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THE WEEKLY WORD: Jesus’ family tree

By Tim Purcell, Assistant to the Superintendent, Northwest District of the Wesleyan Church

With the warm temperatures and absence of snow, it’s hard to believe that Christmas is just a little more than a week away. (For the record, that was just an observation, not a complaint!)

Recently, I was drawn to the beginning of the Christmas story. No, I don’t mean when the angel appeared to Mary Before that. Way before that.

Matthew begins his account of the Jesus Story with 17 verses of scripture that most of us skip over because we consider them boring or irrelevant. I’m talking about the genealogy of Christ, you know, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers…” And on it goes listing 42 generations all the way to the birth of Jesus.

Don’t be too quick to pass over these 17 verses. There is gold to be mined if you are willing to dig for it. Here are a couple of big-picture ideas that came into focus for me as I dug into this passage.

First, God has always had a plan and he has always been in control. It’s interesting that Matthew takes the genealogy of Christ back to Abraham because in Genesis 12:3, God told Abraham, “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” That’s a prophecy about Christ.

And then 14 generations later David is born and there are the prophecies that the Messiah would come from the house and line of David. You can trace the story of the coming Messiah all throughout the Old Testament. God has always had a plan for our redemption and all throughout history, generation by generation He has been moving it forward.

Here’s a second nugget. This genealogy is an illustration of God’s incredible mercy. There are plenty of good, upright people in Jesus’ family tree, but this genealogy also contains more than its share of scandal. For example, it starts with Abraham, who lied about as much as Pinocchio. Jacob, whose name meant “cheater,” would have put any Las Vegas card shark to shame.

Then there is Tamar. Boy, there’s a story. After her husband, Er, dies, she dresses up as a prostitute and tricks her father-in-law into sleeping with her so she would get pregnant and he would be forced to care for her. And don’t let Judah off the hook, he was willing to sleep with a woman he thought was a prostitute.

There is Rahab, who really was a prostitute. She was the one who hid the Israelite spies who were exploring the Promised Land.

Then there is the whole David and Bathsheba incident. Remember that whole ugly story? He sees her bathing, lusts after her, has sex with her and she gets pregnant and he ends up having her husband, Uriah, murdered in the cover-up. It was awful.

Not a very pure family tree. And writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew not only doesn’t try to cover up some of the more shameful ancestors, he actually goes out of his way to make us notice them. Why?

It’s simple, really. To exhibit the grace and mercy of God and to show that Jesus came to seek and save lost people. To show that Christianity is a religion of grace.

So, what difference does it make 2,000 years later? For starters, it means that God accepts you.

Background, social status, family of origin, blue collar, white collar, past failures, baggage, brokenness, none of it matters. God accepts you and me, because Jesus came to die in our place.

Our symbol is a cross, not the scales.

Secondly, this genealogy teaches me that you can trust God and his plans for you.

If God could orchestrate all of this, working through the lives of all kinds of people to bring Christ to the world at just the right time, in just the right place, He can handle your life, don’t you think?

Sometime between now and Christmas you may want to spend a little time in Matthew chapter one. You might discover that it isn’t so boring after all.

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