The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. -Matthew 1:1

So begins the New Testament. With these few words, Matthew is saying a lot. During the Christmas season we focus our attention especially on the coming of Jesus Christ (literally, Jesus the Anointed One). We’re not merely celebrating his birth, we also are celebrating what his birth means. In short, Jesus’ birth signaled a turning point in God’s plan of redemption. This coming was long expected. The opening words of Matthew’s gospel direct us back in time: Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham. Why do David and Abraham matter?

Remembering the “Old” Testament

They matter because the testaments are inseparably connected. By using the title Christ, and mentioning the lineage of David and Abraham, Matthew has imported the entire storyline of the Old Testament into the New.

At the very start of the Hebrew Bible we read about the creation of the world in a perfect state, and the tragic entrance of sin into that world. Immediately, creation was marred. However, God graciously promises to rectify the problem. Genesis 3:15 is the first glimpse we get of God’s plan to save:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Here, in speaking to the serpent who tempted Eve, God promises that one of her descendants will fatally wound the serpent’s line. Who will this offspring be? Cain? Nope. Abel? Nope. Noah? Nope. It’s not until Genesis 12:3 that we hear more about God’s plan. There he promises Abraham,

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

So one of Abraham’s sons will bless all the families of the earth. Was it Isaac? Nope. Jacob? Nope. Joseph? Maybe? Joseph comes the closest in Genesis. His wisdom results in the rescue of his family, as well as the Egyptian nation. That feat, incredible though it was, didn’t deal with the problem of sin. Joseph is a step in the right direction, but not the right son of Abraham.

As the record continues, God continues to preserve the nation of Israel. He makes a covenant to make them his special possession. They agree to worship him alone and obey him. They fail, time and time again. Sin is still the problem. Then, in 2 Samuel 7:16, we get another glimmer of hope. God makes a promise to king David,

And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.

So not only will the promised savior be a son of Abraham, he will also be a son of David. Incidentally, kings were anointed by oil which signified their special role in God’s plan. Was Solomon the promised Anointed One? Nope. Rehoboam? Not even close. As the line of David progresses, we seem to be further away from a savior.

Ultimately, Israel so thoroughly rejects God that he temporarily banishes them from the land he promised to Abraham. After seventy years in exile, God graciously allows them to return while promising to make a new covenant with them. He promised to deal with the sin problem one and for all. Then, the “Old” Testament ends…

Putting the “New” in New Testament

Roughly four hundred years later, Matthew starts his gospel with these words:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. -Matthew 1:1

When he describes the lineage and birth of Jesus, he boldly proclaims that Jesus is the son of David, and the son of Abraham. He is the Anointed One. At long last the promised savior had arrived. Jesus would later proclaim that by his blood he was establishing the new covenant. He is the permanent solution for sin.

What’s new in the New Testament is that the waiting is over. In Jesus, God’s plan of redemption came to fruition. In Jesus, humanity finally met the answer to our greatest problem. When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating the Old and New Testaments- we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

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