The ancestry of Jesus

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham…” (Matthew 1:1 NIV).

Genealogies. Most do not find these the most exciting part of scripture to read. When the Reader’s Digest, known for publishing condensed versions of books, brought out their Condensed Version of the Bible, guess what they left out? One of the obvious was the genealogies – after all, who wants to read these? Yet these serve a purpose, both in life and in scripture.

If you want to get to know me and understand me, it is useful to look at my life and my ancestry. We are who we are in a large extent because of what happened to those before us.

It is the same with Jesus. His ancestry was important because of who he was: the promised Messiah of God. His ancestry had to match the promises. But as we examine them, there is even more!

The Messiah was to be the son of David as well as the son of Abraham. This was important from a Jewish perspective as he had to fulfill both of these promises. Matthew very adequately shows that he was both a descent of Abraham, making him part of Israel, and a descendant of David, part of the royal line.

But notice something else: there are four women mentioned in his lineage. “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…” (Matthew 1:3,5,6). Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. What do we know about these women?

Tamar, Rahab and Ruth were not Israelites. Tamar was from Canaan, Rahab was from Jericho, and Ruth was from Moab.

Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba were known for their sexual infidelity. Tamar played a religious cult prostitute to sleep with her father-in-law Judah. The result was twin sons, one of whom became Jesus’ ancestor.

Rahab is known as “Rahab the harlot” due to her profession in Jericho before it was conquered. Because she hid the two spies, she and her family were spared when Jericho was destroyed. She married an Israelite and her son was Boaz who became the great-grandfather of King David, through his marrying Ruth.

Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. She committed adultery with King David after he saw her bathing on the roof of her house. They had a number of children, including Solomon.

I think we can see two lessons in the lives of these women. The first is that Jesus came to be the Savior of all people. His ancestry wasn’t just Jewish, but he was the product of Gentiles, as well. He truly was the representative of all people.

The second is that all people are acceptable by him. When we see that three of his ancestors were involved in quite serious sin – and that his ancestors’ births were the result of these sins – we can see that he excludes no one. No sin is too great for him to forgive. His blood cleanses us of all sin. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 ESV). As he told the woman caught in the very act of adultery: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Readings for next week:
3 July – Matthew 1
4 July – Matthew 2-3
5 July – Matthew 4
6 July – Matthew 5
7 July – Matthew 6

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Jon Galloway

After graduating from Freed-Hardeman College and teaching school for three years, as well as preaching for small congregations in West Tennessee, Jon & Arlene moved back to her home of Glasgow, Scotland. Since 1985 Jon has been involved in evangelistic work in the Glasgow area, currently serving the congregation in East Kilbride. They have three grown children. Besides writing 'Bible Bytes', Jon is also one of the editors of the "Christian Worker," a news magazine for congregations in the UK, and is a teacher and governor for the British Bible School.

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