“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:Excerpted from Matthew 1:1-17 NIV
… Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
… Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
… David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.”
I am fascinated by genealogies. My grandmother did a ton of research when you had to go to local library archives and dusty census record logs in order to find information, before the days of the Internet. She confirmed that seven of our ancestors served in the Revolutionary War. My roots in America are both shallow and deep. While one side of my family has been here since the 1600s, another side arrived by ship in the early 20th century.
Our origin stories matter. They provide us with a sense of how we belong in this world, how we fit, where we came from, what we stand for, and what we might have to overcome. The purpose of Jesus’ genealogy at the beginning of Matthew is to immediately impress upon the Jewish reader how Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy of the coming king.
The men and women in Jesus’ lineage each have shadows, and they each have sides that turned toward the Light. I’ve highlighted the mothers, because these five women are unexpected. They are the people that shouldn’t have been in the lineage of a coming king, and yet here they are, widows, prostitutes, outsiders, immigrants, teen moms, a part of the grand narrative of humanity.
The stories of the five women in Jesus’ genealogy give us the long view of redemption, which can help us in moments of crisis. One of my relatives got pregnant out of wedlock when she was a teenager. She was kicked out of her home and had to start a life somewhere else. Eighty years later at her funeral, her children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren celebrated her faithfulness, humor, compassion, and love.
Maybe none of the characters in Jesus’ lineage “should” have been there. We don’t earn God’s love, by inheritance or birthright or behavior. We aren’t worthy by earning our place; we are worthy because we are called children of God. We might feel like outsiders. We might be on the margins by the world’s definition. But we are members of God’s family. And those roots run deep.
Points of Reflection
- What are the defining stories in your family’s history?
- How has God redeemed the challenges and suffering in your family’s past to bring you where you are today?
For the Kids
- Ask your parents to share about the day you were born. What’s your birth story? Isn’t it amazing how God knew you before you were even born?
- What do you know about your own family’s heritage?
Create a family tree beginning with your living relatives and reaching back as far as you can. Think about the love stories and the redemption stories that made it possible for you to be where you are today. Share a story with your child, partner, or friend and talk about how you see God working in that story.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot tells the remarkable story of lineage as carried through cells. Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. It is a tremendous book about the evolution of modern medicine, family history, race, and bioethics.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.