Growing up, my family always read the Christmas story before opening presents on Christmas morning. Some years, it was Matthew’s account. Other years, we read from Luke. But we never read aloud Matthew 1:1-17.
It’s a list of names. Most of them difficult to pronounce. And reading through such a passage makes us wonder if we’re making any progress. Kind of like walking in circles. So, we jump to verse 18.
For the next four weeks, we’re going to look at the first two chapters of Matthew. I want us to ponder the origins of Christ. So, let’s begin with Matthew 1:1-17.
It begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (v. 1 ESV).
Jews in Jesus’ day expected a Messiah. Familiar with the Old Testament, they knew the promises of God. This was particularly true when it came to God’s promises with Abraham and David. The Jews knew their King would fulfill both the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.
That’s why the New Testament opens by mentioning two Old Testament names. So, let’s look at these two covenants.
First, the Abrahamic covenant. Genesis 12:1-3 reads, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (ESV).
Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of Abraham. He follows God and enters the land of Canaan. And only through Abraham can all the families of the earth be blessed. Abraham has a son named Isaac who has a son named Jacob. Then, Jacob has a son named Judah. And God keeps His promises to Abraham and to each of them.
As the lineage continues, we read about Jesus. You see, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. God’s promise to Abraham being a blessing to “all the families of the earth” is fulfilled in Christ. As Ephesians 2:14-15 says, “For he [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (ESV).
Through Christ, the Gentiles are grafted in (see Rom. 11). God’s covenantal promises to Abraham are fulfilled as Christ comes and makes a way for all people to know Him.
Now, let’s look at the Davidic covenant. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 reads, “‘When your [David’s] days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever’” (ESV).
The Jews knew Jesus had to come from the line of David. There was no other way.
Matthew opens his book by explaining just how Jesus Christ is the Son of David. He is the King of the Jews. The true King whose reign never ends. In this way, Christ fulfills the Davidic covenant.
So now, we have two covenants fulfilled by one Christ. And that’s the essence of what Matthew 1:1-17 is revealing. Of course, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant in that He satisfies the Law (see Matt. 5:17-20). There are also wonderful connections between Christ and Adam (see Rom. 5:12-21). More can even be said when it comes to God’s covenant with Noah (see Gen. 8:20-9:17) and how that relates to His promise in Genesis 3:15. In other words, Christ fulfills more than just the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. But in Matthew 1:1-17, these are the two highlighted.
It’s easy for us to celebrate Christmas without considering the full picture of God’s revelation. Jesus Christ is more than a virgin-born baby who comes out of nowhere. There’s a backstory. Information the Jews of Jesus’ day found important. And so should we. After all, it’s the New Testament read in light of the Old Testament where we see the beauty and majesty of Christ.
So, when you gather to read the Christmas story this year, may I suggest not skipping the first 17 verses of Matthew? Through these two covenants, we find one amazing Christ.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.