How does watching old seminary class lectures on the Gospels sound to you? To my husband and me, it sounds like Date Night. (Not sure if you got the memo, but nerds rule the world.)
And right out of the gate starting with Matthew Chapter 1, the Bible wastes no time slapping us in our faces. Matthew Ch. 1 is a genealogy written for Jewish readers. We Americans don’t get excited over genealogies. But family trees matter in many old world cultures. (My husband’s aunt knows her family tree going nine generations back.) And the genealogy in Matthew Chapter 1 matters because it culminates in Jesus’s birth. (Matthew 1:1-16).
In those days Cesar Augustus issued a decree to take a census of the whole Roman Empire. And everyone had to go to their ancestral home town to register.
The genealogy establishes Jesus as part of Abraham’s Israelite bloodline.
The genealogy establishes Jesus as part of David’s royal line. (Old Testament prophecy stated the Messiah had to come from David’s line. During Jesus’s time on earth, men other than Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. In order to verify the truth, one had to check the genealogy.)
This explains why genealogies mattered back then. But does the Matthew Chapter 1 genealogy matter today? Yes, and for several reasons.
The genealogy establishes Jesus’s physical presence on earth. He had a human family tree, and lived on earth like the rest of us.
The genealogy shows God’s Grace. We may think of Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon as the religious elite, but rather they were liars, adulterers, rapists, murderers, fornicators.
We also see some women mentioned in the family tree. Normally the Jews made genealogies without naming women, naming only fathers and sons. Not this one. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth. Hmmm….foreign women from enemy lands, and prostitutes. I wish I could have seen the Pharisees’ faces as they read through the genealogy.
Is it fair that a murderer/rapist/adulterer can go to heaven? The Bible describes David as a man after God’s own heart. Those who get upset over this don’t understand God’s grace. And they probably also struggle to see Jesus as an approachable, trustworthy, compassionate confidante.
Jesus called himself a friend of sinners. He came to earth not only to befriend sinners, but to save sinners. The worse our sin, the more we need God’s grace.
Oh, but here’s where it gets good: After moving to the Bible belt, I learned of a term that’s not in the Bible. Miscegenation.
Miscegenation refers to the mixing of pure unadulterated blood lines. Some Christians consider this sin and/or feel compelled to never procreate with other ethnic groups, as they feel it would contaminate the purity of their superior blood lines. (Sadly, I’ve witnessed this ideology from multiple racial groups.) But in Genesis 11 God dispersed the nations at Babel and scattered them over the earth. Looks like the Pure Bloodlines Ship sailed eons ago.
Canaanite, Moabite—foreigners (non-Jews) mixed into Jesus’s blood line. Jesus did not come from a pure blood line. So why would we need to?
How many wanna-be Pharisees have we encountered in Christian circles that would shame us for our family backgrounds? Jesus came from a dysfunctional and mixed ethnic family line. If Jesus couldn’t brag about his family tree, then neither can we.