The Genealogy of Jesus

24 December 2006: Mass of the Vigil, Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord Matthew 1, 1-25: The Genealogy of Jesus

The genealogy or family tree for the Jews is very important. It tells us who he is and what is his worth. The reason for this interest in genealogies or pedigrees was that the Jews set the greatest possible store on the purity of lineage. If in any man, there was a slightest admixture of foreign blood, he lost his right to be called a Jew, and a member of the people of God. Thus, Matthew first presented the lineage of Jesus. Matthew established that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham and of King David. To trace the lineage of Jesus to Abraham, he proved that He was indeed a Jew; and to trace his lineage to King David, Matthew established that Jesus indeed is the Messiah, fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah is to come from the line of David.

But the most amazing of Matthew's genealogy of Jesus are the names of the women who appear in it. It is not normal to find the names of women in Jewish family trees. The woman had no legal rights; she was not regarded as a person. She was regarded as a thing. She was merely the possession of her father or of her husband, and she is in his disposal to do as he liked. In fact, the regular morning prayer of a Jew is to thank God that he had not made him a Gentile, a woman or a slave. Jesus will radically change all these as illustrated by his lineage.

But when we look at who these women are, the genealogy of Jesus becomes interesting and more amazing. Rahab, was a prostitute of Jericho (Joshua 2:1-7). Ruth was not a Jewess, but a Moabitess (Ruth 1:4). And as a foreigner, she was not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord. To make things worse, the Jews hated the Moabites. Tamar was a seducer and adulteress (Genesis 38). And finally, Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, was the woman whom David seduced from Uriah, her husband (Samuel 11 & 12). These are the women in Jesus' genealogy.

And what does it say to us?

First, the barrier between Jew and Gentile is down. Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho and Ruth, the woman of Moab, find their place in the lineage of Jesus. Thus, in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek. God's love includes everybody. God's love is universal. It goes beyond color and race; beyond rich or poor.

In a communion line, a rich woman with her sparkling jewelry wanted to insert. The poor woman at the line motioned to her that she should line up like the rest. The rich woman was annoyed. She asked sternly, "Whose daughter are you?" The poor woman answered, "I am a child of God. How about you?"

Second, the barrier between male and female is down. The old contempt for women is gone. Men and women stand equally dear to God, and equally important to His purposes.

An English professor on the blackboard wrote these words, "Woman without her man is nothing," and directed the students to punctuate it correctly.

The men wrote: "Woman, without her man, is nothing."

The women wrote: "Woman! Without her, man is nothing."

There is another saying that "A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong it is, until it's in hot water."

Finally, the barrier between the sinner and saint is down. Somehow God uses anyone, sinner or saint, for his purposes. The greatest saints like Mary Magdalene, Augustine and Ignatius were the greatest sinners before their conversion. Sinner or saint, we all fit in the scheme of God. We, sinners, have a place in God's plan. "I came," Jesus said, "not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13). Jesus frees us from slavery from sin.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. I set a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.

Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!"

"And what will you do when you get done with them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly.

"How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you!! You don't want those people!!"

"How much?" He asked again. Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your tears, and all your blood."

Jesus said, "DONE!" Then He paid the price for the sinners by dying on the Cross.

And thus to save us from our slavery, he came down to earth and gave us himself. And so we pray with Gerald Manley Hopkins' "Now Begin on Christmas Day."

"Moonless darkness stands between,

Past, O Past, no more be seen!

But the Bethlehem star may lead me

To the sight of Him who freed me

From the self that I have been.

Make me pure, Lord; Thou art holy;

Make me meek, Lord; Thou wert lowly;

Now beginning, and always;

Now begin on Christmas Day!"

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