Scripture: Matthew 1:1-17
Key verse: (1) “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Reflection: Mark Twain once said something like, “You spend $100 trying to find out about your family history, then you spend $1,000 to cover it up.” Today we begin the gospel of Matthew in the daily lectionary readings. Chapter 1 is put in parentheses, and chapter 3:1-6 is suggested for the reading. While it may be tempting to skip chapter 1—it’s just a genealogy — don’t miss the dirt. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus reveals some important things. First, he beings with Abraham and ties to King David; whereas Luke tracks Jesus all the way back to Adam. This tells us Matthew’s interest is establishing Jesus as the Jewish Messiah in the line of David, a child of Abraham. This is of important theological interest.
However, the human interest is more compelling. Matthew’s genealogy is not like other ancient genealogies, because it contains the names of women. And the women are very interesting characters. The first woman to appear is Tamar, mother of Perez and Zerah, by Judah. That might sound pretty straight forward, but Judah was in fact Tamar’s father-in-law. Her story is told in Genesis 38. Judah dealt with her unjustly after her husband, Er’s death. In order to conceive children, she tricked him by dressing up like a prostitute. When he tried to accuse her of immorality, she revealed his own immorality and she bore him twin boys. King David would be born of Perez’s line.
Then there’s Ruth. She is a Moabite. According to Deuteronomy 23:3, Moabites are not allowed in the assembly of the Lord to the tenth generation. Yet Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David, and here she is in Jesus’ family tree! Then there’s this fateful line: “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” One would not normally see a line like that in a genealogy. A descendent born by the wife of another man—a direct violation of the seventh commandment. All these characters are in Jesus’ family tree!
What does this mean for us? For those of us who have some stories in our families of origin, Jesus’ family tree makes most of ours look pretty good! More importantly, it’s through this broken family with all its intrigue and immorality and deceit that God works to redeem the world. If God can use them, then perhaps God can use us in God’s ongoing work of transforming the world.
Prayer: Thank you for our families, O God, for all the saintly sinners and all the sinful saints who made us who we are. By your grace and through your power, may we join your redemptive work in the world today. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].