Jesus was born King of the Jews. In fact, he was King of the universe. If it had been me, I would have chosen to do things completely differently. In fact, I probably would never have been born into this wicked, dirty world at all. I think I would have just descended in a cloud, maybe with some fire and lightning for visual effects. Birth is a messy process. Life on earth is a ugly. And oftentimes relatives and friends don’t make things any better. This was certainly the case with Jesus. His lineage was a mess.
All five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, the Gospel to the Jews, had serious problems that would have disqualified them from inclusion in any respectable Jew’s lineage. Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes. Ruth was a despised Gentile. Bathsheba was an adulteress. And Mary had her child out of wedlock and was nearly stoned as a fornicator. The funny thing is, women weren’t usually listed in Hebrew genealogies, so these five were almost on display.
The men aren’t any better, murderers, adulterers, and idolaters, for the most part. All of them made serious mistakes, even Abraham, David, Hezekiah, and Josiah. If I was a first-century Jew telling the story of a great man like Jesus, I would be tempted to leave the genealogy on the cutting room floor. Perhaps I’d mention the line of wicked kings, because, at least they were kings. But not the women. Not in a respectable Jewish genealogy of that time.
Fortunately, God does not see things like we do. Jesus’ ancestors don’t make Him great. It’s the other way around. God brought His Son into the world at the end of a line of hopeless sinners who were currently slaves of the Gentile empire of Rome. His pedigree fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah, but really, no one would have expected the line of the Messiah to include someone like Mary. No palace, no riches for His birth. Just a shed in a cave out behind the inn in the little shepherd-town of Bethlehem. Crazy.
What can we learn from this? God is definitely not a respector of persons. He is not looking for me to be righteous apart from Him. He wants me to recognize my brokenness and poverty without Him. And He wants to redeem me by His own righteousness. He values me for what He’s made, not the mess I’ve made of it. The line of Jesus is a mess, but it ends well. He became the progenitor of a long line of righteous people who got their goodness the only way that really works: direct from God. I’m so thankful my bloodline connects me to Him, not to my past any more!