The New Testament opens with a message for the Jewish people. It is a message that they will not accept, given by one of the most hated people.
The Romans in the first century relied upon a hierarchy of publicani, or tax gatherers, in order to collect taxes for the empire. Local merchants would pay for the privilege to collect from their countrymen. These local tax gatherers would often add on a large percentage of taxes for themselves, thus becoming both very wealthy and very hated by the local people.
The tax gatherers were considered the worst of society. They were often used in the gospels to illustrate bad people, with the synonymous term, “tax gatherers and sinners” (e.g. Matthew 9:11, Mark 2:16).
Matthew (also known as Levi) was such a tax gatherer who left his business to follow Jesus (see the passages here). Matthew turned from his old life to become one of Jesus’ twelve apostles (see here).
Matthew’s message to the Jewish people is that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the long-awaited king who has come to save His people (see here).
Matthew’s gospel account begins by showing that Jesus deserves the title of king. Jesus is the descendent of David and heir to the throne over all Israel.
The first part of Matthew’s gospel account traces Jesus’ family tree back to Abraham. This family tree dates back for 2,000 years and includes many heroes of Old Testament history, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, and many of the kings of Judah. This list includes some of the greatest men to have ever lived.
This list included some very evil men. Rehoboam was the foolish king who divided his father’s kingdom. Manasseh was so wicked and violent that God promised to remove the kingdom because of him. Jeconiah was cursed to never have a descendent to sit on the throne of Israel (see Jeremiah 22:30).
This list included scandals. Judah fathered Perez because his daughter-in-law disguised herself as a prostitute. David took Bathsheba as wife after adultery and murder. Jehoshaphat married his son Jehoram to the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, setting up two generations of family murder and intrigue.
This list included foreigners and women. Rahab was the Canaanite prostitute who rescued the Israelite spies and turned to follow their God. Ruth was the Moabite widow who chose to remain faithful to her destitute mother-in-law.
The list ends with Joseph, who would be the legal guardian of Jesus the Messiah.
What is the point of this history lesson? Is it simply a chance to reflect on history, with perhaps a chance to walk down memory lane?
Of the many lessons that we can gather from this passage, remember the following:
God can use broken people!
The family history of Jesus Christ is full of fallible humans. Even among the great figures in history:
- Abraham lied and tried to build his family through a slave girl
- Isaac was partial to one son over the other
- Jacob was a liar and a deceiver
- David was an adulterer and a murderer
- Solomon was a polygamist
- Asa would not trust God
- Jehoshaphat befriended the evil kings of Israel
- Uzziah tried to become a priest
- Hezekiah bargained with God for his life
- Josiah had three wicked sons
If God was able to use broken people in past, He is just as able to use you and me, despite our failures.
God’s plan is not broken by evil people!
The bloodline of Jesus Christ was never broken!
- Even when Jehoram was murdering his brothers and Athaliah was murdering her grandchildren, God’s plan never failed.
- Even when Manasseh was searching Jerusalem so that he could murder anyone who was faithful to God, His plan never failed.
- Even when the Babylonian army was burning the temple and taking the people into exile, God’s plan was never broken.
If God’s plan never failed through the worst of ancient history, He is fully able to keep his plans today, despite anyone who rises to oppose Him.
Jesus is king!
Jesus is the king, not only over ancient Israel, but over the world today. He has all authority over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).
Jesus still has just as much authority today as He did 2,000 years ago. We can know that, through all of our uncertainties, He is still king!
Previous post: Who is Jesus?