Southminster Presbyterian Church

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Jesus @

Ken Onstot

Scriptures: Matthew 1:1-21

Surely there is a better way

Matthew could have found to display

His Messianic theology,

Than with an interminable genealogy.


Forty-two generations

One unpronounceable name after another,

Some famous, some obscure,

And occasionally mentioning the mother.


But there is a story in this list of names,

And insights to be learned about the one it proclaims.


First is Abraham, whom you may recall

Nearly sacrificed his only son,

Almost ending the entire line

Before it had hardly begun.


Next came Isaac, who fearful for his life

Readily handed over his wife

To the foreign king Abimelech

Hoping, thereby, to save his neck.


Then there was Jacob

Who committed a deceitful sin

By stealing from his own blind father

The inheritance meant for his twin.


Jacob produced Judah,

Who in effect committed incest

With his own daughter-in-law

Presumably at Tamar’s behest!


And later there was Salmon

Who becomes God’s next recruit,

Fathering a child by Rahab,

A Canaanite prostitute.


These are the descendants of Abraham;

This is God’s gene pool,

Progenitors of the Promised one

Who brings us God’s rule.


You wonder what God was thinking.


Some were actual kings: like David

Who took for himself Uriah’s wife,

Then arranged in battle

To snuff out his life.


Their child was Solomon,

who built the temple’s steeple

on the backs of forced labor

From his very own people.


Some of the kings were good,

Like Hezekiah and Josiah.

But others can only be described

As corrupt and godless pariahs.


These are the people who gave us Jesus,

The progenitors of divine DNA.

It sort of makes you wonder

What Matthew was trying to say.


But then comes the irony.


All the names on this list,

The good and the bad,

Are ancestors of someone

Who was not Jesus’ dad.


Jesus was not a product of sex,

But of a different kind of relation;

The in-breaking of the Holy Spirit,

The beginning of a new creation.


The genealogy is meant to recall

God’s promises for us all,

That through Abraham and his relations

Would come blessing to all nations.


And that’s where the mothers come in,

The reason for their mention;

These mothers anticipate

God’s world-wide intervention.


Tamar was a Canaanite,

As was true for Rahab,

Bathsheba was joined to a Hittite

And Ruth was from Moab.


All these women were signs of something new:

The inclusion of Gentiles in what God wanted to do.


For God did not choose Abraham

Only for the sake of the Jews,

But so that families of all lands

Might hear the good news.


And that’s the story in this long family tree:

That Jesus has come to set all of us free,

Free from history’s constant refrain

Of greed and lust and deep human pain.

Free from the past that binds us in sin,

So that God’s new work in Jesus can finally begin.


The ancestry of Joseph reminds us

Of all the promises of God,

But the virgin birth introduces

Something new and strange and odd.


It’s a new intervention defying convention,

God setting us free from our own family tree.


In this story of Jesus’ birth

Our past no longer determines our worth

Because in Jesus something new has begun

A virgin has given birth to a Son.


And that work of the Spirit in Mary

Is a sign of what God yet can do

In all of us who trust in his Son,

Who count on God to bring us through

To the new life God has in mind

For races and nations of all humankind.


But there is one more piece of theology

To learn from this genealogy:

That people are still key,

And that God gives life through a family.


As God worked through Israel,

When faithful or not,

So God works through the church

In the stories it’s taught.


Jesus is an amazing gift of God

That comes through a family story,

To people who in spite of their flaws

Still believe in proclaiming God’s glory.


And that’s where we come in.


Faith is a virgin birth, a miracle

Given by God through the Spirit,

But like Joseph it comes through a family

Allowing future generations to hear it.


People passing on faith

To children they don’t deserve

Holding to values

They want to conserve.

Maintaining hope

When others despair

Or when brokenness seems

Beyond our repair.

Living for a future

Yet to be seen

Where people are healed

And creation made clean.

Believing the news

Of God’s shocking grace,

And passing it on

To the whole human race.


The people of gave us Jesus

Were not models of virtue,

But still they were vessels

That God’s love could flow through.


So it is with us.


You may not be ideal parents

Or a perfect daughter or son,

But the Holy Spirit can still work in you

To see that God’s will is done.


"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care."

Psalm 95:6-7