The Gospel of Christmas (3/4)
For the last two entries in this series, we’ve seen that:
1) The Gospel is good news, not good advice
2) All the best stories are true
And now we’ll quick see how,
3) The Christmas gospel flips the values of the world on their head.
Genealogies are interesting things, and they say a lot about a person. In the ancient Near East, and in Jewish culture they serve as as identity badges. And in the case of royalty, they acts as your “papers,” proving that you’re of royal descent and pedigree. Anything weird, and you’re disqualified from the throne. The key is to always, always leave out those nasty bits that you’d prefer people didn’t know.
Now, let’s take a look at Christ’s genealogy as recorded in Matt. 1:
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
One thing to know about ancient Jewish genealogies is this: they rarely if ever include women. Jesus’ not only includes a woman (Mary), but it lists five! Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary, Christ’s mother. It’s one thing to include women, that’s distinct enough, but let’s think of who these women were, and what they’re known for.
First, let’s consider Tamar. She is remembered as the woman who tricked her father-in-law to sleep with her in order to continue the family line of her dead husband (Gen. 38). How did she do this? She concealed herself as a prostitute! Next, we have Rahab (Josh. 6), the woman who in the book of Joshua hid the Israelite spies. What was her line of employment? Also a prostitute! As for Ruth, she wasn’t even of “pure stock.” She was a Moabite (Ruth 1:4) who converted to the faith of Israel.
Fourth, we have Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11), who the genealogy explicitly calls the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Recall the story. David, on a night when she should have been attending to kingly matters, sees another man’s wife, lusts after her, and arranges to sleep with her. After he gets her pregnant, he then arranges to have Uriah sent to the front lines of a battle, guaranteeing his demise. By not naming Bathsheba, Matthew highlights King David’s moral failure, thus making the royal centerpiece of the entire genealogy eat humble pie.
In the Messiah’s genealogy we find that prostitutes are on an equal playing ground with kings. The high will be made low, and the lowly will be exalted. Those that were despised by men (and women) are included (and indeed play crucial parts) in God’s cosmic drama of redemption.