In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Solomon had died. He was not David’s Son whose rule would be everlasting. That promise would not be fulfilled by Solomon, but by another Son of David, by this, great to 28th power grandson of David (on His adopted father’s side, and to the 42nd power on His mother’s side): Jesus.
But why Jesus and not the actual immediate son of David, Solomon? What is different about these two sons of this great king? Solomon was only the son of David. He was not literally the Son of God. Whereas, Jesus is the Son of a man, a descendant of David through mother—as we confess He is “born of the virgin Mary”—but He is also the Son of God since He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Now let’s talk about something that seems boring to us and possibly confusing: genealogy and numbers. There are two genealogies given for Jesus in the Gospels. One in Saint Matthew chapter one. And one in Saint Luke chapter three. They differ because one traces our Lord’s human ancestry through His mother and one through His adopted father. So we have both father and mother’s ancestry. Saint Matthew traces Jesus through His adopted father back to father Abraham, the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Saint Luke trace the ancestry through our Lord’s mother back to Adam, the first man, who is the literal Son of God.
We think of such lists as boring but they have an important purpose. A story from Papua New Guinea a couple decades ago illustrates this. Des and Jenny Oatridge, a married couple, had gone there to a small tribe that was declining in numbers and considered weak by the surrounding tribes. The couple and their newborn daughter went to translate the Bible into this people’s language so they might know and believe in Jesus Christ. After many years they were almost done the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Here’s their daughter’s account of what happened:
When Des told Jenny, ‘We finished the last of Matthew today,’ she replied, ‘What about the first seventeen verses.’
Oh yes. Those uninteresting verses that told of Jesus’ ancestry back to Abraham. They had to be tackled before he had really finished the book.
Surprisingly, Sisia [his language helper] sailed through the long genealogy without a trace of boredom. He made no comment on the translation as he often did. But when he rose to go, he said with some deliberation, ‘There’s going to be an important meeting in Nameepi’s house tonight. I want you to come and bring what we’ve done today.’
Des wondered, What’s he up to? Why a meeting tonight? Perhaps he wants to celebrate finishing Matthew. But why does he particularly want me to bring what we’ve translated today?
That night, Des took the lantern and walked the short distance to Nameepi’s house, just above his own.
He walked into the central room to find it already filled to capacity. All Sisia’s family were there around the fire. Two other rooms, off to either side, were also packed with people. Des had never seen so many packed into a house before. There was also an odd sense of tension in the air that made him nervous.
He was led immediately to a seat on the floor beside the fire. Sisia took command and spoke in his usual authoritarian voice.
‘I have asked Mata’a Des to come and read what we translated this morning. I can’t tell it to you. I want you to hear it for yourselves.’
The room became extraordinarily still. Des was conscious that all eyes were focussed on him. He cleared his throat and began to read: ‘These are the ancestors of Jesus Messiah, a descendant of King David and of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac; Isaac was the father of Jacob; Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers; Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah; … ’
Des could not look up. His eyes were glued to the text. He was trying to read as naturally as Sisia has spoken the sentences to him that morning, but the tense atmosphere in the room made this difficult.
He did not see Fofondai’s eyes grow wider and rounder, as did Maraa’aro’s and several others near him. He could sense, though, that every word he spoke was being grabbed and critically examined by the listeners.
He became conscious that Yawo was moving near to him. So were A’aaso, Aaka and Yaa’a. He was aware Sao watched his lips unblinkingly. As he continued reading, more and more people began pressing. The people from the other rooms were pushing into the central room. Fofo was so close that his beard almost touched the written page. Yawo’s arm was rammed right against Des’.
Des suddenly felt scared. He had a sense of being crushed. It was not only the pressure of bodies; it was the uncanny silence. It seemed that not a dog barked, not a baby cried, not a person released his breath.
He did not know if the list of names offended some ritual taboo about which he knew nothing. If so, and the people were angry that it was being so blatantly publicised, he was in an awkward position. There was no way of escape, hemmed in as he was. And with the atmosphere so charged, he felt he dared not ask a question. These people were so volatile; they could erupt in a fury so easily.
So he kept on reading. ‘Matthan was the father of Jacob; Jacob was the father of Joseph (who was the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus the Messiah). There are fourteen generations from Abraham to King David; and fourteen from King David’s time to the exile in Babylon; and fourteen from the exile to Christ.’
They had heard him out.
Des raised his eyes to look at those within a breath of his face—and saw, not anger, but incredulity. ‘Why didn’t you tell us all this before?’ Yaa’a demanded.
Des recoiled instinctively as if he’d been struck.
‘No-one bothers to write down the ancestors of spirit beings,’ Fofondai stated.
‘It’s only real people who record their genealogical table,’ A’aaso added.
‘Jesus must be a real person!’ someone else cried, his voice ringing with astonishment.
Then everyone seemed to be talking at once. ‘Fourteen generations, that’s two hands and a foot, from Abraham to King David … ’
‘And two more hands and a foot, to the time of [the captivity] … ’
‘And another two hands and a foot till Jesus’ time … ’
‘That’s a very, very long time.’
‘This ancestry goes back further than ours.’
‘Yes, none of ours goes back two hands and a foot three times.’
‘Jesus must have been a real man on this earth then. He’s not just white man’s magic.’
‘Then what the mission has taught us is real.’
Yes real. Des pondered on that as he made his way home. The ancient list of names which he had always found boring and pretty well meaningless had ratified Jesus as a real person to his unlettered friends. He possessed a genealogy like their own! To the Binumariens, the truth of the scriptures was now beyond doubt.
(Taken from, http://creation.com/binumarien-people-find-bible-true, accessed November 30, 2012.)
Now get out some paper to write on. Numbers. Our Lord’s genealogy through His father consists of 3 groupings of 14 back to Abraham. 3 is the number of God and His salvation. There are 3 persons of the Triune God who create, save, and sanctify us. Our Lord rose on the 3rd day. The 3rd day is always a day of God’s saving action in the events in the Bible. The three events referred to in this genealogy highlight God’s saving work to preserve Abraham’s family and bring the saviour of the world through him. God used David, Israel’s mightiest king, to save them and make their name great. God blessed His people, spread His Word, and saved them all through a captivity brought own by their own unfaithfulness. And He fulfilled humanity’s ultimate salvation in Jesus after the 3rd grouping of 14.
But 3 groups of 14 are also 6 groups of 7. Think back to creation. On the 6th day God created man and woman. Therefore 6 is man’s number in the Bible. On the 7th day God rested forever connecting the number 7 to Him, to His Almighty creative power and His eternal Sabbath rest. These numbers imbedded in our Lord’s human father’s genealogy emphasize His dual parentage: He is the son of Man, 6; and He is the son of God, 7 who brings rest to the weary.
Meanwhile, His mother’s genealogy goes all way back 77 generations to Adam, the son of God. 77, a visual doubling of the number that represents God. This emphasizes that He is 2nd Adam, the true son of God, the One come to save mankind from the 1st Adam’s sin.
So this God-Man comes like Solomon before Him. He comes to His city. To His throne. The people respond as they should. For if they will not cry out in praise the rocks will cry out. And the rocks do cry out when He is crowned as king at His death. When no one was left to sing His praises, when no one could bear to look at the royal robes of His own innocent blood that He was drenched in, when He died, throned on the cross, the rocks split, the earth shook. The rocks cried out that its Lord and Maker was now enthroned at His Father’s right hand. The cross is His throne from which He rules, dispensing salvation to the earth. That’s why there is a cross either on or above altars in Lutheran churches. For from the church’s altar you receive what His cross won for you. Your Lord’s gracious kingship. His salvation which calls you out of this world into His kingdom.
But the Bible is a funny book. It often speaks poetically. It likes to personify inanimate objects. Rocks cry out. Doors lift up their heads. Now the rocks literally cried out at His death. But what about these doors? Did these doors lift their heads?
What does that image convey? To have a lowered head is to be sad, depressed, and sorrowful. It is to be humble before someone greater than you, maybe even to be praying to your God. We, the Church, are full of sorrow over our sin. We come to His altar humbly kneeling before our God. We pray throughout our lives to our God that He might come to us quickly and save us. When He does we lift up our heads in joy, in anticipation, to see our salvation coming to us. To lift up your head is to throw off your depression, your sadness, for joy has come to you and overwhelmed you.
And while the doors Psalm 24 speaks of are the great doors of the temple and the gates of the city of Jerusalem, which must open and yield to her king, since His coming to His temple and city to be crowned on the cross He has fulfilled that temple’s purpose. That city is no longer needed for He has a new temple. The Christian Church. The hearts of all believers. He has an eternal city, the heavenly Jerusalem. Until that day when He comes again to gather us into that eternal city, His temple and city are found scattered all over the world wherever members of His Church are. And the doors of our hearts joyfully open to Him. Our sadness is cast off. Our heads are lifted up in faith. For Our king comes to us.
That’s why as right as it is to bow your head when you kneel before your God at the altar, it is also just as right to lift up your head as you receive His body and blood and the final blessing from the pastor. For your saviour has lifted you up, by being lifted up on the throne of His cross for you.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON