Advent lessons in a genealogy: Jesus Is for Gentiles too

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

The gospel of of Matthew was the first biblical book to be written in over 400 years. And Matthew breaks the centuries of silence with…a genealogy.

He has a strategic reason for doing so—the goal of his book is to persuasively argue that Jesus is the Messiah, and so he starts by tying the person of Jesus to the history of the Jews, and particularly to the lines of David and Abraham.

Matthew is aware of the end of the story before he pens the beginning. He knows that Jesus was the Messiah, was crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. More importantly, he knows why Jesus was rejected. In fact, the seeds of Jesus’ rejection were already sown in Jewish history. The very reasons the Pharisees, Sanhedrin, et. al., rejected Jesus were already evident in the ancestry of the Savior.

Last week we saw that the Jews rejected Jesus because he taught a salvation by faith apart from works, even though that is the consistent testimony of those in his genealogy. Today, we see a second reason Matthew opens with a genealogy:

The Jews Rejected Jesus because of the global nature of his message.

Jesus intentionally brought his message to outcasts. He preached “the gospel of the kingdom” to sinners, tax collectors, adulteresses, and zealots. But he also brought his message to Gentiles.

He showed mercy to a Centurion by healing his servant. He healed the man who was possessed by demons who was living with the pigs—certainly a Gentile. He healed the Canaanite woman’s daughter. He received the crowds of Gentiles who came to him, and he even went on at least one preaching journey outside of Israel.

This was too much for the Pharisees, who of course objected to all of this. But Matthew shows that not only has it always been God’s plan for the gospel to go to the Gentiles, but Gentiles have already been a part of the gospel message by being part of the line of the Savior.

Matthew breaks his genealogy up into three equal sections—each with 14 names. In the first section alone there are four Gentiles. Not only does he include them, but he highlights them because they are the only four women listed!

Obviously with the names of 14 fathers, there could be the names of 14 mothers as well (15 really, since Judah pulled double-duty by fathering two generations). But Matthew doesn’t include all 14 mothers, but only four—the four who are Gentiles.

He does this obviously to make a point—that God has never been opposed to grafting Gentiles into his promise that Abraham’s seed and Israel’s King would bring blessing to the nations.

  • Tamar was Gentile—a Canaanite who dressed like a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law.
  • Rahab was a Gentile—a Canaanite who was a harlot.
  • Ruth was a Gentile—a Moabite—a people group born of incest.
  • Bathsheba was a Gentile—a Hittite who committed adultery with David.

Matthew doesn’t include Sarah, Rebecca, or Rachel. He instead includes four Gentiles who make the point that the gospel is for sinners, and particularly for Gentile sinners.

Jesus will not be born into the world with a sinless family line. This still makes people uncomfortable to this day—the Catholics have invented the “doctrine” of the Immaculate Conception to try and assuage some of the uneasiness that comes with recognizing from whence Jesus came.

But for him to be truly human, he had to be born to somebody, and he comes into a line of people with serious immorality in their past. Is it a Jewish line? Of course. But it is also a very Gentile line as well. So when Jesus turns up preaching to Gentiles, it should not surprise us. After all, they are distant relatives. Christmas morning will never be an exclusively Jewish celebration.

Jesse Johnson bio


Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master’s Seminary Washington DC location.

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pvawter's picture

I preached a series of messages last Christmas through Matthew's genealogy. It is a fascinating study that demonstrates the beauty of divine grace. These Gentiles and notorious sinners were the channel through which God brought about their own redemption and ours. Amazing!

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