ODJ: no ordinary family tree

December 17, 2015 

READ: Matthew 1:1-17 

This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham (v.1).

A website claims that it can help you make connections to your past as you learn more of your ancestry. They offer to take you, the customer, on a journey through your family genealogy that will “cross generations and continents, all to reveal the untold story of how you became you.”

For some, delving into genealogies is a hobby. For Matthew (the author of the first book in the New Testament), the genealogy of Jesus—stretching all the way to King David and Abraham—was so much more (Matthew 1:1).

Some of us might yawn at the thought of reading through Matthew’s long list of familiar and unfamiliar names, especially the ones we struggle to pronounce. But a closer look reveals that this is no ordinary family tree.

First and foremost, the genealogy establishes that the birth of Jesus is exactly what the Israelites, all the way back to Abraham, had been waiting for (v.16). Breaking away from the tradition of only mentioning men, Matthew also included women—some of whom, like their male counterparts, were not exactly model citizens.

There’s Tamar who had sex with her father-in-law in order to fulfill an ancient Hebrew custom (Genesis 38:6-11,14). Rahab was a prostitute and a Canaanite outsider (Joshua 2:1-21). Ruth was a foreigner from Moab—one of Israel’s archenemies (Deuteronomy 23:3-6; Ruth 1:1-5). And finally, there’s Bathsheba, who committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11:1-5).

Why did Matthew include these individuals? It seems that he went out of his way to say clearly that the child whose birth ends the list of this family tree grew up to be the One through whom the Creator of heaven and earth will redeem all sorts of messed-up people—like you and me.

—Jeff Olson

365-day-plan: Hebrews 11:1-40

Read Luke 3:23-28. How does this genealogy differ from Matthew’s? 
What’s one special thing you can do to celebrate the birth of Jesus this year? How has His grace saved you from a messed-up state?