Scripture: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar,… and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth,… And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,… and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” Matthew 1:1-2, 3a, 5a, 5b, 16 ESV
Observation: Having completed our survey of Genesis through Joshua, which recorded the history of Creation and the journey to and possession of the Promised Land, our next series of Daily Focus devotions will cover the epic journey to and apprehension of the eternal Promised Land under Christ’s New Covenant of Grace: the four Gospels and Acts. And our exploration will rightly begin with Matthew’s Gospel.
While scholarly consensus attributes this first Gospel to Matthew, the earliest surviving manuscripts do not confirm authorship. Matthew writes his Gospel to uphold Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah; thus, he emphasizes the fulfillment of prophecies. In his opening chapter, Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, which confirms one critical aspect of the plethora of messianic prophecies: he was born from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). Thus, Matthew, appealing to his converted Jewish audience, follows Jesus’ earthly father’s lineage. (Luke presents Jesus’ genealogy through Mary’s ancestry.) And Mathew candidly includes the names of five women who are part of Jesus’ ancestral heritage:
- Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, disguised herself as a temple prostitute and seduced Judah to produce a child since he and his sons neglected the Levitical protocol to preserve the family line (Genesis 38).
- Rahab, the Canaanite from Jericho, hid two Israelite spies and negotiated safe keeping and integration of her family into the community of God’s people (Joshua 2, 6).
- Ruth, the Moabite and loyal daughter-in-law of Naomi, humbly seeks Boaz’s favor and wins his heart in marriage (Ruth 1-4).
- Bathsheba, unnamed as the wife of Uriah, finds her way to King David’s bed (pursued by David) in an adulterous relationship that involves a murderous coverup (2 Samuel 11-12).
- Mary, the young virgin and biological mother of Jesus, by whom the Holy Spirit conceived her Christ-child (Matthew 1, Luke 2).
Matthew concludes his genealogy by parsing it into three parts containing fourteen generations for each timespan: Abraham to David, David to exile in Babylon, and exile to the birth of Christ. Factually, this former tax collector’s accounting is inaccurate. But as theologian D.A. Carson surmises: his rounded numbers stylistic provoke his audience to discern their underlying symbolism: the numerical value of “David” in Hebrew is fourteen; thus, Jesus is the promised son of David (1:1 above).
Takeaway: The more significant aspect of this genealogy is the shocking inclusion of women, some from questionable backgrounds. So why risk offending his orthodox Jewish brethren? Because Matthew wants his audience to grasp Jesus’ identity and mission, both marked by his Father’s grace. How so? John tells us that Jesus came into our world full of truth and grace, and while Moses gave us the law, Christ gave us grace (John 1:14-17). And these five women best exhibit grace working through Jesus’ lineage to the appointed day of his birth.
And they point us to his mission: to proclaim the Good News to the marginalized and outsiders (Matthew 11:4-6), to level the playing field where there is no spiritual favoritism outside of Christ in us. Whether male or female, rich or poor, high or low esteem, all who know they need a Savior and Lord receive the invitation to sup with Jesus (Revelation 3:20). Indeed, as this story progresses, we will read that Jesus dines with Matthew and his sinner friends (9:9-10).
So how do we respond to the invitation? Like Matthew, we don’t try to clean ourselves up. We come as we are, for the Son has taken care of the cleansing process. As Paul reminds us, he who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). And no matter our past, whether in worldly terms it’s squeaky clean or marred with filth, Jesus wants to sup with us, too. Thus, our only response should be gratitude—no excuses or apologies for our past, no wallowing in the present—for the Father and Son want to pass on their blessings of grace through our family line.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who came into our world full of truth and grace and left us his legacy. Would you please help us to receive his grace with gratitude and deepen our understanding of it so that we might serve as your lineal conduits of grace for the next generation? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling