This article was adapted from the Spring 2017 issue of The Gospel Project for Adults: The Rescue Begins. The Gospel Project takes adults, students, and kids on a chronological, Christ-centered journey through the storyline of Scripture. Preview four sessions free at gospelproject.com.
Session 1: From Abraham to Jesus
Read Matthew 1:1-17.
Transitioning from the Old Testament to the New, we come to the Gospel of Matthew, a book written to a community of Jews who believed in Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Savior for a world undergoing radical—sometimes violent—changes. Many of these Jews were wrestling with questions of identity and distinction.
These persecuted followers of Jesus were on the verge of the powerful realization that it was no longer the temple or the synagogue that defined them and no longer their dedication to ritual obedience. Their new identity was to be found solely in the person of Jesus. Matthew would tell them who they were by revealing to them who Jesus is.
In his Gospel, Matthew traces the lineage of Jesus back to Abraham. Jesus’ identity is rooted in the fulfillment of the promise that through Abraham God would bless all the nations (Matt. 1:1-5), in the promise made to David of an eternal kingdom (vv. 6-11), and in the promise made to God’s people that one day they would return from their long exile, back to the land that was promised (vv. 12-17).
As Christians, grafted into the family of God, Jesus’ genealogy is also ours, for we trace our heritage back to Abraham, our forefather in the faith. In this historical line, we discover our truest identity in Christ, the One through whom God has kept all His promises.
Jesus’ connection to the promises of God is a flesh and blood link to His genetic ancestors. This is not “a roll call of great men”; these are members of Jesus’ family! Invariably He bore some distant resemblance—the shape of His face or perhaps the inflection of His voice. These ancestors were the unique recipients of unique promises from God. Jesus will be the One through whom each and every promise will be perfectly and completely fulfilled.
The first of three generational blocks begins with Abraham (vv. 2-6), the one who first received the promise that through his “offspring” (or “seed,” singular) God would bless the nations: “And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command” (Gen. 22:18; cf. 18:18; 26:4; Isa. 61:9; Gal. 3:8,16).
This is Jesus’ identity, written over thousands of years in the flesh and blood and hopes of His ancestors. Matthew wanted his readers to understand that even as Jesus had ancestors, so He will also have descendants, citizens of the kingdom of which Jesus is King. That is the new and yet ancient identity that belonged to the first Jewish followers of Jesus and that belongs to us who follow Him today.
The promises made to Matthew’s first readers almost two thousand years ago are just as alive and relevant to us today as they were to the frightened followers of Jesus in the first centuries of the church.
Excerpted from The Gospel Project: The Rescue Begins © 2017 LifeWay Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.