“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” –Matthew 1:1
Here begins the first account of our Savior’s earthly ministry … and a list of Hebrew names that nearly tempts a hurried reader to skip down fifteen or so verses to the birth of Jesus. It takes discipline to keep one’s gaze from gliding over the lines too swiftly in search of something tangible. Let us get to the “real” beginning of the story!
Even if we insist on skimming over Amminadab, Abiud, and others, we mustn’t dismiss the significance of this passage. The genealogy, as we know, establishes the royal lineage of Jesus through Joseph. But it also places the coming of Christ in the context of God’s covenant with Abraham. In a way that is certainly more subtle to the modern reader than it would have been to his audience, Matthew erects Jesus as the complementary “bookend” to Abraham–as something of a conclusion to the history of the Hebrew people that began when God bid the latter come to Canaan. Matthew’s introduction paves the way for a gospel account that alludes to the New Covenant and a revised understanding of the notion of God’s chosen people.
God promised Abraham that in him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). By connecting Jesus to Abraham, Matthew is making clear to his readers that–in Christ–God has fulfilled this promise.