Have you ever looked at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew? Take a peek at it. It begins with a long list of names. Some of them probably seem unusual and hard to pronounce. But why are all these names here? Why would Matthew begin writing a book about Jesus by listing all these names?
Well, the people in this list are all ancestors of Jesus. Ancestors are family members who have lived before us. So, your parents are your closest ancestors, then your grandparents, then your great-grandparents, and so on.
Ancestors shape the lives of their children and grandchildren. They pass on personality traits, family traditions, stories, and hobbies. While each person in a family is unique, there are things they share in common with one another, too.
So, one reason Matthew includes this list of names is simply to help us see Jesus as part of a human family. He would have learned to build from his dad. He would have celebrated Jewish holidays with his family, following their traditions. He would have listened to stories about his ancestors. He was shaped by his family just like you are shaped by yours. And Matthew wanted his readers to understand that.
But Matthew also mentions each generation in the family of Jesus because he wanted to show people that Jesus was the Messiah. Messiah means "promised one." And the Hebrew people had been waiting for the promised one for generations. Every generation represented in Matthew's list had been waiting, beginning with Abraham...
I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.
God promised that he would bless "all the families on earth" through Abraham. That meant the Messiah, the promised one, was going to be part of Abraham's family...generations later. And the Bible follows the story of those generations through their wait.
Jesus came...and he will come again. While we wait to celebrate his first coming and anticipate his second, let us trust in God, knowing he always keeps his promises...through the generations.
Read Isaiah 11:1-5
This is a prophecy about Jesus. Which ancestor of Jesus is mentioned in it?
What else does the prophecy tell us?
Draw a picture that shows some or all of the things you read about in Isaiah 11:1-5. You might choose to focus on the image of the stump and the branch, the description of the Messiah, or both!
Choose one ancestor of Jesus you do not recognize from the list in Matthew 1:1-16 and find out where you can read his/her story in the Bible. You can use an online Bible search tool or app to help you know where to look. Read about the person and see what else you can learn about Jesus through his family.