3rd January 2023
Read (Matthew 1v1-17)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Back when I had a TV license one of my great pleasures was watching "Who do you think you are?" It was a show that took a celebrity on a journey through the various branches of their family tree. It usually ended with the celebrity in question looking out to sea and pondering how they never knew that they were actually related to Adolf Hitler and Julian from UTV. At times I have followed my own family tree and although I haven't been able to go too far back, it was a delight to trace my roots back to Glenarm and Harryville in Ballymena.
Matthew's Gospel begins with the family tree of Jesus. Christ's birth was miraculous but before we rush to the wise men, angels and young virgin we should do the difficult work of reading every name in the opening seventeen verses of Matthew's Gospel. There are the famous names of giants like Abraham, Jacob and David, there are the surprising names of Ruth the foreigner and Rahab the prostitute and there are the little known names like Abiud, Azor and Eliud.
But why begin a Gospel with a long list of names in the first place? The answer is found in verse seventeen. "So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations." Do you see Matthew's great concern? Jesus who is called Christ (v16) is a direct descendent of Abraham and David and is therefore the fulfilment of the promises made to both men.
Abraham was once told that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand on the shore and the stars in the sky. Christ is the true offspring of Abraham and Christ brings fulfilment to the promise of a large family. In Galatians Paul would make this clear by stating "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many, but referring to one, 'And to your offspring,' who is Christ." (v16) Christ is the offspring of Abraham and if we belong to Jesus by faith then we too are spiritual descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3v29).
Years after Abraham, David was promised that a member of his family would sit on his throne forever. By the time of Christ's birth this promise seemed to have failed. The Romans ran Judah and a man called Herod was on the throne. But just as the promise to Abraham was fulfilled in an extraordinary manner, so too did Christ magnify the promise made to David. Jesus didn't come to remove Herod from the throne and reintroduce a Davidic king to Jerusalem reigning over a reestablished Israel. Instead Christ's kingdom and throne are not of this world and Christ's kingship will never come to an end. Even now in the early days of 2023, a descendent of David called Jesus Christ is still the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Where is Jesus now? He is reigning and "he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15v25).
I'm told that most of us will abandon our new year's resolutions quite early in January. Today is only the 3rd day and I hope we're still actively trying to maintain all of the things we promised ourselves. If you are, then well done, if not then it isn't the end of the world. I'm comforted today by Christ who is the great fulfilment of all of the promises of God. As the Apostle once put it "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him."(2 Corinthians 1v20) Therefore my friends, do not fear what this year will bring, do not celebrate your successes too much and do not lament your failures as if the sky is falling.
We have received Christ by faith and so everything for us has changed dramatically. Paul explains it this way "And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." (2 Corinthians 1v21-22) Nothing in this new year will change the truth of these verses. Today we confess Christ as the promise keeper not the promise breaker and the supreme fulfilment of God's plan of redemption. May you enjoy Him this year and find your rest in His beautiful face. Christ is all we have and Christ is all we need.
Q40 What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience? The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.