The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

As a young child reading the King James version of the Bible in large print, these long lists of awkward names bored me to tears. Someone begat someone, someone begat someone, yada yada yada. (However, I do love that word begat!) So last spring as I studied my James: Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore, hurriedly trying to finish an entire week’s worth of homework during one nap time, I struck gold. I mean, I stumbled upon something that struck me dumb, tears rolling, holy-ground-bend-my-knees-change-my-life-forever-speechless-gold. Are you ready?

Look back over that boring list of names. Which names stand out? My Harper Collins Study Bible (NRSV) points out in the footnotes what I had glossed over for decades:

1.1-17 . . . Jesus’ genealogical descent from patriarchs, kings, and four women who have unusual sexual histories but are part of God’s plan . . . Four women (vv. 3,5,6) in a male line of descent is extraordinary . . .three (and perhaps the fourth, Bathsheba) are certainly Gentiles; three and perhaps the fourth (Ruth) had improper sexual relations but were later admired in Israelite legend and considered important in God’s plan.

1.3 Tamar, a Canaanite woman who play the prostitute with her father-in-law Judah;

1.5 Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute who helped Joshua’s spies escape from Jericho and was remembered for her faith. (Beth Moore points out the Greek word used to describe her is actually porne (James: Mercy Triumphs Study Guide, pg. 108). Is your jaw dropping yet?) and Ruth, a sexually aggressive widow from Moab.

1.6b Wife of Uriah, Bathsheeba, with whom David committed adultery.

The primary function of linear genealogies is to ascribe honor to a person by tracing ancestry to heroic ancestors . . .

I think it is easy for us to gloss over this amazing detail of Jesus’ lineage. The fact that these four women are mentioned is bizarre. In a lineage of faith heroes and kings, why are the dirtiest female sinners held up as heroic mothers of God? Because, my friends, that is exactly the God we serve. He delights in making gorgeous that which we have thrown away like garbage.

I grew up believing I was truly a princess (my father insisted). I believed I was worthy of God’s love, that there was a plan and a purpose for my life, a destiny. After my Bipolar 1 Disorder diagnosis, the robe of shame was almost too much for me to bear. Shame paralyzed me into a submission, a lesser, a stoop. I wore my sins and invited blame; I opened myself up to flogging and scrutiny. Even after confession to a priest and washing the hands (literally) of every single one of my family members who were hurt and effected by my illness, I persisted in believing I was worthy only of punishment. I believed that there are some sins we wear; some sins the people of God won’t forget. Some lines couldn’t be uncrossed. Some letters would never fade from our foreheads.

So as I sat on my couch and watched Beth Moore point out to me that these broken, sinful women had not only been redeemed but bore Christ down the line of David, I experienced a second redemption. Something burst open deep inside of me as the tears flooded and that shameful robe I had been wearing for so very long like a second skin finally broke open. I knelt, minus the shame, for the first time in twelve years before my Jesus. I knelt as the daughter of the King of Kings: a princess in His Line. If the porn star, the prostitute, and the adultress are the only women honored, raised up, and cherished with pride in Jesus’ family line, I can believe God doesn’t just forgive us. God transforms us. God changes the story.

So, if you carry shame, if you believe you have sins too deep for God to ever use you, if you think He is intent on keeping you in your place, go back and read about Jesus’ grandmothers. He raises Rahab the porn star up as the only female mentioned besides Sarah (Matriarch of the Jewish people) in the famous Faith Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11) (Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift, pg. 103). He grafts them into His family line, so you and I know that He will do the same for us. His love is so much bigger than we give Him credit for. Praise Him for that.

Lord, change our stories. Give us each the strength and dignity and empowerment to birth your Son again and again into this hurting world.

In the name of my sweet Jesus,