Today’s selected reading is found in the first New Testament book, which is the gospel according to Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first seventeen verses of the first chapter. As you begin this journey through the first four books of the New Testament, you cannot do so without first approaching and coming unto the New Testament gospel according to Matthew. As the New Testament opens and begins, it does so with the gospel of Matthew being at the forefront of what would be four distinct gospel accounts describing the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew you will recall was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, and one which Jesus specifically called and chose while he was engaged in something completely different and separate from what he would ultimately do as one of the disciples of Jesus, and later as one of the twelve apostles which made up the early church. The account of Matthew’s calling is found in the first three books of what is known in the gospels, and we must journey to the ninth chapter of this New Testament gospel to find and discover where Matthew was when Jesus found and called him. Before I even get into the account of Matthew, and what he was doing when the Lord Jesus passed by, I feel compelled to present the question to you who are reading this concerning where you were when the Lord found you. Do you remember where you were when the Lord passed by you and took notice of you? Do you remember who you once were before the Lord passed by and took notice of where you were in order that He might take and transition you into the place you were destined to be? Do you remember that moment when Jesus laid His eyes on you and when He called you from the life you once lived—perhaps the only life you thought you could have—and how you felt when you heard His voice, and beheld the look of compassion and intensity within His gaze? Do you remember what it was like to hear the voice of the Lord speaking directly into your life and calling you from the life you once lived, and the life you thought you were destined to live? I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of this first epistle beginning with the twentieth verse of the chapter:
“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputed of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greek seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound thee is; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31).
It isn’t until you come to the twenty-sixth verse of this particular passage of Scripture that you find the apostle Paul bringing the Corinthian congregation to the place where they not only saw their calling, but perhaps also recalled their calling which was before their very eyes. With these words, the apostle Paul was reminding the Corinthian congregation of their calling—of the calling they had in Jesus Christ, which was not based on worldly wisdom, nor was it based on worldly strength. The apostle Paul begins by reminding them of their calling, and then transitions to point out that not many were wise men after the flesh, nor were their many mighty, nor many noble, which were called. Instead, God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God chose the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. Furthermore, god chose the base things of the world, and the things which are despised—and even the things which are not—to bring to nought those things which were. With these words, the apostle Paul was seeking to remind the Corinthians concerning and regarding their calling, and how it was a calling that was based around the weakness of the world, the strength of the world, and the things which were not, in order that no flesh might glory in themselves, but only in the true and living God. This brings me to an incredibly important realization and declaration—the reality that if the calling you feel you have on your life places more emphasis on you than on Jesus who is both Christ and Lord, I would seriously question that calling which you think and believe yourself to have. If the calling which you believe is upon your life does not bring glory and honor unto the true and living God who reigns as supreme and sovereign over every living thing—both in heaven, and on the earth—then the calling you think you have might be nothing more than a creation of your own imagination and inspiration. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear that when the Lord calls someone, He calls them in weakness, He calls them in foolishness, and He perhaps even calls them in and from a place of being neglected and despised, in order that He might receive all the glory and honour that is due His name. Did you know that you were called—not so you could receive glory, and praise, and honour, and accolades, but so the living God could receive glory and honour above everything else? If the calling which is upon your life does not point men and women to the reality of the living and exalted Christ, then I would strongly declare unto you that your calling is nothing more than a farce and false reality created within your own heart and mind.
Before I get into the testimony which Matthew had, which set up the composition of this gospel account of the true and living Christ, I feel it important and necessary to once more bring your attention to where you were when the Lord Jesus Christ found you. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the Lord found and called you? Do you remember where you were when He approached you, and instead of passing you by, He stopped, looked at you, and saw something He wanted—something He could use for His kingdom, something He could use for His glory, something He could use for His honor? Do you remember when you were faced with the decision to leave and forsake everything you had known up until that moment in order that you might follow Jesus Christ fully, wholly, and completely? What was it like to abandon, to leave, and to forsake everything you had known—perhaps the life you had worked so hard to build—in order that you might follow Jesus Christ wherever He would lead? If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning Jesus Christ and His calling the disciples as is recorded in the four gospels of the New Testament, it’s that when He called them to follow Him wherever He went, and to walk in His footsteps. When Jesus called the disciples, He didn’t merely call them to be spectators of the life and ministry He was sent to accomplish and fulfill in the earth, but to be active participants. When the Lord passed by Matthew, He stopped and deliberately focused His attention on him, for He knew that Matthew had been specifically hand picked and chosen by the living God. It was Jesus Himself who declared that He could do nothing of His own accord or will, but only what He saw the Father doing, and heard the Father saying. This reality extends even into the calling of the twelve disciples, for even in choosing the twelve disciples, Jesus recognized and understood that these men were chosen in heaven by the true and living God before His public appearance and manifestation. We must recognize that when Jesus Christ came across each of these twelve men, He recognized and understood that each of them were specifically called and chosen by the living God, and that He was to call them forth from the life which they lived—perhaps a life they thought they could never escape from—and into an entirely new life that was so dramatically and radically different from the life which they had previously lived.
In order to recognize and understand this New Testament gospel of Matthew, it’s absolutely imperative that we recognize two things concerning Matthew. The first is that He was one who was specifically chosen by Jesus Christ as one of His disciples, and second, that He was not only an eyewitness of the life, the work and the ministry of Jesus Christ, but he was also an active participant. The account of Matthew’s choosing is found in the first three gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, and is first found in the ninth chapter of this New Testament book. Consider if you will the account of Jesus choosing Matthew as it is found and recorded in the ninth chapter of this particular gospel:
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, Behold many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physical, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).
This account of Matthew’s being called and chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ—although it is first found in the gospel written by and with his own hand—is also found in the New Testament gospels of Mark and Luke. Consider also if you will the account of Matthew’s being called by the Lord Jesus Christ, as it was recorded by both the beloved physician Luke, as well as Mark:
“And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. And as he passed by he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples: for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physical, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:13-17).
“And after these things He went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And He left call, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against His disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said un to them, They that are whole need not a physical; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:27-32).
Each of these three passages point to the distinct reality and moment when Matthew was called while he was sitting at the receipt of custom. IN order to understand the significance and importance of Matthew’s calling, it is absolutely necessary that we understand that he was in fact a tax collector, and helped the Romans exact taxes from the people of God. When Matthew was called, he was called from a life of exacting moneys and funds from the people of God in order that they might be paid and given unto the Roman Empire. When Matthew was called and chosen by Jesus Christ to follow Him, he was called out of a place of collecting moneys from the people of God, in order that he might follow Jesus Christ, and walk in His footsteps. What makes this even greater and even more significant, is the stigma that publicans, that tax collectors, and sinners had among the religious community during that day. There were countless Jews who viewed these publicans and tax collectors as traitors to their own people, for they were essentially choosing to work for the Roman Empire, and for the Roman government. As such, they were choosing to exact funds and moneys from their own people, in order that those funds might be given unto the Roman Empire. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is that when Jesus called Matthew, He called him from this place of collecting funds and moneys from his own people, and into a place where he walked with and followed Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that instead of collecting funds and moneys from his people, he would be a partaker of the very ministry Jesus Christ Himself was engaged in upon the earth. One final note concerning Matthew, is that when he was called by the Lord Jesus Christ, he was numbered among the twelve who were sent out two by two in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in order that the kingdom of God might be manifested and preached within and throughout the region of Judaea. Consider if you will the words which are found in the tenth chapter of this same gospel which was written by Matthew:
“And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:1-8).
When we come to this first New Testament book which was written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, we find a book that was written by one who himself was called and chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ. This first New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ was written by one who was sent out by Jesus Himself with authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, as well as to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. This gospel account wasn’t written by just any individual, but one who walked with Jesus Christ for three and a half years while He taught the people in Judaea, Jerusalem, and even Samaria. Matthew walked with Jesus Christ, and witnessed the various signs, wonders and miracles He performed among the people of that generation and day. What we find and what we read in this epistle is a firsthand, eyewitness account of the life and ministry of Jesus by one who actually walked with Jesus, and one who followed in His footsteps. What I so love about how this particular gospel begins, is that it begins with the words “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (Matthew 1:1). Please don’t miss the incredible significance and importance of these words, for that which would come after was a powerful declaration of how Jesus Christ came to be manifested within the earth. It would be very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in all the various names which are mentioned in the first seventeen verses, and even to grow bored with the various references to that one who begat this one, and this one who begat that one. In fact, I would dare say there are many who will begin reading the New Testament gospel of Matthew, and will completely glance over, or perhaps even skim read the names which are mentioned within the first seventeen verses. I would present and submit to you that to do so would be to commit a great travesty toward and against Scripture, as well as the very life and ministry of Jesus Christ Himself. When we read the words “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ,” what we are actually reading is a history which led up the manifestation and appearance of Jesus Christ. What we find in the midst of all of these names is a powerful history—a history which led up to one single, defining moment in history. The various names which are found and mentioned within this passage of Scripture is one that was manifested in the earth to bring forth one single reality, and one reality alone—the manifestation of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord over all.
As you read the first few words of the first and opening chapter of Matthew’s gospel, you must understand that what is before you is an emphatic and powerful declaration concerning the history which moved forward in order to bring forth one single reality within and upon the earth—the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every life, and every name that was mentioned in these first seventeen verses were placed and set forth upon the earth in order that their life might be one step closer to that moment when the long awaited Messiah would be manifested within and upon the earth. It would be very easy to get caught up in the mundaneness surrounding the names mentioned and found in this particular passage of Scripture, and yet I am convinced that to do would be to miss the awesome and incredible reality of what went into bringing forth and bringing about the manifestation of the Messiah. Pause for a moment and consider the awesome and wonderful reality that your life could be used to bring forth the manifestation of the living Christ within and upon the earth. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that your life could and would be used in direct connection with the lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that your life brought the world one step closer to the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the most interesting and intriguing realities surrounding the first seventeen verses of the gospel of Matthew is that it causes us to look back in history, and look back in time, in order that we might see what it took to bring forth the manifestation and appearing of the Messiah. When we read the New Testament gospel of Matthew—complete with its history and lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ—as well as the New Testament gospel of Luke—complete with its own history and linage of the Lord Jesus Christ—what we are confronted with is the various lives which were lived upon the earth, in order that one day the Messiah might be brought forth within and upon the earth. What we find in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel, and what we find in the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke is a wonderful and powerful look back in history to the generations that existed for one single purpose—to bring forth and bring about the manifestation of the Messiah within and upon the earth.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities surrounding the history and lineage of Jesus Christ, as it is recorded in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel, is that some of the names mentioned there are easily recognized and discerned by those who read them. There are many who read these first seventeen verses and who will immediately recognize the name David, the name Abraham, the name Isaac, the name Jacob, and perhaps even Judah. There are many who would read this passage and are familiar with the name Boaz, the name Jesse, as well as the name Solomon. There are additional kings who are mentioned in this passage of Scripture—kings such as Rehoboam, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, JOtham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh. It would be very easy to even recognize the name of three distinct women who are also mentioned within this passage—Tamar the prostitute and harlot, Rahab the prostitute and harlot, Ruth the Moabite widow, and although her name is specifically mentioned in this passage of Scripture, we also find mention Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, whom David had an affair with and then murdered Uriah to cover up both the affair, as well as the conception and pregnancy of the child born from that transgression. While there are names which are mentioned in this passage of Scripture which we are aware of, and which we recognize from the Old Testament, there are a number of names recorded in this passage of Scripture which aren’t recognized. In fact, you would have to go searching through the Scriptures in order to even find mention of their name—much less an actual account of their lives as is recorded in the Scripture. I happen to find this to be incredibly significant, for while there are a number of names and lives we recognize in this passage of Scripture, there is also a number of names and lives which we aren’t ‘familiar with, or recognize. There is within the history, the genealogy, and lineage of Jesus Christ a wonderful mix of names and lives we recognize, as well as names and lives which we don’t recognize, and perhaps even haven’t even heard of. I am absolutely and wonderfully convinced that there is a tremendous amount of significance in this, for regardless of whether or not we recognize the name and life that is mentioned in this portion of Scripture—each name and each life was manifested upon the earth for one single reason and one single purpose. It actually matters not whether or not we recognize all the names and all the lives which are mentioned in this particular passage of Scripture, for each life and each name that was mentioned in these seventeen verses existed for one single purpose and one purpose alone—to bring the world and the earth one step closer to the manifestation of the Messiah who would be born of a virgin in the city of Bethlehem on a starry night.
THE TESTIMONY OF NOBODIES! THE TESTIMONY OF NO-NAMES! I have to admit that I absolutely love that there are names and lives mentioned in the lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ which we don’t recognize, and which don’t immediately stick out to us as we read this passage of Scripture, for on the one hand, it forces us to look at and examine their lives, or on the other hand, it reveals unto us that there is nothing known about their lives, or their story hear on the earth. What makes this so wonderful and captivating is the fact that it is possible that there are men and women whose names we can and will never know, and men and women whose lives and stories we will never be aware of who are used to bring about the manifestation of the life and name of Jesus Christ within and upon the earth. There were individuals mentioned in the lineage of Jesus Christ whose lives we know nothing about, and yet the only thing we know about their lives is that they existed to bring forth the manifestation of Jesus Christ within the earth. Permit me to ask one single and simple question of you as you read these words: Are you willing to live your life without any recognition, without any accolades, without any praise, without any honor, without any fanfare, without any pomp and circumstance, in order that you might exist for one reason, and one reason alone—to bring forth the manifestation of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord within and upon the earth? Are you willing to accept the possibility that your name might never be known among men and women, and yet your life was used for the sole purpose of bringing forth the manifestation of the living Christ among men within the earth? There were names mentioned in this passage of Scripture whose names we don’t recognize, and whose lives we know nothing about, and yet their lives existed as part of a systematic strain of lives that would work together to bring about the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ within the earth. Pause for a moment and consider that within the lineage of Jesus Christ—not only do we find two harlots and prostitutes, but we also find a Moabite widow, as well as the wife of another man. What’s. more, is that within the lineage of Jesus Christ we find mention names we do not know, and lives and stories we aren’t familiar with. A GOSPEL OF NO-NAMES!
What I so absolutely love about the history and lineage of Jesus Christ is that not only was it brought forth and manifested by no-names as well as names which are familiar with, but it was also brought forth by lives which were suspect, and perhaps even unworthy according to our own standards. The history and lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ was not one that demanded perfection, nor even came about from perfection, but had within it adultery, fornication, and the like. I am convinced that this is absolutely critical for our understanding, for if the life of Jesus Christ wasn’t brought forth and manifested in the earth through perfection, for it allows room for transformation, room for growth, room for redemption, room for forgiveness, and so much more. Rahab was a harlot and prostitute, and yet she was spared the destruction and judgment of the city of Jericho, and as such married a Hebrew man, and was part of the lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth was a Moabite woman, and by very nature of being a foreigner, was not an original participant in the promises presented unto the children of Israel. Through one single decision to forsake her native land, her family, her friends, and the life she once knew, in order that she might associate herself with Naomi and Naomi’s God, Ruth would eventually marry Boaz and would be the great grandmother of David king of Israel. Even Bathsheba was originally the wife of another man, and was involved in an adulterous affair with David that resulted in both lying, as well as murder. Despite the stories and lives these women had, they were nonetheless part of the history and lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ, and were instrumental in bringing forth the seed of the Messiah within the earth. Though Jesus Christ was born of a virgin who conceived the Holy Spirit, we can deduce from Scripture that there was a certain seed that was passed forth from generation to generation—seed which would eventually bring forth the long awaited Messiah. Each and every generation that existed from the time of Abraham to the time of Joseph existed for one reason, and one reason alone, and that was to bring forth the manifestation of the Messiah who had been promised since the curse in the garden of Eden. What’s more, is that this sacred and holy seed began with promise—a promise which was given unto Abram when he was called from U r of the Chaldeans, and a promise which would later be confirmed by covenant. This sacred and holy seed would begin with promise and would be preserved in the face of captivity in a foreign land. Pause for a moment and consider that for seventy years this sacred and holy seed was preserved in the land of Babylon, and would eventually be brought back to the land of promise where it would eventually and ultimately bring forth the manifestation of the Messiah within the earth. This seed of the Messiah—this seed with Matthew described beginning with the time of Abraham—would not only continue throughout the time the Jewish people were living in the land, but would be persevered while the Jewish people were living as captives and exiles in a strange and foreign land. Oh how absolutely wonderful and remarkable this truly is, for the lineage of the Messiah would be preserved throughout the history of the Jewish people, until it eventually culminated during the time of Joseph and Mary.
The account of the lineage of Jesus Christ is one that is absolutely fascinating, for even though it contains names which we have never heard of, we don’t need to know or be familiar with those names in order for the Messiah to be manifested and brought forth within the earth. Familiar and knowledge aren’t always prerequisites and requirements for the manifestation of the life of the Messiah within the earth, and it is absolutely possible for the life of the Messiah to be brought forth through the lives of those we might never be aware of. The lineage of Jesus Christ would eventually reach the reign of the kings of Israel, and later the southern kingdom of Judah, thus signifying and pointing to the reality that this Messiah would be a king with great authority, dominion and power within the earth. Even with that being said, and while it is true that there were kings found in the lineage and genealogy of Jesus Christ, there are lives which we know nothing about, and which we might never know anything about. Despite the fact that we know nothing about some of the names and lives that are mentioned in this passage of Scripture, we are brought face to face with the reality that the life of the Messiah isn’t always brought forth by those whose names we know, and those whose lives and stories are well known. FACE THE FADE! FACE THE FADE OF POMP! FACE THE FACE OF GLORY! FACE THE FADE OF RECOGNITION! FACE THE FADE OF FANFARE! FACE THE FADE OF ACCOLADES! The lineage and genealogy of Jesus Christ was brought forth through lives we know and which are well acquainted with, but it was also brought forth by and through lives and names we will never know a single thing about. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to live a life that is not known and perhaps is not recognized among men in order that we might bring forth the manifestation of the life and reality of Jesus Christ in the earth. Are we willing to trade fame and fortune in order that we might be used for one single purpose and one single reality—the reality of bringing forth the manifestation of the living Christ within and upon the earth? Are we willing to live lives that aren’t known and aren’t recognized by others, and yet are quietly lived in order that Jesus Christ might be known and manifested in the earth? Are we wiling to face the fade of fame and recognition, of glory, honor and praise, in order that Christ might be manifested, and in order that Christ alone might be glorified and honored above everything else in the earth?