And behold, the Lord passed by, & a great & strong wind rent the mountains & brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: & after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the eathquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: & after the fire the thin sound of silence. 1 Kings19:11 & 12

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The geanology of Jesus.

When we look at the genealogy of Jesus we often dismiss it as unimportant. Our eyes glaze with boredom. To us the genealogy of Jesus is irrelevant but as it has been included as part of Scripture the Holy Spirit felt it was significant & as such we need to consider both its importance & its relevance for us.

There are some wonderful things to be gleaned from the more difficult passages of scripture & we shouldn’t simply relegate them to the too hard basket because we consider them to bedifficult.

This is by no means an exhaustive study but I would like to highlight some aspects of Jesus’ genealogy. I will be referring to the genealogies as listed in both Matthew & Luke but the main emphasis will be on Matthew. At this point I will point out that 1st century Jews, who could have contended either Matthew or Luke’s genealogical claims, do not, infact, do so.

Matthew emphasises Jesus’ royalty;  Luke emphasises Christ’s humanity & this is reflected in their genealogies. Matthew was the gospel written by a Jew for other Jews. Its purpose was to fully win the Jews for Christ to fulfil Romans 1:16 – ‘’To the Jew first, & also to the Greek.’’  Matthew sets out to show Jesus is the legal heir to the throne of David by virtue of the lineage of his legal father,  Joseph.  Social position & religious identity were defined from one’s family geneaology.

Because Jesus was born into Joseph’s family he was a legal heir & he therefore has a legal right to David’s throne. Joseph’s was a priestly lineage so Jesus is also entitled to serve as priest. The first born son, natural or adopted, had the right of inheritance.

Matthew’s genealogy is broken into three parts consisting of 14 generations. Not every link has been included. A cursory study shows a discrepancy between the time frame & the number of generations. This should not trouble us unduly. Firstly the object is to show the direct genealogy of Jesus from Abraham & as such it is a legal document. Secondly it was to show the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. Thirdly begat refers to a direct physical lineage, from parent to child. The first 14 generations cover from Abraham to King David’s reign. This is the origin of David’s House & line. The second 14 generations cover the rise & decline of David’s House, from the establishment of his kingdom to the Babylonian captivity. The third 14 generations begins with the release of the captives from Babylon & ends with Christ.

David’s line has been eclipsed, shattered, but from the stump of the glory that was once David’s a twig shoots forth; Jesus Christ.The Jews kept detailed genealogical records. Firstly & fore mostly property rights were linked to family inheritance, as was the priestly role. Families who could not trace their family had no inheritance in the nation of Israel. They were treated as dispossessed foreigners. Neither could one serve as a priest if they could not prove their right to do so through their family lineage.

Note that Matthew is very clear in his intent. He begins by stating that this is the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It is a record of Jesus’ ancestry & as a Jew the author of Matthew had access to the detailed Jewish records to prove his claims. Jesus is the Latin rendition of the Greek Iesous, which comes from the Hebrew Jeshua. Jeshua is a contraction of the name Jehoshua which means Jehovah is salvation. Jeshua puts the stress on the verb thus rendering the meaning as He will certainly save. To the personal name Matthew adds the official title Christ, from the Hebraic, Messiah which means ordained, set apart, qualified. Thus Matthew is saying that the one of whom he speaks is qualified & set apart to save. He leaves no doubt that he believes that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah.

Matthew systematically addresses a number of issues that are raised in the gospel accounts of Jesus life, concerning his ancestry. Matthew13:54-58 his community thinks they know who he is – Joseph & Mary’s son, with brothers & sisters. Matthew clearly shows Jesus to be Mary’s son but Joseph is not his physical father. John 7:40-41 Jesus is accused of not fulfilling prophecy because he is not from Bethlehem; Matthew disproves this claim. In John8:41 claims of illegitimacy are made against Jesus; Matthew renounces those accusations by showing how Joseph is legally Jesus earthly father.

We are familiar with The English term begat. This verb refers to a father’s acquisition ofoffspring through the depositing of seed so indicates physical descent. From Abraham to Joseph this verb traces the lineage but note the careful way Matthew describes Joseph’s relationship to Jesus. It is done in such a way as to preclude the possibility of Joseph being considered Jesus physical father.

The genealogical records prove how prophecy has been fulfilled. This could only be done by keeping detailed & accurate genealogical records. Adam (Genesis3:15) Abraham(Genesis22:18) Judah (Genesis 49:10 Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-10) & David (2Samuel7:12-13) were all promised an inclusion in the Messiah’s line. Between them Matthew & Luke include all 5 of these names. We will look at the discrepancies between the lists shortly.

Now it doesn’t take any sort of a biblical genius to realize there are differences between the lists of names given in the gospels of Matthew & Luke. You will possibly hear arguments disputing the truth of these accounts but the most logical reason to my mind, & the one supported by early church fathers such as Origen, Irenaeus, Tertuillian, Athanasius & Justin Martyr, is that Matthew’s account gives Jesus genealogy through Joseph, his father by law, & Luke’s account gives Jesus genealogy through his mother, Mary. Jewishness, even today, is always inherited through the mother. While a child’s paternity maybe doubtful, their maternity is rarely in dispute. To be born of a Jewish woman is to beconsidered Jewish. If your mother isn’t Jewish, nor are you. One reason for this was that women were more likely than men to marry a gentile.

To be considered Jewish, the messiah, a descendent of David, Jesus’ Jewishness had to be established. This is important as it is obvious to even the most casual reader of the bible that Jesus’ family tree contains many foreigners, such as Tamar, Rahab & Ruth, who are not direct descendants of Abraham.Unusually Scripture includes 5 women in Jesus genealogy. It was not customary for Jews to include women. Luke states that Jesus was the son of Heli. Son in this context simply means descendant. The Jerusalem Talmud indicates Mary was the daughter of Heli. Thus Jesus is a descendant of Heli & considered a son in Jewish law. Moreover it would appear that Mary had no brothers so she inherited her father’s portion. This would also have meant that Joseph was reckoned amongst his wife’s family as a son. Whether traced through Joseph’s line or Mary’s Jesus could claim descent from the royal line of David.

I will just briefly mention the so called ‘curse of Jehoiachim’’ because some scholars argue this negates Jesus entire genealogy. Jeremiah 22:30 says that none of Jehoiachim’s offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David. This is immediately followed in the next chapter by a promise for the continuity of the line of David. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the curse was not for all time & only applied to Jehoiachim & his immediate family. It does not say that the royal line will be obliterated. There is a difference in being ‘written of as childless’, & not being allowed to rule successfully to a lineage being completely obliterated which does not appear to have been the case. It is necessary to read the scriptures very carefully to ensure that the facts have been interpreted correctly.

Throughout the old testament God gradually narrows the criteria for the promised Messiah so that we should know him for certain: Jewish, of the tribe of Judah, of David’s line. To this day Jews will argue that Jesus did not fulfil all the requirements to be the Messiah yet Jesus himself told them they did not understand their own scriptures.

What are some of the things we can learn from studying Jesus genealogy? We are all familiar with the "greats’’ of Jesus line: David, Abraham, Solomon but note the greatest sinners & most evil of kings are also listed there: Joram, who allowed his wife Athaliah to murder the males of the royal family & whose reign was marked by a restoration of the worship of Baal & revolts by Edom & Libya; Ahaz, whose licentiousness & wickedness squandered the kingdom built by his father & grandfather & brought Israel into subjection to Assyria; He burnt his own sons to Molech & plundered the temple & his own palace before closing the temple completely. The people buried him in a commoner’s grave as not being fit to be buried with the kings of Israel; Amon, whose reign was marked by moral depravity & idolatry & who was assassinated by his own servants.

We should learn that The Jews boasted of their descent from Abraham but their boast is empty. They gloried in the flesh but salvation comes from above, not from below. We have already mentioned 5 women are named in the genealogies. All could be accused of harlotry. The case against Ruth is obscure & not to the point in this discussion. They include 2 Cannanites, (Tamar & Rahab), Ruth the Moabite, Bathsheba from an elite Jewish family & the first woman to gain the title ‘’Great Lady’’ & Mary, the mother of Jesus.

We should remember that Salvation is for the whole world, men & women, Jew & gentile. As we read through the list of names many of them will mean little or nothing to us. It does not matter. They were important to God in order that he might accomplish his purposes. That should give us great encouragement. We may think of ourselves as small & insignificant in the scheme of things but if we are God's then we are important to him & he will neither forget us nor disown us.

Lastly as we read through this list of names one thing becomes increasingly evident; good, bad, or indifferent, male or female, rich or poor, all have fallen short of the glory of God & stand in need of Salvation, just as we too do. God, in his great & abundant mercy, sent his own son to bring us into salvation. This is what we remember at Christmas time. Despite the pagan trappings Christianity has taken to itself, despite the consumerism of our age, despite the fact we celebrate the wrong date for Christ’s birth, what we remember & celebrate during this season is that God came down to dwell amongst men & because of this reconciliation between God & mankind was made possible. To God be the glory. Amen.


Let us pray: Father your word tells us that all scripture is inspired by you & profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. It is living & active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul & spirit, of joints & marrow, & discerning the thoughts & intentions of the heart. May we have a mind to hear your word this morning Lord & a teachable heart that your word may truly be a lamp to our feet & a light to our path. Amen

We are coming into the Christmas season – again. It is a story told so often it is grown stale, so what do you think of when you think of Christmas? Is it of lights and puddings? Of tinsel and presents under the tree? Do you think of family descending like a swarm of hornets? Do you fret at all the things that must be done between now & then? Do you anticipate its arrival with pleasure or dread? Do you think of Christ? Do you think of a baby & a stable? Do you think of the shepherds out on the hills tending their flocks or of the magi travelling many years for just one glimpse of the child their stars foretold? Perhaps.

More & more when I think of Christmas, I think of the cross. You see you cannot have one without the other and it is a great mistake to sentimentalise Christmas. It robs Christmas of its power & detracts from Gods glory. We think of Christmas as a beginning & that is just not true. Christmas is the midpoint in God’s story, the pivotal point, the point at which everything changes so there are a number of things I’d like us to consider as we travel through this Christmas season.

Firstly let us consider what was of such great importance that God came in person to earth to say it. Now we Christians are very fond of telling non believers that God loves them and that is true. God does love them. He grieves over them. We are told in Luke 15:7 there is great rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents & Jesus himself tells the story of the shepherd who looked for the lost lamb until it was found.

However, turn to Matthew 4 starting at verse 12 & finishing at verse 17. Listen carefully. We have behind us Jesus coming to John to be baptised. We have the temptation of Jesus by Satan. Then we come to the arrest of John & from that point on Jesus commences his official ministry. Now when He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee: & leaving Nazareth He went & dwelt in Capernaum by the sea in the territory of Zebulon & the land of Naphtali toward the sea across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, & for those who sat in the region & shadow of death, light has dawned. From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ So what does he say? God loves you? No! & no again! The first word of Jesus ministry is REPENT! Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Mark is generally considered to be based on the testimony of Peter and in the first chapter verse 15 the same theme is repeated – The time is fulfilled, & the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, & believe in the gospel.

Now as well brought up Christians I’m sure each & every one of you has prayed some version of the ‘sinner’s prayer’, confessing all known sin to God the father & asking Jesus Christ to come into your heart. So far so good, but there is more to repentance than that. The original Greek word is metanoeo & it means to have another mind. It indicates a radical change of mind & heart, one that leads to a completely changed life.

Now to have another mind is to be more than sorry you have done wrong. It is more than being sorry you have been caught doing wrong. It is to think differently about that wrongness. Indeed it is to see wrongness as God sees it, as sin, and to loathe it as God loathes it.

In scripture directives are not usually either negative or passive. They are active & positive. We are meant to do something. Therefore if we are to have another mind what sort of mind should we have? Romans 12:2 says therefore do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good, & acceptable & perfect. As Christ’s disciples shouldn’t we want to know his will? I suggest to you we are meant to have the mind of God & since this is obviously not our natural state it is something that we must cultivate. How do we do this? I will give you just two verses that show us most clearly how we are to go about cultivating the mind of God. Philipians 4:8 – Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. If we took this verse seriously we might have to make some changes in our t.v viewing, our choice of music, our light reading, our computer activities. Yes, it makes a difference to our entire way of thinking.

Our second verse is found in 2 Chorinthians 10: 5 – we destroy arguments & every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, & take every thought captive to obey Christ. In other words get rid of anything that hinders your understanding of God & hold everything up to the light of scripture that you may think & act & be as Christ. This is not hard to understand, only to obey. Our natural inclination is to do anything but what scripture tells us to do. This is hard work. It is demanding work. Our minds are constantly scampering off after rabbits. Paul constantly exhorts believers to act as soldiers or athletes, practising self control & self discipline, but dearly beloved Jesus said it first. Luke 12:35 Let your loins be girded & your lamps burning, & be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes & knocks.

We have heard over the year how God honours a broken & contrite spirit, a heart that grieves over its wickedness & longs for righteousness. We have heard how we are to be holy because God is holy & we are his people, his priests, his flock. It is a war that begins in the mind & heart for what possesses the mind governs the heart. Way back in Proverbs God says As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Jesus is very clear about this for it is he who says for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:19. A heart set on these things, a heart set on the foolish things of the world that perish & fade away is a heart that can not receive the good news that Jesus came to impart. A repentant heart is necessary before God’s love can truly penetrate. One of the saddest things is a Christian who does not fully understand repentance & cultivates a heart that truly desires the things of God. They may be saved, they may have the Holy Spirit residing in them but their life does not reflect the joy, the abundance, the holiness that comes with wholehearted capitulation to their saviour. Instead they are constantly hampered by the things of this world & their hearts seek after those things also. It is not for nothing that Jesus warns us that we cannot serve two masters.

This was such an important message, so central to Jesus whole ministry that Satan did everything in his power to prevent it. You do not find Satan & his cohorts disputing about whether or not Jesus Christ is God. They know exactly who he is & tremble. They are forced to obey him; his power is greater than theirs, his authority overrules their authority. They are right to fear. The least believer who is wholly God’s also has this power.

Just how seriously Satan took this threat can be found in the second chapter of Matthew. We do ourselves a great disservice when we end the Christmas story where we usually do, with the adoration of the Magi. Certainly Herod was a wicked man. He was capable, crafty & cruel. Certainly the Jews had a reputation for insurgence, insurrection & revolt. One quite sees Herod’s dilemma when he is told of a ruler being born in Bethlehem. His position, his power, is threatened & certainly falling foul of the Roman authorities was no joke. Herod is a man without God & ripe for Satan’s prodding. The threat to Satan is so great he pushes Herod into massacring all the male children two years old or younger in an effort to eradicate just one child, the child, God’s child. We are witnessing here the climax of a battle that began aeons before in Heaven’s courts when Satan first sought to be as God. He is thrown from heaven to earth, where he has ruled because the hearts of men are desperately wicked. Man too thought to be as God. Now all that is about to end. Satan knows it. He is desperate. He knows to what final end he & all his minions will come. He is fighting for his life.

And we wrap this life and death struggle up in tinsel & hang it under a tree! At this point in history everything changes & hangs suspended in the balance. Satan has a firm grip on the world & he is not about to let go for any consideration. To do so would be fatal. But God so loved the world he sent his son. His dearly beloved son. His one & only son. His message is clear – Repent! Heaven has come to earth.

Now we must be very clear at this point. You will be thinking of the angels singing Glory to God in the highest & peace towards man on earth. You will be thinking that Christ came to reconcile man to God - & so he did – but reconciliation begins with repentance. Without repentance there can be no reconciliation. Nor is repentance a one off, something that achieves our salvation & nothing else. It is an ongoing process as day by day we examine ourselves in the light of scripture, training ourselves to cultivate the new mind, the new man, the anointing of the holy spirit on our lives because God by his grace has put his Holy Spirit to reside in us & now our very bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit. God truly is with us!

Repentance frees God’s grace to work in us. Nor is it meant to be a glib little recitation of those sins we can remember. It is not meant to be a minor, boring, mindless act but deep major surgery of the heart. After all, our hearts will argue, we aren’t bad people. I haven’t committed murder recently. Have you? What about adultery? Grand theft? Na, not today. Well, what about loving God with ALL your heart? Ah, now there’s the rub. We are all sinners & all have fallen short of the glory of God because our puny little selves fail to understand this is the first commandment for a reason. If we love God as we should then we will act the way God wants us to act. Psalm 111 says the fear of God (fear here meaning reverence) is the beginning of wisdom. We can neither know him nor obey him if we do not examine our lives by his standards – not our standards, not the world’s standards, not even other Christian’s standards, but God’s standards - & make those radical changes that put God rather than ourselves at the centre of our lives & give to him the first place, which is rightfully his.

God’s work of grace would have ended before it had even begun in Bethlehem 2000 years ago if Satan had had his way. Yet God was determined to make reconciliation to himself possible. His sacrifice had been chosen from before the foundation of the world, a sacrifice who was obedient even unto death.

Secondly Christmas has become the season of gift giving. For Christians it is symbolic of the Gift our Heavenly father gave to us that first Christmas but God did not give us a sweet little baby in a manger, though he arrived in the usual human way. God gave us a saviour, a redeemer, a high priest who has been tested in every way just as we are, a high priest who understands our weaknesses & is prepared to testify (& is entitled to testify) before the throne of heaven on our behalf. God’s gift was not a star, a manger, a baby crying in the night. God’s gift was a cross. His son hung there for us. The entire Old Testament moves towards this moment in time that by his stripes we could be healed.

Jesus was born that long ago night that he might suffer for our iniquities, bear the penalty for our sin in his body & be separated from his beloved father that we might no longer be separated. In so doing Jesus broke Satan’s hold on this world as well as the hold he had over the hearts & minds of men. Just how thorough this breaking is is revealed on the cross.

You remember Jesus did not die alone. Two thieves were crucified with him & they vilified him even as they were dying. There were the soldiers and the bystanders, the merely curious & the anguished, like Mary & John. Jesus has born the mockery, the beating, the nails, the humiliation. He has hung for hours in the blazing sun fighting for every breath. You know the story. Jesus is close to the end of his earthly human life. He is coming to that point where God the father turns away from him & he gives vent to the anguished cry, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’

Yet just before this you see the grace of God extended. One of the two thieves repents. He acknowledges his sin & that his penalty is just. He also acknowledges that Jesus is who he has always claimed to be.

‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

And what does Jesus say to him? ‘Truly, truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ Jesus has not yet cried, ‘it is finished’ & given up his spirit into his Father’s hands yet he gives this promise. What an amazing saviour we have. This thief, dying, repentant, is fully reconciled to God. Where God the son is, there will he be also, in Paradise. Satan no longer has any claim on him, death cannot hold him. He is enabled to stand confidently before the throne of God, saved, not through any merit of his own, but by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. And the world is never the same again! Oh, Satan has a little while yet to bring death & destruction but his power is broken. Jesus broke it that day on the cross.

What God promises he always completes. We would do well to keep that thought firmly in mind every day of our earthly existence because the act of redemption is finished. Jesus has achieved all he set out to achieve on the cross but he has also promised to return. When he does it will not be as a helpless babe. It will not be as the sacrifice to reconcile man to God. He will come to judge the living & the dead. He will judge the world. He will separate those who belong to him from all the rest.

Lastly God’s desire is always to draw us closer to himself. He desires the intimate relationship of lovers who cannot bear to be apart from each other. If you doubt this read the Song of Songs. Having redeemed us God wants to bless us from the abundance of his storehouse. Sin separates us from God; repentance brings us back into a right relationship. Right relationship always brings blessing. Draw near to me, God promises, & I will draw near to you. The bible is full of promises of what God will do for those who love his name.

Christmas. A time of gift-giving. A time to remember what has been given to us. Jesus gave up heaven for us. He took on a human body for us. He was separated from his father for us. This Christmas let us give ourselves totally to the one who has done so much for us. Let us develop a radical change of heart, fixing our thoughts firmly on Jesus & what he wants of us. Let us no longer be distracted by the temptations of this world but become wholly the Lord’s. Let us take captive every thought till all our thoughts are those Jesus would have us have, for when our thoughts are right our actions will follow suit & we will begin to live more & more as Christ would have us live. Let us gird up our loins & prepare for battle, because it is a battle. Let us not be afraid to be radical for Christ, to love him wholeheartedly, undeterred by what others may think of us. And finally may we not be afraid to share this gift with others. It is the greatest gift of all.