I have begun teaching the Gospel According to Matthew in Sunday morning Adult Bible Study. Martin Franzmann wrote Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew 50 years ago. I have read it a few times,and his insights and comments are worth reflecting on. Here is a quote from the introduction.
He Who Calls, the Goal and Fulfillment of Israel’s History
The form which Matthew’s recital first takes, that of a table of the ancestors of Jesus, strange to us and repellent to modern taste (one modern translator has practically omitted it in his rendering of Matthew). Matthew wrote, of course, for a church in which the history of Israel was a vibrantly living tradition, a church for which the Old Testament was the very air it breathed. He wrote for men to whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were near neighbors. Writing for such men, he could hardly have found a more economical and more telling means of placing before his readers the indispensable background of the story he had to tell than the clipped recital of the genealogy (1:1–17). For Matthew is telling the story of Jesus the “Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (1:1). This Jesus is the Goal and Fulfillment of that history which began when God called Abraham to be the first of a chosen and separated people of God, the people through whom God’s redemptive purpose for all mankind was to be realized (Gene. 18:18). Jesus is the Fulfillment of the promise given to David (and kept alive and enriched by a succession of prophets) of a reign of God incarnate, a reign by His Anointed King from the house of David, a reign destined to restore the paradisal world which man’s sin marred (Is. 11:1–10).
… His sovereign lordship of history is no translarently obvious fact; it is not documented in a rectilinear development of forces present in history toward a predictable goal. His people does not produce the Christ as a triumphant climax to a brilliant history. His people is made to pass through the fire of national humiliation and through divine judgment upon the sins. The house of David is reduced to insignificance and obscurity; the royal tree of Jesse is cut down to a stump before the promise to David is fulfilled. When the sin of Israel has made the coming of the mighty Anointed King impossible, then Christ comes, solely as God’s gift, purely as God’s gracious intervention, not as Israel’s contribution to the weal of mankind.
Martin Franzmann. Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew. CPH, 1961, pp. 9–10.
The contrast between the downfall of God’s people and the appearance of the Savior could not be greater. Thus, while the ancestors continue the line of promise (Romans 9:1-6), what makes them special is exactly that, not their achievements, not their national pride, not their faithfulness, but God’s faithfulness to his promises. And God still uses them for his purposes.
I am thrilled to be on this journey through Matthew’s writing. I have taught several portions of it in depth, and an overview of it several times, but this will be the first complete study to teach everything.