The Christmas “Tree”


The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,… Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,…Solomon…at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah…Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations…

“Behold , the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

                Matthew 1:1-17, 1:23


I never got much from this genealogy.   But, it would have been bursting with meaning for first-century Jews.  To them, the names weren’t just names:  each name told a story and recalled important places, events, and historical periods.   Matthew strategically constructed this passage to show that the climax of Israel’s history was in Jesus.

“Genealogy” can be translated as “genesis ” or “beginning.”  The title “Son of David” linked Jesus to David and Solomon.  This recalled Israel’s glory days when God promised an everlasting dynasty to David.  Also, dividing the generations into 3 sets of 14 would recall David’s name.  The Hebrew consonants in “David” had number values:  d=4, w=6, d=4, totaling 14.  This subtly proclaimed that Jesus was the “thrice-Davidic Son of David.”

Then the genealogy turns somber.  It lists the generations of the Babylonian deportation and exile, a result of Israel sinning and breaking their covenant with God.   This period wasn’t just a painful memory to first-century Jews.  They still continued to feel the loss of their kingdom, land, and the Ark of the Covenant (God’s presence in the temple).

Then, the genealogy turns hopeful, showing that the Davidic line had NOT died out.  As “Christ” (“Anointed One”), Jesus would be a new Davidic king.  As “Jesus” (“God saves”), he would bring about the New Covenant era of forgiveness of sin.  As “Emmanuel” (“God is with us”), he would dwell among the Jews like the old Ark of the Covenant, and he would also be a blessing for the whole world.  This is what first-century Jews would have been longing for.

(Taken from Mystery of the Kingdom:  On the Gospel of Matthew and Dawn of the Messiah:  The Coming of Christ in Scripture, by Edward Sri)

Reflection by Cathy Sullivan, Applications Coordinator


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