“The Son of David, the Son of Abraham…” The entire genealogy of Matthew is ordained to show that Christ is the promised Son of David and also the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, our father in faith. The fulfillment of God’s promises to both of these men, and his fidelity to his covenants with them, is a reality that becomes more and more apparent as the Gospel progresses. As for Abraham, he is the recipient of the most concrete manifestation of God’s election at the beginning of Israel’s history, and the “first father” from whom the people of Israel spring. As God said to him: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…and by you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:2-3); “I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore” (Gen 22:17). Indeed, even more vividly and expansively, God says to Abraham:

Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendant after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. (Gen 17:4-8)

All people who claim to adhere to the one God who spoke into our world in biblical revelation claim to be children of Abraham: Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Of course, our stance before this revelation differs, as does our place in this line: Jews still await the coming of the Messiah, whom they have not yet acknowledged in Jesus Christ; they adhere to the Torah, to the first books of the Old Testament, near to us in clinging to the one God of heaven and earth and in openness to his Anointed, and yet not recognizing the fulfillment of all God’s promises in Jesus Christ, the true Anointed, and the everlasting Son of God. Muslims, on the other hand, stand in a unique position, since they do not stand in the line of Israel, but trace their history back to Ishmael, Abraham’s first born son, through the slave woman, Hagar (see Gen 16 and 21) . Founded in the seventh century, A.D., after the close of God’s explicit written revelation (which culminated in Christ and the founding of the Church, after which no further public revelation is to be expected) the Muslim faith, while admirably practiced with a touching fervor, dismisses the coming of Christ and also separates itself from the historical developments of God’s activity in history. In fact, it also sets aside the full richness of authentic biblical revelation and practice, even as found in the Old Testament, separating itself from God’s original revelation and replacing it with the Koranic text and Islamic practice, which, while bearing traits of biblical faith, has narrowed them as well as inserted elements wholly foreign to them.*

We see again, here, precisely why Matthew thinks that it is so important to place a genealogy at the beginning of his Gospel: to show that Jesus Christ is indeed the long-awaited Messiah, the true inheritor of the promises made to Abraham, and expanded through David, the true Promised One in whom God’s blessing extends to all nations, and the everlasting King. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ.” The God who is manifest in history and ties himself intricately into our history! What humility! We may prefer it otherwise, may prefer that God comes to each individual directly, unmediated by history, in the depths of their heart. And, of course, he does this as well, intimately and deeply. But we are incarnate beings, living a rich life of immersion in the fabric of time and space, situated in a particular place in both space and in history; we are caught up inseparably and a network of relationships stretching from east to west, vertically and horizontally, and into both past and future. We are all united, woven together, as it were, in a single fabric of humanity. Our history is all one; we all live it together; for it is His Story enfolding us all and seeking to be realized in the life of each one of us, uniting us all together in a single restored family, a single communion that shares in the communion of his own divine life. Yes, and at the heart of this Story, at its climax and culmination, stands the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ: here the Son of God made man is raised aloft, while all the lines of history and all the aspirations, sufferings, and joys of humanity intersect on a single point, his own Crucified and Risen Heart. Yes, here he reaches out with universal scope and unbounded depth, to the highest heights of heaven and the deepest depths of hell, to the beginnings of history and to its final consummation, and to each and every human life, every single culture, and every experience that there has ever been or will be. He makes it all his own within the expansiveness of his own divine-human embrace; he co-experiences it all with us and for us, and thus makes a home for it within his own redeeming and reconciling love.

As all the stars twinkle in their places, singing to the glory of God, saying: “Here we are!” (Bar 3:35), so too, all of humanity is meant to be gathered together in this place, within the embrace of the Son who has become man, has descended into all that is ours, even our suffering and death, and has risen anew, bearing us all within him, into the inner embrace of his Father and the joy of the Spirit whom they share. This is what it means that Jesus Christ, Son of God, is the Son of Abraham. He is the Promised One. He is the fulfillment of all the promises of God, and indeed of all the aspirations of humanity seeking for God. What a bold claim! But it is not I who make it. It is Christ himself who—as he walked the dusty roads of our world, as he lived among us tangibly in the flesh—spoke of himself in this way, and presented himself as the fulfillment of all the desires of our hearts. It is the Church which he founded which continues to preach and teach this message, and to perpetuate among men and women his life. For he founded the true religion that gathers together and consummates all the elements of truth, goodness, and beauty present in other religions (for God cherishes all truth, wherever it is found, and does not hesitate to pour out grace into every space where he is allowed to be present); he lifts up, transfigures, and fulfills all the dimensions of grace present in life and culture, elevated into and placed at the service of God’s descent to humanity, God’s gift of himself to humanity in utter fullness. By God’s amazing gift, all is made sacramental, incarnate fullness in the living-space of the bridal Church, who is the home for the restless heart, the perpetuation of Christ’s presence and life in this world—in the fullness of all her concrete elements as intended by him—in which we share in the innermost mystery of the intimacy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, until history itself comes to its conclusion and the whole universe “becomes Church,” the whole universe becomes Bride, taken up into the perfect consummation of intimacy and the full radiance of the new creation that awaits us at the end of time.


* John Paul II spoke very succinctly about this matter: “Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God has said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In the Koran all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside. Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is also mention of Mary, his Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, [Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2004], 92-93)

For a very simple introduction to Islam, see for example The Infidel’s Guide to the Koran {…}.