During Advent, Missio is concurrently running two series.  On Mondays and Wednesdays Cameron Barham, lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Kennesaw, GA provides Advent devotions from the Gospel of Matthew.  On Fridays, Drew Masterson of The Washington Institute provides a series of reflections on four films for Advent.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazer, ad Eleazer the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:12-17

In closing out this complex and interesting genealogy of Jesus, Matthew includes a “Who’s Who of Nobody You Have Ever Heard Of.” Unlike the first section of fourteen generations that featured Gentile women of questionable backgrounds to display God’s mercy and grace, or the second set of fourteen generations with a mixed bag of Davidic kings resulting in exile to demonstrate God’s justice and judgment, this portion reveals only a handful of names mentioned briefly in Scripture: Jeconiah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel.  The rest are completely absent from any known recorded history (except for here, of course).[1] It seems as if this genealogy that started out with so much to teach us concludes with barely a footnote’s worth to offer. In addition, the number of generations in this last section adds up to 13 not 14.[2] Is Matthew this bad at history AND math? Or might there be substantive theological reasons for these obvious issues?

To saddle Matthew with carelessness on these issues would betray the literary artistry that he consistently employs throughout this beautiful Gospel. The evidence suggests that he has substantive theological reasons for his generations of unknowns concluding with a generation missing altogether. The main questions, then, are not, “Who are these fathers and sons, and why are they included?” and “What happened to the missing generation?”, but, “Who is this that can ensure our redemption despite all of the variance and opacity in history?” and “Who is born of Christ?” In answer to the first, Yahweh, the faithful covenant God, sovereignly ensures our redemption through the coming Christ despite all of the variance and opacity in history. Mark E. Ross affirms this as he writes, “By continuing the genealogy after the deportation, Matthew is showing that God remains faithful to his covenant promises, despite the sins of the people. ‘Great David’s greater Son’ has come at last to establish the greater and everlasting kingdom. Thanks be to God!”[3] The answer to the second question is the church which is collectively comprised of the sons and daughters who will be redeemed in Christ.[4] As Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachen write, “the church is the public truth of Jesus Christ, and not only truth, but also the public goodness and public beauty of God’s plan of redemption.”[5] Matthew, in closing out the genealogy in this way, declares that God is faithful and sovereign to redeem a people for His purpose.

How then shall we live in light of this Advent truth? The short answer: in redeemed creative freedom! The fact that a host of names in the genealogy are historically meaningless to us other than their inclusion tells us that the Advent story is not about us. At least, it is not about us in the best way possible, meaning that we have the redeemed creative freedom to go and be and do to the glory of God without concern for notoriety or recognition, which both dangerously twist away from the glory of the Lord leading toward pride and ruin. Consider how we are already known by the sovereign God who controls history and ensures that His redemptive purposes will faithfully come to fruition!

In our redemption, we have been set free to pursue vocations that are blessedly meaningful and live lives that bring glory to God and common grace to all our spheres of influence in the power of the Spirit. We are free to display and practice what our culture so desperately needs which Miroslav Volf summarized best: “A vision of human flourishing and the common good is the main thing the Christian faith brings into the public debate.”[6] Even better, we have been born into a vast community of others redeemed in Christ called the church! This allows for creative stimulation and support while granting a vast network of gifts and abilities to accomplish far more than one could ever alone. Take time to reflect on your redeemed creative freedom this Advent Season and seek opportunities to use it for the common good for the glory of God. In so doing, you will join in the faithful work of the redeemed generation born of Advent glory in Christ!


Cameron Barham is the Lead Pastor of Christ Community Church in Kennesaw, GA.

Images: FreeImages.com/Filip Hallerfelt, Hans Kristian Pedersen



[1] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 38-39.

[2] Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006), 31.

[3] Mark E. Ross, Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 6.

[4] Hauerwas, 31.

[5] Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015), 21.

[6] Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2011), xvi.