‘So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation of Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.’ (Matt 1:17)
For several years there has been a growing interest among many in our culture of researching one’s family tree. The mysteries of the past are enticing. The ads encouraging the activity intrigue with the possibility of finding interesting characters. Whether the past holds royalty or criminality, the hope is something interesting.
The genealogy of Christ in Matt 1:2-17 is full of intriguing details. But unlike our genealogies which would not shed light on our own character, Christ’s genealogy has much in it to teach us about him. All the Old Testament history was leading up to him, and God has so crafted history that even the purpose of his mission is revealed.
There are glorious heights in this genealogy. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, grounding him in the redemptive purposes of God, bringing blessing to the world. There is Judah, who was promised the sceptre would not pass from him. We see this reality when we get to some of the great kings: David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah. He has a great pedigree. Jesus was born to rule.
But there is embarrassment in this list too. In an odd twist, multiple women are named, each of them a skeleton in the closet. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Uriah’s wife – each with a sordid past (or, in the case of Ruth, embarrassment because she was a Moabitess).
It is perhaps in these women that the glory of Christ is most clearly seen. Unlike us, he chose his family. And he chose one full of shameful and public sin, and of Gentiles. Even in his family he chooses to identify with us.