This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: ….Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar)…. Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah)…. Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.
(Matthew 1:1, 3, 5-6 & 16, NLT)
When it comes to reading the Bible, these are some of the passages we are most apt to skip over. I know that’s true of me most days they come along.
But one day recently, I decided I’d at least skim through them. These are the verses that stuck out – the only 5 “branches” of the many generations that mention the women in the family tree leading to Jesus.
I doubt anyone who knows much about Christianity is surprised Mary is mentioned. Popular images might conjure up righteousness and purity.
Even so, the way in which this young woman was used to become the mother of Jesus was unlikely – it was simply impossible and miraculous. And it was scandalous. Even in her righteousness, she had to endure ridicule and a smeared reputation for the way in which the Lord chose to use her to fulfill his purposes. This is yet another way we can glean understanding from a biblical example of the cost of discipleship. Yet she is now held in high esteem for her submission to the will of the Father.
All of the women mentioned in the genealogy before Mary are women who would have been considered outcasts or scandalous:
Tamar prostituted herself to Judah, her father-in-law, in order to get a son from the family’s bloodline to carry on the name of her dead husband (Genesis 38).
Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho and helped the Israelite spies sneak in and out to capture the city (Joshua 2).
Ruth was of a different nation and religion before marrying her first husband – something greatly frowned upon in the Jewish culture. She eventually was shown favor by her second husband, Boaz, due to the loyalty she showed by forsaking her people in order to remain with her mother-in-law after they were both widowed (Ruth 1-3).
Bathsheba’s first husband, Uriah, was murdered in a conspiracy by King David. David had found out she was pregnant after forcing her to have sex with him while her husband was off fighting the war (2 Samuel 11-12).
These are the women God used to carry the divine and royal bloodline. They were outcasts, prostitutes, unrighteous, on top of the fact that they were women, who at the time had little to no standing in the society. And yet God redeemed them, mentioned them by name, and included them in the royal family.
When we get to the end of the genealogy, we find out we’re not even reading the actual biological bloodline of Jesus. It’s the genealogy of His adopted father, Joseph, a man of God too often overlooked for his selfless and sacrificial obedience to God.
God has such overwhelming grace and acceptance!
No matter where you’re at, where you have been, or where you’re headed, God alone has the power to completely redeem and restore. He wants us and sees potential in us even when no one else may. And isn’t that often at the root of the church planting mission? Isn’t that the heart of the planter—to reach someone that nobody else has?
Let Him make you whole. Let Him adopt you into His family. Let Him make good out of not so good.
In the process of allowing that restoration to take place in us, we will be able to extend the same acceptance to those God places in our lives and in our churches. He will show us how he can use even the more unlikely of people to advance his kingdom in divine and extraordinary ways.
That’s what the Christmas story is all about. This is the true miracle of Christmas and it manifests itself in and through us. It’s identified through the life of Jesus’ genealogy before he was even born.
Restoration and empowerment of the unlikely is a deep aspect of the miracle of Christmas.