The Period of Preparation
The story of the life of Jesus Christ did not begin in Nazareth or Bethlehem but in eternity. It is true that Jesus of Nazareth was God; it is even more correct to say that God became Jesus of Nazareth. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" Himself (John 1:1).
The "Word" or Logos was commonly used for reason or speech. Ancient writers employed it in various ways. To Heraclitus it was the principle which controlled the universe. The Stoic philosophers used it to express the soul of the world, and Marcus Aurelius by it connoted the generative principle in nature. Philo, the Jewish-Alexandrian philosopher-theologian, employed it as a substitute for the Hebrew word Memra (Word) and used it almost in a personal sense. But the Apostle John personalized it and used it as a name for the Messiah, along with the Son of God, Son of Man, and other personal names for deity.
This eternal Christ was the Creator of the universe from atoms to suns. Apart from Him not even one thing came into being which did come into being. Furthermore, He was and is the source of all life, a life which is the light of men. Through the centuries the darkness of evil had sought to snuff out this light but without success. And in God's own time this Light, this Logos, entered into the arena of history that He might destroy the works of darkness.
No greater words were ever penned than "The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Yes, the eternal Christ who is God Himself became a flesh-and-blood man. He pitched His tent of flesh and dwelt for a little while among men. He was God as though He were not man. Yet He became man in every sense of the word, apart from sin, that He might both identify Himself with man and fully reveal the Father to men. When God revealed His law, He did so through Moses, but when He revealed His grace and truth He did so through Jesus Christ.
For "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:1-3).
When Christ entered bodily into the arena of history, He did so as a Jew. This was in keeping with God's eternal purpose, for in a world filled with paganism the Jews had clung to the idea of the one true God, Jehovah.
The Jews placed great value upon lineage. The Old Testament testifies to this fact. Josephus introduced his own autobiography by giving his genealogy, which he says he found in the public records. These records were kept by the Sanhedrin. Herod the Great was a half-breed, and for that reason, along with many others, was despised by the pure-blooded Jews. Out of spite he destroyed all the genealogical records so that he could say that no one could prove a better pedigree than he could.
Therefore, to the Jewish mind the record of the life of Jesus would be incomplete without His genealogy, and the Gospel accounts include two such records. Luke is said to have listed Jesus' genealogy according to the line of Mary His mother. He began with "was thought to be the son of Joseph," and ends with "son of Adam, son of God" (Luke 3:23-38). Matthew, on the other hand, traces His lineage, through Joseph, the foster-father, as was required by Jewish law. In a genealogy it was not required that every name be listed but only that the line be established.
Matthew began his record with the simple yet profound statement, "The historical record of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (1:1). He divided the genealogy into three sections of fourteen generations each: Abraham to David; David to the Babylonian captivity; the captivity to the birth of Jesus. Through Abraham God's covenant of grace was given. The Hebrew nation reached its greatest glory under David whose throne became a symbol of the everlasting kingdom of the Son of David. During and following the Babylonian captivity the Messianic hopes of the Jews burned the brightest. So "Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" was the Messiah, the Desire of all nations.
Certain other matters of interest emerge from an analysis of Jesus' genealogy. For instance, certain notorious sinners are included in His line. Judah and David were adulterers. Solomon, Manasseh, and Amon were worshipers of pagan gods. Furthermore, contrary to Jewish custom, the genealogy included the names of women. Tamar had sinned with Judah. Rahab is called a harlot of Jericho. The Hebrew word translated "harlot" means "public woman." She may not have been a harlot but simply a public woman or innkeeper. She was a Canaanite. Ruth was a Moabitess. Neither of these last two women were Hebrews. Of interest also is the fact that Jesus' lineage includes some who had lived in political bondage.
Therefore, Jesus' genealogy is more than a mere recitation of names. It shows that He was the son of Abraham, the son of David, and the fulfillment of prophecy. Also it becomes the gospel in miniature. Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. In His lineage He is identified with sinners, and in Christ "there is no ... male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:28-29).
"Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, according to Your word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples; a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel."
The Aged Simeon
Luke 2:29-32 (HCSB)