This article was adapted from the Spring 2017 issue of The Gospel Project for Adults: The Rescue Begins. The Gospel Project takes adults, students, and kids on a chronological, Christ-centered journey through the storyline of Scripture. Preview four sessions free at gospelproject.com.
Session 1: From Abraham to Jesus
Read Matthew 1:1-17.
Transitioning from the Old Testament to the New, we come to the Gospel of Matthew, a book written to a community of Jews who believed in Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Savior for a world undergoing radical—sometimes violent—changes. Many of these Jews were wrestling with questions of identity and distinction.
These persecuted followers of Jesus were on the verge of the powerful realization that it was no longer the temple or the synagogue that defined them and no longer their dedication to ritual obedience. Their new identity was to be found solely in the person of Jesus. Matthew would tell them who they were by revealing to them who Jesus is.
In his Gospel, Matthew traces the lineage of Jesus back to Abraham. Jesus’ identity is rooted in the fulfillment of the promise that through Abraham God would bless all the nations (Matt. 1:1-5), in the promise made to David of an eternal kingdom (vv. 6-11), and in the promise made to God’s people that one day they would return from their long exile, back to the land that was promised (vv. 12-17).
As Christians, grafted into the family of God, Jesus’ genealogy is also ours, for we trace our heritage back to Abraham, our forefather in the faith. In this historical line, we discover our truest identity in Christ, the One through whom God has kept all His promises.
Jesus’ connection to the promises of God is a flesh and blood link to His genetic ancestors. This is not “a roll call of great men”; these are members of Jesus’ family! Invariably He bore some distant resemblance—the shape of His face or perhaps the inflection of His voice. These ancestors were the unique recipients of unique promises from God. Jesus will be the One through whom each and every promise will be perfectly and completely fulfilled.
The first of three generational blocks begins with Abraham (vv. 2-6), the one who first received the promise that through his “offspring” (or “seed,” singular) God would bless the nations: “And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command” (Gen. 22:18; cf. 18:18; 26:4; Isa. 61:9; Gal. 3:8,16).
This is Jesus’ identity, written over thousands of years in the flesh and blood and hopes of His ancestors. Matthew wanted his readers to understand that even as Jesus had ancestors, so He will also have descendants, citizens of the kingdom of which Jesus is King. That is the new and yet ancient identity that belonged to the first Jewish followers of Jesus and that belongs to us who follow Him today.
The promises made to Matthew’s first readers almost two thousand years ago are just as alive and relevant to us today as they were to the frightened followers of Jesus in the first centuries of the church.
Excerpted from The Gospel Project: The Rescue Begins © 2017 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.
What is meant by this quote from this lesson? “Invariably He bore some distant resemblance—the shape of His face or perhaps the inflection of His voice.”
Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary. Luke 1:35 (NASB): “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'”
Thanks for answering.
This is quite the perceptive question and gets to the heart of the Christian confession of who Jesus is. He is truly God and truly man (see John 1:1-3,14; Phil. 2:5-11), meaning that Jesus possessed all that is necessary for Him to be considered authentically divine as well as authentically human. While Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb was certainly supernatural, we should nevertheless understand Mary to be His biological mother, which is to say that He would have inherited her genes. This is what the writer means when he states that Jesus is connected by “flesh and blood” to His ancestors mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy. Their DNA flowed through His veins. Mary passed on traits from her family line to Jesus as any mother naturally does, in other words. So, Jesus in this way would have “bore some distant resemblance” to Mary and her ancestors.
Yet, Jesus did not inherit the sinful nature that the rest of us have inherited through our father Adam (Rom. 5:12-21; cf. Ps. 51:5; Eph. 2:3)—hence the need for Jesus’ miraculous conception and virgin birth. Jesus did not inherit a human nature corrupted by sin as do the rest of us. He as the second and last Adam was without sin entirely and for the entirety of His life (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Jesus’ conception is supernatural in that His conception came about without the contribution of a man.
The Holy Spirit, as you were right to note with reference to Luke 1:35, overshadowed Mary in bringing about life in her womb. That is why the Child is in turn considered “holy” according to this verse. This does not entail that Mary was nothing more than a proverbial “surrogate mother” for the Son of God, but rather that the Holy Spirit worked to create human life in Mary’s womb, the human nature that was Jesus’ very own. Mary was His true mother biologically. Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law” (Gal. 4:4) and “had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way” (Heb. 2:17). So, in some ways, His conception and birth is like any other human’s (but again, without the stain of sin).
Jesus, then, really became part of the human race and shared a family line as the son of Mary who was also the Son of God. As Luke recounts the angel’s words to Mary, “Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:31-32, emphasis mine). Jesus is truly God in that He is the unique Son of the Father eternally (John 1:18), and He is also truly human in that He is the son of David through Mary.
Thanks for your great question!
– The Gospel Project editorial team
My point that I should have made is that the way you wrote your paragraph sounded like Martthew 1 had the biological tie in when in fact Luke 3 is Mary’s genealogy.
Matthew 1 is the Royal line of Joseph
Luke 3 is the genetic line of Mary
Mary is a descendant of David as well from Nathan’s side. Joseph is from Solomens side as you know.
So, the way you wrote the paragraph made people in my class think you’re saying Joseph had a biological tie to Jesus as his father.
You needed to tie in the Luke 3 account to make your point. Matthew 1 cannot be used to make your inference.
Luke 3 is certainly relevant to this discussion! Here’s a link for readers who are interested: https://www.mywsb.com/reader/bible/HCSB/Luke3:23.