Matthew 1: Certificate of Authenticity
For 132 years the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Dog Show has been held in New York City. Broadcast on cable television from Madison Square Garden, this fierce competition is considered one of the most prestigious in the world. Just to qualify, each contestant must be a breed champion. And each champion must be impeccably groomed and scrupulously examined.
Yet of all the prerequisites for Best in Show, the most important is proof of registration with the American Kennel Club (AKC). AKC registration certifies that the contestant is a pedigreed champion. Without proper credentials, no dog, no matter how good it might look, can ever become a WKC winner.
Credentials certify authenticity. That is why God provided a “certificate of authenticity” for His Messiah through His eternal Word.
Before Jesus was born, 400 years had passed since God had spoken of a future Redeemer through the prophet Malachi. The pedigree of that Redeemer was critical. He had to be a direct descendant of King David. No doubt that fact was uppermost in the apostle Matthew’s mind as he wrote his eyewitness account in the Gospel of Matthew. As a tax collector, Matthew (formerly called Levi) was concerned about detail. As a Jewish man, he was concerned about the Messiah’s credentials.
Matthew had heard Jesus preach convincing sermons. He stood amazed at the Nazarene’s ability to confound the elite teachers of His day and perform miracles. All these things convinced Matthew that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and rightful King of Israel. So convinced was he, in fact, that he left his job to follow Him. Wanting to reach others with this liberating truth, Matthew wrote an account of this Man Jesus.
Matthew knew that Jesus’ miracles and great teaching were not enough to convince people that He was the prophesied Messiah. According to D. A. Carson, the land “was rife with messianic expectation. Not all of it was coherent.”1 Without proof of pedigree, nothing Jesus did would qualify Him as the long-awaited King. That is why Matthew’s first chapter is tedious but necessary.
Three sets of 14 names are listed, but it is the first line that is critical because it invokes three titles: “The book of the genealogy of  Jesus Christ, the  Son of David, the  Son of Abraham.”
Though some may think that Jesus was born into the “Christ” family, Christ was not a surname, like Jones or Smith. Matthew provided us with His given name—Jesus—which means “salvation,” and His title—Christ—the English form of the Greek word Christos, meaning “anointed.” In Hebrew the word for “anointed one” is Moshiach, or Messiah.
Anointed ones were people designated for specific functions, such as prophets, priests, or kings.
Thus Matthew intentionally linked the name Jesus with the office of Christ as the Son of David and Abraham. As the “Anointed One,” Jesus was entitled to be both Messiah and King.
Jewish readers of Matthew’s day would have known the many passages in the Tanakh (Old Testament) that address the Davidic line to the Messiah. Second Samuel 7:4–17 serves as the foundation, where God promises David’s progeny a land forever, a king forever, and a kingdom forever:
I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever (vv. 10, 16).
The prophets built on this foundation using the title “the Branch.” Later, this designation became a common Messianic term: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lᴏʀᴅ, ‘that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth’” (Jer. 23:5; cf. 33:15). The Lord of hosts said, “For behold, I am bringing forth My servant the BRANCH. Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!” (Zech. 3:8; 6:12).
Isaiah wrote, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1). The prophet spoke of an heir to David’s throne who will “decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist” (vv. 4–5). Psalm 89:29 promises David a seed forever and a throne “as the days of heaven.”
Matthew repeatedly recorded that people in Israel recognized Jesus as the “Son of David.” A woman of Canaan called Him “Lord, Son of David!” (Mt. 15:22). Two blind men cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (9:27; 20:30–31). Jesus asked the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They answered, “The Son of David” (22:41–42).
Jesus never disputed the title. Rather, He expanded on it. Quoting from Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my Lord,” Jesus asked the Pharisees, “‘If David then calls Him “Lord,” how is He his Son?’ And no one was able to answer Him a word” (Mt. 22:44–46).
If the Messiah is a son of David, He is automatically a son of Abraham. So why did Matthew bother to trace Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Abraham?
Doing so reaffirms God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12. God promised Abraham that if he left Ur to follow Him, He would unconditionally provide a land, seed, and blessing (vv. 1–2). As a son of Abraham, Jesus would rule from the Promised Land, be the promised Seed, and be a blessing for His people.
Further, in Abraham “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (22:18). Wrote Carson, “Matthew is preparing his readers for the final words of this offspring from Abraham—the commission to make disciples of ‘all nations.’”2
Thus the Messiah’s descent from Abraham ensures He is a blessing to all. And His descent from David ensures His royalty. If His lineage was questioned, the information was not recorded in the accounts of His life. With the Temple still standing at the time Matthew wrote, genealogies could be verified. That ability ceased with the A.D. 70 destruction of the Temple and all the Jewish genealogical records it housed.
Today only Jesus can verify that He has the credentials to be Israel’s legitimate King. Someday He will return to claim His throne and rule over a restored Davidic Kingdom.
- D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank I. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 8:61.
- Ibid, 8:62.