So we come to the end of Matthew’s genealogy. Matthew blasts into his gospel with the opening line: this book is about Jesus Christ who is in the line of Abraham. He belongs to our nation. He is one of us. He is also in the line of David. He is on the throne, a King in the royal line of kings.
“… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.” (Matthew 1 v 16-17)
Matthew’s genealogy is accurate but not complete, it was never intended to be that way. He arranges it into three sections of fourteen so that his readers can memorise them. In order for that to happen he omits some and he’s not that concerned if the word ‘fathered’ means ‘descendent of’ the person follows the other eventually and many of the historical Jewish genealogies do the same, this isn’t out of the ordinary.
A long line of kings, all sinful, even Abraham and David, some worse than others and every one of them ordinary.
Then we get to Joseph and Mary and Mathew is really clever here and we need to slow the verse down. We know what is coming and Matthew certainly does and so he sets his readers up by being careful with the grammar.
He could have said and Joseph the father of Jesus. But he doesn’t.
“… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah”
I’m not an English expert by any means but we can see the difference. Not only does Matthew switch from the father to the Mother, it is Mary who is the biological parent. But one more important thing. “Mary was the mother of Jesus.” In the NKJV it says, “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” The whole genealogy it is the same except in this case. The verb ‘begot’ or ‘fathered’ is in the active tense meaning that Jacob was humanly involved for the birth to happen, without him, Joseph could never have been born. However, the only occasion in Matthew’s genealogy when the verb changes so that the subject is not the person who ‘fathered’ is with Mary. Here Matthew purposely uses the passive voice so that Mary is not the subject but she is acted upon. Clearly this is not Joseph, otherwise Matthew would have said so ‘Joseph fathered Jesus’. So who was it? Mary is clearly the mother but who acted upon her to bring about Jesus? He sets himself up nicely for what will follow next.
And so after a long line of sinful, ordinary people we get to the final ordinary person, not a king, not a man, a woman who would go through an action by someone in order for the King Jesus to be born.
God is still in the business of stepping into our ordinary lives and acting upon them to bring about extraordinary moments and events. May He continue to do so, Amen!