Title: News Stories
Text: Matthew 1.1-18
Introduction: Last week I mentioned that some stories are in some Gospels and other stories in them all. Most of the Gospels though chose the stories that worked with their themes – their goals. We have the genealogy of Christ in two Gospels; however, both are different: one traces the lineage of Joseph and the other of Mary. Matthew’s is found in chapter 1.
So we ask the question of last week: why? Why did Matthew use this genealogy list? It can be quite boring if you just read it like this: rd v7-10. There really is more here. I believe Matthew wants us to see more than a list of names.
On July 17, 1983, a small pro-Soviet Indian newspaper called the Patriot published a front-page article titled “AIDS may invade India: Mystery disease caused by US experiments.” The story cited a letter from an anonymous but “well-known American scientist and anthropologist” that suggested AIDS, then still a mysterious and deadly new disease, had been created by the Pentagon in a bid to develop new biological weapons.
“Now that these menacing experiments seem to have gone out of control, plans are being hatched to hastily transfer them from the U.S. to other countries, primarily developing nations where governments are pliable to Washington’s pressure and persuasion,” the article read.
The Patriot’s article was subsequently used as a source for an October 1985 story in the Literaturnaya Gazeta, a Soviet weekly with considerable influence at the time. The next year, it ran on the front page of a British tabloid. After that, it was picked up by an international news wire. By April 1987, it was suggested that the story had appeared in the major newspapers of more than 50 countries.
The problem? The story was patently false.
Ill. Cont.: Dr. John Johnson, CEO of Edgeward Economics asks in his Huffington Post article: How bad is the fake news phenomenon?
A man who was “self-investigating” a fake news story was arrested after shooting his assault rifle in a Washington, D.C. pizzeria.
President-Elect Trump fired a member of his transition team for sharing fake news.
And the Wall Street Journal is attracting new readers by promising their stories are “created, curated and checked in a real newsroom.”
The Pope jumped on the Fake News bandwagon this week and condemned it, calling it sin. Well, I’d have to agree – bearing false witness is one of those forbidden activities on the most famous top 10 lists ever: The Ten Commandments.
One older gentleman being interviewed said: I miss the days of getting news the old fashioned way – having Walter Cronkite tell you.
Boy isn’t that true. With the Brian Williams scandal of NBC and the bias reporting in the media, whom can you trust? Many citizens feel like they can’t trust the news, newspapers or professional journalists.
Transition: Well here’s a news story that is different than most stories you hear. 1st of all…
I. This story is true (1)
exp.: That’s what makes it so good: it’s true – as opposed to false! This isn’t star wars or some fairy tale. V 1 opens with this claim: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Here is a person and here is where he comes from.
This passage before us today outlines just what is important for us to realize, to absolutely know that it is valid and true. You see, the genealogy, especially for the Jew, validates one’s lineage and one’s heritage. What Matthew is declaring to us is that His story isn’t a myth. It isn’t false. This story you’re about to read is true.
News is supposed to be something that is simply reported. News has become relative to whatever anyone wants it to be. There was a time when news was something that you heard and for the most part, could believe it to be factual: 1. A building burned; 2. people died. News today seems to be like people are just trying to give you advice about what you should do or what you should believe or how you should feel. Reporters aren’t giving reports anymore: they’re citing their opinion. This story is different, though. Matthew is saying: The story you’re about to read is true…
t.s.: 2ndly, it is also real.
II. This story is real (1-17)
exp.: Jesus was born to a momma and a daddy (16). He lived a life out in the public, which was witnessed by many. His story is real as opposed to fake.
I’m going to wonder aloud. I’m not passing judgment, mind you. I’m just wondering. I wonder if we hurt the Christmas story by all of the other false stories we tell during holiday times. I don’t just mean Christmas. I mean, any holiday – pick one. I don’t want to betray the fun some of your families have – our family, too – but if we tell these stories that are false, if they’re not real, then we run the risk of making this story appear false.
Daddy is that true? Well, no baby, it’s not. What about that one? No, little Johnny, that one isn’t true either. What about… eventually, the child comes to the nativity and wonders: is that one true? Let me encourage you: Yes, Virginia, There is a Messiah named Jesus.
Now, there are many who would lump Jesus in with all of the other holiday fables; however, I want to assure you that the parents of Jesus, which you see in the nativity, were real people. Their names are included in the two genealogies.
Here’s something else I wonder: Do we as preachers contribute to this delusion that the Christ story is a fable? Here’s what I mean:
ill.: When I was younger I preached a sermon on the Wise men: Wise men still seek him, Wise men still find him, Wise men still worship him. Are you a wise man? I was proud of that message. Now, not so much! By the way: I got an A for that sermon in my first preaching class!
app.: Here’s why I would be critical of a pastor who preached that message today: this story isn’t recorded for us to hold up as a moral to be taught. Be like them! I didn’t say this at the end of my sermon, but I could have said: And the moral of the story is… No, that was story recorded because it is true. If Mr. Cronkite could report on this, he’d say: And that’s the way it was…
t.s.: it is true… it is real…
III. This story is unpredictable (1-17)
exp.: Here’s what I mean by that: many stories written throughout time appeal to the romantic or the daring or the adventurous. Those stories are patterned after this story. But what makes this story different is that it isn’t predictable. For example, most genealogies are used for validation.
ill.: Ezra 2.59 reads: 59 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel…
At the end of the list of names and their numbers, Ezra continues: 62 These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 63 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.
Other genealogies were used because it gave the person prominence. That’s what Ezra does when he presents himself: rd 7.1-6;
7 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2 son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3 son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4 son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5 son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.
The lineage was important (as demonstrated by Ezra) because it validated who they were and where they came from. Often times certain family members were removed if they gave a poor reference. The genealogy of Christ doesn’t remove people who might make Jesus look bad. Matthew presents a genealogy quite different from that of what we find in most genealogies. The first difference is:
- Characters; in his genealogy you have prostitutes and kings; Manasseh and Rahab; I would say that Manasseh was probably the most evil king in Israel’s history. He is like the lowest of how low these kings get. Rahab appears to run a brothel. That would at a minimum make her a pimp. We don’t know all of her history, but we classify her as a prostitute. You have David and Tamar: David probably the greatest king throughout their storied history, and yet – an adulterer, a murder, a liar. Indeed, Bathsheba isn’t even mentioned by name, but rather we read in v 6 that she was the wife of Uriah. For those of you who don’t know: David had a group of men who were kind of like the Secret Service. They were his closest military warriors. Uriah was one of those Mighty Men. David had an adulterous relationship with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Then, in order to cover his sinful behavior, he had Uriah killed. So, it is interesting for us that Mathew doesn’t just say: David, Solomon, Rehoboam. Instead, he mentions Uriah by name, drawing attention to this man’s sinful behavior. Tamar played the prostitute with her father-in-law (Genesis 38). She pretended to be a cult prostitute of a pagan deity. Characters… the 2nd difference is…
- Gender: most genealogies are patriarchal; You’ll note the four women listed here:
- Tamar (3)
- Rahab (5)
- Ruth (5)
- Bathsheba (6), some folks add
- Mary down in v16; would be the 5th; I put her in Luke’s list; however, it is interesting to note the similarities between these women and Mary. There is a 3rd difference:
- Race or Ethnicity: Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites; Ruth was from Moab; Most Jews would only name Jews in their genealogy to show purity to their heritage.
app.: Matthew demonstrates for us some people with shady stories in the genealogy of Jesus which I don’t think we could have predicted if we’d had written it ourselves.
t.s.: The Good News is a true and a real story. It is filled with characters you could not have predicted would be listed. And finally,
IV. This story really is Good News! (17)
exp.: Mark 1.1 begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The word gospel translated into English is most literally: good news or a good message. rd v 17; 14 generations in the 1st section and 14 in the 2nd; and ditto in the 3rd. Actually, if you count them up it’s 13, 14, 13 respectively. But from what I understand this was a common practice to alternate and use a name to start the next section with which you just finish with – and you count it both times.
I’ve heard of people through the years playing math tricks with this passage. The term is Gematria (Geh-may-tree-ah) and it concerns the numeric value of Hebrew words; I’m not smart enough to give any credence or discredit them, but let me just give you an example: the numeric value of the name David in Hebrew is 4+6+4 = 14; There are 14 generations in each section: Abraham to the Kings; from the Kings to the exile; from the exile to Christ. David is the 14th entry; But listen – I think there is more to this than just numbers. But there is a point made by Tim Keller dealing with this issue of numbers that makes a lot of sense to me. This is especially highlighted for me since taking a sabbatical. Here’s what we learn about the 4th commandment and the ties to it.
- The Sabbath is the 7th It is to be a day of rest; it’s what God did; it’s what he has commanded us to do;
- 7 Sabbaths from the Passover to Pentecost;
- Every 7th year – the fields were to lie fallow (rest);
- 50th year was the year of Jubilee; The plan of God was for the Jews, his people, to set their slaves free; and the forgiveness of debt; the restoration of land to the family to which it belonged; etc.
- In our text, we have six 7’s. Christ ushers in the 7th Seven; there is something very special about this new era. It should be a time of rest, and freedom from bondage, restoration.
t.s.: this story is so unique; the genealogy brings truth and reality; it doesn’t dress the story up, but instead presents parts that most people would avoid (gender, race, black sheep); it presents us with hope, that by faith, we can find peace, rest, forgiveness.
Conclusion: And isn’t that really where Matthew is pointing us – to the Christ who would bring us all of these things and more? And that is the real news story today…
But, I think all of this still points to one overall arching fact. The fact that this good news is evidence that God keeps his promises. All of these stories add up to a really long time! Many people looked with hope for the promise, but never saw it realized. And that’s where faith comes in! These people looked forward in faith that God would do as he promised. They understood that God is a covenant keeper.
So, yeah, this story is good news for you and me today because it is true and real and filled with messy people. But what’s more, it is good news because God keeps his promises. And because of this, you and I can look forward to the promises yet to be fulfilled.