Calvary Road Baptist Church

“MATTHEW INTRODUCES THE JEWISH MESSIAH”

Matthew 1.1

 

I have a friend who was born into a rigidly Muslim family and culture. His tribe was so militant that they opposed all forms of formal education, believing it would undermine their commitment to Islam. However, the French government which had colonized that portion of the African Sahara embarked on a program of forced education by sending French Foreign Legion soldiers to capture and then confine school-age boys from his nomadic tribe in French boarding schools. Thus it was that my friend received a good education in the French system and became fluent in French and also learned passable English. Though educated in a French boarding school in the southern Sahara, no attempt was made by the French authorities to influence my friend’s spiritual condition or religious convictions in any way, leaving him devoted to Islam, the religion of his birth and the religion of his family and tribe. Therefore, he was a strong, if not habitually practicing, Muslim who routinely tore up or set on fire any written material he encountered that had any kind of Christian message or flavor to it. After graduating from the French boarding school he had attended for twelve years he developed a bit of wanderlust and traveled to another African country, where he perchance crossed paths with a cousin he knew to be a hated Christian. Nevertheless, because of their blood kinship, the Christian cousin persuaded my friend to stay in his poor little apartment in what to a nomad was a very large and foreboding city. One day, when his cousin was out of the apartment on personal business, my friend observed a book on the only table in the apartment, investigated and found it to be a French New Testament, but rather than destroying it as was his practice over the course of his short life he picked it up and began to read it. Beginning with Matthew 1.1, he read with curiosity, amazement, and wonder until he arrived at Matthew 11.28-30 which, after reading, resulted in his conversion to Christ, the forgiveness of his sins, a new life in Christ, and a commitment to the Savior that persists to this day.

Let me read Matthew 11.28-30 to you:

 

28    Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29    Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30    For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

 

Thus goes the abbreviated conversion testimony of my former Christianity-hating Muslim friend, who after trusting Christ became a Wycliffe-trained linguist responsible for the translation of the Greek New Testament into his tribe’s language, who also served as a pastor and an evangelist in his native country of Mali until its civil war (in the city of Gao to be precise), and who now serves as the associate pastor of a well-known Baptist church in London, England.[1]

However, this message is not about my friend Ibrahim but about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Specifically, it is about how the gospel according to Matthew introduces the Lord Jesus Christ to his Jewish reading audience in its very first verse. My friend Ibrahim read ten and one-half chapters of Matthew before coming to faith in Christ, but he began at Matthew 1.1. Therefore, we too will begin Matthew’s introduction of the Lord Jesus Christ at Matthew 1.1.

Please turn to that verse and stand with me as I read that portion of God’s Word:

 

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

 

Four parts to this verse will be our consideration of Matthew’s introduction of the Jewish Messiah:

 

First, THE PERSON BEING INTRODUCED

 

“Jesus Christ”

 

“That Jesus is the Christ identifies him as the Jewish Messiah, the longed-for Savior of Israel. Even the name ‘Jesus’ is a Grecized form of the Hebrew ‘Joshua,’ recalling the successor of Moses and liberator of God’s people.”[2] The Greek word translated “Jesus” occurs about 150 times in Matthew’s gospel and was a popular name among the Jewish people until the time of the Jewish Temple’s destruction and the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. The Hebrew to Greek to English Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation,” and is a personal name and not a title.[3] It is the name of a real man who was really born, who really lived His real life, and who really died in what is today Israel. What sets Him apart from other men named Jesus of that location and era is that when He died He did not remain dead. Three days and nights after He was crucified by the Romans He rose from the dead, and is now enthroned on high at God the Father’s right hand, until He returns to this world in power and great glory.[4] Jesus Christ is coming again.

Do you still question His reality as an historical figure? Then I challenge you to dismiss these sources while remaining intellectually honest: Among those secular figures who attest to the reality of Jesus of Nazareth there was Cornelius Tacitus, a first century Roman historian, Lucian of Samosata, a Greek satirist of the second century, Suetonius, another Roman historian, Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor in Asia Minor, Thallus, a first century writer, Phlegon, who wrote a history, and Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian who lived in the first century and wrote of Him.[5] What possible motive could secular men of that day, living in different parts of the Mediterranean, and not personally acquainted with each other, have to write about a nonexistent Jewish man? How about Jewish sources, which were certainly not at all sympathetic to Christianity? First, the Babylonian Talmud makes mention of Him.[6] And second, the first century Jewish general Flavius Josephus, who was only 30-50 younger but likely never met Him, also makes mention of Him.[7] Why would Jewish rabbis and a Jewish general make mention of a Jewish man who never existed?

The only rational conclusion to be drawn from this real history is that Jesus Christ is a real person. He was really born, He really lived, He really died, He really rose from the dead, and He is real and alive as I speak. Do you know Him? Have you ever come to know Him? Matthew’s gospel introduces Him to his audience, and to you if you want to meet Him. However, keep in mind through it all that He is the Messiah, the Fulfiller of promises made long ago, the Anointed One of whom the prophets spoke, and of whom the prophets, priests, and kings of old who were anointed in Israel were foreshadowing types.

 

Next, THE MEANS OF HIS INTRODUCTION

 

This first verse in Matthew’s gospel which comprises our text leads the reader to suspect that the Old Testament will play an important role in it.[8] Indeed, it does. Notice with me the opening phrase:

 

“The book of the generation. . . .”

 

“The book of the generation,” the two words biblos geneseos, may echo the Greek name for the first book of the Bible (Genesis) or be translated “genealogy,” introducing 1.2-17 and reflecting the frequent scriptural use of records of ancestors to demonstrate one’s pedigree. As well, the identical Greek phrase is found in the LXX in Genesis 2.4 and in Genesis 5.1. More likely, however, Matthew’s opening phrase progressively opens the thoughtful and studious reader to these thoughts and more. Consider the likelihood that Matthew’s opening phrase is telescopic: it can be extended to include more and more of what Matthew has in mind to write about. First, it can cover the genealogy of our Lord which immediately follows this opening verse. Second, it can refer to the account of the birth of Jesus Christ which begins in verse 18. Third, it can refer to His “history” or His “life story” which encompasses the entire gospel. And finally, it can refer to the entire plan and purpose of God dealing with the new creation that commences with our Lord’s conception and culminates with His second coming.[9]

What is obvious beyond legitimate denial is that Matthew is introducing someone whose importance is profound, whose place in God’s dealings with His people is central, and who you very much need to meet. Have you ever been trained to meet someone? It is so gratifying to come to church and enjoy the interaction that is made possible by parents who take seriously their duty to train their children to both meet and greet others, even strangers who are properly introduced. I am delighted to observe that we have a number of adults who were so trained as children, and children who are being so trained. I compliment your parents for helping you to overcome awkwardness. Do you remember your mother or father’s training of you as a child, so you would know how to both meet and greet people? Stop monkeying around and pay attention, look the other person in the eye and smile, take him by the hand and offer a firm handshake, and greet him and be ready to respond to his greeting. Though reading Matthew’s gospel is not exactly the same as meeting and greeting another person, there are similarities because it is very much the introduction of a person. Like meeting someone here in church, you need to stop monkeying around and focus your attention. You cannot look someone in the eye when you read Matthew, but you do need to focus your attention on the matter at hand. And you do need to get a grip and be ready to interact as the Spirit of God makes use of this text to introduce you to the Savior.

Taking Matthew 1.1 in sequence, this is a book of the birth and beyond of the long awaited Jewish Messiah, the Christ, whose name we know is Jesus from Hebrew to Greek to English, or Joshua from Hebrew directly to English, and again means Jehovah is salvation.[10] This is who Matthew is inspired of the Holy Spirit of God to begin introducing you to. Are you willing? Are you ready?

 

Third, HE IS THE SON OF DAVID

 

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David”

 

Is the Lord Jesus Christ’s genealogy through David an important fact to establish? To be sure. It is very much a part of Who the Lord Jesus Christ is. Keep in mind that the phrase “son of David” was a standard messianic title for the rabbis of that day.[11] Therefore, it is no wonder that of all the New Testament writers, Matthew lays the most stress on the Davidic ancestry of the Savior. After all, there is a covenant God established with David promising an heir to sit on his throne forever.[12] That legal heir is the Lord Jesus Christ.[13]

Though our concern in this message is Matthew’s introduction of the Savior to a primarily Jewish audience, it is important to mention in passing the manner in which the Apostle Paul not only introduces himself to the Christians in Rome in his Roman epistle, but also reminds those Jewish believers among them of a profoundly important fact about the Savior they owe their allegiance to. I read Romans 1.1-6:

 

1      Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

2      (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

3      Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

4      And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

5      By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

6      Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

 

This one of whom Matthew writes will return from His throne of exaltation in heaven for His  Second Advent, will at that time establish His millennial kingdom over all the earth, and will rule and reign on the throne of His father David.[14] Try to wrap your mind around that.

Imagine for just a moment what it must have been like for not only a first century Jewish person, but also for anyone living in the first century under Imperial Rome’s domination, be he Jewish or Gentile, to recognize that the Savior you embrace, or the Savior commended to you for consideration, did not come to overthrow Roman rule and establish a kingdom on this world during His first advent. However, He will do precisely that at the time of the His  Second Advent. And the basis for His determination to come again to establish His millennial kingdom is the promise He will at that time fulfill, the promise made by God to His father David, king of Israel.

 

Finally, HE IS THE SON OF ABRAHAM

 

“The son of Abraham” is not of significance because of its messianic implications, because there are none. Rather, the Lord Jesus Christ, introduced by Matthew as “the son of Abraham,” clearly shows that He was of Jewish blood and that He was worthy of His father Abraham.[15] However, it must be kept in mind that though Abraham was the first Jewish man he was not always Jewish. He was born a Gentile and remained so until God gave to him the rite of circumcision.[16] I point this out because the phrase “son of Abraham” is found only here in Matthew’s gospel, perhaps serving to announce his interest in this gospel being useful to introduce Gentiles as well as Jewish readers to the Savior.

Just as the Lord Jesus Christ will personally fulfill the unconditional covenant God made with David to reign as king and to sit upon his throne in His kingdom, so also will the Lord Jesus Christ personally fulfill the unconditional covenant God made with Abraham, known as the Abrahamic Covenant.[17] How important is the Lord Jesus Christ to the Abrahamic Covenant and to Jewish identity, the Abrahamic Covenant being the means by which God gave to Jewish people their Jewishness? Turn with me to Galatians 3.16-18 and read along with me:

 

16    Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

17    And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

18    For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

 

Three things to point out about my Lord Jesus Christ as “the son of Abraham”: First, according to Galatians 3.16, Paul points out that the promise made was to be fulfilled in and by Abraham’s seed (singular), meaning one individual, not Abraham’s seeds (plural), meaning all of his descendants. Second, according to Galatians 3.17, that individual who was promised was Christ, the promise being made 430 years prior to the giving of the Law of Moses, therefore making it impossible for the Law of Moses to disannul. Finally, Jewish people should rightly trace their Jewishness to their ancestor Abraham and not to the Law of Moses, Galatians 3.18, with the Lord Jesus Christ being the personal fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, and also (I might add) the fulfillment of the Law of Moses.[18]

Since God promised in the Abrahamic Covenant to bless both Jewish people and Gentiles, and since the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, both Jewish and Gentile believers find their great blessings through faith in Christ as Abraham’s Seed and as the fulfillment of God’s promise to father Abraham.

 

There is Someone you need to know. To know Him is to know God. To know Him is to be forgiven all your sins. To know Him is to be partaker of all God’s precious promises. To know Him is eternal life itself. However, for you to know Him you must be introduced to Him. Matthew’s goal in the gospel is to provide that introduction. To be introduced to someone actually requires something more than a “Hi, how are you?” and a handshake. You have to have an accompanying set of facts so you will have an idea of who it is you are being introduced to. “Bill, this is my wife, Pam.” Thus, when introduced, Bill learns that she is a woman, her name is Pam, she is my wife, and though you can meet her she is out of bounds for you.

Matthew does somewhat the same thing when he begins his introduction of the person known as Jesus Christ with three phrases: The first phrase, “The book of the generation of” likely connects this person, Jesus Christ, to the book of Genesis and the beginning of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ being the Author of the new beginning. Revealing that He is the son of David points Him out as the fulfillment of the covenant made with David, Who will someday sit on David’s throne and rule over all the earth. Revealing Him as the son of Abraham points Him out as the fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham 430 years before the giving of the Law of Moses and therefore taking priority over the Law that He also fulfilled.

Do you realize what Matthew, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has accomplished in this brief sentence? He has made it clear that the man he seeks to introduce you to is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, who has a connection that reaches back to the book of Genesis and man’s beginnings, who despite His first advent arrival as the meek Lamb of God will someday return to completely subdue all mankind to His will, and through whom Abraham’s Covenant will be fulfilled in blessing both Jews and Gentiles the world over.

This is someone you do not know, but who you must come to know. This virgin-born Savior who died on the cross yet rose again is not someone you can do without. To have life you must meet Him, you must know Him. And to that end Matthew’s gospel was written. Therefore, I urge you to read Matthew’s gospel. Read it with curiosity. Read it with determination and focus. Read it with caution and with concern for your own soul. And read it with an eye for those places where a response is urged upon you or where a response is urged upon someone who is written about.

What is important, what is truly important, is that you know Him, for to know Him is life. But to know Him you must meet Him. You must be introduced to Him. And that is what Matthew’s gospel is all about. Therefore, read it, and read it again, and read it again . . . until you know Him, the savior of sinful men’s souls.



[1] http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Sermons-on-Revelation/Quenching-the-Soul-s-Thirst

[2] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary On The New Testament Use Of The Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), page 3.

[3] W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., The International Critical Commentary, “The Gospel According To Saint Matthew,” Vol I, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), page 155.

[4] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[5] Josh D. McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), pages 120-123.

[6] Ibid., pages 123-124.

[7] Ibid., pages 125-126.

[8] Beale & Carson, page 2.

[9] Davies & Allison, page 154.

[10] Ibid., page 155.

[11] Ibid., page 156.

[12] 2 Samuel 7.12-16

[13] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link In Systematic Theology, (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries Press, 1994), pages 345-354, 583-586, 632-633.

[14] Matthew 24-25

[15] Davies & Allison, page 158.

[16] Genesis 17.10-14

[17] Fruchtenbaum, pages 334-344, 572-581, 629-631

[18] Matthew 5.17


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org