The week I am writing this is also the week of the presidential election of 2008. It is an interesting week as we wait to see who will be the leaders of our country after we have all had our chance to choose. There is a great feeling of anticipation as the last gasps of both campaigns stream across our airwaves. We watch everyone, even those not running, get in their final shots at the opposition in a hope to influence the outcome, and projections of which states need to vote which color say exactly how things are going to go if a certain candidate wins.
The country waits with bated breath for every piece of new political strategy. It almost is like watching a chess game that takes days to unfold as each player lays down his strategy, slowly waiting for things to take shape.
We use such attitudes again and again in our lives. We talk of being as anxious as a child for Christmas morning when we are waiting for certain events that bring great joy. What happens when the things we wait anxiously for pass us by? What does it take for us to realize our missed opprotunity?
What if you had been waiting for a man to come and free you from oppression and you missed that man because the oppression you wanted to be freed from was not the oppression that truly threatened your life? What would it take to prove to you that freedom had come, but not just for you, instead it was offered to all; especially those who you thought were oppressing you?
Matthew took just such a task upon himself when he set out to create his Gospel. The Jews had rejected the Messiah that had come saying Jesus was not a king who was going to remove the Romans. Instead, Matthew set out to prove to the Jews that Jesus had come as their messiah as well as the savior for the Romans.
Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus’ ancestors from Abraham to David, and from David to Joseph (Matthew 1:1-16). It is one of many different sources Matthew relies on in the Scriptures of the Old Testament to support the status of Jesus as Messiah.
Often times, this section of the Gospel is ignored or passed over as we wish to get to the meat of the Gospel story, but we need to slow down and take a look at this passage through the eyes of a first-century Jew living in Roman-controlled Palestine. What makes this list of names and who was whose son important when we are talking about Jesus?
When we look at the first six verses of the genealogy, names jump out at us as we see Matthew’s connections of Jesus with family of Abraham and the tribe of Judah. We remember names like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; parts of the stories of Ruth and Boaz jump to our memories as we have those fond memories of Sunday school as a child. David and how he struggled against Saul while having a great friend in Jonathon, Saul’s son, is another example of our fond memories of those heroes of the Old Testament. What about Tamar and the name Rahab? Do those names ring as true to us?
Matthew not only is connecting Jesus as the descendent of David and the Lion of Judah, he also is not skipping over those relatives people probably would not want to associate the Messiah with.
We all have those members of our family that we might sometimes wish wouldn’t come to the reunion because they may embarrass us, or at least I do. They usually have stories that embarrass us, and we don’t understand how our family could turn out such a black sheep.
When we look at the genealogy of Jesus and see these names, we realize everyone is involved in the story of God. It isn’t just the righteous who carry the love of God, but the movements of the kingdom affect everyone under heaven. The life of Jesus is connected to all of these people and their stories are part of the story of God. They are recorded in our book which in turn makes them part of our story of faith. That faith which ran from Adam to Jesus, and Jesus to us is one family that has a long and diverse genealogy that spans many eras and continents as the mark of God’s love comes to us and passes on from us to those in the future.
Questions for discussion
• Read the story of Tamar in Genesis 38, and discuss the actions of Tamar. Was Tamar truly more righteous than Judah? Why or why not? Would this be a story you may be embarrassed about if it were in your family?
• Read the story of Rahab in Joshua 2. Discuss the profession of Rahab along the following questions: How could God use a prostitute to carry out his will? Does God’s grace toward Rahab remind you of any of the stories of Jesus?
• With the stories of Tamar and Rahab in mind, does the love of Jesus encourage you to look for those outside of the “normal” mold of a Christian?