MATTHEW'S INTRODUCTION TO THE ACCOUNT OF JESUS'S LIFE AND MISSION IS A BIT DIFFERENT TO THE REST.
The way that Matthew begins his account of Jesus seems a bit bizarre.
John begins with his poetic theological treatise
“In the beginning was The Word,
and The Word was with God, and The Word was God…..”
Luke, writing to his patron Theophilus, writes “an orderly account”
and begins with the birth of John the Baptist…..
Mark begins with prophecy concerning the “Messenger” referred to
in Isaiah – again, John the Baptist.
So why this exhausting list of names?
Well, to the Jewish mind of the day
this was the most natural way, the most interesting way,
the most essential way, to begin the account of anyone’s life.
If you know someone’s stock from which he came,
then you have an idea about the person, and the purity of his lineage.
This “pedigree” of Jesus is arranged in three groups of 14;
The first section begins with Abraham, the Father of the Jewish people,
and goes through to “Good but ever-so-slightly sinful” King David,
the nation’s greatest King.
The second section carries-on where we left off,
with the son of David’s adulterous affair with Uriah’s wife,
King Solomon. Purity of lineage, impurity of morals!
This second section ends in that dreadful period in Jewish history,
the Babylonian exile; a time of national shame
and the loss of the heart of faith, Jerusalem and its Temple.
The third section tells of liberation – liberation from exile,
right down to Jesus, the One to liberate humanity from evil.
So what do we learn of Jesus in this genealogy?
1. He was Son of David. The Jews were waiting for a descendent of David to lead them to the glory they felt was their right.
2. There were some suspect women in that pedigree! Rahab the prostitute, for instance, Ruth – good woman though she was, was a foreigner, a Moabitess, who under other circumstances would have been seen as breaking the line…. and unmentioned but mentioned is Bathsheba, whom David seduced to “make” Solomon… and then there’s unwed Mary!
Why this information?
Most of us want to conceal the skeletons in our familial cupboard.
Not Matthew, not Jesus!
Matthew draws attention to these women
whose very names call to mind scandalous things.
Why? to remind us, before Matthew even begins the story of His birth,
the reason for His coming.
Even in this genealogy God’s grace is apparent.
He loves to redeem sinners.
He loves to produce something beautiful
out of sordid family backgrounds.
He loves to make all things work together for good.
To show that Jesus is the “Barrier Breaker”,
the one who has room for tax-collectors and prostitutes,
the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, even Gentiles!
Where saints and sinners are all welcome.
“I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners”
says Jesus in Matthew chapter 9,
and here at the very beginning of the Gospel
is hinted the all-embracing love that God has through Jesus Christ.
Our Saviour born.
A seed planted.
Roots driven into the earth.
A mighty tree shoots toward the heavens.
Branches sprout, extending hands of praise.
Leaves flower, shouting glory and grace.
The family tree made simple.
God the Father.
We the family.
Brothers and sisters.
The seed has been planted.
And we are one.
Lord, for us all the future is unknown—
help us to have the faith to trust in you,
the wisdom to do the right thing,
and to be guided by you constantly.
Remind us, Lord, that you always keep your promises;
remind us too that they are kept in your time and not ours.
Heavenly Father we bring before you our loved ones,
and in the silence we pray for them.
For our family,
for all whom we know.
May this year be good for all whom we love,
Lord God, guide us in our lives.
May others see your love shine through us.
May our words and actions constantly point to you;
may we put You first in everything
and serve You always.
We ask you to be with us
and give us a year where we know and feel
and are guided by your presence.
Whatever the year holds may we never lose sight of you.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Ian Elston.