An Unconventional Beginning: Hope from Scandal
Ever looked at Jesus’ family tree?
The book of Matthew, in Chapter 1:1-25, records Jesus’ genealogy and it’s is unconventional to say the least. It’s bizarre… it’s scandalous.
If you cross reference Jesus’ genealogy with what is in 1 Chronicles you will find a few people missing. And this is because Matthew, the writer of this genealogy, is only writing down who he sees as being important in Jesus’ line.
The most important name is that of David (v6). David was a King of Israel and there were many prophecies about the messiah, the saviour of Israel who would come from the line of David. David is important because it shows that Jesus, who claimed he was the messiah, Jesus’ genealogy fulfils the prophecies about the messiah coming from David’s line. If you want to show your Kingly heritage, you would want a pure genealogy showing all the nice pure Jewish people that give you the backing to be King of the Jews.
Another thing to note about Ancient Near East (ANE) times is that woman were not important. Women were not treated as equals to men and they almost never appeared in something as important as a genealogy.
If Matthew wanted to show Jesus’ good, pure, Jewish, Kingly heritage to confirm that he was in fact the Messiah, the King of the Jews, the Saviour of Israel spoken about by the prophets, you would expect that he wouldn’t mention women… let alone the women he does mention!
There are 5 women mentioned. Firstly there is Tamar – Judah’s wife who had children out of wedlock, something that was strictly forbidden in Jewish law. She is a disgrace to Jesus’ pure heritage.
Next there is Rahab. She wasn’t even a Jew but a prostitute from Jericho!
Third, we find Ruth. Again, Ruth was not Jewish, she was not an Israelite but a Moabite woman. So much for Jesus’ nice Jewish heritage.
Fourth, we find Uriah’s wife. If you know the story of King David you will know that Uriah’s wife was Bathsheba, the woman whom David committed adultery with. David essentially rapes her and then murders her husband, Uriah. The woman from the story of King David’s biggest disgrace gets a mention in Jesus’ genealogy.
And finally, Jesus’ own mother, Mary, is mentioned. Unlike the other men in the genealogy, Matthew does not say, Joseph the Father of Jesus, but, Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus. Straight away we know there is a scandal. Right at the beginning of Matthew’s record of this King, this Messiah, Jesus, we see that there is a scandal. Joseph isn;t the Father of Jesus!
The scandals of Jesus’ genealogy go right up to his own mother! There is scandal throughout his heritage right up to his birth.
So why does Matthew mention all this scandal? If genealogies are supposed to be important, if Matthew is beginning to write his account of the Messiah, the Savior, the Promised One, why does he start so scandalously? Why does he mention how unconventional Jesus’ birth and lineage is?
So scandlous are these women in Jesus’ line that it actually gives Matthew’s account of Jesus credibility. Some of the stuff is so outrageous - babies born out of wedlock, prostitution, rape, murder - that you wouldn’t make it up! You would be stupid to make it up. But the fact is that it happened – it is true that Joseph wasn’t the Father. And scandous events such as these actually give Jesus’ story credibility. No one would make this stuff up and say it was true.
But secondly, these scandals bring hope. Matthew tells us these things because he wants us to know that the King who comes from this line accepts all people. The King who comes from this line of unconventional, scandalous ratbags… he accepts people like this. He accepts people who are not Jewish… he accepts people who do not have a pure heritage, people who do not have any Christian heritage in their family what so ever… for his own heritage is not pure. He accepts people who have children out of wedlock… for he was conceived out of wedlock. He accepts the prostitutes and even murders and rapists… for even they are spoken of here as an essential part of his history.
Matthew includes them because Jesus includes these people in his Kingdom. The Kingdom is not made up of pure, clean, nice people. The Kingdom of God is made up of sinners… of greedy people, of drunkards, of murderers, of prostitutes. Jesus came to begin a new Kingdom and it’s made up of normal people, people who are broken.
Jesus’ unconventional genealogy brings us hope because if the likes of them are included as important people in Jesus family… then there is hope for me.