Jesus @ Ancestry.com
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.
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.
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.