23rd September 2020

What a Way to Start a Book

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Matthew 1:1 (ESV)

If you start reading Matthew from the beginning, what do you find? Seventeen verses of genealogy before you even get into the story. Unless you are a follower of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ or into search engines to trace your ancestors, it probably doesn’t strike you as a best-selling way to start an account.

I suppose nowadays lineage only matters to the Royal Family, but in those days it was important, and Matthew is establishing Jesus’ background, proving that he was both Abraham and David’s descendant.

Nowadays when people write CVs, they set out to state what their qualifications are for the job and they often leave out what they do not wish anyone to know. In the same way a genealogy was usually constructed to impress. But take a look at those verses and see who’s included: we’ve got Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, names we are familiar with. We know about Judah, Boaz, David and Solomon. But we also have Rehoboam, whose arrogance caused the nation to split, Uzziah who in his pride tried to usurp the priesthood, and Manasseh, an evil man who among other sins ‘shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end’.  Are these the names you would include if you wanted to impress the nation of Israel that this was the great King, the inheritor of the throne, the righteous One that all of Israel longed for?

And if the inclusion of some very dodgy kings of Israel is not enough, now also take a look at another thing. Matthew has started to turn the world upside down: there are five women listed. This was a patriarchal society. They shouldn’t be there. Not only that, but look at who they were – three Gentiles: Tamar, Rahab and Ruth—two Canaanites and one Moabite. Bathsheba is there, simply referred to as the wife of Uriah.

So what is Matthew telling us? Most of the male ancestors of Jesus were moral failures in some way or other, and some were plain evil. Putting it all together we have liars, thieves, murderers, adulterers, incestuous relationships, prostitutes, pagan worshippers, self-promoters, dictators and racial outsiders, God-rejecters and a whole lot more. Yet they are all part of Jesus’ family. What an encouraging opening to a gospel account. Jesus’ goodness is not corrupted by unholy behaviour, or who his ancestors were. His righteousness is there for us, no matter what our past, our race or our gender. The all-embracing love of God for everyone is clearly set out in these 17 verses, like an opening trumpet call to the life and work of the Son of God in our world.

Prayer
Thank you
Father, for sending your Son, who is not ashamed to be part of the human family, no matter who we are or what we have done.
Amen

Study by Hilary Buck

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About the Author:
Hilary Buck is an Elder and pastors Grace Communion in Lewes.
Like us on www.facebook.com/GCLewes

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion in Lewes
The House of Friendship
208 High Street
LEWES
BN7 2NS

Meeting Time:
Sunday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Hilary Buck
Email:  lewes@gracecom.church

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