As a child, I remember finding out that I was distantly related to Tycho Brahe, an astronomer of old. My Grandmother had found out this link and came with photocopied information on him, educating us on this notable family member. Needless to say, this was my news item to share with my class the following day. Or take the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when a distant cousin competed in the Gymnastics and so had our family looking on with interest and added passion, as even though we hadn’t met her, we still felt a genetic connection. I wonder too though, about those unsavoury characters in our family lines… the ones we would prefer stay hidden from view.
As we open the first chapter of Matthew, we are hit with an awareness that Jesus came to a family line plagued with scandal. Matthew goes to great length to include those members who would not have been on the “Yes, I’m related to Them” List. In amongst all the hard to pronounce names, Matthew scandalously includes the names of some particular females to point out just who was in the Line of David- Tamar (the woman who dressed as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law in Genesis 38), Rahab (the actual prostitute who hid the spies in Joshua 2), Ruth (the Moabite woman from the book of Ruth), and Bathsheba, (called ‘The Wife of Uriah in Matthew 1:6) who had an affair with King David and whose husband was then murdered (2 Samuel 11). A strange lineage for the King of Kings? Yes. A strange lineage for the Messiah? Perhaps not.
You see, even Jesus had scandal surrounding his birth. His mother Mary, was pregnant and she was betrothed to Joseph. So as was the custom of the day, Joseph planned to secretly divorce her because he was “a just man and unwilling to put her to shame” (Matthew 1:19). Yet in all this, God was working out his purposes, orchestrating events that would herald Jesus the Messiah. He would be Immanuel, God with Us (Matthew 1:23).
The great thing about Matthew’s genealogy is that it shows us we don’t bring anything to Jesus. There is nothing we can offer- no fame, fortune or skills that would make us worthy. He is in the salvation business- he came to seek and save the lost and in this, he meets us where we are and is God with us. Jesus’ birth and lineage was surrounded with ‘unsavoury’ elements, a humble choice for the Son of God. Yes, he wants us to live lives that glorify him, yet the most glory he receives is when sinners are offered salvation. When our lives are a testimony to the wonderful saving work of the Holy Spirit in us, it is the most wonderful miracle of all. Let us not puff ourselves up with all that we can do and who we can be. Instead, let us humbly draw near to the throne of grace, realising that if God chose to send his Son into a lineage of sinful and unsavoury characters, he can love us, accept us and change us right where we are, sin and all.