No family has it all together, right?
I’d even go as far as to say, (humanly speaking) Jesus Himself didn’t come from the most perfect family tree, yet, if you received a Christmas postcard from Joseph and Mary, you’d probably think them the cutest couple ever!
Did that statement about Jesus' non-perfect family shock you?
You may be inclined to get over your shock pretty quickly if you took a quick glance at the ancestry.com list of Jesus' family at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. Exciting read!
JESUS' FAMILY DRAMA
One thing that immediately becomes clear from this list is that Jesus comes from a long line of some really messed up people. Seriously. Some of the lifestyles of the dudes on this list will make your jaw drop! Ever heard of Ahaz? How about Rehoboam? (The dude that managed to bring an end to a United Israel!). In fact, I think the angel who spoke to Joseph when he instructed him to name the baby, “Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” must have glanced backwards at long line of dysfunctional people in Jesus' family tree and thought, "Yup. Ya'll gon' need some help!"
You know what else also becomes clear as you read through that list? The encouraging hope that no family is too far-gone for God to redeem. The fact is, when all is said and done, this long list of broken people ends with the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Trust me, no matter how jacked up things may seem when you gather with your family this holiday:
THERE IS HOPE FOR YOUR FAMILY THIS CHRISTMAS!
What’s of interest to me on this list, however, is the fact that it includes the names of five fascinating women. These ladies stand out to me because it is rare for women to be listed in Jewish genealogies. Even if their names are mentioned, scribes would generally shoot for all-stars like Sarah, Esther, Deborah, or Rebekah.
Here, though, we're forced to take a moment of pause when we read names like, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife. We're compelled to stop because at least three of these women in Jesus’ genealogy have very questionable character, especially as it pertains to their sexual discretion.
I should point out here that this is not a witch-hunt or an attempt to denigrate women. (The men on this list were worse!!!) I’m choosing to focus on the ladies because the author of the Gospel considered them important enough to memorialize their names in the narrative of the Messiah and on a list that ordinarily would NOT include women.
My other motive is more pragmatic. I’m writing about these ladies because a 2014 survey of my blog readers revealed that there's an increase in the female audience engaging my blog (thanks, ladies!). So, while I mean to encourage families in general, I also want to speak to you faithful ladies who have trusted and followed my writings. That said, I hope you'll trust that my motive is honorable. Let’s dig in.
1. Meet TAMAR (I WILL get paid!)
In Genesis 38, we discover that Tamar’s husband has died. According to the law, her husband’s brother, Onan is supposed to step up to take care of her by fathering a child with her. But that doesn’t work out, so her father in-law, Judah sends her back to her father’s home.
Tamar, of course, feels disgraced and discarded. One day, she hears that her father-in-law (Judah) is heading into town. So she dresses up like a prostitute and solicits him as a client. Tamar negotiates her fee, but Judah doesn’t have enough cash on him, so he leaves a security deposit with her, “his staff and personal seal”; which in today’s terms would be like leaving your ATM card along with your PIN with a cashier. After the price and payment has been settled, they go in and do the deed. Judah goes back home and Tamar goes back her to father’s house.
As if on cue, Tamar gets pregnant.
Judah finds out that his widowed daughter-in-law has “prostituted herself “and is pregnant. He gets furious and demands her execution (according to the law). But as Tamar is being led out to execution, Judah demands to know who the daddy is, and here’s where Tamar's plans comes together. She says, “The man who owns these things made me pregnant. Look closely. Whose seal and cord and walking stick are these?”
Boom! Judah is busted and realizes he is just as guilty, and Tamar is allowed to live.
It is this same Tamar that the scriptures tell us is a great, great, great, (28 greats) grandmother of Jesus Christ.
How’s that for the perfect family tree?
So let me say this again. If your family has some baggage that you’re not proud of, or if your family is carrying some past baggage you are too embarrassed to ever have publicized, realize that you’re not alone. Even the Son of God has some ugly drama in His family history! Secondly, realize that no matter how bad your family is, no family is too far gone for God to redeem. God can and has redeemed the seemingly unredeemable.
2. Meet Rahab (I do for you, you do for me!)
Rahab’s story is a little more well known, so I won’t spend as much time on her. Whereas Tamar pretended to be a prostitute, Rahab is actually introduced to us as one. Further more, she’s a Canaanite (as was Tamar), which means she is not even am "insider", a true Jew.
Her story is in Joshua 2 and we read of her harboring two Jewish spies as they spy out the land of Jericho. In exchange for protecting them, she makes them swear that they will spare her life, along with her family when God hands over her nation to the Israelites as an act of judgment.
Now, if I were writing a family history, I might be inclined to leave out the name of a family member who was widely know for leveraging her body for financial income. Matthew, the Gospel author of this genealogy could have picked a less scandalous lady to associate Jesus with. But he didn’t. Rather, he features her name prominently on this list. In fact, the scriptures go further in honoring Rahab when Hebrews 11:31 says of her, “It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
Perhaps you’ve embarrassed your family with some your choices? Take heart. Rahab was a great, great, great.....grandma to Jesus! There’s hope for you!
3. Meet Ruth (I’ll go wherever you go!)
Compared to the two previous ladies, Ruth is actually an angel!
In fact, there’s nothing devious or deviant about her actions. The only thing she has working against her is the fact that she is a Moabite.
Moab was a pagan land with foreign gods. For an Israelite to leave Israel and make the journey there to find a wife is to play with fire. It’s under these circumstances that Ruth met her first husband (who dies shortly after, presumably as a judgment from God).
The issue here is that God has very strict instructions about interfaith marriages. Yet, God is so sovereign over Ruth’s life that He arranges for her to meet up with a godly man named, Boaz. Boaz redeems Ruth as His wife and she, in essence becomes a part of the ancestry that gives rise to Jesus Christ.
So, here’s the hope in Ruth’s story: If you have some racist junk in your family tree you’re not proud of (and would prefer to have that part of your family remain in the past), Ruth’s story foreshadows the fact that God throws wide the door of grace to whoever would receive it.
No matter what your ethnicity may be, or what “your people” may have done to other people, hear me on this, you don’t have enough drama, or family baggage or dysfunction that God can’t redeem. God has done greater things through worse people!
4. Meet Uriah’s wife (It was just a bubble bath!!!)
First of all, lemme just point out that I don’t think it’s cool that she only gets a shoutout in connection to her husband’s name. The woman has a name! It’s Bathsheba!
Okay here’s the story. In 2 Samuel 11, we read that Uriah is one of king David’s valiant soldiers. In springtime, while the whole army is off at war, king David stays home. One evening, he goes for a walk on his rooftop and spots Bathsheba taking a bath. Bathsheba, however, is Uriah’s wife. Foolishly and in his unguarded lust, David sends for her and initiates an affair.
Bathsheba gets pregnant. (This seems to happen a lot on this list!)
David has to clean this mess up, so he sends for Uriah to come home from the war front for some R&R. David encourages him to go home and spend some romantic nights with his wife (so that her pregnancy will seem legitimately his). But Uriah is a true soldier and refuses to indulge in any conveniences while his troops are off at war. David tries everything, even getting him drunk, but Uriah will not go home.
In desperation, David goes for the kill, literally. He sends Uriah back to the battlefield with a sealed note to his commanding general that they are to place Uriah in the forefront of the heated battle. Uriah basically carries his own death warrant and dutifully dies. And so, David, the beloved poet and great warrior king, whom earlier in life God described as a man after His own heart, is an adulterer and a murderer. All this as a result of an affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.
Now CLEARLY, David is at fault (and the main culprit) because he initiated the adultery (and murder). But make no mistake about it, Bathsheba’s reputation took a serious hit as a result of this.
Do not suppose that rumors weren’t spreading about her in the royal courts or that her name wasn’t spoken of in derogatory terms in social circles all around town.
So, while we can’t fully fault her for this incident, her name isn’t one you would expect to find on a list that registers the family tree of the Messiah. Yet, God saw fit to direct Matthew (the Gospel writer) to include her name on this list!
These four women show us that no matter how dysfunctional or problematic things may be in your household (or extended household):
no family or family member is ever too far-gone for God to redeem.
In fact, the more drama your family carries with it, the more God uses that environment to shape you into the future-you He’s destined you to be. Think of it this way, your family is the first training ground God uses to make you more like Jesus. (There’s a joke in there somewhere for some of you who come from really difficult families).
If because of your faith in Jesus, you can learn to like, not just love, but like some of your difficult family members in spite of all the mess they put you through, then you, my friend, will do an amazing job when God eventually calls you to the missions field (wherever that may be!).
So, take heart and be hopeful this holiday season. No matter what you'll have to face, may you have a wonderful Merry drama-filled God-redeemed Christmas!
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.