The Family Tree

Christmas Trees

Pastor Jerry Gillis - December 8, 2019

Community Group Study Notes

  1. Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s message.
  2. How do we see God’s sovereign faithfulness in the genealogy that Matthew’s Gospel provides? What encouragement does that give you personally?
  3. God’s surprising grace is also evident in the family tree of Jesus. Share in your group one way that you have been a recipient of God’s surprising grace, using a recent example if at all possible.
  4. Read John 1:11-13. Why is it so significant that we could become children of God? As a part of God’s spiritual family, how does that change the way we live? Our heavenly Father welcomed us into His family when we were undeserving; how can we reflect the Father in our relationships, especially at this season.
  5. What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?


Sermon Transcript

I don't know if you're one of a whole bunch of people in the United States who have done one of those DNA tests, like or 23andMe, one of those deals. There's a bunch of people that have done those, and I don't know if you've heard some of the stories that have come from that. It can be risky to do it because some of you are thinking, "Man, I want to do that. I'm hoping I've got some really cool people in my family tree," but the truth is sometimes you find out there's some not really cool people in your family tree. You're going, "Wait a minute. I'm related to that person. I wish I didn't know that." I've heard people in our church who found out that they had, like one person that I know found out she had a sister through this deal. Then, they reconnected. She learned some things about her own family tree.

I talked to some people in the atrium after the first worship gathering, and I saw that they were like, "Hey, we did this too. I found out," this man was telling me, "I had two sisters I didn't know I had, and then I think there's a third one as well that we're going to try and track down." They were both believers. He was so thrilled. He's like, "My biological family got bigger," and their spiritual family as well, so that was super cool. I know that it comes with at least some risk. I read a story in The Washington Post that was about a lady named Alice Collins Plebuch who was pretty sure she was Irish American, like her name, everything about it. She's Irish American. Her family had those Irish American traditions and all that kind of stuff, so it was like, "Okay, this is incredible."

She decided to do one of those DNA tests, and she sent it in. Here's what she got back. Her actual heritage is not Irish American. It is actually European, Jewish, and Middle Eastern. She was like, "Hold on a second. I was Lucky Charms, and now... I was," whatever, cabbage and stuff. She was Irish American. No, you're not. You're European, Jewish, and Middle Eastern. She's like, "What is going on?" She was a little bit freaked out. As a result, she got her additional family members to start doing those tests as well, like siblings and that kind of stuff. Her parents were gone at this point, but siblings and that kind of stuff. They started doing them as well. Interestingly enough, what they turned out, everybody also found out the same kind of idea, but here's what turned out. She found out that her father was not the son of his parents. In other words, his parents weren't his parents.

She was like, "What? What is going on?" She's thinking to herself, "I don't know how this possibly could have happened." They eventually tracked it down, and here's what happened. Her dad, when he was born, got sent home with the wrong family. Yeah. Could you imagine learning that? You're like, "No wonder I'm European, Jewish, and Middle Eastern. My grandparents are somewhere else. It's not who I thought. I thought it was Irish American Lucky Charms, and now it's not." Doing these DNA tests can come with a little bit of risk. I mean, you start to think about what you could find out or whatever. More and more Americans are actually doing this. In fact, by end of year, there were 26 million Americans that had done one of these DNA tests.

The MIT Theological Review said that they think by the year 2022 100 million Americans will have done one of these DNA tests. Just as a head's up, it doesn't require that many to figure out everybody's DNA. You can do that with a pretty small sample because the trees are so intertwined, and you can figure that out pretty quickly. Anyway, a lot of people are doing that. Why are people so interested in this? I think here's why. People want to know where they came from. People want to have some sense of touch with where they're from. People actually want to know what their origin story actually is. I think that's part of the attraction, in fact, that we have with superhero movies. They're the biggest grossing movies that you'll watch from pop culture.

Part of the attraction to those superhero movies is, sure, their superstrength and feats of strength and all the cool stuff that they do, but we're actually interested in their origin stories. That's what we want to find out about them. Some of them we don't identify with. I don't identify with a kid who gets bit by a nuclear spider and all of a sudden he's Spider-Man. I'm going, "What?" But Batman, that's different. Batman was from an uber wealthy family, and he was this super wealthy kid in this uber wealthy family, the Wayne family, who ended up seeing his parents murdered in front of him, and this isn't real, but seeing his parents murdered in front of him, dealt with all the emotional trauma of that, was kind of reckless in his life and even reckless with his own health and physical well-being, but then dealing with all of that came through it and decided he could use his wealth and his influence and his intellect to defend innocent people so that people would not have to go through what he went through.

Now, people can go, "I can deal with that. I get that. I can identify with that." Some of this appeal for finding out about our family trees, our ancestry, our genealogy, has to do with our ability to kind of touch a little bit the origin story, to touch kind of where we ended up coming from. Now, when you get to the first page of the New Testament, the first gospel, Matthew, what you have there is you have the story of the hero of the entire cosmos. What you get at the very beginning is you get a hero origin story, at least on the human side, a human origin story for the hero of the entire cosmos. It's stark that really on the first page, literally the first page of the New Testament, that's what we start out with. What I want you to do is I want you to find your place there in Matthew chapter one. It's the first page of the New Testament.

Now, some of you always go, "I know you tell us to turn there, but you show us everything on the screen." I'm not showing you everything on the screen, so back it up. I drive trains too if you want some of this. I want you to have it front of you because some of what I'm going to show you you need to see in terms of how this family tree, this genealogy, is actually structured. I want you to look with me because this family tree is what Matthew chose to put at the very beginning of the Christmas story. Matthew does tell the Christmas story, but this is a part of it. Today, instead of like last week when we looked at the garden tree and understood why we needed Christmas in a fantastic message that Pastor Jonathan preached, this week we're actually looking at a family tree as a Christmas tree, and it helps us to understand the history of Christmas and part of the promise of it.

If you found your place in the first page of the New Testament, Matthew chapter number one, I want you to see how it begins in verse number one, "This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Now, that word genealogy, we're familiar with that. Right? That's kind of the idea of ancestry and those kinds of things, but in the Greek language, it's the word genesis. It's interesting what Matthew put right here in the very beginning, is he said that this is the genesis, speaking from a human perspective of Jesus who, of course, is divine. This is the genesis. It's almost like Matthew is announcing at the very beginning of his gospel, "I know that the whole Old Testament has pointed to this Messiah. I know that everything has anticipated this, and I know that everything hasn't gone according to plan. There's been a lot of dark nights. There's been a lot of darkness, but I'm here to announce a new beginning in Jesus the Messiah."

It's a really beautiful way to begin the gospel. Now, what he does after announcing that is he gives us this long family tree. This is the part where modern readers have a tendency to go, "You know what? I think I'm going to skip this part." Then, you ask, "Well, why are you going to skip it?" "Because it's boring, and I want to get to the Christmas story." Well, here's where I need to pause you. Matthew chose to put this in here at the beginning of his Christmas story because this family tree is a Christmas tree. It's teaching us something about the story of Christmas. This isn't a part for us to just blow off and go, "This is kind of inconsequential. This is kind of boring. I think I'm going to skip it."

Let's not today. You don't have a choice. We're not skipping it. The reason we're not skipping it is because even though some modern readers look at this and go, "I don't know. I don't know," ancient readers, this was huge. This was super important to them. Why? Because genealogies were all about who somebody is. What rights does that somebody have? This was incredibly important to an ancient reader, so I want to make sure that we give a little bit of attention to it because what Matthew's done is he's made this incredible claim from the very outset. He says Jesus is the Messiah. This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. Then, do you know what he does right after that? He gives you a genealogy, a family tree.

Why? Because the family tree backs up his incredibly audacious claim that Jesus is the Messiah. You see, this is why we don't need to miss this or skip this. What I need to tell you about is the structure of the genealogy first, and then we're going to talk about the content of the genealogy and see why it matters. Now, listen to me. I've got more to tell you than I've got time to tell you, and I've got some things to tell you that you probably haven't heard before. Maybe you have, but you might not have. Some of you haven't paid any attention to the genealogy, so I know that I'm going to tell you stuff that you've never thought about before. Right? You're going, "Yeah, I've never read that." Cool.

You're going to learn some things. By the way, you're not just going to learn some things that are going to go, "Man, that was super cool to know from an information standpoint," but, no, we're actually going to land the plane by talking about why it matters right where you live right now. That's where we're going. You're going, "How does a genealogy matter to me right now?" We're going to get there, but you're going to have to stay with me, so I'm going to ask you to take this little journey with me. You're going to have to engage with your mind because you're going to learn some things you haven't learned, and you're going to find out some things, but I think you're going to walk away, after we're all done with this, really encouraged.

Let me tell you about the structure here for the very beginning. The structure of this is that what Matthew was doing is he's highlighting two people. He's highlighting Jesus the Messiah, but, in so doing, in his genealogy he's highlighting two different people, Abraham and David. Look again at the first verse. It says, "This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Now, when he talks about the son of David and the son of Abraham, it's interesting how he ends up doing it because he actually structures the genealogy around Abraham and David leading up to Messiah. In fact, when you get to the very end of the genealogy in verse number 17, you find out that that's exactly how he structured it. Look at what he says in verse number 17, "Thus there were 14 generations in all from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile to Babylon, and 14 from the exile to the Messiah."

You see how he did it. Right? He went Abraham to David, David to the exile, and then the exile to the Messiah. If you look at it in your text, you can see how that plays out. Verse two to verse six is Abraham to David. Verse six to verse 11 is David to the exile. Then, verse 12 to verse 16 is the exile to Jesus. Everybody following so far? Why are these parts important to us? Well, they're important to us because we have to pay attention to what Matthew was trying to do in structuring this genealogy. Was everybody listed in this genealogy? I'm talking about everybody from Abraham to Jesus. Was every single generation listed? No, and that should be no problem for us. You see, some people like to read the Bible in ways that the Bible's not intended to be read. "Oh, they left some people out. I knew the Bible was messed up," but that's a modern reader reading an ancient document in ways that the ancient document's not trying to be read.

You see, when the ancient people read this, they didn't think anything fishy was going on. They didn't think anything was messy or weird or crazy. In fact, there's other genealogies in the Bible that are similar to this that leave out some stuff because genealogies were not just about naming every person. They were also making a theological statement. If you go back to Genesis chapter five, you find that clearly. If you go to Genesis chapter 10, you find that clearly. Genesis chapter five talked about 10 generations, not nine, not 11, 10 generations. Genesis chapter 10 talked about 70 descendants, not 68, not 74.2. 10, 70, those are interesting numbers. Aren't they? Really round and really Biblical, used a whole lot in terms of scripture. In fact, that's often what genealogy writers were doing.

They were not only trying to not be fishy because everybody knew knowing who was pointed out in the genealogy that they could trace it, so it wasn't like even if they left somebody out they were going... Plus, sometimes when people listed names for genealogies, it would often times stand for them and their grandparents or whatever. You could actually consume that in one thing. The ancients read genealogies different than we do. You need to relax that not every single person is listed, and that should not be a problem for us. Isn't it interesting, I highlighted something for you in that verse a moment ago. There were how many generations in the first set? 14. How many in the second? How many in the third? 14, really nice even numbers. You could say that there were three sets of 14 or you could say that there were six sets of seven.

You see, Matthew was structuring this way for a particular reason. He was highlighting Abraham at the beginning. Why? Because Abraham is the one that God made a covenant promise to and said, "Through you, I'm going to create a nation. Through you, I'm going to bless the nations. Through you, I'm going to rescue the world." He made this promise to Abraham. That's why he's highlighted. David's highlighted because God made a covenant promise to David, "Hey, David. You remember what I promised to Abraham? Remember how I said that I was going to bless the nations? I'm going to do that. By the way, you're in line of that, and it's going to come through you." It's going to be somebody in the line of David who's going to be a King who sits on the throne and whose dominion will never end. This is a promise that God made to David.

Do you know why the exile is mentioned in that third group? Because there was a time in the life and the history of Israel that it looked like God's covenant promises were shot, not going to happen, doesn't look good at all. Look at us, we're in exile, but God was raising up prophets. You know what those prophets were saying? They were saying, "Hey, Israel. I know it doesn't look like God's going to fulfill his promise to Abraham. I know it doesn't look like God's going to fulfill his promise to David that was also promised to Abraham, but let me tell you something. God is going to come through." This is what the prophets were announcing. God is going to come through. Do you know what Matthew does on page one of his gospel when he's introducing the human origin story of Jesus the Messiah? Here's what he's announcing, "God has come through in the person of Jesus." At the birth of the Son of God, this is God making good on everything he said he would do.

Now, I find it interesting that he grouped these, Matthew did, in a particular way, three sets of 14 or six sets of seven. Why did he do that? I think there's at least two reasons that he did that. The first reason is this, is because when you have six sets of seven, that means that the birth of Jesus becomes the beginning of the seventh seven. Now, you're going, "Okay, Jerry. I don't know what that means." Here's what that means. Seven in Hebrew culture is the number of completion or the number of fulfillment. It is the number of God. What Matthew is trying to show us here is this. Everything is fulfilled in Jesus. He is the seventh seven, the signal of completion, the signal of perfection, the signal of fulfillment, but there's another little hidden gem in this genealogy that if we paid attention closely we would find Matthew making a case in structure.

You see, in the Hebrew language, there is something called Gematria, which just simply means this. For every Hebrew letter, there is a numerical value associated with that letter. Some people use that super weird, and they're like, "There's an unlocked Bible code." Stop being weird. Everybody, stop being weird. They use this in a normal way. There's even archeological finds. The Romans would use it this way. There's archeological finds where they had something written, "The number of the person I love is 624," and then you can actually take those numbers, compare them to the letters, and then you find out that her name was Lizzy or whatever. It's like, "Okay. Cool." This was stuff that they would do. Interestingly enough, the name David in an English equivalent would be this. Remember, you go this way in Hebrew, Dalet Waw Dalet or Dalet Vav Dalet. You can use that as a V or a W, whatever, same.

David, each one of these has a numerical equivalent. What's the numerical equivalent of D? Four. How about for the Vav? Six. The D? Four. What does that give you? 14. It's almost as if what Matthew was doing even in the structure of his genealogy is going, "Hey, this Messiah Jesus is the King in the line of David. I don't know how else I can spell it out for you." At the end of that, he goes 14, 14, 14. You should pay attention to that because not everybody's listed, and he did that for a specific reason. He's making a theological statement about Jesus being the King. The gospel starts, structurally it starts with Jesus being the one who is the fulfillment of Abraham's promise, the one who's going to be a blessing to the nations, and the one who's going to do it through a kingly line. That's how Matthew starts.

Isn't it interesting how Matthew ends, with the King saying to his disciples, "Go into all the nations," the very thing that was going to be the fulfillment of this promise? It begins right at the very beginning of Matthew, and then you see the culmination of it at the end. That's just the structure, but let's look at the content of what's going on in here because I think when we look at the content, we can be really, really encouraged. Now, I'm going to give you a statement that's going to summarize what I'm about to tell you, but I'm going to take each of those pieces, and I'm going to pull them out for us, and we're going to look at them for just a minute. All right?

Let's see what it reveals. The family tree of Jesus reveals three things that I'm seeing, God's sovereign faithfulness, God's surprising grace, and God's spiritual family. Three things that I'm going to be pulling out of this genealogy that Jesus' family tree actually represents, God's sovereign faithfulness, God's surprising grace, and God's spiritual family. Now, don't worry. If you didn't get all of that down, relax, because I'm going to take each one of those, and we're going to begin to look at them for a moment. Let's start with the first one, God's sovereign faithfulness. If you were tracing a line through Abraham, that makes perfect sense. That's where all Jews come from, Abraham. That makes easy sense. Every Jew would go, "Makes sense to start with Abraham. Let's start with him." Why? "Because that's where we came from, Abraham, the one that God made the promise to, said, 'Out of you is going to be a nation.'"

Everybody trace it through Abraham, but tracing the line of Jesus the Messiah through David, that's more challenging. You know why? Because for 200 years before the birth of Jesus, there was no king in the line of David. For 200 years, two centuries before his birth, no king that was in the line of David. Oh, by the way, the king who was the King of Israel at the time of Jesus' birth, Herod the Great, was no king in the royal line and, by the way, wasn't even fully Jewish. He was an appointment by Rome that had the good graces of Rome and was kind of in league with Rome. This was no royal descendant. This was no person in the line of David. This guy wasn't even fully Jewish. What does that say and what does that mean? Well, it means this, that God's plan for what he was going to do, because God is sovereignly faithful to his promise, even this wasn't going to frustrate his plan, just wasn't going to happen.

Do you know, by the way, that so many of the kings that are listed in this genealogy were really bad people? You do know that many of the kings of Judah and the kings of Israel, you know, when the kingdom split, you know many of them really bad, like more than half of them were bad. In fact, I'm going to show you in the genealogy. Every single one of them, when I read it on the screen that's highlighted, they're bad. When I read the highlighted name, you all say, "Bad." This is class participation. If the name's not highlighted, you don't say that, but if it's highlighted, you say, "Bad." You're going to get a feel for this. Look in our text in verse number seven.

It says, "Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah," yep, "Abijah the father of Asa," he was pretty good, "Asa the father of Jehoshaphat," also good, "Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah," good, "Uzziah the father of Jotham," good, "Jotham the father of Ahaz." No, no, no. Super bad. Yeah, Ahaz is a disaster. "Ahaz the father of Hezekiah," maybe the best of all the kings, "Hezekiah the father of Manasseh," started out really bad, repented, everything went better, "Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah." He was good and young, "and Josiah the father of Jeconiah," super bad. Super bad, yeah. So bad, in fact, this guy, Jeconiah, he actually had two names. He was referred to as Jehoiachin or Jeconiah, either way. It doesn't matter. He was the same guy. He was just referred to by two different names. Do you know how bad it was with this dude? Real bad, like super bad, so bad that God cursed him.

Check out the curse too, by the way, in Jeremiah. Here's what it says, Jeremiah 22, "Is this man Jehoiachin a despised, broken pot, an object no one wants? Why will he and his children be hurled out, cast into a land they do not know? O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says, 'Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.'" Uh oh. This guy is in Jesus' family tree, Jesus who is supposed to be of the line of David, yet God put a curse on him and said, "No one from your lineage, Jehoiachin, Jeconiah, is going to sit on the throne of David." That sounds like a problem.

Is it a problem for God? Does this actually disqualify Jesus from being the King in the line of David? Not a chance. You know why? Because God is sovereignly faithful to his promise. Sometimes what the sovereignly faithful one does is he surprises us as to how he gets done what he said while honoring the curse he made. Let me explain. When you start reading this genealogy, it's right there in front of you. Right? When you start reading this genealogy, here's what you see. Abraham fathered Isaac. Isaac fathered Jacob. Jacob fathered Judah. Judah fathered Perez. You see this over and over and over and over again. 40 times the Greek word gennao is used, which means begat or fathered, 40 times. Of those 40 times in a row, it's in the active voice every time.

Why do I tell you this? This is not just trying to be Greek teacher, but why do I tell you this? Here's why. Because what that means is is that the emphasis of the text is on the active participation of a man and woman having a child. That's what's going on here, the active voice every single time, 40 times in a row. David, the father of Solomon. Solomon, fathered Rehoboam. Rehoboam fathered Abijah. Then, later on, it gets to Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and then you get to verse 16. Here's what it says in verse 16, "And Jacob fathered Joseph," active voice, "the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah." This is the first time the passive voice shows up. Why? Because what passive voice means is that something from outside of Mary did something here.

You see, what Matthew points out real clearly is that Jacob was the father of Joseph, and then he says about Joseph not he fathered Jesus, but he was the husband of Mary of whom came Jesus. The brilliance of a sovereignly faithful God says, "I'm going to make this promise, Abraham, and it's going to come through David's line. Although I've got all of these jacked up kings, in fact, there's Jeconiah at the end who's in the line of David, and I told him he's cursed. Nobody's ever going to sit on the throne from him." How did God make all this work out? I'll tell you why, because Joseph is of Jeconiah's line, but Joseph is not Jesus' daddy. The Holy Spirit of God is. You see, this is how God honored his curse and honored his promise at exactly the same time.

You see, that's why there's two gospels, by the way, that have a genealogy in them. Matthew has a genealogy, and Luke has a genealogy. You remember Luke. Right? There's so much about the Christmas story there. You've seen A Charlie Brown Christmas. They read from Luke. Luke's gospel has all this in there. What's the difference between the two? Well, Matthew's gospel traces the line of Jesus through the line of David through Solomon, David's son, which gets to Joseph. Luke's gospel traces the line of Jesus through the line of David's other son, Nathan, which gets to Mary. What Luke's gospel says is this, Jesus has a biological claim to the throne that goes beyond the curse of Jeconiah. What Matthew's gospel says, that Jesus has a legal claim to the throne because of Joseph. Either way you want to slice it, whether legal or biological, Matthew says that Jesus is the King in the line of David.

This reminds us of how faithful God is to the promise that he makes. Nothing can frustrate his promise, but not only is it God's sovereign faithfulness, but we also see in this text God's surprising grace. Let me see if I can point it out to us. In the ancient world, whenever you read genealogies, let me tell you what you didn't find in them. Listen carefully. Are you ready? Women. You didn't find women in ancient genealogies. You just found men. This man fathers this kid, and then this kid fathers this kid. This was about the genealogy through the line of men. Women weren't even listed, but here we have Matthew in his genealogy not only referring to Mary, the mother of Jesus, but he refers to four other women in his genealogy, which had to be shocking for all of these Jewish readers who were reading this because Matthew's gospel is the most Jewish gospel of them all.

Notice who some of these ladies were. It says, beginning in verse two, "Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar." Hold on a second. You mean Tamar, whose father-in-law was Judah, who's also pregnant with Judah's kid, Tamar? If you're going, "Okay. That sounds a little sketchy," yeah, it was sketchy because what Judah said to Tamar was, after her husband's died and he didn't give him a replacement husband, which he was supposed to to keep the line going, which would in fact be the line of Abraham, which would in fact be the line of David, which would in fact be the line of the Messiah, he said, "You're going to live as a widow in my house." You know what she did? She went out, and she dressed up like a prostitute, and she hooked Judah. Judah got her pregnant. He was going to have her killed, but then he realized, "Uh oh. I did that," because then he found out it was her.

You got Tamar in Jesus' line. "Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon." Are you having fun yet? "Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab." Quick guess. Anybody know Rahab's vocation professionally? Prostitute. "Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth." Do you realize that some people felt like what Ruth did when she slept at the foot of the bed of Boaz, who was going to be her kinsman redeemer, was a little bit sexually scandalous? "Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife." You know who that was? Bathsheba. Think about who you've got listed here. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba. It's really, really remarkable not only that women show up in this family tree but the kind of women that showed up in this family tree.

By the way, why didn't Matthew choose some more virtuous women? He could have. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel all would have been in the same line. Why didn't he choose them? I think Matthew's trying to tell us something, that the grace of God is surprising and that King Jesus wants to be everyone's King. You see, this is a beautiful picture of the surprising grace of Jesus. In fact, we know how much grace is needed because when we keep reading in Matthew right after the genealogy and what we think is the beginning of the Christmas story, notice what it says in verse 21. It says, "She will give birth," Mary will give birth, "to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

You see, ladies and gentlemen, the reason that Jesus is the King we need is because everyone has sinned and come short of the glory of God. What we realize when we keep reading in Matthew is like when we get to chapter four, it looks like Jesus is inviting outcasts and rejects and sinners to come to him. What is he thinking? That's what Jesus does. Matthew's setting us up for that by saying, "Hey, whatever you've done, wherever you come from, whatever that's looked like, Jesus is not just the King you want, he's the King you need because everybody's sinned. Everybody's made mistakes. Everybody needs a Savior." This is what he's reminding us of. By the way, that kind of grace is surprising to the world.

You see, the world operates on a system that says if you perform, you get rewarded. Jesus says, "I operate on a system of grace that initiates love to you when you didn't deserve it, that initiates kindness to you when you didn't deserve it," because that's the kind of King that Jesus is. It is a surprising grace. Let me show you a third thing. This text also shows us something about God's spiritual family. It reveals God's spiritual family. You see, these women, by the way, that were mentioned in the text, which was shocking as it was, it wasn't just shocking that they were women. Do you know what else they were? Gentile women, at least we think Bathsheba was, but we know the other ones were. Ruth was a Moabitess. We know the other ones were Gentile women. They weren't even Jewish, and they're showing up in a genealogy through the line of Abraham and David. They're like the Jews of the Jews, man.

You've got these Gentile women who are in here. It served as a little bit of a rebuke to the Jewish people of that time. Do you know why? Because what every single one of those ladies did, Gentile though they may be, they demonstrated faith in Yahweh, the God of Israel, even when the Israelites had not. Guess what happens. Matthew puts them in there to remind us about something about God's spiritual family. It's not about birth naturally as to how you get into the family. This is about being born from above. This is about happening by faith. Whatever your birth, just because you were born into being a Jew, Matthew is saying that's not what puts you in the family. God's spiritual family is bigger than that. In fact, when John was writing his gospel at the very beginning, when he was telling us kind of his vantage point of the Christmas story, not in the same way that Matthew and Luke do, but in a more cosmic way, listen to what John said in chapter one.

It says, "Jesus came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." You see, God's spiritual family is a family that's made up of faith. Whether you're Jew or Gentile, whether you've been good or whether you've been bad, this is about putting faith in the Messiah Jesus, and that's what builds out the family of God. In fact, that's what Paul argued for in Galatians. Paul actually said that when we put our faith, even as Gentiles, when we put our faith in Jesus, this is fulfilling the promise that God made to Abraham, which is what Matthew begins with.

In fact, look at what Paul said in chapter three. He said, "Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles," what? "... by faith, and he announced the gospel in advance to Abraham, 'All nations will be blessed through you.'" Notice what he says in verse 14, "He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that," what? "... by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." You see, the family of God is a family that is built on faith in Jesus Christ, and Matthew is reminding us that whether you're Jew or Gentile, everybody is welcome through faith in Jesus Christ. What do we do with all this? We got a genealogy in front of us. What do we do with this at Christmas time? Well, Christmas is a time that we remember lots of stuff.

You may have already put your tree up. You may haven't. By the way, no pressure either way. Some of you get on social media, and you're freaked out. You see your friends with their trees up, and you're like, "I'm horrible. I'm a horrible human. I shouldn't be allowed to celebrate the holidays. I can't get around to getting a tree up," or whatever. Just relax. Take it easy. No judgment here. I don't care what you do, but maybe you've gotten your tree up already. Whenever you put it up, you start remembering because some of you, you've got ornaments that were made by your kids or grandkids or your brother or your sister or a family member or a niece or a nephew. You start putting those ornaments up. You remember those? We've got them, like with their little picture when they were in first grade. They're just going like this. We put it up there. We're going, "Look at that. That was when they were nice. Do you remember that?"

I'm kidding. My kids are nice. They're not here, and they're not going to know that I said that. They'll be here next week, so don't say anything. My kids are great. You know how it is, and you start remembering, "Look at those little cheeks. I remember when he was like that." Edie and I, every time we pull them out, we see Tanner. He's got these little fat cheeks. We're just like, "Oh," and now they don't look like that because he's older. You gather around with family, and you start looking through pictures or videos, the ones from back in the VHS days that you got converted to DVDs or whatever or saved on some kind of thumb drive or something. You get around. You start looking at those, and it's like Christmas is a time to remember.

Here's what I'm hoping you do. When you look at your family tree in your house, I hope you'll think of Matthew's family tree here and what Matthew wants to tell us. Listen, Matthew wants to remind us about the sovereign faithfulness of God, that the God who promised all of these things would happen, that his promise could not be thwarted or frustrated, that what he said he would do, he would do. You see, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to understand something. The God who made this promise and he came through with it, he's going to do that for you as well. You see, this Christmas season, you may be going through some stuff. You may have lost a loved one, and so you're kind of going, "I'm really, really sketchy about this Christmas season. This is my first Christmas without so-and-so." Maybe you've experienced a job loss, and you're kind of flailing, going, "I don't know what I'm quite going to do yet." Maybe you've experienced a relational hurt or maybe you've had a health challenge that's emerged.

Listen carefully to me. God's faithfulness is not dependent upon your season. He's just faithful, period, hard stop. Whether your season is a good one or whether your season is a bad one, God is and always will be sovereignly faithful. Do you know the Bible actually says in the New Testament even when we're faithless God is faithful? It's who he is. Matthew would want us, when we look at our family tree, to remember that about Jesus' family tree, that God is sovereignly faithful and his faithfulness is not dependent upon whatever season you're in. He will be faithful. I think Matthew would also want to encourage us that we should stand in awe at his surprising grace. Listen carefully. Here's what that means. You ought to be able to think about the grace that Jesus has shown you and go, "What am I doing here? I can't believe that someone like me, who was in the midst of sin upon sin, I was building a sin tower, and Jesus came in and said, 'I'll take you. I'll forgive you.' As reject or outcast or sinner, he says, 'Come to me,' and he took me."

In my mind, I start going, "What was he thinking?" It's who he was loving. We ought to stand in awe at the surprising grace of Jesus, not only in our own lives, but you know what that should also do? Give us hope for the lives that are around us. It should remind us that the hardest of hearts can melt. It should remind us that a relationship that's broken and battered can be mended, that a marriage can be saved, that hurts can be healed. Why? Because of the surprising grace of God. You know what else it should remind us of? That the vilest sinner and offender can be forgiven. Don't start walking through your Christmas looking at those friends and family members and thinking, "Never in a million years," because the surprising grace of Jesus got to you. Didn't it? It can get to them. Outcasts, welcome, but we also needed to be reminded when we look at our family tree of Jesus' family tree because Matthew would want us to know that we've got a spiritual family.

You see, some of you, this Christmas season, you're trying to figure out who you are and where you belong. Jesus says, "By faith in me, you have a home. You have a family." You come to Jesus by faith, listen to me, you will have more brothers and sisters than you know what to do with. You will have more spiritual moms and dads, more spiritual sons and daughters than you know what to do with. Jesus says, "You're having trouble finding your place? You want to know what your origin story is? Come here. I'll show you. You've got a home in me where you belong, who you were made for." This family tree is a Christmas tree. It teaches us about King Jesus the Messiah. Matthew wanted us to see this before we launched into the story of his birth so that we could be reminded about the nature of who he is. I hope when you look at your family tree you'll remember Matthew's.

Let's bow our heads together. We're going in just a moment, but if you're here and you've never before put your trust and faith in Jesus, could I say to you that he desires to have you? He went to great lengths by coming and being born of a virgin, just as was promised, living and announcing the good news, and then going to a cross to die in your place and in my place so that our sin would not be held against us but that Jesus would take our sin upon himself so that a just God could judge it. Jesus rose from the dead demonstrating that his sacrifice was sufficient and that he's overcome sin and the grave and death on our behalf. When we put our faith and trust in him, we can be transformed, forgiven of our sins in this life, and assured of being in his family in our forever life.

If you've never come to that place, I hope that when we dismiss in a moment, you'll come through the atrium and kind of around the back of the Fireside Room, there's some signs to tell you, and talk to one of our friends or pastors that are in the Fireside Room about what it means to receive Jesus. No better decision you'll ever make than that. For those of us who believe, who've already been transformed by the grace of Christ, maybe we need to be reminded this Christmas season of God's faithfulness, God's grace, and God's family. Father, I pray that you'd write on our hearts everything you want us to have by the power of your Spirit and that you would breathe life and encouragement into our hearts to remind us that no matter our season, your faithfulness is not contingent upon our season, that you are faithful, period. The promises you've made to us, you will fulfill. You will never leave us or forsake us. A bruised reed you will not break.

Your heart goes out to and moves in the direction of those who are hurting. I pray, God, that you would demonstrate your faithfulness in sovereign ways to people all through this season. I pray as well you'd surprise us with your grace, that we would never be so high minded as to look at other people as if they are past the grace of God because we are awe-stricken at how you've shown us grace. We know that your grace is stronger and bigger than we could ever imagine, so much so that it almost feels scandalous. We also know that we have a place, that we have a home, that we have a people, that we have a family. Would you write these things on our hearts during this Christmas season? Thank you, Holy Spirit, for moving the hand of Matthew and moving the heart of Matthew to teach us about Jesus' family tree so that we might be encouraged with these things. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

More From This Series

The Garden Tree

Pastor Jonathan Drake Part 1 - Dec 1, 2019
Watching Now

The Family Tree

Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 2 - Dec 8, 2019

The Cursed Tree

Pastor Wes Aarum Part 3 - Dec 15, 2019

The Healing Tree

Pastor Deone Drake Part 4 - Dec 22, 2019

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