With Christmas fast approaching, many pastors and small group leaders’ are getting ready to teach through the holiday. In a season as busy as this one, it can be difficult to adequately prepare.
That’s why we’re giving everyone a free commentary on Matthew all through November.
Ulrich Luz’s three volume commentary on Matthew is highly respected among scholars, and provides immense value for anyone looking to study the Gospel of Matthew in a more in-depth manner.
Today, I’d like to share three insights into the Christmas narrative from Luz’s commentary on the opening genealogy:
1. The genesis of Jesus Christ begins with the history of Israel
“The genealogy puts the readers back into the world of the Bible. The monotonously repeated “begat” is characteristic of biblical genealogies (Gen 5:3–32*; 11:10–28*; Ruth 4:18–22*; 1 Chr 1–9). The history of Israel passes before their eyes in concentrated form. Thus the genesis of Jesus Christ begins with the history of Israel: it continues that history and includes it as its beginning.”
God has divinely chosen to superintend his redemption story through the nation of Israel. Both their devotion to YHWH and their failures set the stage for the Messiah’s entrance. As Luz points out, Matthew’s gospel intentionally brings all that to the reader’s mind with his opening.
2. The Gospel of Matthew presents the kingship of Jesus
“The genealogy also elucidates Jesus’ Davidic sonship. Jesus is David’s descendant and thus a Messiah of royal descent. That is why v. 6* also emphasizes David as king and then lets the kings on David’s throne with whom the readers were familiar pass before their eyes. . . . The rest of the Matthean story will expand, accentuate, and change this fundamental affirmation. In the following chapter Jesus will already come into conflict with Herod, the nation’s reigning king. Later chapters will show that Jesus’ royal rule is different from that ordinarily found with kings. Jesus, the son of David, is the Messiah who heals—the one who bears the weaknesses and illnesses of his people (8:17*).38 In 21:5* he will enter Jerusalem as the ‘meek’ king who is different. Thus with the genealogy Matthew establishes a basis for an important theme of his Gospel: Jesus, the son of David, is Israel’s Messiah.”
Matthew, in his authorship of this book, orchestrates a masterful piece which includes many themes which crescendo from seeming obscurity to great prominence. This is one of those themes. Introduced in the genealogy, it is clear that Jesus the Messiah is in line for the throne. He will rule over his people Israel. But as the book proceeds, we will find that not only will he rule his people, but his reign will extend over the entire earth. That theme is introduced here, with the kingship of Jesus.
3. The importance of women in the narrative
Matthew makes several deviations from the standard genealogy, which often provide a patriarchal backdrop to Scripture:
“We should keep these obscurities in mind,” Luz says, “as we turn now to the most important addition to the genealogy, the mention of the four ancestral mothers in vv. 3*, 5*, and 6*.”
Luz, through detailed exegesis suggests several options, but lands with a unified interpretation.
“A unified interpretation is suggested by the ‘provocative’ choice of the four women: since it is not Israel’s well-known ancestral mothers but completely different women who are named, the readers expect an unusual message. The fourfold identical ‘begotten . . . from . . .’ (ἐγέννησεν . . . ἐκ τῆς . . .) also speaks for a unified interpretation. Thus the women give the genealogy a universalistic undertone. That the son of David, Israel’s Messiah, brings salvation for the Gentiles is a hidden message. That suggests then a further clue for the interpretation of the ‘son of Abraham’ in 1:1* that looks to be so simple and yet is so unusual—a term that may be clearer for the readers after they have read the genealogy. One is to think not only of Abraham as Israel’s father but also of the broad Jewish tradition that sees Abraham as the father of the proselytes.56 The movement of Israel’s salvation to the Gentiles, a dominant theme of the Gospel of Matthew, is already declared in its opening text.”
Using Matthew in Christmas
The Christmas story is a beautiful picture of God’s love. But as those who present this story to others, we would be amiss if we did not offer our hearers the opportunity to reciprocate that expression. The “universality,” as Luz puts it, of this good news requires submission to Jesus Christ.
Get Matthew 1–7: A Commentary on Matthew 1–7 by Ulrich Luz for free before December 1.
* * *
This month, you can get the second volume in Luz’s commentary set, Matthew 8-20, for only $1.99, and complete your set with Matthew 21-28 for only $4.99 more. That’s all three volumes for less than $7! Get all three volumes here.