Throughout his Gospel Matthew goes to great lengths to demonstrate the truth that Jesus Himself is the Messiah, the long-awaited King, the Son of David. He is the One whose coming was anticipated ever since the opening chapters of Genesis. In Jesus we have the substance of which the Old Testament record was just the shadow. And Matthew shows us that in at least two (2) ways.
The first way that Matthew shows us that Jesus is the Son of David – the Messiah – is found in the first 17 verses of the Gospel According to Matthew – the genealogy! It’s that part of the book that most of us probably just skim over quickly when we are reading or studying the book of Matthew.
And we do that for the same reason that we often get hung up in parts of the book of Numbers when we are reading through the Bible consecutively. (Anyone else ever had that problem?) Maybe it feels like you are reading the phone book (as if it were really just a list of random names). Sometimes we just aren’t sure what it is that we are supposed to get from reading things like that, so we often avoid reading those passages. (And pastors sure seem to avoid preaching these passages!)
But doesn’t 2 Timothy 3:16 tell us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God”? In other words, all of Scripture is the very Word of God Himself! That includes the hard parts like genealogies. Not only that, but in that passage Paul also tells us that all Scripture (because it is the Word of God) is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (v.16-17). That being the case, we avoid or ignore any part of His Word (even the difficult parts) to our own loss. We are just hurting ourselves.
So why does Matthew include that Genealogy? To show that Joseph was of the line of King David (v.6, 17 & 20). He is showing that Jesus is, in fact, truly the son of David according to His human nature. The Apostle Paul said as much in Romans 1:1-4:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Now Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. As Matthew chapter one tells us, Jesus was born of Mary, but had no human father. Mary was a virgin and the baby that was in her womb was conceived miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit (v.18)! But that Joseph was the adoptive father of Jesus shows us that Jesus really is in the line of David, the royal line.
That is important because it means that Jesus is the long-awaited fulfillment to God’s covenant promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-17. There the LORD declared to David that after he died He would raise up his offspring after him and establish his kingdom (v.12). How long would that offspring of David reign? The LORD promised David that He would “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (v.13). So the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 shows that Jesus is of the line of David. If not, He could not be the Messiah.
The second way that Matthew proves that Jesus Himself is the Messiah is by showing Him to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He quotes Old Testament prophecies and shows how Jesus fulfills them. And he does this throughout the book.
The first time that he does this is in Matthew 1:22. There he says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” And then he quotes Isaiah 7:14:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”
And Matthew quotes (and often interprets!) or alludes to the book of Isaiah in particular multiple times throughout his Gospel (cf. 3:1-3; 4:14-17; 11:2-6; 12:15-21; 13:14-16; 15:7-9; 21:13). He quotes many other Old Testament books as well.
All in all, the Old Testament plays a key role in the Gospel According to Matthew. He makes his case that Jesus is the long-awaited Son of David, the One whose kingdom would last forever – and he makes that case by repeatedly pointing us back to the Old Testament.
The Old Testament can be properly and truly understood only in the Person of Jesus Christ. It is His context and He is its main point. And Matthew makes that abundantly clear in his Gospel.