“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” – 1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB)
Some readers might skip the first 17 verses of Matthew. The book, unlike Mark, Luke, and John, veers from standard plot structures and storytelling devices. Rather than starting with action or description, the book begins with a genealogy.
But to skim the verses is to miss a Gospel in miniature. Matthew records Jesus’ ancestors to achieve two aims. First, he demonstrates fulfilled prophecy. He calls Jesus the Messiah and mentions two important names, David and Abraham. Both names come with promises. God tells Abraham his offspring will be a blessing to all peoples in Genesis, and he tells David his lineage will produce a forever-reigning king.
Second, Matthew reveals the promised Messiah will be for the outcasts, messed-ups, and broken. Matthew, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, refuses to edit Jesus’ genealogy—a relatively common practice among the Jews and rulers of the day. He instead calls out names of not only sinners but also women, another no-no for the time and culture. Matthew references Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. And, lest the Jewish people get too cocky about their David of Bethlehem, Matthew barely calls him king and highlights Uriah, the man David had assassinated.
Matthew doesn’t pull any punches with his genealogy. It’s a good thing. It means we, as sinful and as awful as we are, can be recipients of God’s grace. We can be Jesus’ family because he doesn’t care about our pedigrees. He cares about our hearts.