Not preaching this Christmas here are a few thoughts that came to me that I would expand and share if I had been, once a preacher!
Matthew 1:1-17 NLT 1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David1 and of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar). Perez was the father of Hezron. Hezron was the father of Ram.1 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. 5 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. 6 Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). 7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the father of Abijah. Abijah was the father of Asa.1 8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.1 Jehoram was the father2 of Uzziah. 9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh. Manasseh was the father of Amon.1 Amon was the father of Josiah. 11 Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin1 and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon). 12 After the Babylonian exile: Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud. Abiud was the father of Eliakim. Eliakim was the father of Azor. 14 Azor was the father of Zadok. Zadok was the father of Akim. Akim was the father of Eliud. 15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar. Eleazar was the father of Matthan. Matthan was the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah. 17 All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.
Now lets be honest this is one of those passages that we tend to skip over, isn’t it. At Christmas, we tend to give this list a passing glance before getting to the juicy bits of the story. Virgin births and exotic gifts excite us more than a long genealogy. I must confess I had a passing interest in the passage as a child when my mum refused to tell me what “begat” meant when I read this passage from the old King Jimmy Version as a kid but it soon faded. What I want to suggest to you is that maybe we have been too hasty in dismissing this list as only of interest to Matthew’s originally Jewish readers. Thinking about this list this morning several things have come to mind from this collection of names that have implications for us in the 21st century. Here they are
HISTORY HAS A PURPOSE
My kids loved the Lion Kid video when they were younger, we must have watched it every week. One of the big songs is the Circle of Life, a great song, but pretty terrible view of history. That song is simply repeating the view of history held in Eastern religion and philosophy that history is just a circle. History just goes round and round but never goes anywhere, its just repeats itself. This view of history says that history is meaningless, history isn’t heading anywhere, it has no purpose, its just goes on and on, round and round.
Matthew’s genealogical list offers us a very different understanding of history. The climax of the list is when Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah. From Matthew’s perspective all of the lives and circumstances described before weren’t accidental or meaningless. There was a divine hand at work in these lives and that Divine Hand had a purpose, He was orchestrating the birth of the Messiah, the Deliverer, the one who would embody and institute the Kingdom of God. In other words, all of these endless names remind us that God was at work through all of history orchestrating events and guiding people to fulfill his mission of love to the human race which had turned its back on Him.
It may be a cliche but History really is HIS-story. History is not an endless meaningless cycle of lives, it has a purpose, it is heading to a great climatic conclusion when Jesus the Messiah will return again. Here is an amazing thought, well it is to me, one day when Jesus returns and the story of how His return was accomplished our names will be in a list just like the one in Matthew 1. We just like these people, so many of whom are unknown, are playing our small part in God’s mission to this world. This Christmas remember that your life has a purpose and it’s a purpose bigger than simply having a good time with your family.
GOD’S MISSION IS TO EVERYONE:
You have to remember that this list was probably written originally by Matthew for a basically Jewish readership. Those Jews would have been intensely interested in whether Jesus was really the Messiah, if He really was a descendent of David. In reading Matthew’s genealogy they would have clearly seen Jesus’ Davidic heritage but they would also have had a bit of surprise about who else was hanging around in Jesus’ family tree.
There were sinners and those sinned against. Rehoboam and Ahaz were Kings both chiefly remembered in the Old Testament for their sin. Jacob and David don’t exactly have spotless records either, do they? Lies, fraud, adultery and murder come to mind. Rahab was originally a member of the world’s oldest profession. Tamar who is mentioned in verse 3 was a victim of male chauvinism and hypocrisy of the worst kind. Uriah was murdered to save a King embarrassment.
Some Jewish theologians of the time thought that Gods mission was only to the Jews. That Gentiles were basically created to be fuel for the fires of hell. Yet here among Jesus ancestors are Gentiles, Ruth and Rahab, an eternal reminder that God has always reached out and included Gentiles in His mission.
None of this should surprise us, the truth is that we are all sinners and victims of sin. God’s mission is to sinners those who defy Him and those who are injured by the actions of those who defy Him, in other words His mission is to everyone of us. Whatever our race or religion, whatever we have done or whatever has been done to us, God is reaching out to us in Jesus.
GOD’S MISSION UTILISES EVERYONE:
Included in this list are farmers, prostitutes, poverty stricken widows, fabulously rich Kings, those with absolute power and those with none, and finally a teenage girl and carpenter. As we have already said, there are males and females, Jews and Gentiles. It seems plain to me from that fact that racism and Sexism have no part of this mission. God used everyone in this list in accomplishing His mission regardless of their background, gender, race or position. If you are a believer whoever you are, whatever your background, gender, race or position God wants to use you in His continuing mission. The Church has some repenting to do about not living this one out too consistently down the centuries.
So what does this endless list of “BEGATS” remind us of this Christmas? I would say that they are an eternal reminder that history has a great purpose and for ALL of those us who are believers that purpose is to be our great purpose in life.