This is the time of year for Christmas movies. One of my favorites is A Charlie Brown Christmas. If you’ve ever watched any of the Charlie Brown animations, you know the clever depiction of adults. Charlie Brown and his friends are all children with their own ideas about what is important. So, we never actually hear what the adults say. We hear only the drone of “Wah, wa, wah, wa, wah…”
I think “wah, wa, wah, wa, wah…” is also what many of us hear when we come to genealogy lists in the Bible.
Often, our response to these lists is to skip them. They seem like boring history, irrelevant to our lives today. Yet, God includes these lists in the Bible for a reason. If we look carefully, we can find gems of truth and beauty.
The genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 has gems that we should not miss.
It starts with
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham – Matthew 1:1
In our Bibles, the gap between Malachi and Matthew is only a page or two. In history, the gap is more than 400 years.
Over four hundred years of silence. Over four hundred years of waiting.
After so long, people may have lost hope that the Messiah would ever come. So Matthew begins with an announcement: the Messiah has come. His name is Jesus (meaning Yahweh is Salvation). The prophesied Son of David, the prophesied Son of Abraham, has come!
The genealogy has a purpose much deeper than our modern eyes understand. Matthew is bringing hope to his Jewish readers. For them to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, it is necessary to demonstrate that the lineage of Jesus matches what the Old Testament prophesies about the lineage of the Messiah. Matthew shows that it does.
There is a striking difference, though, between this genealogical list and others from the same time period. Jews traced their heritage only through their male ancestors. Yet, the list in Matthew includes women.
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, - Matthew 1:3a
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, - Matthew 1:5a
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, -Matthew 1:6b
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. – Matthew 1:16
Why would Matthew go against tradition and include women? Especially these particular women?
These women are not all Israelites. Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites. Ruth was a Moabite.
These women have difficult histories. After Tamar was widowed by Judah’s son, she pretended to be a prostitute in order to have a son with Judah and continue the family line. Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth was a widow left to care for her dead husband’s mother. Bathsheba, the woman who “had been Uriah’s wife,” is brought into David’s household through sins of adultery and murder.
The stories of these women highlight sinners, mourners, and outsiders.
Yet, the stories of these women also show glimmers of faith. Ruth cared for her mother-in-law, and ended up finding a husband in Boaz. Rahab risked her life to protect the Israel’s spies, and ended up becoming part of their community. And then, there is the last woman listed in the genealogy: Mary. A young girl who accepts the announcement of an angel, and ends up becoming the mother of the Savior.
The Messiah needs to fulfill not only prophecies of lineage, but also prophecies of bringing His peace to the ends of the earth. Already in Jesus’ genealogy, we see that He is such a Messiah.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28
As Jesus Himself says,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:32
The Messiah is a Savior of all.