We often hear much discussion about Jesus’ ministry, his death, and his resurrection, but for some reason we tend to completely ignore the historical component of his birth. Matthew 1:1-17 provides an account of Jesus’ ancestry, but we conveniently dismiss this as a laundry list and fail to recognize the passage’s profound implications.
Immediately, the genealogy demonstrates the continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament and announces that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises.
By specifically showing that Jesus is the descendant of Abraham and David, we are reminded of God’s incredible faithfulness over the tremendous promise that He made to Abraham in Genesis 12 to bless his descendents. Old Testament prophets, notably Isaiah, elaborated on the “Son of David,” who was to be the coming king. Jesus is therefore the perfect fulfillment of God’s beautifully woven plan.
There is something very strange about this genealogy, though. Normally, Jews would feature their best ancestors; it is interesting to consider who Matthew chooses to include.
Within the genealogy, there are four women, all of whom were Gentiles with questionable sexual backgrounds. Tamar, the Canaanite widow of Er, disguised herself as a prostitute and solicited her father-in-law and bore his child. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute. Ruth was the Moabite widow whom Boaz married, and Bathsheba committed adultery with David and bore Solomon. Even the “heroes” have serious moral failures. Abraham lied about his marriage to Sarah twice and exposed her to violation by other men to protect himself. Jacob stole his brother’s birthright through manipulation and deceit. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband murdered.
Matthew included these people to remind us that humanity is deeply fallen, broken, and sinful. No human is exempt from this- even those in Jesus’ own lineage. But within this sinful lineage, we are given a glimpse of God’s redemptive love. He is able to weave a beautiful masterpiece through broken people. We are these people. We are the sinners. As Christians, we often become exclusionary- we strive for perfection. We look with disdain at “those people” who have the nerve come to church- “those” hypocrites – but how quickly we forget that we are one of them. How quickly we forget, that “those people” are the reason that God sent His son in the first place.
Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) Every family has its own closet full of skeletons- we shouldn’t just forget about them.
We must remember one simple thing: Jesus came from such people because he came for such people.