The Christmas season is underway, and every year Christians around the world will pay special attention to the biblical passages that tell of the birth of Jesus. If you turn to Matthew’s account, you will probably begin reading the Christmas story in Matthew 1:18 under the heading “The Birth of Jesus Christ,” or something similar.
That is the way I remember the story as a child, and that is where we begin reading in church Christmas plays and family gatherings on December 25th, but Matthew included the genealogy of Jesus in verses 1-17 for a reason. While the birth and life of Jesus compose the meat of the eyewitness accounts, the genealogy in Matthew is the introduction. It’s the reason why Jesus came. It is Jesus’ family tree, which includes many unlikely individuals. From kings to prostitutes, Jesus had a lineage of sinners.
You might call these people “messed up” but to be honest, it looks a lot like my own family tree.
If you take the time to read the lineage of Jesus, you will notice several women listed among the men. This is uncommon for most genealogies, but for some reason or another, the Lord included Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth in Jesus’ genealogy. If you’re not familiar with these strategic women, their stories might surprise you. Tamar deceived her father-in-law, disguising herself as a prostitute (Genesis 38). Rahab was known as a prostitute, and she hid Joshua and the spies, contributing to the fall of Jericho (Joshua 2). Ruth was a non-Jewish woman who experienced great loss in her life (Ruth 1). Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah, was apart of the adulterous affair with King David (2 Samuel 11).
Fortunately, what is most impressive about the lineage of Jesus is not the series of flawed people, but God’s divine grace and redeeming love displayed through humanity to bring about salvation.
Each of these women, despite their flaws, were used by God to make a contribution in history that led to the birth of Salvation, a birth that came from a young, respectable virgin. The beauty for us is that God is still doing the same thing today. God is still sovereignly working in the midst of our failures to fulfill his glorious plan.
The birth of Jesus Christ, the Great Redeemer, is the answer to the mistakes we don’t talk about, the identity we feel we’ll never be free of, the bad situations we cannot control, and the plans we feel have derailed. The proof is in His own family line. There’s nothing He cannot use. There is no one He cannot redeem.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
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