After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
– Matthew 1:12-16
At first glance? A list of unpronounceable names. Easy to breeze past. Quickly scanned and forgotten.
In my early days of Bible reading I did just that. I acknowledge genealogies and then quickly moved on to more interesting details. In my early days of preaching I was forced to give them a second thought. Now that I’ve earned my stripes as a preacher I know the value of giving deeper reflection.
I no longer see the opening of Matthew’s Gospel as a list of names. Rather, I see it as a history of God moving in the lives of people. Real people. Like you and me.
As Calvin Miller puts it, “These begat passages are not just names. They are footprints of a timeless God walking through generations, until His tread is reduced to the bare foot of the little baby whom Mary held in her arms.”
What a beautiful sentiment. What a ground breaking reality.
Genealogies show God’s faithfulness spiraled down from generation to generation, family to family, sinner to sinner. Is God faithful to a sinner like me? These lists of begats prove it to be true.
This passage begins “this is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah” or “Jesus Christ.” It is important to remember that “Christ” is not a last name. Rather, it is a title. From the very opening Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is proclaimed as the promised Savior spoken of by the prophets.
Waiting is not very popular. We dread waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting in traffic, and waiting on payday. We avoid waiting at all cost. It is often seen as the wasteland between where we are and where we want to be. The ancient figures in our Bible were familiar with the wasteland of waiting. They clung to the promise of a Savior. They awaited one who would bring freedom. Yet, they suffered in the agony of the wasteland. The genealogy announces: The one we’ve waited for is here! The wait is over!
(Calvin Miller quote comes from The Christ of Christmas: Readings for Advent)