Have you ever researched you family tree? Most of us don’t know our ancestry beyond our grand or great-grandparents. I’ve always wondered if I am related to the two former presidents who bear the same last name. Everyone wants to find that royal or famous person in our lineage. However, no one wants to claim the scoundrel or infamous deadbeat. We all have that “crazy cousin or uncle” we’d like to disown. Did you know some of Jesus’ family tree is listed in Scripture? Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-28. I admit, a few times when I’ve come upon genealogies in Scripture, I have skipped right past them. Who needs to know “who begat who” anyway? But the genealogies are inspired and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) and Jesus’ genealogy teaches us some great truths.
Would you feel inspired and important to find royalty in your lineage? Would you feel shame and regret to find others, let’s say, “not so royal”? When you look at Jesus’ lineage you’ll see a myriad of people – good and bad, common and royal. Matthew and Luke list some of the same but several different people. Why? Matthew follows Joseph’s (Jesus’ earthly father) lineage and Luke follows Mary’s (Jesus mother). Matthew shows 14 generations, from three main eras and was written with Jewish Christians in mind point to Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. Luke traces back to Adam, lists 35 more names than Matthew, and clearly points out Jesus’ humanity isn’t exclusive to the Jews. All who call on the name of Jesus can be saved (Romans 10:13). One of the most interesting facts is Matthew lists five women in Jesus’ genealogy. Women were not included in genealogies in the first century. Not only are the women listed but they are not really notable or those you would readily point out – especially as a list in the Bible for all to see from then on. Some are downright scandalous.
Tamar was the mother of Perez and Zerah by Judah. Genesis 38 tells us she was twice a widow and she disguised herself as a prostitute to trick her father-in-law Judah in to impregnating her and giving her a son. God used this situation for His own good purpose. Another note: Tamar was a Gentile and Judah a Jew. Perhaps this was a foreshadowing of Jews and Gentiles both equally sharing in the Gospel (Galatians 3:28)? The second woman listed was Rehab. Rehab didn’t pretend to be a prostitute, she was one (Joshua 2, 6). She was hospitable to the Jewish spies as she hid them from the king of Jericho that wanted to kill them. She professed faith in the Lord (Joshua 2:11) and is also listed in the “faith hall of fame” (Hebrews 11:3). She is proof God can change a life.
Ruth was a widow and daughter-in-law of Rehab and her story is found in the book that bears her name. Her loyalty and covenant to her dead husband’s mother Naomi is evidenced by her statement, “Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). She became the wife of Boaz and loyal through faith to God and the Jews. The next woman was Bathsheba is listed as “Uriah’s wife”. She was an adulteress but mourned her husband’s death (2 Samuel 11:26). She married King David and he eventually repents for his sins (Psalm 51; 2 Samuel 11-12). She is a great example of how God can give us hope and bring newness and forgiveness to shame and sin. Mary is the fifth woman mentioned. She was perhaps 13 or 14, a virgin, and engaged to Joseph. Matthew tells us also of Joseph’s dilemma of Mary’s virgin conception. He eventually believes Mary as an angel appears to him. She, most likely shamed and outcast, courageously gave birth to our Savior and was considered God’s servant (Luke 1:38).
We see through these genealogies that not only was Jesus human but He descended from the most seemingly insignificant, unlikely, and sometimes most controversial people. God is able to take the “foolish things of the world and shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). These names could have been left out, as the lists are not complete anyway. These “undesirables” are included to clearly prove no sinner is beyond Jesus’ salvation. After all, Matthew goes on to say, His name will be called Jesus for He will save them from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus isn’t ashamed to have these in His family tree and He isn’t ashamed to include us either, no matter our past. Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). We can be adopted into Jesus’ family as sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:15, Romans 8:14-17, Galatians 4:4-5). Because of Jesus, “All who did receive Him, who believed in His name (Jesus), He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1 John 1:12-13).