But many did not always know how to share his message. Jews all over the known world were hearing about this Jesus claimed Messiah and it was Matthew, inspired by God penned his gospel to speak to the hearts and minds of the Jewish people and provide a key biography for all Jewish people. They had a choice to make, a new life in God’s vision through Jesus, or a refusal and stay with the way of the pharisee. Even though Matthew wrote to the Jews, it’s immensely important we understand that message because for many of us it will help to contextualise that big collective of books we call the Old Testament
We see here in today’s passages we have two genealogies, one written by Luke, whose audience was the gentile, the non-believer, and one by Matthew. These passages start us off with the difference between these two authors and their audiences. Through this we will also understand a range of questions you might have, not know you have, could develop as you read.Enjoy!
The Ancestors of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:1–17)
1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
4 Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
5 Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
6 Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.
Abijah was the father of Asa.
8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.
Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.
9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham.
Jotham was the father of Ahaz.
Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh.
Manasseh was the father of Amon.
Amon was the father of Josiah.
11 Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).
12 After the Babylonian exile:
Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.
Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.
Abiud was the father of Eliakim.
Eliakim was the father of Azor.
14 Azor was the father of Zadok.
Zadok was the father of Akim.
Akim was the father of Eliud.
15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar was the father of Matthan.
Matthan was the father of Jacob.
16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.
17 All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.
And our other passage along side this is
The Ancestors of Jesus (Luke 3:23–38)
23 Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry.
Jesus was known as the son of Joseph.
Joseph was the son of Heli.
24 Heli was the son of Matthat.
Matthat was the son of Levi.
Levi was the son of Melki.
Melki was the son of Jannai.
Jannai was the son of Joseph.
25 Joseph was the son of Mattathias.
Mattathias was the son of Amos.
Amos was the son of Nahum.
Nahum was the son of Esli.
Esli was the son of Naggai.
26 Naggai was the son of Maath.
Maath was the son of Mattathias.
Mattathias was the son of Semein.
Semein was the son of Josech.
Josech was the son of Joda.
27 Joda was the son of Joanan.
Joanan was the son of Rhesa.
Rhesa was the son of Zerubbabel.
Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel.
Shealtiel was the son of Neri.
28 Neri was the son of Melki.
Melki was the son of Addi.
Addi was the son of Cosam.
Cosam was the son of Elmadam.
Elmadam was the son of Er.
29 Er was the son of Joshua.
Joshua was the son of Eliezer.
Eliezer was the son of Jorim.
Jorim was the son of Matthat.
Matthat was the son of Levi.
30 Levi was the son of Simeon.
Simeon was the son of Judah.
Judah was the son of Joseph.
Joseph was the son of Jonam.
Jonam was the son of Eliakim.
31 Eliakim was the son of Melea.
Melea was the son of Menna.
Menna was the son of Mattatha.
Mattatha was the son of Nathan.
Nathan was the son of David.
32 David was the son of Jesse.
Jesse was the son of Obed.
Obed was the son of Boaz.
Boaz was the son of Salmon.[h]
Salmon was the son of Nahshon.
33 Nahshon was the son of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the son of Admin.
Admin was the son of Arni.[i]
Arni was the son of Hezron.
Hezron was the son of Perez.
Perez was the son of Judah.
34 Judah was the son of Jacob.
Jacob was the son of Isaac.
Isaac was the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the son of Terah.
Terah was the son of Nahor.
35 Nahor was the son of Serug.
Serug was the son of Reu.
Reu was the son of Peleg.
Peleg was the son of Eber.
Eber was the son of Shelah.
36 Shelah was the son of Cainan.
Cainan was the son of Arphaxad.
Arphaxad was the son of Shem.
Shem was the son of Noah.
Noah was the son of Lamech.
37 Lamech was the son of Methuselah.
Methuselah was the son of Enoch.
Enoch was the son of Jared.
Jared was the son of Mahalalel.
Mahalalel was the son of Kenan.
38 Kenan was the son of Enosh.[j]
Enosh was the son of Seth.
Seth was the son of Adam.
Adam was the son of God.
Excuse the cheesy graphic but perhaps spend a couple of minutes looking at it, then reread the passages alongside it if you can and follow the lines…
Some questions may arise now, if not I’ll point them out for you..
- Don’t the timelines of Matthew and Luke contradict each other?
- Matthew can’t count, I see only 13 generations after the exile? Who’s missing and why?
- Why did they have different timelines for different audiences and why are these genealogies so important?
- Why do they both lead up to King David as individual paths?
And I will say, I’m glad you asked.
So let’s take the first question;
Don’t the timelines of Matthew and Luke contradict each other?
The Straightforward answer is no.
What we do see is something we all have; a mother’s family tree and a father’s family tree. Luke traces the family tree legal line through Mary but Joseph wasn’t the father of the son she had, which is why it says
“Jesus was known as the son of Joseph”.
But not the actual son of Joseph. We know if we read on in Matthew’s gospel Mary becomes pregnant as a virgin and Joseph ‘accepts’ her as his wife, they had not laid with each other because they were not married.
In Matthew’s gospel we have Joseph’s family tree, the physical bloodline which stems from Joseph to David known as the royal line (because of the line of kings going back to David through his side of the family). Matthew wrote his book to Jews to present Jesus as king and Messiah, the promised descendant of David who would reign forever. Isaiah 11:1–5
It just so happens that God thought about this all the way back at David and guides the family paths through all the years. So even when it looked like God was silent in that period between New and Old testaments, he was actually preparing and steering the family line.
Matthew can’t count, I see only 13 generations after the exile? Who’s missing and why?
It’s a big question of interest, these articles will help you to pin down these answers (Also see my notes for Matthew 1:8 in the breakdown at the end)
The thing we are clear on is Matthew was very intentional with the names
by counting both inclusively and exclusively, Matthew selects enough members of Jesus’ lineage to create three segments of 14 names. Because Hebrew used letters for numerals, the consonants of every Hebrew word added up to a certain number. This practice was called the gematria. The gematria for the Hebrew consonants for at least one spelling of David was “14” (D+V+D=4+6+4). Matthew is probably using a Jewish device for highlighting David as Jesus’ key ancestor. David also appears as the 14th name in this genealogy. There’s some intentions, but to us they are incredibly subtle, but powerful to those at the time.
Why did they have different timelines for different audiences and why were the genealogies so important?
Culture. Matthew’s audience were the Jewish people who valued the ancestral line of kings going back to David. Also they saw Abraham as the father of Israel, so he lead the line back to Abraham, to clear any doubt in their minds and to make sure Jesus was even qualified to be the Messiah.
Luke was reaching out to the gentiles, non-Jews and he made it clear the gospel was for everybody by leading the genealogy all the way back to Adam, the first child of God, beyond the start of the Jewish nation to emphasise this. Both Luke and Matthew are preaching the same message but in their areas of understanding. Matthew was Jewish and Luke had a gentile background, thus ideal as communicator’s for this life changing message for their given audiences.
Why do they both lead up to King David as individual paths?
God had promised David, the first rightful king of Israel, that his throne would be established forever.
When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever
This caused the people to long to see David’s greater son — the one who would rule forever. Jesus was that son
In the first 17 verses we meet 46 people whose lifetimes span 2,000 years. All were ancestors of Jesus, but they varied considerably in personality, spirituality and importance. some were heroes of the faith like Abraham, Isaac, Ruth and David. Some had shady reputations like Rahab and Tamar. Many were very ordinary — Like Hezron, Ram, Nahshon and Akim. And others were evil — like Menasseh and Abijah. God’s work in human history is not limited by human failures or sins, and he works in history through ordinary people. Just as God used all kinds of people to bring his Son into the world, he uses all kinds today to accomplish his will. And God wants to use you.
Matthews inclusion of four particular women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba) reveals his concern to do more than relay historical data. These women raise both ethnic and ethical questions. At least two of them were not Israelite's by birth and all four of them had reputations that could have made them unmentionable in an ancestral tree. Yet this was the line into which God’s son was born. Jesus’ genealogy makes it clear, not that there were few disreputable people in his family, but that all of them were sinners. God sent his son as saviour of all people — Jews, gentiles, men and women. No matter what the sins of the people, God’s plan was never thwarted. It continues to unfold. That plan can include you.
Jehoram the father:
Matthew calls Jehoram the father of Uzziah, but we read in the book (2 chronicles 21:4–26:23 it is clear that several generations were assumed (Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah) and that “father” is used in the sense of “forefather” or “ancestor”
The exile to Babylon occurred in 586BC. when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Judah, destroyed Jerusalem, and took thousands of people captive.
Matthew breaks Israel’s history into three sets of 14 generations., but there were probably more generations than those listed here. genealogies often compressed history, meaning that not every generation of ancestors were specifically listed. thus the phase “the father of” can be translated “the ancestor of”
Luke wrote to the gentiles, so he emphasised Jesus as the saviour of all people.
Imagine the saviour of the world working in a small-town carpenter’s shop until he was 30 years old! It seems incredible that Jesus would have been content to remain in Nazareth all that time, but he patiently trusted his Fathers timing for his life and ministry. 30 was the prescribed age for priests to begin their ministry (See reference for this in Numbers 4:3). Joseph was 30 years old when he began serving the king of Egypt (Genesis 41:46 is the reference for this) and David was 30 years old when he began to reign over Judah (2 Samuel 5:4). Age 30, then was a good time to begin an important task in the Jewish culture. Like Jesus, we need to resist the temptation to jump ahead before receiving God’s direction to us through the Holy Spirit. Are you waiting and wondering what your next step should be? don’t jump ahead, trust Gods timing.
The names Melki to Mattatha appear only in this biblical genealogy. Luke doesn’t like skipping even the so called ‘nobodies’
Even though it’s a mere genealogy, there are powerful statements being made. bloodlines, king lines, Messiah qualifications as well as issues of women’s values dealt with here. Sometimes things aren't as they seem, it may look like a list of names going back to certain famous people, but in reality, many Jews and non-Christians alone should take great value that Jesus is for all people and it’s make clear right from the very beginning that from the beginning, he wants you to know and accept that you are part of his family and family look out for one another. Jesus if the vision for that family