There isn’t a family on earth that doesn’t have a few nasty skeletons in their closet.
The family of Jesus Christ is no different.
Image via Pixabay
Matthew 1.1-17 has the listed bloodline. It may seem a little boring to read, but let’s take a quick skim anyway:
1This 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 Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud 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, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
Now of course, Christians believe that Jesus was miraculously conceived in Mary (Lk 1.26-38), and in that sense, did not share in this bloodline in the way a typical person would.
However, in the ancient world (and this is an ancient text), it was normal for kings to boast in their bloodline. By establishing a bloodline that was steeped in power, military victory, wealth, and racial purity, a king could proclaim to his people that he was justified in ruling due to his lineage. If he came from a long line of pure and powerful conquerors, then it stood to reason that he would share in their same characteristics.
Anyone reading these opening words of Matthew’s Gospel in the first century would see Jesus’ lineage in this light. This was a way of proclaiming the family of Christ the King, as a king normally would, emphasizing the family’s previous success and triumphs.
Which is actually what makes Jesus’ human lineage so fascinating.
For while there is certainly strength in some of the heroes in this list, like Abraham and David and Solomon, there is also just an awful lot of weakness.
We won’t explore every name on this long list, but here are a few highlights:
- Abraham, the “father of all who believe” (Rom 4.11), the wonderful example of trusting faith, nonetheless at one point got weary of waiting for God’s promise and took matters into his own hands to try and make his blessing happen (Gen 16)
- Jacob was a deceptive man who lied, cheated, and stole his way into prosperity before an encounter with God changed him forever (Gen 25-32)
- Judah and Tamar were a father and daughter-in-law who conceived one of Jesus’ ancestors in an illicit affair (Gen 38)
- Jesus’ great-great-great-etc.-grandmother Rahab was a foreign Canaanite prostitute (Josh 2; 6)
- Ruth, like Rahab, was a foreigner who Boaz should not have married according to the Law (Dt 7.3), and was so poor that she depended on the charity of others to eat (Ruth 2)
- David, although revered as a hero, was also an adulterer with “Uriah’s wife” and a murderer (2Sam 11-12)
- Solomon took on a ridiculous amount of foreign wives and concubines and ultimately turned away from the Lord (1Ki 11.1-6)
- Rehoboam arrogantly mistreated the people of Israel, leading to rebellion and a divided kingdom (1Ki 12)
- Although there were a few shining lights among the many kings of Israel and Judah who made up the royal bloodline, ultimately there was much idolatry, violence, arrogance, and sinful practice, causing the Lord to ultimately send Israel and Judah into exile (2Ki 24.20)
This is the family that Christ chose to be born into.
Instead of a standard ancient lineage, which would emphasize power, strength, and glory, we see a very different bloodline here.
Jesus’ ancestry was full of misfits, outsiders, foreigners, and idolaters. There is much deception, violence, sexual immorality, and many other forms of commandment-breaking.
His lineage was not pure, but included several other nationalities.
There is endless arrogance, brokenness, pain, and dysfunction.
Yet how perfectly appropriate, for the One who would come to call, save, heal, and set free people who are just like that.
How amazing, for the Messiah who would build a Church full of people who are just like that.
How fitting, for the Saviour who would Himself live a life of poverty, live as an outcast, live in suffering and sorrow and pain.
In this genealogy of Christ Jesus, we see the true humanity of Christ, born into a sinful family of people just like us.
And yet His bloodline also shows that His grace was at work, even in the family line that He chose to be born into. Abraham’s error was redeemed; Jacob’s deception was turned around; David’s sin was forgiven; Israel’s exile was temporary and the land was ultimately resettled and restored; etc.
As we reflect on the birth of Christ this Christmas, the lineage of Christ’s earthly family reminds us of both humanity’s sinfulness, and Christ’s choice to associate Himself with sinners, coming near us so that He might redeem and save.
We are also encouraged, as we prepare to spend time with family this Christmas, that perhaps our own family is not so bad!
May we rest in the presence of Christ this Advent, who was not just the friend of sinners, but part of a family of sinners, as we remember how He drew near to us even in our sin, and drew us close to Himself.
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