Who’s yours? You know, the relative, distant or near, who is an unending source of embarrassment or shame for “the family”? Everybody’s got one, maybe two. The great, great, great uncle who was a horse thief, the cousin twice removed who spent time in jail, the grandmother who cooked up illegal booze in the basement or the never spoken of aunt who “saw gentlemen on the side” to supplement the hard times. Families are funny and often practice the “cone of silence” when it comes to members who have brought some kind of shame to the family name. “Quiet now, we never speak about them!”
In the scheme of things we sometimes send too much time worrying about the sin of others and how to hide it rather than focusing on self mastery. If we consider the Bible, though, we might find an astoundingly different attitude about this very matter. When we look at the beginning chapters of Matthew and Luke we find that “family” is of pivotal importance. In each of those books is recorded the genealogy of Jesus, a complete record of his family. Forty-two generations all told. Some people find these readings unnecessarily boring and have a hard time understanding why they are there at all. What’s the point, isn’t Jesus, Jesus after all? Well the answer is yes, but there is more here than meets the eye as is often the case with scripture.
To the Israelites, a person’s genealogy spoke everything about them. It told where the person came from, what the profession of the family was, what their character was how they fit into God’s scheme for his people. The genealogy of Jesus is of paramount importance because it clearly connects him to the royalty of the Tribes of Israel and legitimizes his role as God’s King and savior. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born God promised that his chosen one would be from the House of David, God’s selected King for his people. So besides providing lineage, Jesus’ genealogy clearly identifies him as the fulfillment and completion of the Father’s promise. The old clearly linked as the unbroken foundation for the new. A flesh and blood affirmation that God does not abandon his people, no matter how they stray, and he is always good for the promises he makes.
In addition to this obvious, we should note that there is much more information and teaching contained in the genealogies of Mark and Luke. As we read through the names and the connections we notice some curious things. No names are left out or diminished in any way. As a matter of fact, Matthew even includes the pivotal women in Jesus’ line. Clearly cited in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus are: Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Tamar. The listing of the women is unusual for a Hebrew family tree, but the story of these women makes it even more so. Ruth and Rahab are not Jewish and Rahab was a known prostitute. Bathsheba was an adulterer and Tamar was deceptive to the point of blackmail. Not the most upstanding citizens! Of course, David is part of the genealogy but can we forget that David was a liar, deceiver, adulterer and murderer? Solomon, as the son of David is also present in Jesus family tree. Most of us know Solomon as the builder of the first temple and the man who requested wisdom not wealth from God. It should be noted, however, that in his old age he became an idolater because of the demands of his foreign wives who worshiped pagan gods. In the line is also King Uzziah. He had extraordinary success in ruling Israel and creating alliances. In the midst of his reign he became so powerful that he came to the conclusion that he was mightier than God. He himself defiled the Temple by entering to offer incense and direct God’s opinions! By Hebrew Law only priests could enter the temple. So, nobody’s perfect and Jesus family is not made up of flawless people who adored and served God without question. But those genealogies, why is all the dirty laundry “out there” for everyone to see?
Could this be one more lesson, affirmation, about the true nature of God? God cannot deceive! It is not in his nature, he hides nothing and nothing is covert, even the most embarrassing actions of people he himself chose to teach the world about his generosity and love. If we have learned anything about the bible in all these two-thousand years we know that this book reflects the mind of God and the mind of God reflects the Bible. So when we see His son’s genealogy so boldly proclaimed with all of its obviously flawed people we need to take pause and reflect. This writing speaks brashly about the nature of God. At once this listing of Jesus kin clearly shows that God does not “throw anyone away”. He loves and even sticks with those who have willingly committed the most heinous of crimes. More than that, it also shows that God never rejects people when they have blatantly and publically rejected Him. Neither of these things are cause for God to abandon one of his little ones, in fact there is no reason that would cause God to turn his back on any of us! Can you say the same about your own family members? Next, this lineage tells us that there is no situation that is not salvageable by God in his loving will. In the story of the “first Joseph” he reminds his brothers: “The evil you planned to do me has by God’s design has been turned to good.” (Gen 50:20 Jer Bible) Finally, the genealogy demonstrates that none of us is a force for change all by themselves, not even Jesus. In the Bible a family tree is always presented as a “whole”. Some of the parts may be flawed or weak, but each part depends on the other if we are to reach a conclusion that was promised. As far back as Abraham, the first prophet of Israel, God set forth his promise of redemption and a final King of love. If anyone of the ancestors in Jesus’ past were eliminated or ignored, that chain of succession as a direct reflection of God’s promise would have been broken. All in the genealogy were part of the continuum which God himself set in motion. Not one was worthy of elimination. So we see the “truth” about the promised Messiah proclaimed in the Markian and Lucan genealogies. All are part of God’s whole. None are to be cast aside as inferior or unworthy.
As far as God is concerned He has no reason to ever separate Himself from us. Without question, if a separation has happened, it is always because of something that we, ourselves, have chosen. This is both bad news and good news. The bad news is that sometimes we “do ourselves in” because we come to believe that we know ourselves and what we need (want) better that God does. The good news is that there is no amount of time and nothing that we can do that will separate us from God’s forgiveness and his desire to instantly restore. More than that, however, we are also part of the genealogy of salvation, the continuum which God has set in motion just like Rahab, Ruth, David and all the other saints and sinners in Jesus’ line. On God’s word and actions we are fully His, by adoption. “When the fullness of tie had come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so we might recieve adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, 'Abba Father!' So you are nolonger a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4: 4-7 Jer Bible) So when you hear the genealogy read this Christmas pay special attention. That reading is not only Jesus’ story but it is also our story. Hear that reading with great joy because those are your relatives too!
Copyright © Christmas 2009, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
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