Both Matthew and Luke have accounts of the conception and birth of Jesus; Mark and John do not. Even more, both Matthew and Luke have genealogies of Jesus, though these family lists are not similar, nor do they relate to anything else in the Gospels. But why a genealogy in the first place?
Matthew’s purpose is clear. He has always been concerned to show that Jesus is the "fulfillment" of the promises made by God, and of the expectations of Israel. In constructing his genealogy, Matthew’s aim is to show that Jesus is the messiah, "son of David, son of Abraham", a true-blooded Jew.
The genealogy is somewhat artificially compiled in 3 sets of 14 names (14 is a multiple of seven, a significant number in Semitic culture). It is divided at the two critical points of Israeli history: the foundation of the monarchy of David (around 1000 BC), and the collapse of the monarchy of Judah in the Babylonian invasion (587 BC). But the symmetry of the list of names has been achieved by certain omissions in the first two lists.
Five women figure in the list of names – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary — but no common principle governs their inclusion, unless it be that four of them were foreigners, and are now included in Israeli history. (This is less clear with regard to Bathsheba, and certainly not so with regard to Mary.)
The early Church was not concerned with the personal life of Jesus, with his family relationships and his lineage. They were concerned with one thing only: Jesus' mission to proclaim the reign of God, and how in fulfilling this mission through his death and resurrection, he was proclaimed "Lord and Messiah".
But as the disciples grew in number and spread to regions outside Palestine, a natural curiosity grew about the personal life of the Lord. Where was he born? Where did he grow up? What were his parents like? The infancy narratives filled in this gap by speaking of Jesus' miraculous birth, and how it fulfilled the promises made to Israel centuries before. In creating a 'family tree' for Jesus, both Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus was human like us. He came from human stock, some of it fallible and corrupt (again, like many of us). So while truly divine by nature, Jesus was also truly human, with all that a human nature is prey to, except sin.
Source: UCA News
Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the Sunday Before Christmas (Genealogy of Jesus Christ)
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