Thursday, December 26, 2013

Looks Who's Here!

In the first chapter of his Gospel, Matthew lays out the genealogy of Jesus. He does so in a manner that  is a bit different than the usual genealogies that are common for kings and other important people. Rather than focusing on just the strong kings of the past and leaving out any folks who might cause others to look unapprovingly at the king's background, Matthew includes some who didn't quite fit the picture of a perfect ancestor.

The first unusual thing is the inclusion of women in the genealogy. In our culture, that would not be notable but in the culture of that day, women didn't count. Women were seen as property, and any mention of a woman in a document would more than likely be an afterthought. Royal women were more likely to be mentioned in a ruler's history, but not someone who was a commoner, especially if that commoner was a foreigner. Matthew includes five women, each one coming with baggage.

First, we see Tamar. She's the one who was left without a husband or a child. Her father-in-law Judah, tried unsuccessfully to hook her up with his other sons and in the end fathered her two sons went she posed as a prostitute in order to seduce him and trick him into sleeping with her. The second woman in the list is Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who married a good Jewish boy named Salmon. By the way, Rahab was not Jewish, although she seems to have converted. Salmon's son Boaz didn't fall far from the tree, as he also married a Gentile. If you remember the story, Boaz married Ruth, who was from Moab. So far, this genealogy is not looking quite kosher.

The fourth woman mentioned by Matthew is Bathsheba. You remember her. She's the one who was out taking a bath one day, not realizing that King David was lustfully watching. After committing adultery and murder, David brought her into his house as one of his wives. She gave birth to Solomon, through whom the line of the Messiah continued. Fast forward a few generations, and we come to the fifth woman, Mary. Mary was Jewish, so that was good. She was also a descendant of David, so she came from good stock. However, there was a pretty big issue.

Mary and Joseph, while betrothed, we're not yet married when Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant. Joseph, being the kind man that he was, planned on quietly divorcing Mary. After the angel revealed that this child was from the Holy Spirit, Joseph took her in to be his wife. There was still talk though, and the opinion of some seemed to be that Jesus was an illegitimate child. So, in the line of Jesus we have Gentile women, adultery, and seeming illegitimacy.

Looking at this list of the ancestors of the Messiah encourages me. First, I am encouraged to see that this King came as the King of all people, Jew and Gentile. This genealogy also tells me that God can use anyone to accomplish his purposes, even those who don't fit the mold, those who don't belong. In fact, it seems that God works more through those who are not the ones everyone expects. Those of us who don't seem to fit in wonderfully (let's face it, that's most of us), are the very ones that Jesus came to rescue and bring into God's family. Rejoice at the works of our loving Father!

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