Tonight we began a journey as a brand new community on the northwest side of Atlanta. We moved into our garage (picture here) and opened up the Good News of Matthew and began our journey to discover Jesus by going verse by verse through his book. When we decided this was going to be our initial step into church planting I was so excited. What could be better than looking at the life of Jesus together and asking the hard questions about who Jesus really is and what it means to follow him? I was stoked.
Then I read the beginning of Matthew. Crap.
My first sermon…the one that is going to start everything off…the one that is going to set the momentum for who we are…the one that is going to show everyone how crazy talented I am so they never want to leave…the one that is going to make everyone cry so hard they want to get saved all over again…is a genealogy. It’s Matthew helping us know that a lot of people got it on and had kids who got it on and had kids who got it on and had kids etc. Throw in a few begats and some awesome names (Thank you Amminadab) and that’s what I call a party.
But…you can’t really go verse by verse through a book and just skip 17 of them. Especially week 1. So I spent some time with Matthew and his first thoughts. And you want to know what? He won me over. The first few times I sat down with this passage all I could think about was “this is going to suck,” but then I just took a step back and asked Matthew to talk with me. I asked Matthew to tell me his story and to tell me why it mattered that I knew this part of the story.
And it was like Matthew leaned in and whispered, “I want to tell you about a King named Jesus. I promise, you really want to know this guy.”
From this point on, instead of seeing a list, I saw Matthew sitting at a table next to me with coffee in hand about to tell me an incredible story about a King named Jesus. But before he could get into the story, I needed to know some things about this Messiah. Some things that if I listened were really going to matter. So as I swirled my coffee I decided to let a list of begats tell me a story.
I imagined Matthew leaning back in his chair and saying, “You’re never going to understand Jesus if you don’t understand Abraham and David. Jesus’ story starts a long ago with promises that were made to his fathers. Jesus is the heir to all of those promises. He is the son of David and the son of Abraham. God spoke a lot of things to these men, and all of it was about to be fulfilled in Jesus. When I say that Jesus is the son of Abraham and David I want you to know what I mean. You can actually find the genetic trail that links their bloodlines if you want to, but more importantly he is the one who fulfills all of the promises given to these men.”
Jesus is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.
When God promised Abraham he would bless him so he could be a blessing to the world…it was all about Jesus. When God pulled Abraham out of his tent and asked him to look up…it was all about Jesus. When God told Abraham to count the stars and dream of his descendants…it was all about Jesus. When God made a covenant with Abraham where he would count all of the cost…it was all about Jesus God’s wild love has always been after the whole world and he communicated that to Abraham. Then Jesus came and fulfilled it.
When God saw a shepherd boy and made him king…it was all about Jesus. When God promised David a kingdom that would never end…it was all about Jesus. When God said one of David’s sons would reign forever…it was all about Jesus. God was speaking to the world through David that one day a good and perfect king would reign forever. He would not be like all of the others kings that wielded their power and conquered through violence, he would be the king every heart has longed for. Then Jesus came and fulfilled it.
Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham is the true King. He is the King of Israel and the King of the world. He is the fulfillment of every promise…and the king you’ve been waiting for. As Bill Johnson says, “Everybody wants a king like Jesus. If we’ll represent him well, they will want us too.”
As I considered this King Jesus I realized that Matthew was telling me that Jesus wasn’t simply the fulfillment of God’s promises, he was the fulfillment of all of my promises too. Do I believe this? Could this really be true? And Matthew looked back at me and said, “But there’s more…Jesus came from some pretty screwed up people.”
I thought about my own family when I let Matthew tell me this. I have my French Canadian fur trapping family from my Momma and my loud, boisterous, easily-angered Italian family from my Dad. I love my family…but we are pretty screwed up. You look to the left and see a lot of addiction, you look to the right and you see a lot of abuse. You look all around and you see secrets and shame. Then I thought about myself, and I have my rightful place in this Manginelli/Maupin ball of screw-ups. I don’t tell a lot of people that; those parts of my story and my family’s story contains a lot of shame. But Matthew tells me this about Jesus right up front. He doesn’t hide the mess he come from, he claims it boldly.
Jesus is the son of really broken people. They all have a place in His Kingdom.
Prostitutes, thieves, bastards, whores, murders, adulterers, liars, drunks. This is who Jesus came from. He wears it like a badge of honor. Most kings would tell you something else, the kings around the time of Jesus certainly did. Julius Caesar had the Goddess Venus in his lineage. So right here in the middle of this list Matthew is telling me something very important…
I have a place with this King.
We all have a place with this King. In every other kingdom, I’m a peasant. I’m too poor and from too weak a history (my last name literally means little left-hander) to have a place with any other king. I’m not good-looking enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not elite enough. But I have a place with Jesus. I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not, because I fit in his lineage.
I imagine Matthew telling me the stories of these broken lives and the moments of redemption weaved within them. When we get to the end, we finally get to Jesus. He tells me, “And Jesus was the seventh seven.” At first I’m confused, but intrigued. He begins to show me that all of these names are broken into sections…three section of fourteen. A list of seven, then a list of seven, then a list of seven, then another list of seven, a list of seven, a final list of seven, and then Jesus. Matthew tells me that he had to play around with Jesus’ genealogy a little bit to make this happen, but it was more important to tell me this part of Jesus’ story than to give me a few more names. I asked him back, “What does it mean that Jesus is the seventh seven?”
Jesus is the fulfillment of everything we’ve been longing for.
From Abraham to Mary, every name of this list has been waiting. Their lives have been lived in the expectation that something was coming. Something that was going to make sense of this life and give meaning to everything they have done. They were waiting for God to come back, for Yahweh to rule in Zion again. They were waiting and hoping and dreaming and it was all about Jesus. He was everything they were waiting for.
I stared at this list for a while. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything I’m longing for, and I began to think about my longings. I thought about my family, my boys and my little one to come. I thought about my dreams and the desires I have in this life. I thought about security and finances, about possessions and wishing I had hair. I thought about friendships and people. I thought about everything I’ve been longing for and it was like Matthew was reading my mind, “Jesus is the only one that can fulfill those desires.” He’s it.
He’s the one I’ve been waiting for.
At this point I realized that I officially really like Matthew. If we were actually having this faux coffee date this would be about the point where I’d say, “We should hang out more.” Matthew has one more thing to tell me though. All of these people, they’ve all been waiting, but they have been waiting in different seasons. This story has markers, very important markers.
I imagine Matthew saying, “The first set of names, they are from Abraham to David. This was the season when God’s promises were alive. They were moving and God’s people were in the middle of experiencing the beauty of what it meant to be part of God’s movement. The second set of names, from David to the exile, were part of a very different season. This was the season when God’s people threw away everything God had given them and tore apart their lives. While they had everything they needed, they traded it in to be their own kings. The last set of names, from the exile to Mary, were in the quiet season. It was here that God’s people wanted to hear God, but he was silent. They wanted to be with him again, but they didn’t know where to find him. This Jesus, he’s king of every season. Jesus was the real king when everything was working. Jesus was the real king when everything was failing. And Jesus was the real king when silence was deafening.”
Jesus reigns if we are in seasons of beauty, seasons of loss, or seasons of silence.
As I sit back in my chair, I realize that through it all Matthew is trying to tell me one central thing. Jesus is credible. He’s faithful. It doesn’t matter what lens you look through, Jesus is trustworthy. No matter what is going on in my life, no matter the strength of my faith or my doubt, Jesus is someone worth hearing out. He’s credible to handle my sin. He’s credible to understand my life. He’s credible to hear my heartache. He’s credible to know my needs. He’s credible to carry my life. He’s credible to know my story. He’s credible to know my needs. He’s credible to fulfill on his word. He’s credible.
He’s a good King. A really really good King.
May you today be reminded that Jesus isn’t like other kings. He has a lineage that you belong in and is inviting you to become family. May you see that whatever season of life you find yourself in, Jesus can carry the weight. He’s sufficient. And may you let Matthew and his brothers remind you that there is a King named Jesus and you are really going to want to know Him. And the best part is…you can.