The Gospel of Matthew begins its Christmas story not with the familiar “Once Upon a Time”, but with an ancient resume, his genealogy. Unlike a modern resume in our individualistic culture that lists what we alone have accomplished, a genealogy of that time acknowledges that who we are is in large part a result of our family background. We don’t live in a vacuum; our families heavily influence who we are and who we become. These genealogies (common during that time) were attempts to demonstrate one’s significance and character by listing those important people who came before. What is interesting about Jesus’ resume is that it lists 5 women. This was unheard of at the time since women didn’t have any legal standing and by all intents and purposes treated like property in the first century. Those women listed are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (although her name is not listed, she is indicated as “the wife of Uriah”), and Mary.
What’s even more interesting are the stories around the three of these women. Tamar was prostitute, Ruth was a foreigner, and Bathsheba the wife of another man. Wrap you mind around that for a second … Jesus’s resume listed a prostitute, a foreigner, and a woman who participated in adultery. God flips our expectations of who has value and welcomes all into his family, quite literally. When we want to judge others for the mistakes they make or because of whom we think they are, God welcomes them, no matter who the world says they are.
This “resume” also tells us that the Christian life is not about good advice, but about “good news!” Some would argue that if only you do certain things and live in such a way, you will gain salvation. But the follower of Christ knows that this just isn’t so. David, the greatest King of Israel is listed in the genealogy, but his most appalling act is alluded to in his sending Uriah to the front lines of a battle where he would most likely die, so that he could take Bathsheba as his wife. This is certainly not advice that should be taken. The good news for us is that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, you can always be met by the grace and love of God. You can be in the family! That is how Matthew starts his Christmas story and its Good News indeed!
Painting by Merle Hugues, "Ruth in the Fields" (1876).
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)