Think back to the times you have heard the story of the birth of Christ. It probably didn’t start with a reading of the genealogy of Jesus, unless you were at our recent Christmas party, where our Network Leader gave a devotional I will never forget.
I believe it is an unusual story, and I hope you will ponder in your heart, just as I have done.
The following words are an adaptation of the devotional given by Don Ross on December 12, 2016.
An Unusual Christmas Story
The Genealogy of Jesus Christ
1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud,
15 Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Four Unusual Women
This Christmas Ancestry is unusual because of the presence of four women. Women were rarely mentioned in ancient genealogies.
We live in an individualistic culture where we are recognized based on our work, degrees, and accomplishments.
That was not the case in the first century.
Jesus was born in a communal society, where your ancestors were critical to your social standing.
You were regarded as important and significant based on family, clan, and who your bloodline connected you to.
A genealogy was a way of saying to the world, “This is who I am.”
In the same way that people today “tinker” with their resume to make themselves look good, people in ancient times also “tinkered” with their genealogy.
They left out people if they reflected badly on them. Herod the Great purged many names from his genealogy because he didn’t want to be connected to them.
The purpose of a written genealogy was to impress people with the high quality and respectability of one’s roots and ancestry.
Matthew does the exact opposite with the genealogy of Christ.
Matthew’s genealogy is shockingly different than other ancient genealogies.
In ancient patriarchal societies, a woman was never mentioned is such a list, but Matthew mentions four as he prepares to tell about the birth of our savior.
Women were considered necessary gender outsiders.
In addition, most of the women mentioned in Jesus genealogy were gentiles, like Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. These women were regarded by Jews as unclean.
These are racial outsiders. Including them is extremely surprising, yet they are all called by Matthew the “mothers of Jesus”.
Another surprising element is that when Matthew names these particular women, he is forcing the reader to remember some of the most sordid chapters of Israel’s past.
The four mentioned here are special examples of God’s grace, because they show how God takes unlikely people and uses them to great effect.
Tamar (1:3 & Gen. 38) Tamar sold herself as a prostitute to her father in-law Judah to bring forth Perez and Zerah.
This is an act of incest, and against the law of God everywhere in the Bible, yet it is included in Jesus’ Christmas ancestry.
Even though Jesus is descended from Perez alone, Matthew included the whole family line, causing the reader to remember this painful chapter.
Matthew is reminding us that our savior came out of this dysfunctional family.
Rahab (1:5 & Joshua 2) Rahab was a Gentile prostitute that God took extra measures to save from judgment and her lifestyle.
Ruth (1:5 & Ruth) Ruth was from Moab, a Gentile.
Bathsheba (1:6 & II Sam. 11-12) Matthew doesn’t mention Bathsheba by name, but says, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife”
Again, Matthew is asking us to remember a tragic chapter in Israel’s history.
When David was a fugitive from King Saul, running for his life, a group of men went out to live with him in the cave of Addulam. They put their lives on the line for David.
They were called “David’s mighty Men” but they didn’t start that way.
They started in debt, discouraged and on the run like David himself, yet they stayed with David. As David’s future improved, so did theirs. David actually discipled these men and they served him their whole life.
Uriah the Hittitie was one of these men. David owed his life to Uriah (II Sam. 23:39).
Yet years later, David lusted after Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba and he wanted her. David slept with her, arranged to have Uriah killed, and then married Bathsheba.
One of David and Bathsheba’s children was Soloman from whom Jesus is descended. David and Bathsheba were flawed people but out of this dysfunctional family, our Messiah and Savior came.
Now we have moral outsiders, added to the gender, cultural, and racial outsiders in this Christmas ancestry. Even the prominent male figures in this story, Judah and David were moral failures.
Incestophiles, murders, prostitutes, adulterers, and idol worshipers are all included in Jesus genealogy.
The law of Moses excluded these people from the presence of God, yet they are all listed here in Jesus genealogy… This Christmas ancestry.
What does this show us?
It shows us that people who are excluded by cultured and respectable society are included by God.
It doesn’t matter what you have done – murder, acts of incest, prostitution…anyone can be brought into the family of Jesus.
In ancient times there was a concept of “ceremonial uncleanness”. The people of God were not to associate with anything or anyone that could contaminate them. Unholiness was considered contagious.
This Christmas ancestry tells us exactly the opposite. Jesus’ holiness & goodness cannot be contaminated by contact with us.
In fact, it is Jesus who makes the unclean clean, the unholy holy, and the unrighteous righteous. Jesus is not just our Lord and Savior, but scripture calls Jesus our elder brother.
Regardless of our past, we are now regarded by God Almighty as family members. That is the good news of this unusual telling of the Christmas story.
You and I are listed in Jesus Christmas ancestry!