“The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”
Do you remember the task that I recently gave you, imploring you to listen to my teaching with stillness and reverence? Today we are gathered together here in this holy building, where I implored you to undertake this task.
Since if when the Jews were to meet the Lord at “a burning mountain, fire, darkness and a black tempest” (or rather since they were not allowed to approach, they viewed it from far off) they were commanded for the three days before to abstain from their wives, wash their clothing and to stand in fear and trembling, both them and Moses with them before approaching that mountain. When we are here to listen to the word, we are not standing off from a smoking mountain, but rather to enter into Heaven itself. We should show a greater self-denial than those of the past, not washing our clothes, but wiping clean the robe of our soul and ridding ourselves of any worldly stains. We will not see darkness, smoke or storm but the King Himself sitting on the throne of unspeakable glory, and angles and archangels standing round Him, along with the family of the saints in endless numbers.
This is the way it is in God’s city, having “the Church of the first-born, the spirits of the just, the general assembly of the angels, the blood of sprinkling,” all knit together as one. Heaven has received the things of the earth and earth the things of Heaven and the peace which was longed for of old by both angels and saints.
Here stands the trophy won by the cross, glorious and visible, the prize won by Christ, the first fruits of our nature, the gains of our King. All of this we will know with certainty by studying the Gospels. If you listen quietly we will be able to show you the way, where death itself is crucified, where sin is hung and where the many wonderful things to be gained in this battle lay.
Here you will also see the tyrant bound, the multitude of captives following and the fortress where that unholy demon overran all things in time past. You will see the hiding places and the den of the robber now broken and laid open, for even there now our King is present.
But do not be weary beloved, if I was describing a visible war and trophies and victories, you would find no satisfaction at all, it would leave you feeling hollow and hungry still. But I have a much more satisfying story to tell you. Consider this, I will tell you how God in Heaven got up from “the royal throne and leaped down” Wisdom 18:15 to the earth, even hell itself and stood in the midst of battle. And how the devil set himself in battle against him, not just God unveiled, but God hidden in man’s nature.
You will see something marvelous, death destroyed by death, curse extinguished by curse and the dominion of the devil put down by the very things he used to prevail. So, let us be alert and do not sleep, I see the gates opening to us. But let us enter in properly, in order and with reverence, stepping right into the vestibule itself.
What do I mean by vestibule? “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham.”
“Wait what?!? You promised to talk about the Only-begotten Son of God, but here you have just mentioned David, a man born a thousand generations ago but you call him both His father AND ancestor?” Hold on, do not try to learn everything at once, but gently and little by little. We are only here, standing in the vestibule, practically still on the front porch! Why are you trying to rush in to the inner shrine? I have not yet even explained the other genealogy, and what comes after is unutterable and holy. The prophet Isaiah before me told you this, when proclaiming Christ’s passion, His great love for this world, admiring who He was, what He would become and where He would descend he cried out loud and clear “Who shall declare his genealogy?”.
But this is getting ahead of ourselves, we are talking about what took place here on earth, seen by ten thousand witnesses. We will eventually talk about all this when it is possible to do so, with the grace of the Spirit. Not even this can be laid out simply by anyone, for even this is worthy of awe. But do not think these things are small or unimportant when we talk of his ancestors but rouse your mind and tremble with reverence having been told that God has come to earth. This is so marvelous and beyond expectation, that angels formed a choir and sang praise on behalf of the earth. The prophets were amazed at this in times before, saying “He was seen on the earth and conversed with men”. Baruch 3:37 For it is unconceivable to hear that God the Unspeakable, the Unutterable, the Incomprehensible, He that is equal to the Father, has passed through a virgin’s womb and has graciously allowed himself to be born of a woman, to have Abraham and David as forefathers. But even more amazing are the lowly women listed that were mentioned recently.
Hearing all this do not think any of it lowly, even at this thing you should marvel, that being the Son of the Unoriginated God, His true Son, He lowered Himself to also be called the Son of David, that He might make you a son of God. He suffered a slave to be his father that He might make the Lord Father to you who are as a slave.
Do you see the nature of the Gospels, evident from the very beginning? It is far more difficult (by human reasoning), for God to become man, than for a man to be declared a Son of God. For this reason, when you are told that the Son of God is descended from David and Abraham, do not doubt that you too, a son of Adam shall be a son of God. It was not at random or in vain that he humbled himself so greatly, his chief aim was to raise us up. This is why he was born of flesh, so that you can be born of the Spirit. He was born of a woman, so that you might cease to be the son of a woman.
His birth was twofold, He was both made like us and surpassed us. It was our lot to be born of a woman, but “not to be born of blood, or the will of the flesh, or man” but of the Holy Spirit John 1:13 was prophesized before birth that surpasses us, the birth to come, which He would freely give to us by the Spirit. Everything in His life was like this. His baptism was of the old sort, and yet it foreshadowed the new. The mark of the old baptism was the prophet, but the coming down of the spirit marked the new. It is like Christ placed himself in the place between two people who were separated by animosity, and stretching out his hands took hold of either side and tied them together. Even this He has done, joining the old covenant with the new, God’s nature with men, and the thing that are His with ours.
Do you see the flashing brightness of that city, what splendor it dazzles you with from the very beginning? How it has directly shown the King in your own form? The King does not always appear bearing his proper dignity, but laying aside the purple and diadem, he often disguises himself in the garb of a common man. But He stays disguised, not to hide in fear from a hostile enemy, but on the contrary to prevent the enemy from fleeing from him. If he were to show himself in his glory all would tremble before Him and his purpose was to save and not to dismay.
This is why right off, He was called by this title, being named Jesus. This name, Jesus, is not Greek, but in the Hebrew language it means “A Savior”, and indeed He is called Savior, for He saved all His people.
Do you see how he raises up the listener, speaking of familiar things but also indicating to us things beyond all hope? Both of these names were well known to the Jews. Because what was to come was beyond imagination even the names were shown before, in order that from the very beginning any unsettling feelings from something new or different might be removed. This is why he was called Jesus, who after Moses brought his people into the Promised Land. Do you see the foreshadowing? Behold the truth! Moses lead his people to the Promised Land, Jesus led his to Heaven, and gave the good things of the heavens, long after Moses was dead and the law had ceased. This is a leader, this is a King.
However, having only heard the name Jesus, to prevent any confusion (for this was a common name) the author has added, “Jesus Christ, Son of David”.
And why does he call this a “book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” while it is not just a list of his ancestors only, but the whole of his life? Because this is the summary of the whole dispensation, and shows the origin and root of all our blessings. As Moses began by calling it “a book of heaven and earth” [Genesis 2:4]() even though he speaks of everything between, so also this is the summary of his work. So this man has named his book with a title that sums up all the great things within. What could be more astonishing, and beyond all hope or expectation, than God becoming man. But this did happen, and everything hereafter follows in reasonable consequence.
But why did he not say “the Son of Abraham” and then “the Son of David”? Some may think (incorrectly) that he is trying to start at the lower and move up, but then he would have done the same as Luke and here he does the opposite. So why does he mention David? David was still spoken about by everyone due to his distinction since he was not so far removed in the past as Abraham. Although God made promises to both, the older (Abraham) is passed over in silence, while the other, fresher and more recent is mentioned by all. Didn’t they say, “Doesn’t Christ himself come from the seed of David, from Bethlehem where David was from?” John 7:42 Notice no one called him the Son of Abraham, but everyone said He was descended of David. This was because David was more prominent in their minds, both on his being more recent and because of his royalty. On this principle all the kings after were honored with his name, both by the people and by God. Both Ezekiel and other prophets speak of David as coming and rising again, not meaning the one long dead, but one who would emulate his virtue. To Hezekiah he says “I will defend this city, for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake” 2 Kings 19:34 And to Solomon he said that for David’s sake He would not tear the kingdom apart during his lifetime. For great was the glory of the man (David), both with God and with men.
This is why he starts with the one more well-known and then builds up to his ancestor, accounting it superfluous (considering his audience) to go farther. For these two were the persons principally held in admiration by the Jews, one as a prophet and a king, the other as a prophet and patriarch.
“But how is it evident that He is descended from David?” someone may say. If he was not born of a man, but from a woman only and the Virgin does not have her genealogy traced how do we know that he was from David’s decent? Here there are two things questioned; both why His mother’s genealogy is not listed, and why Joseph is mentioned at all since he has no part of his birth. One seems unnecessary and the other a mistake.
Which one should we speak to first? How the Virgin is descended from David. How do we know that she is his descendant? Listen to God who told Gabriel to go to “a virgin engaged to a man (whose name was Joseph), of the house and lineage of David”. What is planer than this?
Here it is evident that Joseph was also descended from the same. For there was a law which meant it was unlawful to take a wife from any other line, but that they must be of the same tribe. The patriarch Jacob also foretold that He would arise out of the tribe of Judah, saying “there shall not fail a ruler out of Judah, nor a governor out of his loins, until He come for who it is appointed and He is the expectation of the Gentiles”
“Well” they may reply, “This prophecy DOES make it clear that He was from the tribe of Judah, but NOT that he was descended from David. Is the Whole tribe of Judah descended from David or were there many others? Maybe he was only part of the tribe of Judah and not descended from David”.
In order to answer anyone who might make such a claim as this, the author clearly states that He was “of the house and lineage of David”.
But if that is not enough for you, we are not lacking another proof. Not only was it not allowed to marry outside of your own tribe, but not even from another lineage, that is, outside their kindred. So either you take the author at his words (“of the house and lineage of David), or by the fact that Joseph was allowed to marry her by law. If Joseph was of the house and lineage of David he certainly would not have taken his wife from a tribe or line other than his own.
“What if he ignored the law?” you might ask. Anticipating this question the author testifies that Joseph was righteous, to prevent such an accusation. We are told of his virtue, so we can be sure he would not have so blatantly transgressed the law. He was so benevolent and free from such strong emotion that he did not even wish to punish the Virgin (even though he had reason to suspect that she had done wrong by him), how could he have transgressed the law for his own lust? He showed wisdom and self-restraint beyond the law, (to cancel the marriage quietly was showing self-restraint beyond what the law demanded), and how could he have done anything contrary to the law when there was no cause to make him?
So it is clear from these explanations that the Virgin was descended from David, but the fact that the author not give her genealogy, but instead Joseph’s requires explanation. For what reason did he do this? It was not customary (or even demanded by the law) among the Jews to trace the genealogy of a woman. So to keep with custom, and not seem to be making alterations at the very beginning but still make the Virgin’s history known to us, he passes over her ancestors in silence and traced Joseph’s genealogy. If he had done this for the Virgin, he would have seemed to be adding something new and unusual. If he had ignored Joseph then we would have known nothing of the Virgins forefathers. So in order to teach us about Mary, who she was and her origin, without disturbing the law, the author traces the genealogy of her espoused husband, and shown that he was descended from the house of David. So having clearly proved Joseph’s history, Mary’s is demonstrated with it, as I have already explained, because this righteous man would have never taken a wife from other decent.
There is another reason that I could mention, of a more mysterious nature, why the Virgin’s forefathers are ignored. But now is not the time or place to discuss it because so much has already been said.
Let us then stay at this point in our discourse concerning these questions and retain accurately what has been revealed to us. Why the author mentioned David first, why he called his book “A book of the genealogy”, why he called Him “Jesus Christ”, how his birth was both common and uncommon, how Mary was shown to be descended from David and why Joseph’s genealogy is traced while her ancestors are left out.
If you retain these things, you will be ready for the things that are to come, but if you reject them and forget them you will seem as ignorant as the rest. This is just like a farmer would not pay attention to soil that had not sprouted seed recently planted.
So I earnestly ask you to focus on these things. If you contemplate such matters, there springs in the soul a great good, leading to salvation. For by these meditations we will be able to please God Himself. Our mouths will be pure from insults, filthy speech and abuse when arming our tongue with such words, we will draw God’s grace to ourselves all the more, and it will render our eyes more discerning. Certainly our eyes, mouth and ears He gave us with this intent that all our members serve Him. That we may speak His words, do his work, sing to Him in continual hymns and offer up sacrifices of thanksgiving and by these we will thoroughly purify our consciences.
As our bodies are healthier when enjoying the benefit of pure air, even so will a soul be endowed with practical wisdom when nourished with exercises like these. Don’t you see, even your physical eyes, when they are subjected to smoke they are filled with tears, but in the clear air of a meadow or in a fountain or garden they become more quick sighted and healthier. This is like the soul’s eye as well, for it should feed in the meadow of spiritual wisdom and it will be clear and perceptive. But if your soul departs into the smoke of the things of this life it will weep without end, wailing both now and hereafter. For indeed the things of this life are like smoke. This is why it was written “My days have failed like smoke” He was referring to their short duration and unsubstantial nature. But I would say we should take this at face value, not just the point of life’s shortness but also of its murky character.
Nothing is as damaging and dimming to the eye of the soul as the crowd of worldly anxieties and swarm of desires. These are the wood that feeds the smoke. Like fire, when it gets ahold of any damp and saturated fuel a lot of smoke is made. Likewise is desire, vehement and burning when it lays hold of a soul that is (so to speak) damp and intemperate, producing in its own way a great deal of smoke. This is why we need the dew of the Spirit, and of that air, that it may extinguish the fire, and scatter the smoke and lift up our thoughts. For it cannot be that one weighted down with such evils should soar up to heaven; it would be good if being without impediment we can manage to get there, or rather, even unburdened it is not possible unless we obtain the lifting efforts of the Spirit.
Now if we need both an unencumbered mind and spiritual grace to raise to that height, what if we have neither of those things, but instead move towards the opposite adding a devilish weight? How will we be able to soar upwards when dragged down by such a great load? If anyone was to try to weigh their words (as on a scale) to see if they were in good balance, in ten thousand pounds of worldly talk you wouldn’t find a pound and a half of spiritual words, really, I should say, not even an ounce. Is it not a disgrace (and an extreme mockery) then, when we have a servant and employ him for needed work, but having a tongue, we do not use it as well as another person (our servant). But on the contrary, we use it for things unprofitable and merely wasting time? If only we only used it to waste time, but instead we use it for things contrary and hurtful and in no way advantageous to us. If the things we spoke were profitable to us, they would certainly be pleasing to God as well. But as things stand now, whatever the devil might suggest, we speak it all, now laughing, speaking wittily, cursing and insulting, swearing, lying and taking false oaths, complaining, babbling vainly and talking of trifles more than old wives; uttering all things that are of no concern to us.
Tell me, of all the people standing here, if you were required could you repeat ONE psalm, or any other portion of the divine Scriptures? No, I say not one.
This is not the only grievous thing, but while you have become so backwards concerning things that are spiritual, in regard to what belongs to Satan you are more passionate than fire! Should anyone ask you about the songs of devils and impure musicals, they will find many who know these things perfectly and repeat them with great pleasure.
What is your answer to these charges? “I am not one of the monks, I have a wife and children and the care of my household” you might say. Why this is what has ruined it all, your supposing that the reading of the divine Scriptures pertains only to others, when you need it much more than they do! For those who dwell in the world, and each day receive wounds, these are the ones that have the most need of medicine. So it is far worse to merely not read the Scripture, but to consider it “superfluous” is a diabolical invention. Don’t you hear Paul saying “that all these things are written for our admonition?” 1 Corinthians 10:11
And if you had to take up a Gospel, would you choose not to because your hands are dirty? But the things that are written within it, don’t you think they are highly necessary? It is because of this that everything is turned around for you.
If you want to learn what great profit is in the Scriptures, examine yourself, what you become by hearing the Psalms, and what you become after listening to a song of Satan. How you fell when staying in a Church and when sitting in a theatre and you will see that there is a great difference between the effects of each. This is why Paul said, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 This is the reason we continually need Godly songs which serve as appeals from the Spirit. This is where we can excel over the irrational creatures, since in worldly things we are exceedingly inferior to them.
This is a souls food, its adornment, its security, even as to not hear is famine and wasting. For “I will give them not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord” Amos 8:11
What then can be more wretched? When the very evil that God threatens as punishment, you are drawing down upon yourself of your own accord? Bringing to your soul a kind of grevious famine and making it the feeblest thing in the world? It is the nature of the soul to waste away or to be saved by words. Words lead it to anger, and the same thing (words) makes it meek. A filthy expression is likely to kindle it to lust, and it is trained to temperance by serious speech.
But if a mere word has so great a power, tell me, how is it that you despise the Scripture? If an admonition can do such great things, far greater things can be done when it is the admonitions of the Spirit. A word from the divine Scriptures, heard by the ear, does more than fire to soften the hardened soul and renders it fit for all good things.
This how Paul dealt with the Corinthians when he found them puffed up and inflamed, making them more considerate and composed. They were priding themselves on the very things which they ought to have been ashamed of and hid their faces. But after they received the letter, see the change in them, which their Teacher himself bore witness to saying “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this [a]godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:11 This is the way we straighten out servants and children, wives and friends, and make our enemies friends.
This is the way that great men who were dear to God became better also. David for example, after his sin, when he heard certain words came to that most excellent repentance; and the apostles also became what they were by the word, drawing the whole world after them.
“And what is the profit, when someone hears but does not do what is said” someone may say? Very little profit if any is had by merely hearing. For he will go on to convict himself, groaning inwardly but will come in time to do the things he learns not to do. But he that does not even know that he has sinned, when will he stop being negligent? How can he correct himself?
So do not let us despise the hearing of the divine Scriptures. This is of Satan’s devising; not letting us see the treasure, lest we should gain those riches. So he says that hearing the divine law is nothing, for fear that he should see us acquire the practice of those laws having heard them.
Knowing that this is his evil art, let us defend ourselves against him on all sides, that being protected with this armor, we may abide unconquered ourselves and smite him on the head. Doing this, having crowned ourselves with the glorious wreaths of victory we may obtain the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.