When I was in elementary School, my brother did a research paper on his family tree. As his brother, I enjoyed the benefit of hearing all of the interesting stories from the past without any of the effort of research or writing the paper. Although, I wouldn’t call myself a genealogy fanatic, I enjoy hearing from people who are excited about their heritage. I have also encountered people who are not happy with their heritage. Other times, the heritage has been lost due to terrible events in history.
Have you ever wondered about Jesus’ heritage listed in Matthew 1? Was he proud of his past? Matthew's record is mostly the male line with three sets of 14 generations from Abraham until Christ (v17). But, every once in a while, he steps out of this line to highlight other significant events. I would think that Matthew would stick to the positive events that paint Jesus’ line in a good light. Strangely enough, every time he deviates from his pattern, there is a story attached that doesn't look good for the family tree.
Tamar… This is that story that lands right in the middle of the story of Joseph that all of the Sunday School teachers skip over because it's not appropriate for children (Genesis 38). [Don't worry I'll keep this G rated] Tamar's husband is wicked, so God smites him. Judah gives Tamar to his next son as the Lord commanded. He's wicked too, so God smites him. But, Judah doesn't want to give Tamar to his youngest son, so she tricks Judah into producing an heir. Rahab… Did Matthew really have to bring up the prostitute in the family line? Well, maybe it’s because she turned out to be one of the good guys in the end. Then there’s Uriah's Wife… Okay, time out! Matthew could have just said Bathsheba, but he had to list her in the genealogy as Uriah's Wife? Why would he do that!?!
Quite honestly, I think that Matthew wants us to see something about Jesus' past. I think that God intentionally records these things in the gospels to help us see that Jesus was not given a perfect background. Jesus had skeletons in his closet, but God still used this man to do something incredible. I hope that we look at our heritage in light of Jesus’ family tree. Recognizing that God doesn't shy away from a heritage, but he can use anyone to do something great.
Author: Pastor Zach Kemper
A family tree by Stefan Kottwitz