Who's Afraid of a Genealogy?

In preparation for Easter next week I started reading through the Gospel of Matthew. I decided to read two chapters a day in order to get my heart ready for the celebration of our Savior’s death and resurrection. So often we get stuck in the busyness of life, and even a holiday season, that we forget the purpose of the event. Reading two chapters in the evenings has helped me slow down and think about what the life, death, and resurrection of Christ meant not only for me, but for the entire world.

I’ve always struggled through the genealogies. Reading a list of names seemed pointless to me. I wanted doctrine, meat, and truth—not names. That line of thinking revealed more about my view on the all-encompassing value of God’s word than I wanted to admit. I wanted to pick and choose what was crucial for my own edification. Names didn’t fall into that category.

I don’t know when it changed, but I don’t think that way anymore. The names in the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew are people who are talked about elsewhere in the Bible. They are people who God deemed crucial to understanding the lineage of Christ. But if we know our Old Testament we know that many of these people are not the typical ancestors of a king.

The genealogy of Jesus is marked by scandal and sin. Tamar tricked Judah into sleeping with her to preserve her family line. Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth was a foreigner. David stole another man’s wife (Bathsheba). Solomon was unfaithful to the Lord (and so were the kings after him). Mary was pregnant out of wedlock.

In all of these lives God was working to preserve his plan. This is not a “kingly” lineage—but that is how God works. He takes the weak in the world and shames the wise so that no one may boast, and he gets the glory.

God is all over this story, even though it seems like a complete mess at times. His perfect plan is weaving it all together, bringing about our ultimate salvation through Jesus Christ.

None of these people would probably think their life was kingly or deserving of being in the lineage of the Messiah. And that is the beauty of it. God works in mysterious ways that do not fit the world’s model of power and authority. He uses broken, weak, and sinful vessels to accomplish his purposes. That should encourage us. Our lives are no different than these people listed in Matthew. But the same scarlet thread that ties their stories together is the one that does the same for us. Jesus is the great Savior and the great equalizer.

If you are discouraged by your life and your story today, be encouraged by the stories found in Matthew 1. They were not perfect. They were just like you and me. Only one person held it all together, and he can do the same in your life. His name is Jesus.