As I posted in my last blog, we are going through the book of Matthew in our youth gatherings. Yes, we actually spent a week reading through the first chapter of genealogies that the author includes at the beginning of his gospel. I think for many people (including myself) it is very tempting to skip over "those Parts" of the Bible that are just plain boring and seemingly pointless to us. However, the more you read over and study these collections of stories and letters that make up the Bible, the more it becomes clear that most everything is written with a purpose. The writings, whether it be letters, stories, or happenings, are written to certain people about certain things and there are certain agendas behind them. This is especially true for the gospels. I think a lot of times we read the gospels as history literature or personal journals, as if the writers are simply trying to show us an accurate account of how things went down. But these writers have a specific audience they are writing to. They have a specific purpose behind their writings. This means that they aren't just telling people what happened and how it happened, but instead, are choosing which stories to tell and which ones to leave out, how to tell them, and even how to arrange them. John even admits this towards the end of his gospel. He says...
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, WHICH ARE NOT RECORDED IN THIS BOOK. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)
In other words, John has a purpose, or an agenda when writing his book and the other stories didn’t serve that purpose. So he left them out.
So as we start to read through the book of Matthew this is something that we need to keep in mind. The author of Matthew is writing with a purpose and he puts things in his gospel for a reason. So to us something like the list of Jesus' descendants at the beginning may seem boring and pointless to read through, but the author could have put them there for a reason. The gospel of Matthew is believed to be written to a Jewish audience. So the author begins his gospel about the Messiah with references to King David and Abraham. The author is pointing out, from the beginning, that Jesus is a true Israelite and is indeed the long awaited Messiah.
Then the list begins. This person was the father of this person and this person was the father of this person and so on. But when we get to the end of the list the author then shows us how he ordered his list. He says...
"So there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah." (v17)
Why does the writer feel the need to number the generations and then put them in certain groups? We started asking what the significance of this could be and someone pointed out that it could have something to do with the number “seven” since “seven” has huge implications to the Jews.
The genealogies at the beginning of Matthew are listed in seven groups of seven generations, and Jesus is the beginning of the seventh group. To put this in a Jewish way, the author is showing his readers that Jesus is the “seventh seven” which is a reference to the year of Jubilee. (Lev 25) For the Jews this was a time of great blessing and redemption. The author wants his Jewish readers to understand first thing that this Jesus is a descendant of King David and Father Abraham, and that he is the promised Messiah who has come to bring blessing and redemption to the world.