Matthew 1:1

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. [1]

I am a fan of travel shows. I like learning about places that I will likely never have the time and funds to see. I particularly like the flyover travel shows that show what a countryside or a city looks like from above. The narrators deliver interesting facts and bits of history about the places and the background music reflects the musical culture of the place. By the time the show is over you have some sense of what that foreign destination is like. If you have never read through the book of Matthew, then you are about to enter a foreign country with its own culture and its own sense of rhythm and music.

Last year, we spent some time examining Matthew’s record of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Starting today, we are going to pick up where we left off in the book of Matthew. But before we get to chapter 8 where we left off, we’re going to do a flyover of the book so that we have some sense of what we are going to see and hear in our travels through this gospel account. Just as every good song has a melodic line that brings unity to the whole, so also does every book of the Bible.

The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) all sound the same. Their music has a similar bass line. They focus on the same person (Jesus), and they were written for the same primary purpose, conversion to Christ (John 20:31). In all four we hear the same deep, steady notes of Jesus as the Son, Savior, and Christ. We see him as a miracle worker. We hear his teaching and his call to faith and repentance. We see his passion, death, and resurrection.

In these ways, all four gospels sound the same. They have the same bass line or the same geographic features. Just as we can recognize familiar melodies we hear in music, so we can recognize Matthew’s melody if we hear the reoccurring themes. Just as in a flyover travel show, or in a symphony, the beginning and the end are important. They set the theme. Matthew’s gospel is the same.

We hear the melody most clearly at the top and the tail. Look at the first words with which Matthew begins: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Hear those first two titles applied to Jesus. The first is “Christ.” That is not a last name. It is a title. It means “anointed one” or “king.” This is a book about King Jesus, a point the next title reiterates, “the son of David.” David was the great king of Israel, the one to whom a great promise was made. In 2nd Samuel 7 we are told that through David’s offspring God would establish a forever Kingdom. In those first two titles you can hear the first note of the melody line: Jesus, the king. He is a sovereign who will be sovereign over an everlasting Kingdom.

From those two opening notes Matthew drops a ½- step to the next note. He moves from Jesus being “the son of David” to also being “the son of Abraham.” Who was Abraham and why does he matter? Abraham was the non-Israelite Father of Israel. Paul will make this point in Romans 4, that Abraham of Ur was not a “Hebrew” (Genesis 14:13) until God made him into one. Abraham is important because he received a great promise from God. In Genesis 12:1-3 God explained that through Abraham and his Seed all “nations” would be blessed.

The point of these two persons and promises is that Jesus will be that Davidic King who will reign over that eternal Kingdom which will be a blessing to all peoples of the earth. Jesus is King. That’s the first chord. It is the opening scene of the flyover, the first chord of the music. Jesus is the King of Jews and Gentiles, that is the second chord. The third is an important admonition: this King Jesus is to be worshipped.

Read 2:1-11 (the basis of our call to worship this morning). It is a good summary picture of Matthew’s Gospel. Here we find non-Jewish people, “wise men from the east” (2:1). They have come to finish the melodic line. They have come to worship the newborn king, to give their allegiance to him. That is how this gospel account begins. The Seed of Abraham, the Seed of David, the Eternal King is worshipped by angels, Jews, and Gentiles. That is the opening scene of our flyover.

Next, let’s look at the ending. Like a symphony, Matthew’s melody resurfaces time and again through each chapter until finally we come to the finale, where the whole orchestra, chorus, and even the audience stand up, play, and sing with one voice. This happens in the last three verses of this book, the Great Commission. Listen for yourself. Listen for the culmination of all the subtle and strong sounds:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [2]

Underline the word “all” – all authority, all nations, observe all, always. Those are the same three notes found in 1:1 through 2:11. We will hear these three notes throughout Matthew’s Gospel. One commentator sums it up this way:

Jesus has all authority so that all nations might obey all he has commanded, or more simply and poetically, like this: All authority. All nations. All allegiance.[3]

If you understand the Great Commission in its context, then you will understand the Gospel of Matthew. We will save the exposition of the Great Commission for later in our series. But we are going to prepare for that eventual exposition this morning. We need to hear these three chords, or see these three fly over scenes, so that we can truly take them in when we come to our final conclusion.


Hear the first sound of this gospel: “all authority.” After his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, Jesus says that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (28:18). That is not a statement one hears every day, is it? But it’s so familiar to us church people that we don’t recognize how strange it is.

Think of the most famous and powerful person alive today. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, it’s the president of the United States. If he said what Jesus said, what would people say of him? If he called a press conference and said, “I have all authority in Washington DC,” what would you think of such a statement. How about if he said, “I have all authority in America”? Now, what if he said, “I have all authority over the world”? If we heard such a statement, we would believe him to be either an unrealistic egoist or an overly ambitious idiot.

No one talks the way Jesus talked. Those today with great authority, even if they overestimate their power and over esteem themselves, do not talk like Jesus talked, they do not claim to be the king of heaven and earth. They are not seated on an unspeakably glorious heavenly throne that every human being from every time and every place will one day come before to be judged. No earthly leader claims to have authority to forgive sins.

They do not claim to be greater than the temple and the Torah or to be the fulfillment and embodiment of the Hebrew scriptures. They do not claim that their rule will spread to every corner of the world. They do not claim to establish an unconquerable church and institute new sacraments that have themselves as the foundation and focus. They do not claim that all their commandments are to be obeyed.

As striking as such statements are, the more striking fact about Jesus is not only that he made such claims, but that somehow such claims are believable. Jesus is believable! Right? You believe him. I believe him. Maybe we’re just gullible people. Maybe we were all brainwashed as children. That might explain some of us, but it doesn’t explain all of us. It doesn’t explain how for so many centuries very sensible, non-superstitious people have taken Jesus at his word. There is something very believable about Jesus, about the testimony of him that two fishermen, a doctor, and a tax collector put together.

So as we approach this tax collector’s story, we notice a certain logic to it. Matthew gives us various reasonable proofs for Jesus’ crazy claims. But such proofs are not like a mathematical equation. They are more like the burning bush that Moses encountered, a bush that burns but never burns out. You have to come close enough to feel its heat to know it’s true.

Think of it like a modern-day metal fire pit with four sturdy cast iron legs. In Matthew’s fire pit are burning truth-claims of Christ that never burn out. Consider the cast iron legs of the fire pit that hold it up and in place. Each leg by itself would not necessarily hold up Jesus’ truth claims, but together they make a solid base.

Let’s examine those four solid cast iron legs that hold up his burning truth claims. The first leg is fulfillment. Matthew will repeatedly use the word “fulfilled” and phrases like “this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet” to show that what was promised in the Old Testament is now being fulfilled in Jesus. Matthew gives general characteristics of what to expect in the Messiah as well as specific prophecies. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (1:23). “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey” (21:5).

Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will say of himself, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (5:17). Matthew offers us to check out what the Old Testament says. Observe what Jesus does and says. Then you might very well say, “This Jesus really is the Messiah!

The second leg of the fire pit is teaching. If you have a red-letter edition Bible, in Matthew you will see a lot of red. The point being not simply that Jesus taught a great deal, but that he taught with authority. That is what the crowds noticed. He taught them “as one who had authority” (7:29). This will be the continuing criticism from his critics, who will ask, “By what authority” he does this or says that (cf. 21:23-27).

Jesus taught with and authority unlike any other. It is nice to say, as so many today do, “I like Jesus because he was a good moral teacher.” Such a statement only recognizes half the story. Jesus once said, “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (24:35). How could he make such a claim and get away with it? He can do so because so far, he has been right! It has been 2000 years since he first said those words, and we are still talking about them today. I am standing here before people who still read, study, and talk about his teachings, and have experienced the life-changing power of his words.

The third leg of the fire pit of burning truth is character. Throughout the course of human history, many wise and pithy sayings have been collected and disseminated. We still quote Socrates. But nobody worships Socrates. He never claimed to be God and his character never had to fit his claims. There is no disconnect between Jesus’ character and his claims.

If you read of the popular figures of church history, you will find a long list of character flaws to accompany their great deeds. You would find that you do not wish to be exactly like any of them. They are flawed. They are simply jars of clay containing great treasure in the gospel. But if you study the life of Jesus, you will find no such flaws. Even what seems like a flaw (his anger over the fruitless fig tree or his overturning the tables of the temple) make wonderful sense when you understand what he was doing and the context in which he did it.

The more you get to know about the person and work of Jesus, the more you will like him. You will even begin to love him more and more. Jesus’ character is so compelling. It supports his claims. Ironically, it is his humility that so many have found to be his most compelling characteristic. It is ironic because his self-claims are very disturbing. They are so self-centered. And yet his behavior was so perfectly clothed with humility.

His claims sound proud, but he was humble. We see that when he was with his disciples in the upper room shortly before his arrest and crucifixion. He said he was their Lord, their teacher, and their judge, and yet he took a towel, got down on his hands and knees, and washed their filthy feet like a common slave. There have been many arrogant people throughout history, but they have all behaved like it. There have also been many humble people, but they have not made great claims for themselves. It is the strange combination of his egocentricity and humility that attracts us to his character.[4]

The fourth leg holding up this cauldron of burning truth is his miracles. By themselves, the miracles are not what is unique about him. But as the last leg, his miracles hold everything in place. The healing of the blind man, the lepers, the multiplication of the fishes and loaves, and the resurrection itself all point beyond themselves to Jesus’ Messianic identity.

They point to his authority: his authority to forgive sins, his authority over disease, his authority over the wind and the waves, and his authority to conquer even death, of which there is nothing more powerful and prevalent in this world. If you can conquer death, you have tremendous power and unlimited authority. All authority is the fundamental note of Matthew’s Gospel. Sadly, it is the most disregarded thought in the world today.

Non-Christians don’t mind if we sing to them of Jesus’ compassion or humility. But don’t sing of his exclusive authority. If you listen to how people talk today, Christian or non-Christian, many of them hold staunchly to the doctrine that “doctrines do not matter.” To them, all belief systems are morally equal and should therefore coexist. Find the “truth” that works for you. Maybe you’ve seen those bumper stickers with the word “coexist” spelled with each letter of a symbol of one of the seven world religions or philosophies. It’s a very popular sentiment.

There is a sense in which coexistence is a worthy goal. We shouldn’t have a problem with tolerance if tolerance means what it should. I will tolerate you and not persecute you for your beliefs. I will coexist with you. In fact, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism coexist in most places. What I cannot do is hide my head under a bushel basket. By God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, I am convinced by Matthew’s fiery logic that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth.

I cannot be true to that gospel if I say, “Your God is as true or real as my God.” Jesus either has all the authority or he does not. And if he does not, then we can quit now and go home early, sell the building and split the proceeds. In fact, we can just stop calling ourselves Christians altogether. In fact, because Jesus has all authority, we can truly coexist with our fellow human beings who believe differently than we do, as long as we understand we won’t coexist forever. As Jesus said in chapter 25:31-34, 41 (quite offensively by the world’s standards):

When the Son of Man comes in his glory . . . then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. . .. Then the king [King Jesus] will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. . ..” Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Jesus’ authority does not resonate with our culture. In fact, it has not resonated with any culture since Adam and Eve ate that first sacramental meal with Satan and plunged the entire human race into its tragic quest for self-satisfaction. Since that time, all of humanity’s ears itch to hear the idea that we are our own authority. We just have to look inside our heart and find our own truth.


However sour the first chord of the gospel might sound to most ears, thankfully the second note appeals to our American ears. It is right, and it sounds right. That note is all nations. In the Great Commission, Jesus orders his followers to take the gospel to the world, to “every tribe and language and people and nation,” which, by the way, is a repeated emphasis of the Book of Revelation.

That might not sound like a radical idea because we know Christianity is one of the largest, if not the largest, religion in the world and that it is spread to nearly every nook and cranny of this planet. But you should consider how radical this idea to make disciples of all nations – not by the sword but by the Word – actually is. It is as revolutionary as Copernicus’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun.

Some people claim Christianity is a Western religion. That is simply not true. Jesus himself said his Kingdom would begin as small as a mustard seed and grow slowly but surely into a big and beautiful tree, engrafting people from every corner of the world. And you know what? He has been absolutely right about that!

The growth of Christ’s Church is different from that of every other world religion. The center and majority of Islam’s population is still in the place of its origin, the Middle East. The original lands that were the demographic centers of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism have remained so. By contrast, Christianity was first dominated by Jews and centered in Jerusalem. Later it was dominated by Hellenists and centered in the Mediterranean.

Later still, the faith was received by the Barbarians of Northern Europe and Christianity came to be dominated by Western Europeans and then North Americans. Today, most Christians in the world live in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Christianity soon will be centered in the southern and eastern hemispheres. Many who study Christian missions estimate that China, an officially anti-Christian country, has the most Christians in the world. So when you picture the future face of Christianity, don’t think of an American girl but of a Chinese boy.

Matthew makes the point directly and indirectly that Jesus is the King of the Jews. But he will also show us that Jesus is also King of the Gentiles, “He will proclaim justice to the Gentiles… and in his name the Gentiles will hope” (12:18, 21). Tacked upon his cross was the sarcastic proclamation, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37). It was written in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin, the languages of that world. Matthew’s gospel makes it clear that Pilot should have written “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews and the Gentiles.” And that statement is now written in every conceivable language of the world.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record something significant and symbolic when Jesus dies. The temple curtain is torn in two. This shows God’s power and his approval of the cross. But it also symbolizes that the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles has been forever torn down. Now whoever trusts into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial blood-shedding death of the risen, ascended, and glorified Immanuel can have access to God.

In Matthew’s Gospel, as the curtain is tearing, the ground at the foot of the cross is shaking, and the Roman centurion upon that ground is shaking as well. Filled with fear and faith, this Gentile soldier announces, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (27:54). John the Baptizer said, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (3:9). In Matthew’s Gospel, that is exactly what we see. Stones are being turned into children of God – a Canaanite woman, a ceremonially unclean Jewish woman, lepers, tax collectors, and even Roman soldiers.

If you enjoy paradox and irony, you will love this Gospel, because the rulers of the earth (two Herod’s and Pilot) will reject Jesus. The most devoutly religious (the scribes, the Pharisees, and temple authorities) will reject Jesus. But the rejects will not reject him. Those from the wrong race or the wrong class or the wrong sex flock to Jesus. The kids picked last for the team are picked up by Jesus. Jesus loves the losers. And the losers love him.


All authority, that was our first note. All nations, the second. Now, finally, all allegiance is the third note of Matthew’s great melody. You will notice that Matthew’s Gospel is a gospel of discipleship. It speaks of the call, cost, and content of discipleship. Time and again Jesus will say, “Follow me.” Each time an individual will be met with the same choice we have before us today. Will it be Jesus above money? Jesus above power? Jesus above reputation? Jesus above comfort? Jesus above tradition? Jesus above family? Jesus above life and breath? Those choices come before both great governors and the lowly lepers.

This gospel has a beautiful balance between forgiveness, faith, and obedience. That was something we saw last summer when we studied the Sermon on the Mount. At the center of the Sermon on the Mount is the petition “forgive us our debts” (6:12), and at the end of the Lord’s Supper is the pronouncement, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (26:28). It is this blood that is poured out for the forgiveness of sins that flows into us through trust, giving our dry bones new flesh, giving new ears and eyes and hearts and hands, giving us all that we need for life and godliness as the Holy Spirit moves in and begins his great re-creation project.

You will learn in this gospel that Christianity is not a pick-n-pull religion. We are called to hear and follow everything Jesus says. Jesus says that not everyone who calls him Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (7:21). To follow Jesus is to be someone who does the will of his Father – not perfectly as Jesus did, but consistently and repentantly. It’s a matter of allegiance: Jesus first, everyone and everything else second.

You see, all authority demands all allegiance from everybody… even me and even you.

Welcome back to the Gospel of Matthew!





[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 1:1.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 28:18–20.

[3] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. Matthew (Preaching the Word) (p. 19). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[4] John Stott, Why I Am a Christian (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p. 44.