God speaks … through unsavory characters...? Christmas, 2022
Do you ever feel un-loveable? As we think about the Christmas story, the historical record of the earthly parents God chose for Jesus, Mary and Joseph… do you think he might have chosen you, had you been on the scene at the time? Hmmm . . . fact is, I think most of us would feel quite unworthy. Huh, I know I could not have filled Mary's sandals.
Yet – God chose some eh, shall we say, unsavory characters to be in the ancestry of Jesus. Scandalous really, yet it is very interesting.
As a little girl, I remember sitting next to my mother in church, regularly looking through my Bible. I would separate the Old Testament from the New Testament, noticing of course, that the Old is much larger than the New, and that there was just a single page between the two printed testaments. That single page was representative of 400 years of silence, when God did not speak.
But the first page of the New Testament, of Matthew, was a stopper. I mean, of all the ways to begin his gospel, why in the world would Matthew start with begats and begots in 17 verses of mostly unfamiliar names difficult to pronounce? Why start the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ with a genealogy? Simply, the bloodline of Jesus Christ was keenly important to establish Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.
Genealogies have always been very important to the Jewish people. It was Matthew’s intention to prove that Jesus was not just Jewish, but Jesus was a king—the one who had been promised, the very one the people had been hearing about for hundreds of years. Jesus’ genealogy linked him as a descendant of King David.
Look at the first page of your New Testament. It is quite intriguing that Matthew’s gospel opens with scandal because, of those he recorded in the genealogy of Jesus, he actually includes five women, but also a list of God-fearing men who stumbled in their lives of faith!
Quite curious in the first century, to say the least, as women were second class citizens, little more than property. You must be aware that in that day, at every synagogue service, Jewish men prayed, “Blessed art thou, O Lord, who has not made me a woman.” Women sat in a separate section, were not counted in quorums and were rarely taught the Torah. In social life, few women would talk to men outside of their families and a woman was to have no close contact with any man but her spouse.1
The women included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ: Tamar ~ Rahab ~ Ruth ~ Bathsheba (wife of Uriah) ~ how strange that three of the women were rather shameful! Tamar2 (pregnant by her father-in-law who she duped), Rahab, the prostitute, had hidden the spies and saved them from capture3; the wife of Uriah, (Bathsheba – with whom David committed adultery, who was the mother of Solomon)4.
Take a look: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham..." So besides including women, Matthew's genealogy includes the patriarch of the Jewish people, Abraham, continuing down to King David. While both Abraham and David are remembered for their great faith in God, they also failed greatly in sin, and the sin rippled through their children.
David the king begot Solomon, (the man who asked God for wisdom and to whom God granted it and then got carried away in sin, by marrying hundreds of wives! and more); his line continued down to about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
And after the exile in Babylon, Jeconiah's line continued down to Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
"So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” from the first several verses in Matthew one. Bible link: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+1.1-17&version=ESV
Genealogy. Bloodline. Family tree. Ancestry. Sinners. Women. Scoundrels. Used of God. Generations - 14, 14, 14. Hmmm.
So a baby foretold of by Isaiah 700 years before is about to be born ~ the King of Kings, coming as an innocent baby, whose bloodline included sinful people. What is God’s purpose in placing that in the Bible? Consulting the gospel of Luke’s genealogy as well,5 I noted that Luke traced Jesus’ ancestry all the way back to Adam! Jesus' birth--well planned? Yes, Sir, from the beginning of time! Huh, I wonder as I wonder then, as I look at this and consider the various people in Jesus' earthly family that God used, is it possible God can use all of us, no matter who we have been or what we have done? Without a doubt. God speaks . . . through those he picks, those who he gives another chance, those who he redeems; yes, God speaks through unsavory characters.
‘And you, Jesus? Knowing you were about to be born into this bloodline that included women of ill repute, men who professed their faith in you and then sinned gravely, what did that feel like, as you were about to set aside your heavenly crown and step into mankind?’
Oh, Friends--wait a second here-- the genealogy of Jesus Christ was prophetic as well. You see, Jesus talked with prostitutes, he dined with sinners, he touched lepers, he hung out with the ‘unclean’. The Jewish leaders and rabbis were scandalized by his behavior. Ah, you just gotta love Jesus.
Scandalous. Jesus gave new meaning to the word. What the religious leaders considered scandalous was nothing short of the grace of God ~
God's grace includes all of us. Scandalous, but true. Oh we serve a wonderful, merciful Savior - not just of perfect people, but all people who would follow him. God speaks . . . yet today through those he picks, no matter how unsavory our past might be. No wonder the gospel is such good news.
Ask God to use you some way today,
Song: What Child is This? Darius Rucker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ud2mHuNhoM
1 The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey – a must read
2 Tamar and Judah: Genesis 38.12-27
3 Rahab: Joshua 2
4 David and Bathsheba: 2 Samuel 11
5 Luke: 3.23-38