A Better Endgame
Last week, Avengers: Endgame, the final blockbuster Marvel movie, was released, smashing box-office records. The movie is the culmination of an ambitious story arc encompassing 22 movies that Marvel Studios began planning 14 years ago. Endgame brings that plan to its final conclusion. It may possibly be the most highly anticipated movie ever produced.
By contrast, consider the opening words to the New Testament recorded in Matthew's Gospel:
"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
The words may not immediately seem that exciting, but they may be the most explosive words ever written. Though they are the first words of the New Testament, they actually echo the first book of the Old Testament - Genesis 5:1, "The book of the genealogy of Adam..." In other words, Matthew's words are not boring; they are actually incredibly dramatic. Matthew is saying that the story of Jesus is an epochal event that not only continues the story of the Bible, but transforms the story of the Bible and the entire story of humanity into something new. Matthew is beginning his Gospel, signaling to everyone who knows the story, that this is the 'Endgame' of the story of humanity, much more important than a movie, that wasn't planned over 15 years, but over thousands of generations by God himself.
What kind of man can be the transformative figure, the hinge of history? Who is this person and what did he come to do? Matthew may begin with a "boring" genealogy, but he actually answers the very question of the identity of Jesus and gives an entire philosophy of history in the process.
Consider what Matthew is claiming, just in his opening words. He is going to tell the transformative story of a man named Jesus. 'Jesus' was a popular and significant name among first century Jews. It was the Greek version of 'Joshua', a pivotal figure of Jewish history, who famously led Israel into the Promised Land and finally fulfilled God's promises to his people. Appropriately, the name means "The Lord is salvation."
But this wasn't just any regular man whose name was 'Joshua'. Matthew gives him a second title and says this man was Jesus Christ. 'Christ' wasn't his last name. There was nobody in the first century who would give their child the name 'Christ'. Because Christ meant Messiah, 'Anointed One'. In the Old Testament, that title was originally reserved for prophets, priests, and kings. But it came to be associated with the Savior God promised to send to redeem his people - his promise to send a seed who would crush the head of the serpent, to send an offspring who would bless the whole world, to send a prophet who would rescue his people, to send a priest who would cover their sins, to send a king who would restore the kingdom.
Next, Matthew calls him "the son of David" - itself an expansion of the Messianic expectation. The "son of David" was the fulfillment of God's covenant promises to David that one of his descendants would build a house for God's name, would triumph over God's enemies, usher his people into a kingdom of peace, and would rule for eternity.
Finally, he calls him "the son of Abraham". Prior even to David, Abraham was the first to receive a covenant promise from God. After Abraham offered up Isaac, the angel of God told him, "By myself I have sworn...because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven... And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 22:16-18). The end of that promise became part of the Messianic hope - that one of Abraham's offspring would "possess the gate of his enemies", and in him "all the nations of the earth be blessed."
Do you see why Matthew's opening words may be the most explosive words ever written? This is the culmination of the promises of God for thousands of years. This is the most highly anticipated, blockbuster event in heaven or on earth. This is the Endgame. This is the name that changes everything, so that we're no longer talking about the story of humanity under Adam. We're beginning the story of humanity under Jesus Christ. From this point, nothing is the same. From this point, the entire history of humanity hinges on the identity of this man and your relationship to him!