Have you ever tried to read through court room transcripts? Or legal statements from the judge? (I mean, you know that the SCOTUS publishes both a favoring and dissenting opinion piece after every decision they make?) Anybody out there really enjoy reading those accounts?
Matthew’s Gospel, as popular as it is this time of year, can be really misunderstood without the appropriate context. Matthew (real name: Levi) was a tax collector and almost certainly a highly educated Jew. He knew the rules, customs, and laws of Judaism, as well as the Roman system. And his telling of Jesus’ story on earth comes from a very legalistic perspective.
Pedigreed – Small town churches are great at knowing your family (for better or worse). They know your parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, down to the sixth generation. That also means that they know that time your dad was the mayor of the town, your cousin was the preacher, and that your uncle is a teacher at the local school.
It also means that they know the time your aunt got her DUI (they also know it was really her 6th). They know that your cousin cheated on his wife. And they know that your dad can be verbally abusive (or rough around the edges).
Outside of people who know ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and other dead languages, I haven’t met anyone who enjoys reading through the genealogy of Christ at the beginning of Matthew. It’s like going to a family reunion with people you’ve never met, and can’t pronounce their names.
The thing is, that genealogy tells the Jewish people everything they need to know about Jesus. He’s got the right genes to be the Messiah. His ancestors are royalty, powerful leaders, and most importantly, the prophetic family the Messiah is supposed to come from.
The problem is that Jesus also has a few people in His genealogy that you wouldn’t want to broadcast. Jesus had traitors, prostitutes, rape victims, and women who slept with their father-in-law.
And people knew that too. Not really the family history you want in church.
Matthew uses Jesus ancestors to show us that the Messiah comes, not only for the saint (Jews) but also the sinners.
Closing Statements – Throughout his account, Matthew shows Jesus constantly challenging the Law as the Jewish leaders knew it. Christ challenges them every chance He gets, and He does it using the Law itself.
There is a climactic argument that breaks out near the end of the Gospel. Jesus is being confronted by one of the top legal scholars the Pharisees have to offer. After years of Jesus being a nuisance, they finally are going to trap Him. They ask Him “what is the most important Law?”
In one answer, Jesus not only answers their question, but sums up His entire ministry and teaching.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and Prophets depend on these two commands.
Boom. Mic drop.
The defense rests your honor.
The Gospel of Matthew shows us that holiness is God’s call, not just to the chosen few, but to all who love God, and each other. It’s a powerful lesson on grace and holiness.