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Are You Sure That Jesus Was Royalty?

There's one facet of Matthew 1:1825 that time won't let me get to in tomorrow's sermon.

When you read through the first half of Matthew chapter 1, a significant question appears. Verse 1 says that Jesus is the son of David. But is he? It's a very important question, given the Old Testament promises about a great king who was to come. That king was to come from the line of David.

Matthew 1:216 presents Jesus' genealogy. Again and again we read, "So-and-so was the father of so-and-so." The pattern is consistent. We should be able to trace the dynasty, father-to-son, father-to-son, from David to Jesus. But look at verse 16. "Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born." The pattern breaks down. Why does it not say, "Jacob the father of Joseph, and Joseph the father of Jesus"? If it said that, we could clearly say that Jesus is a descendant of David. Instead the line stops at Joseph, and shifts sideways to Joseph's wife.

One of the functions of verses 1825 is to explain the break in the pattern. We know that Matt 1:18–25 remains focused on the question of the Davidic dynasty because the angel addresses Joseph as "Joseph, son of David" (Matt 1:20). The angel then tells Joseph that he is to name the child (Matt 1:21). The key is that only the legal father can name a child. This naming means that Joseph is Jesus' legal adoptive father. Thus, Jesus is a legal descendant of David through Joseph. As the commentator John Nolland puts it, "In performing the father's role in naming the child, Joseph will make the child his own." There is a parallel in Isa 43:1: "I have called you by name; you are mine." Notice how this paragraph closes by repeating the point: "And he called his name Jesus" (Matt 1:25).

Jesus has a heavenly father, his Father in heaven. In this way, he is "God with us." He has an earthly adoptive father, Joseph. In this way, he is the promised king from the line of David. Our God and King -- let us worship him!

Postscript: A complicated aspect of this passage is its use of Isaiah 7:14. You can find Rich Robinson's discussion of Isa 7:14 and its fulfillment here.

I once discussed Matthew 1:2223 in a sermon I preached on Isaiah 7 and 8, which you can find here.


John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2005. Page 98.



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