The Greatness of God’s Mercy in Our Savior’s Genealogy

Rodger Woodworth

Most of us are aware of Matthew’s mention of four women with questionable character in his genealogy of the Messiah.  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, incestuousness, prostitution, foreigners, and adultery.  All anomalous in their ancestry and, with the exception of Ruth, in their moral character.  Yet even Ruth was a Moabite and a descendant of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters.  Not exactly the role models parents use to instruct their daughters or the kind of women they would want their sons to marry.

It almost appears Matthew has gone out of his way to find women who contaminate Jesus’s bloodline, who tarnish his pure Jewish ancestry.  In order to own land in Israel you had to show public documents concerning your genealogy to prove you had a right to own a piece of the Holy Land. Even more importantly people expected the Messiah to come from the pure kingly line of David.  Yet curiously there is no record in the gospels of any disputes over Jesus being a descendant of David.

So why didn’t Matthew record the more prestigious names of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachael, the wives of the patriarchs?  Because Matthew is preaching the gospel of divine mercy.  A gospel that not only comes for sinners but through sinners.  A gospel that presents a savior for all people, a light for all nations, and a mercy bigger than our sins.  Matthew’s genealogy drips with the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  The blood of all nations flows through the Savior of the world and his family tree condemns our prejudices in the opening pages of the New Testament.

As we enter this advent season and our Christmas celebrations with church and family may we remember that Jesus didn’t just fall out of heaven on Christmas morning.  He was born in the usual way into a very real human family, from a very real human ancestry,  just like ours, full of saints and sinners, and all in need of God’s great mercy.

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