Read Matthew 1:1-17
If you’re like me, you’re tempted to skip over the first half of Matthew chapter one and get right to the good stuff the announcement of the coming Messiah. These first few verses, as we know, are the recorded genealogy of Jesus, which translated means: lots of names. But I can’t help but wonder if maybe God included this seemingly endless list as more than a necessary legal setting of the stage for the birth of Jesus. Maybe He’s hoping we’ll dig a little deeper. Let’s see what we can find...
As we read through the “begats” one thing we notice almost immediately is that among Jesus’ forefathers there are listed several women. That in itself is surprising, because in ancient records, women were seldom listed in genealogies. But as we dig deeper, we discover something even more surprising. Jesus’ very human family tree was made up of obviously dysfunctional people. It included several less-than-honest, self-centered, or just plain old desperate men and women. Have a look at a couple of the women…
In Matthew chapter 1 verse 5, there is Rahab, the harlot. Yep, you read right. A harlot. She’s the one in the Old Testament who protected the two Hebrew spies in Jericho, in return for her own guarantee of safety. After coming to know and trust the God of the Hebrews, she later married a Hebrew man. Rahab gave birth to a son whose name was Boaz. And yes, this is the same Boaz who we know was the great-grandfather of King David. Rahab’s full story is found in Joshua, chapter 2.
Another limb on Jesus’ family tree was the wife of Uriah. When I read those words, I wondered why Matthew would refer to her in that way. To simply call her Bathsheba would have been enough. But I believe that God wanted to remind us that even someone like Bathsheba, a woman fallen in adultery, could be forgiven. And not only forgiven, but placed in a position of importance. You see, this redeemed adulterer was to become one vital link in the chain of imperfect people who would ultimately introduce Perfection to the world.So profound. Yet what I love about these stories is the beautiful simplicity of grace. God, Himself, reached into each sin-stained situation and brought needed healing. Healing not only to the innocent victims of selfishness, but also to the self-inflicted pain of His wayward children. But first they had to acknowledge their need of Him.
It’s like the time our three-year-old son tipped onto the floor a large freshly-made pitcher of red Kool-Aid. Eric stood in the middle of his scarlet lake, stunned. He didn’t move a muscle. He waited in his soggy socks for someone, anyone, to come and lift him out. Completely helpless, Eric didn’t know how to get out of his mess. He needed help.
But isn’t that the place where we all need to begin? We need to stop trying to put the Kool-Aid back into the pitcher and just stand still. Like a child with his arms outstretched for help, we need to let God lift us out of the middle of our mess, carefully peel away our sin-soaked socks, and give us a clean start. That is what He did for Rahab, Bathsheba, and countless others, and that is exactly what He wants to do for us. But first we have to acknowledge our need for Him.
I believe that by detailing these very imperfect people in the historical genealogy of Jesus, Almighty God is telling us something. Perhaps He wants us to realize that no matter what we’ve done in our past, there is Hope. And Hope has a name. His name is Jesus. As we take our eyes off of the red stain of our mess and put them on the red flow of the Cross, we realize something ... the work has already been done. We just need to accept it. Because of Jesus, out of our sin can come sinlessness; out of our brokenness can come restoration; out of our shame can come redemption.
I need to hear that. And I’m so glad that God included this genealogy, this tedious list of begats in this, His love letter to us. I know I will never look at it the same way again.
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