I remember watching the TV miniseries “Roots” ~ a dramatization of author Alex Haley’s family line beginning with Kunta Kinte’s enslavement to his descendants’ liberation. My family watched each of the eight programs with great interest. I think one’s family history is not only interesting to one’s self, but to many others as well. One’s genealogy seems to personalize history, makes it more real, I think. I believe one or two of the episodes of “Roots” held ratings records for the most watched program for a several years afterward.
Jesus’ genealogy according to Matthew begins with “Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” I think we are alerted in the very beginning that to understand that Jesus is truly the Messiah, the Son of David, would require faith and not merely visual recognition of a genealogical line. It is one thing to be a descendent of David, but it was quite another to be the Messiah, the Son of David. Many could claim to be in David’s genealogy, but who could claim to be the Messiah? On the other hand, to be the Son of Abraham requires one to be the Messiah the Son of David. Allow me to explain.
It is Paul who makes reference to Jesus being the Seed of Abraham, saying that the Scripture refers to seed in the singular rather than the plural (Galatians 3:16). Truly, this is a very odd argument, because in every other place the singular seed is used to refer to any number of offspring. “Seeds”, plural, is used only here by Paul. Nevertheless, the point Paul makes is very logical, because Abraham had many children and the world was not blessed by all. Therefore, it must be defined as something less than all, and we can narrow it all down to a single person—Jesus, himself. He is the Son of Abraham—the single Seed—if you will, through whom all nations of the world will be blessed. Moreover, just as Abraham believed and it was counted unto him as righteousness, so too, those who are to be blessed in Abraham’s Seed are blessed and made righteous through faith—or trust—in Jesus through whom the blessing comes. Therefore, by faith we become children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7; cp. Romans 4:11), and only through faith are we able to see Jesus as the Seed (or Son) of Abraham and the Messiah, the Son of David.
In Jesus’ genealogy there are six very difficult stumbling blocks beyond which only faith is able to take us. The stumbling blocks include five women and one cursed king. Normally, women are not included in one’s genealogy, but God wished to point to six incidents that are difficult to get beyond but in the end faith will bring us to the Messiah. Jesus’ genealogy comes to us tainted with betrayal and incest (Tamar), foreign stock and harlotry (Rahab), disobedience, shame, ruin and rejection (Ruth), and adultery and murder (Bathsheba). This is not the most enviable stock from which to produce a king, but this is part of Jesus’ genealogy, and it is the stock from which Solomon, David’s heir, and wisest of all men, had come. Now this seedy history of Jesus’ ancestry may cause one to wince a bit, but it is the genealogy of every Jewish king from the time of Solomon onward and act as the forerunners of what is yet to come.
Faith comes in when we get to Jeconiah and Mary. How do we get beyond God cursing Jeconiah and his sons who were made eunuchs in Babylon (2Kings 20:18; 24:13-15; Daniel 1:1-3)? How can Jesus be the son of someone who was made a eunuch? The long-story-short is Jeconiah adopted sons in the line of Nathan, second in line of David’s throne behind Solomon, and the line proceeds through Shealtiel who appears both in Joseph’s genealogy in Matthew and Mary’s genealogy in Luke.
Finally, we come to the final stumbling block, Mary, whom Matthew says had become pregnant but not by Joseph (Matthew 1:18)! How can Jesus be the Messiah and King of the Jews, if he is not the natural son of Joseph? Matthew gives us the answer in that Jesus is Mary’s child by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, 20). Long ago before Israel had a human king, God was their King, and he was rejected in favor of the people’s desire to be like the nations round about them (1Samuel 8:5-7). Before David was king, the One who became Jesus was the King over all Israel, but he was rejected. All the kings of Israel reigned from the throne of the One who would come to them later through Mary and claim it again by right of being David’s Son, the Messiah. If we will not receive this history by faith, we could never come to know Jesus’ true identity through his “Roots”.