We are now on the second week of Advent. With that in mind, I’ve chosen some passages linked to that theme. I begin with the opening of Matthew’s gospel:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
And by opening, I mean that. Just the first verse. But a huge amount is contained in that single verse. Let us unpack it.
First, we have the name of our savior: Jesus Christ. That is how His name is translated in the Greek. If we were to say His hebrew name, it would be Joshua the Messiah. Now, that is just His Hebrew name. That doesn’t actually translate what His name actually means.
Joshua is a familiar name to those fluent in the Old Testament. He was the Israelite who took over after Moses, and actually led the People of God into the Promised Land. A translation of Joshua into English would be “God Saves.”
Messiah is another important and old Hebrew word. It means “anointed.” To anoint someone was to mark them with oil as special, as set apart. In the Old Testament we see two different figures who were anointed, the King and the Priest. Some examples of this from scripture:
10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
(1 Samuel 10-13)
12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tent of meeting, and shall wash them with water, 13 and put upon Aaron the holy garments, and you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests: and their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”
I mention both of these because this separation was not how it was supposed to be. Originally the Patriarch, the head of the family of the People Israel, was both King and Priest. Both roles belonged to him as father. However, with the Exodus the roles are split- the kingship is retained by Judah, but the priesthood went to Aaron’s line, of the House of Levi. In Jesus we see them returned to their proper place together, hand in hand. Just as it was before in his ancestor, Melchizedek.
Then Matthew mentions that He is “the son of David.” This is important because it is a fulfillment of a promise by God to David:
12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men; 15 but I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.’”
(2 Samuel 7:12-16)
It is important to remember that as the first Gospel Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience. By opening with this statement that Jesus was the Son of David, he is informing the reader that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise I just quoted above. Jesus is the Son that was promised to David, the Son whose throne would be established forever.
Then we have the mention that Jesus was the Son of Abraham. Here again Matthew was informing the reader that yet another promise was being fulfilled. This was a promise of God to Abraham:
15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Jesus was the blessing to all the nations that was promised. And the gates of the enemies were the gates of the Underworld, of Sheol, which Jesus smashed after his Crucifixion. And by possessing them, he freed from the pit those righteous dead which had awaited the Lord’s Day.
Matthew is telling his Jewish readers all of that, and in a single sentence. For those who don’t really know the Old Testament, it seems like a mere prologue. But for those who truly know it, Matthew was actually giving away the whole book there- this book is about The Anointed of God, King and Priest in the order of Melchizedek, God Saves, who established a kingdom and throne forever and thereby blessed all nations and peoples by smashing the gates of Death.