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The Christmas family tree

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was the father of Jacob ... ... Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam ... ... and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon.   Matthew 1: 1 - 7


The words in bold above are hardly attention-grabbing. And maybe we feel the same when folk start to explain to us (as was often the case with Jersey family discussions a few years ago) who married whom and what happened to their children and how no-one knows about “her” (the wife) because she came from “the mainland”.


Such discussions seem to occur more frequently around Christmas when families get together more. No wonder then that Matthew, Jesus’ biographer, immediately before telling his readers in detail of the first Christmas and of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem in 0 AD (or 0 BC in fact), decides to give them a complete Family Tree of the male line of descent of Jesus for a period of 2000 years before his birth.


Quite a feat when you don’t have to call upon.... But, when he wrote his biography, Matthew would have been able to call upon all the Jewish genealogical records in Jerusalem. In AD 70 those records, along with the rest of Jerusalem, were destroyed by Roman troops under the future Emperor Titus. So it’s no longer possible for any man alive today or in the future to claim proof of descent from the Abraham or from the David mentioned in bold above.


Jesus Christ’s descent from Abraham and from David is very important. It means that he is firmly linked to promises made by Almighty God to Abraham and to David.


These are not run-of-the-mill ancient promises.  Here’s one of them – given to Abraham around 2000 BC. “By myself I have sworn declares the LORD God Almighty, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. In your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.”


Which “offspring of Abraham” can now fulfil this if Jesus wasn’t the one?


It’s the same with King David. He ruled over a united Israel from 1010 BC to 970 BC.


These are the words of Almighty God to him towards the end of his reign. “When your days are fulfilled, David, and when you lie down with your fathers I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.”


Which “offspring of David” can now fulfil this if Jesus wasn’t the one?


Many further promises to the nation of Israel arose before and after “the time of the deportation to Babylon” in 582 BC. (See bold above.) Here’s one from the book of Isaiah – circa 700 BC.  


“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief … Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”


This promise from Isaiah clarified the “how” - how “all the nations of the earth” would be blessed by the descendant of Abraham and David.


Did Jesus fulfil the promises of BC 2000, BC 970 and BC 700? And are folk from all nations of the earth being blessed by him?

 ‘Whatever God can do, he unquestionably will do, if he has promised it.’ (John Calvin, French Pastor and theologian, 1509-1564)
‘Let God’s promises shine on your problems.’ (Corrie ten Boom, Dutch holocaust survivor, 1892-1983)
Richard Syvret

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