************ Sermon on Matthew 1:1-17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 17, 2017
"The Gracious King"
Jesus is King. That's what Matthew says. Jesus is the King of Israel, the King of the Jews, the Christ, the Messiah.
Now the Bible tells us that the King needs to be of the lineage of David. We looked at this last week. So no one can be presented as King and Christ and Messiah unless they meet this basic qualification. No one can claim to be the King of the Jews unless they are of the family tree of David.
Matthew tells us Jesus qualifies to be King. Jesus is qualified to be Christ and Messiah because He is the son of King David. So, as I said last week, Matthew starts his gospel by presenting Jesus as King.
Today I want to go the next step and tell you that not only is Jesus the King, but He is the gracious King. Most kings rule by law and order, by power and might, by soldiers and armies. But Jesus rules by grace.
I Grace Shown to the Gospel Writer
A To make the point that Jesus is the gracious King, I want to start by looking at Matthew, the writer of the gospel in front of us this morning.
At the time of Christ's birth, the nation of Israel has been conquered by the Roman Empire. This means Roman soldiers are stationed in Jerusalem. This means a Roman governor rules the land. And, this means Roman taxes are cruelly assessed by the tax collectors. We gripe and complain about the taxes collected by Sacramento and Washington, D.C. but believe me when I say our experience is nothing like the relentless, systematic, and outrageous taxes levied by Rome.
Do you know who collected the taxes for the Romans from the conquered nations? The highest bidder. You heard me right. Rome put out for bid a contract to collect taxes for five years. The high bidder did not do this out of patriotism. Rather, their goal was to make a profit by collecting more in taxes than they bid. To make matters worse, around the time Jesus was killed Rome faced a great financial crisis. Because of that crisis, Rome assessed even higher taxes from conquered nations.
The high bidders did not collect the taxes themselves. Rather, they hired publicans, local people from the conquered nation, to do the actual tax gathering. These publicans worked for some rich family in Rome and overtaxed their own countrymen. So what you had was overtaxing by the Romans who bought the right to tax, and then you had further overtaxing by the publicans in order to pad their own pockets. You might remember that Zacchaeus was one of these publicans who overtaxed his own people.
The publicans were looked upon as traitors. They were given the same low status as prostitutes, robbers, murderers, and roadside bandits.
B I already mentioned Zacchaeus. Another publican we meet in the gospels is Matthew -- the same Matthew who wrote the first gospel.
The first time we meet Matthew, the publican, the tax collector, is Matthew 9. Jesus sees Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus tells him, and Matthew gets up and follows Him. Isn't this amazing?! Isn't it amazing that Jesus calls such a man to be one of His twelve disciples? Isn't it amazing that Matthew leaves his tax collector's booth to follow Jesus? Isn't it amazing that Matthew leaves all his wealth and power?
Do you know what we see here? We see grace. We see transforming grace. We see transforming grace that turns a publican into an apostle. We see transforming grace that takes a hated tax-collector and makes him one of the twelve who walks and talks with Jesus for 3.5 years. We see transforming grace, I say.
C Do you know the first thing Matthew does after answering Jesus' call? He decides to have a dinner party. Guess who he all invites? He invites Jesus, of course. The other disciples. And, get this, many tax collectors and "sinners" -- so many of them that the Pharisees notice and wonder why Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners. Do you know what Matthew is doing? Matthew wants his old friends to meet Jesus. Matthew wants his old friends to meet the person responsible for changing his life. Matthew wants his old friends to meet the person Who has shown him grace.
The book of Matthew is all about grace. It is all about the gracious King. It is all about the grace of the King to the author of the first gospel.
II Grace Shown to David, Abraham, and Family
A Now, look at the two names mentioned in verse 1: David and Abraham. Abraham is the founder of the Jewish people; David is the founder of Israel's royal line.
When we review their stories we cannot help but note both men are sinners.
Consider David. His family life is a mess. He commits adultery with Bathsheba and murders her husband Uriah. He has multiple wives. He is sadly lacking as a father when he remains silent about the sins of his sons. Furthermore, David is known for the tens of thousands that he has killed; so many, in fact, that God says his hands are too bloody to build the temple. David is a sinner.
Abraham is also a sinner. Two times Abraham lies about his wife and endangers the covenant line. Abraham does not believe God and shamefully uses Hagar. Abraham is a sinner.
Yet, both David and Abraham are part of Jesus' family tree. That's grace, my brothers and sisters. It is grace because neither David nor Abraham earned this, deserved this, or merited this. It is grace given to undeserving sinners.
B Not only is grace given to David and Abraham but grace is also given to their seed, their descendants. Everyone listed by Matthew needs grace because everyone of them is a sinner.
Isaac, like his father Abraham, lies about his wife. Jacob is known as a schemer. Judah allows his own brother to be sold into slavery. Solomon may be the wisest man on earth but he is also the dumbest; he allows his hundreds of wives and concubines to lead his heart away from God. Rehoboam, in his arrogance, allows the Kingdom to be divided. I cannot say enough bad about Manasseh. Manasseh makes it his mission to undo the good reforms instituted by his father, and to do a great deal of evil. For instance, Manasseh rebuilds the shrines of pagan worship throughout the land, adding also shrines to Baal and Asherah. He desecrates the LORD's temple by putting altars for idol worship in it. He sacrifices his own sons, burning them to death in worship of the idol Molech. Manasseh murders so many people that it is recorded that he "filled Jerusalem from one end to the other" with innocent blood. Though Manasseh repented at the end of his life, when Judah fell the LORD blamed it on the sins of Manasseh.
C Matthew, as you can see, divides the genealogy of Jesus into three time periods. In period 1 God forms His people and brings them to victory in the Promised Land; however, remember how the people tested God in the wilderness; and, don't forget the darkness of the days of the Judges. Period 2 is the Davidic Kingdom established and destroyed. Yes, there were godly kings -- like David and Josiah and Hezekiah -- but what predominates is apostasy, evil, and degenerate behavior. So eventually the period ends with the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity in Babylon. Period 3 is from the captivity until Christ. I really don't know what to call this period. Because we know hardly anything about it. Because it is 600 years of darkness. Because we are given lots of names but we don't know anything about most of them.
The story of Israel is the story of three periods. The genealogy of Jesus mingles glory and darkness, faith and disgrace, victory and defeat. All along, even though the whole nation is failing and falling and rejects its own Messiah, it is still the nation through whom the Messiah comes. Out of grace, God chooses to bring Jesus out of the nation of Israel. Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham, overcame the failures of those who came before Him. He accomplished what they could not do. That's grace.
III Grace Shown to Five Women
A We end by looking at grace shown to five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah (we know her as Bathsheba), and Mary. You should know that women are not normally mentioned in Jewish genealogies. So the inclusion of five different women is momentous.
The five ladies have a reputation as sinners.
You can read about Tamar in Genesis 38. It is not a nice story. A couple of months after Tamar's husband died she pretended to be a prostitute. In this disguise she fooled her father-in-law to go to bed with her and got pregnant by him. Though Tamar was a seducer and prostitute Matthew includes her in the family tree of Jesus.
Rahab we should all know about from the story of Joshua. We can read about her in Joshua 2 & 6. She is the prostitute who hid the two spies Joshua sent to Jericho. We are told nothing of Rahab's marriage to Salmon, the man who became her husband. But knowing her occupation we can only assume she snared him with her body. Though Rahab was a prostitute Matthew includes her too in the family tree of Jesus.
Ruth we can read about in the book that bears her name. She was a Moabite. You need to know that the Moabites were the result of the sexual union between Lot and his oldest daughter (Gen 39:30-37). The Israelites had nothing but contempt for the Moabites because they had their origins in incest and considered their offspring impure to the tenth generation (Deut 23:3). Though Ruth was a Moabite Matthew includes her too in the family tree of Jesus.
Matthew identifies the fourth woman as "Uriah's wife." Her name was Bathsheba. You can read about her in 2 Samuel 11. She was the woman who committed adultery with King David and got pregnant and then permitted David to have her husband killed. Though Bathsheba was an adulteress and an accessory to murder Matthew includes her too in the family tree of Jesus.
Finally, we have to consider Mary, the mother of Jesus. She got pregnant under suspicious circumstances. Yes, she was engaged to be married, but she and Joseph were not yet living together as husband and wife. In fact, it was known that Joseph was not the cause of her pregnancy.
So we have two women who are prostitutes, a woman born out of incest, an adulteress, and a woman who got pregnant outside of marriage. God picks people who are not deserving, people who are branded as sinners, and includes them in the family tree of Jesus.
B Look at the five women. Go back and look at David and Abraham and their descendants. What do you think God is saying? What do you think God is saying about Himself? We hear, again, that God is a God of grace.
Look at it this way: with these five ladies and two men and their descendants in His family tree we see Christ taking on sinful flesh. Or, as the Apostle Paul puts it,
(2 Cor 5:21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.In the five ladies and two men and their descendants Christ identifies with us in our sin and misery, our darkness and death, so that we can identify with Him in His righteousness and life. In the five ladies and two men and their descendants Christ becomes one with fallen humanity so we can become one with Him in God.
And, what do you think God is saying about sinners? Even as Jesus was the friend of Matthew, so Jesus was the friend of sinners. Jesus was the friend of sinners. Jesus came for sinners. Out of grace, Jesus came for sinners.
Matthew's Jewish audience needed to hear this. The Jews who tended towards legalism needed to hear this. The Jews who were so quick to judge and condemn needed to hear this. Jesus is the friend of sinners. Jesus came for sinners.
C But there is more we can say when we look at the women; more specifically, when we look at the first four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba the wife of Uriah. What do these four women have in common? These four women are all Gentiles, outsiders, what Paul calls the uncircumcision. Tamar is an Aramean. Rahab is a Canaanite. Ruth is a Moabite. And Bathsheba is identified as the wife of Uriah the Hittite. The four ladies show us that foreigners, Gentiles, are included in the genealogy of the Messiah.
Matthew's Jewish audience needed to hear this. The Jews who looked down on everyone who was not Jewish needed to hear this. The Jews who had nothing but contempt for all others needed to hear this.
Here we get a picture of the inclusive ministry of Christ. No one is outside of the family of Christ simply because of race, nationality, or country. Red and yellow, black and white, all are included in the Gospel ministry, all have a place in His mission.
Here is the assurance that if foreign women can be included in Jesus' family, then you and I can be included too. Our past makes no difference to the Lord. Nor does the purity of our blood-line. He cares not if we grew up Dutch or Reformed or Roman Catholic or white. Jesus' family tree shows us that, out of grace, there is room for every kind of person in His family.
Jesus is the King, the Christ, the Messiah, the King of the Jews. We aren't worthy of Him. None of us. Not David. Not Abraham. None of their descendants. Not Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba. Not Mary. Not Matthew. We aren't worthy of Him Who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet, by grace, we are part of His family. By grace, we are invited to follow Him.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift. Thanks be to God for His grace and His love. Thanks be to God for including you and me.
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