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An Inglorious Ancestry

December 24, 2015

The family of Jesus is anything but prestigious. Sure, there are some great names in the lineage of Jesus. David stands out, so do Abraham and Boaz. The line of Jesus contains great men of the faith, many complete unknowns and several of less sterling character. Jesus family history is dotted with people of questionable reputation, like King Jehoiachin. His wickedness is not detailed in the Bible, but it was of such severity that God decreed none of His offspring would ever reign in Judah

Matthew unexpectedly includes the names of four women in his genealogical record. The first named is Tamar. Her story is one of the more sordid tales in the Bible. In an attempt to get the familial rights that were due her, she manipulated her father in law Judah by disguising herself and imitating a prostitute. She ended up pregnant by Judah and gave birth to two sons, one of whom is the ancestor of Jesus. Tamar is not exactly a branch on the family tree one would be likely to call to others attention.

One of the more recognizable names in Jesus’ genealogy is that of Solomon. The son of Israel’s greatest king Solomon built the temple of God and expanded Israel’s territory to its greatest size ever. Matthew includes a few words about Solomon but does not mention any of his great achievements. Matthew points out that Solomon was the son of David by Bathsheba who was the wife of Uriah the Hittitte. Matthew wants to remind the readers that Solomon was born of a relationship that began as an illicit affair, resulted in the death of Uriah through David’s murderous scheming and ended in the death of an infant as Divine judgment. The shame of David’s sin is remembered throughout history and mingled with the glory of the continuation of the Davidic dynasty and Solomon’s empire. Do we not see a glimpse of the mercy of God in the reign of Solomon? Despite the sin of his father and mother, and Solomon’s own grievous sin later in life, the Son of God became the legal descendant of Solomon.

Of course, the point of remembering these unpleasant episodes is not to run down the family name of Jesus. The point is to highlight again the humility and humanity of Jesus. The gospel writers did not attempt to hide the shameful parts of his family history. The gospels do not shy away from uncomfortable truths. The inclusion of Tamar and Rahab seems calculated to draw attention to the unsavory parts of Jesus’ ancestry. Jesus’ family contains ignominious characters. Our Lord’s condescension is marvelous. Men seeking to gain fame or power tend to gloss over the less acceptable parts of their own history. Jesus does not do so.

Matthew has a Divine purpose in every name included in the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew’s purpose is to show Jesus is the promised King of the Jews and the humble Redeemer of His people. Jesus was God who entered fully into humanity to redeem men. “He came unto His own” and in doing so took their sin and shame upon His own shoulders. He came unto His own so that all who receive Him will become the sons of God. In His birth Jesus takes the name of those who are wicked, vile and wretched. Though He was completely perfect He entered fully into the sinfulness of man.

The world has never seen such humility. Though He is God, Jesus willingly became man and took to Himself the ignominy, condemnation and punishment of man. Jesus’ ancestry contains those who are praise worthy and worthy of condemnation. Jesus’ ancestry contains the noblest of Jewish history and the lowest of Jewish society. He did not spring from a family unaffected by the dark stain of sin. He did not descend from the eldest sons of the greatest kings, nor the most devoted worshipers of each generation. His ancestry is much like that of the rest of the families of mankind. Jesus did not shy away from the sin of man in His birth. In His death He took the consequences of sin upon Himself. He was born, under the law, to redeem those who were under the law that all who believe will become the adopted children of God.


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