“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar […]” Matthew 1: 1-3
Almost everyone I know, no matter how much they love reading the Bible, struggles with the sections called “genealogies”. Genealogies are long lists of names, a family history if you will, and while they seem pretty boring to us, in Jesus’s time, they were super important! While we often tell people who we are by what we do, people in Jesus’s time were most concerned with who your family was.
Matthew 1:1-17 gives us a picture into Jesus’s family. Starting with Abraham, Matthew traces Jesus’s genealogy through 42 generations (aka a whole lot of people!). Jesus is fully God, yet He came to earth as a human in order to live as we do. And while God could have placed Jesus in the best, most perfect family possible, He chose for His Son to be a part of a really messy family.
There are many incredible things about Jesus’s genealogy in Matthew, but one of the things that make this lineage different from others is how many women and Gentiles (non-Jewish people) are included in Jesus’s family history. In His time, this was super unexpected because women and foreigners were low on the totem-pole, yet Jesus’s genealogy includes five women, all of whom have really messy and interesting stories.
First we have Tamar, who had a baby with her father-in-law. Next Rahab, who was a prostitute living in a wicked city that God destroyed because it was so bad. Then we have Ruth, a foreigner, Bathsheba or “the wife of Uriah” who King David (Israel’s best king and the one “after God’s own heart”) sinfully took advantage of and then proceeded to murder her husband so he could marry her, and finally Mary, a young, unwed, pregnant girl. And while these things would be seen as questionable today, I really can’t emphasize how controversial and opposed these women would be in their time!
And yet God. God used all these women’s stories, even the sinful and controversial parts, to bring His beloved Son to earth.
Why should this matter to us? Jesus’s genealogy is good news to us because it reminds us how God includes the flawed and the excluded in His family, and no matter what we’ve done, no matter how flawed or excluded we feel in our present day, we are invited into His family.
He wants us, no matter how imperfect we may be, and He loves us so much that He was willing to send His son Jesus to take on flesh, dwell among us, live and die and rise again so that we might have forgiveness from sin and relationship with God.
God is the greatest storyteller, able to take even the messiest stories and use them for good, and I hope the next time you find yourself reading Matthew 1 that you don’t skip over Jesus’s family, but instead you read every line, remember these women, and rest in the truth that you belong in God’s big, beautiful, messy family too.