The Surprising and Subversive Genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17)

God doesn’t withdraw from messy, complicated humans, but grows within each of us.


“An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham…”

Wait! Don’t roll your eyes! We tend to skip the genealogies when we read scripture, but family trees tell stories. What story does Jesus’ tell?

Basically, it tells the story that God chooses to be born through messy, complicated people into a messy and complicated humanity.

Adam and Lindsey discuss some of the stories of the people in Jesus’ lineage to show how the Bible is direct about the scandalous nature about some of these people in Jesus’ family tree. In Matthew’s genealogy, Jesus is traced back to Abraham. Abraham is known for his loyalty to God; to his credit, he sets out into the unknown at God’s direction. He also passes his wife off as his sister on multiple occasions in order to keep other men from killing him in jealous, lustful rages. So… he’s complicated. David, the great king of Israel and the source of the Messianic title “Son of David” is also mentioned in this genealogy… along with the allusion to one of his most shameful crimes: arranging to have his soldier, Uriah, killed so that he could take his wife, Bethsheba, for himself. So Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus does not gloss over the injustices committed by his ancestors.

This genealogy also mentions some kickass women by name. First Tamar, who is nearly killed for becoming pregnant out of wedlock but then praised for her cleverness and resourcefulness. (Check out her story in Genesis 38). Then there’s Rahab, a Cananite prostitute whose shrewdness saves Joshua and his soldiers. Then Ruth, a Moabite who shows tremendous dedication and love to her mother-in-law. Both Tamar and Rahab could be condemned by a patriarchal society, but they are held up as models. Both Rahab and Ruth are foreingers coming to nations thought to be condemned by God. Their presence in Jesus’ lineage reinforce God’s love for the immigrant and foreigner and are part of a trajectory of understanding God from exclusion to full inclusion.

And, of course, there’s Mary. Pregnant by the Holy Spirit before she is married to Joseph, she might have received a lot of grief and scorn from her contemporaries. But in referencing other women whose sexuality is not condemned but praised in scripture, Matthew’s Gospel subtly begins to subvert some the patriarchy.

This genealogy is not only scandalous and subversive. It also tells a story of redemption. Jesus’ family tree isn’t pristine… neither are ours. We are all messy, complicated people and products of messy, complicated families. Even so, during Advent, we remember that we are all nurturing the living God inside us. God doesn’t withdraw from messy, complicated humans, but grows within each of us. Whatever our past, whatever others may think of us, even (or especially) if we are rejected or misunderstood by the world around us, we are still nuturing the living God within ourselves.

The Olive

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