We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway,
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasin’ after some finer day.
-Carly Simon, “Anticipation”
“Anticipation is keepin’ me waitin’” sings Carly Simon as she awaits her lover in with expectation. Jesus’ genealogy emphasizes just that. The Person of Jesus establishes hope for everyone who has ever wanted to be loved.
Anticipation is one of the foci of Jesus’ genealogy.
- “Son of” in Matthew 1.1 is a stretch. Jesus is separated by centuries from Abraham and David. To be a son meant to be a descendent, a direct connection between what had come before and what would continue after. Fathers connect to the past, sons to the future. “Son of” suggests hope of a future generation yet to come: His Name is Jesus.
- Jesus is called a “son” but does not have a “father” immediately attached to his birth. Matthew goes out of his way to make sure everyone knows Jesus is in the proper ancestral line of Abraham and David, but is separated from a human father. “Mary, of whom was born Jesus” is the end of the genealogy but the beginning of a new line of descendents (Matthew 1.1, 16).
- Matthew wrote his Gospel to prove to the Jews that Jesus is King. “Son of David” points back to the prophecy in 2 Samuel 7: David’s son would forever sit upon David’s throne. At the beginning, middle, and end of Matthew’s genealogy, Jesus is “Son of David” who is “King David” who is “David’s Messiah” (1.1, 6, 17).
- Hebrews expected a “Son of David” but it was Gentiles who most used the genealogical term. Royalty from The East called Magi came west to worship David’s King anointed by a star. A “King of the Jews” genealogy was first acknowledged by Gentile wise men who did what the genealogy expected: “they bowed down to worship Him” (Matthew 1.1; 2.2, 11).
- Gentiles continued to use the genealogical phrase “Son of David” throughout Matthew. Jesus is given the title times during His ministry by blind or demon possessed men. Both the forces of darkness and those who lived in darkness knew the truth of the genealogy. Jesus is David’s son. It is no surprise that when the Jews rejected Jesus, Gentiles were anxiously standing in line to meet the “Son of David” (1.1; 9.27; 12.23; 15.22; 20.30, 31).
- A Child came as “Son of David” and children praised the “Son of David.” Wide-eyed children often understand better than closed-minded adults, Who’s Who (1.1; 21.15-16).
- Matthew’s genealogy was one of succession, used by kings. Tracing a peasant’s lineage would begin with the person’s name followed by “son of,” tracing the family line backwards. Matthew’s genealogy, using “father of,” builds to a climax creating anticipation. Beginning with the first in the royal line, the genealogy ends by anointing the next King, “Jesus, who is called The Christ (or Messiah)” (1.1, 2, 16).
- “Messiah” was the Hebrew term used when a king was being recognized. The Greek term “Christ” in Matthew is the Hebrew equivalent. Jesus is “The Lord’s anointed,” a divine appointment for a divine assignment (1.1, 16; see 1 Samuel 16:12-13; Psalm 2.2). Matthew’s genealogy announces the endorsement at the start (1.1), proclaims the coronation at the end (1.16).
- “Fourteen” is given prominence in Matthew’s genealogy. Mnemonic (memory) devices are imperative to the study of The Bible. Each section of fourteen is carefully fit within the whole flow of Matthew’s account. Hebrew thinking used all sorts of memory devices to communicate truth. In the case of Jesus’ genealogy, 3 sections of 14 are six, sevens. Jesus is the beginning of the seventh, seven. In the Bible the number “seven” suggests perfection, completion, and fulfillment. “Come thou long expected Jesus” could be the purpose of the numbers in Jesus’ genealogy (1.17).
- Another memory device is the structure of Jesus-David-Abraham in verse one reversed in verse sixteen, Abraham-David-Jesus. Bible writers used brackets so that readers could more easily memorize. The Bible is not a series of disconnected people, places, and events. The First (Old) Testament points forward to fulfillment in Jesus (1.1, 16). Expectation is nothing without fulfillment.
Expectation is nothing without fulfillment.
Carly Simon anticipates a “finer day.” Her sentiments reflect that of the Christian. Jonathan Wesley’s hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is my personal Christmas favorite. I believe the hymn expresses our earnest hope: the surety of Jesus and His soon return.
Come thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Mark wishes everyone a blessed Advent, hoping your year is full of peace (wholeness) from The Prince of Peace.