Podcast Reflections

Reflection on Matthew 1.1-17 (Advent: O Sapientia, 17 December)

Listen to a reflection for Advent: O Sapientia, Saturday 17 December 2022, on Matthew 1.1-17

O Sapientia

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Matthew 1.1-17 
The genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. 

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations. 


As we enter the final days of our Advent pilgrimage, we are given a reading that may leave us asking: ‘Why?’ Matthew’s genealogy of Christ, like the one contained in Luke’s gospel (Luke 3:23-38) does not feature in the main canon of gospel readings that we hear Sunday by Sunday. And, if we do spend some time comparing and contrasting the two lists of Jesus’ antecedents we will see significant differences. Matthew’s genealogy begins with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, while Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus forebears all the way back to Adam. There are other significant differences, as well as the various numerological analyses that we could apply to the genealogies, but are any of those details really important?

Matthew, and Luke, felt the need to give Jesus and his ministry some credibility in the eyes of those who felt challenged, and even threatened, by the one whose coming had long been foretold. I do not think it is difficult for us to understand the situation. In the gospels we read of Jesus speaking of his second coming. The early Church believed that that second coming was imminent. Some two thousand years later we are still awaiting that time. This must have been how the Jewish hierarchy felt. The long-awaited Messiah had been foretold centuries earlier. They must have wondered how someone so ‘ordinary’ could possibly be that Messiah, and especially when all he said and did seemed to fly in the face of their received wisdom.

Our need for certainty is also reflected in the inclusion of a genealogy of Jesus. We like to have some knowledge of our own ancestors. We like to watch programmes on television that put famous people in the context of their family histories. We take a pride in having an awareness of our great, great, great … ancestors, even though they are nothing more than names to us. We like the certainty, the proof, that comes from mapping our place in history. That is where today’s reading provides a challenge for us.

The truth is that such lists are irrelevant when it comes to matters of faith. Jesus, the Son of God, was in the very beginning of all things. Proving that the Son of God sits conveniently in the Davidic tradition, or the Abrahamic tradition, or in any other human blood-line is of no consequence because he is the Son of God. The challenge for us is to set aside our need for ‘proof’ and to step out in faith. 

In a week’s time we will be celebrating the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, into this world. We should not be wasting our time searching through lists of names in the hope that we might find the ‘killer argument’ to support our faith. Instead, we should be ready to celebrate the greatest gift humanity has ever been given, and we should be ready to share that gift with everyone we meet today, and throughout the rest of our lives.