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A Trace of Grace
Have you ever been curious about your own family ancestry and roots? Or are you like me, always reading on influential and famous people’s background? There is a deep sense inside of each person to know where we come from, our ancestry because it would grant us clue of the family legacy we belong to. It is no wonder that genealogy search services are on high demand and ranks high as hobby in North America. One website has 96 million global users looking up their heritage!
Everyone has a family tree, and some with an interesting and “colorful” ancestry. Even Jesus’ Himself had one. In our Modern day, we require digital database to trace up our origins but during Old Testament the Holy Spirit inspired Jewish writers to record genealogies that would later establish Jesus as the promised and prophesized Messiah (Isaiah 9:6), tracing his ancestry back to Abraham, the father of the Israelites and King David (Matthew 1:1).
It is easy to gloss over Jesus’ genealogy recorded in Mathew 1 and Luke 3, but we must resist the urge to skip over names and the “who begot who”. Instead, we ought to study at Christ’s genealogy with the same curiosity we would as our own heritage. The Gospel writer Matthew records Jesus’ genealogy in a very special way giving insight into the Nativity story, leading us to understand God’s upper story, seeing the thread of His deep grace for humanity, and us personally, through His Son, Jesus.
We see a trace of God’s grace in:
3 Jewish Historical Eras
This genealogy is divided into 3 sets of names. The first set delineates history from Abraham to King David, where God’s grace was extended as the nation of Israel grew in numbers and spiritually (Matthew 1:1-6). The second set points Israel’s history from days of King Solomon and when nation of Israel starts to fall and ends in captive in Babylon – which God allowed due to their sins, yet He never abandoned them in bondage (Matthew 1:7-11). The third section of genealogy weaved by His grace leads to sending Jesus Christ, the Messiah, into this world through Joseph and Mary. God was ready to rescue humanity from sin and so we can regain fellowship with Him. This pattern resembles our spiritual walk – through our triumph or tragedy, God’s grace will lead us back to Jesus.
2 Influential yet imperfect men
The heading of the genealogy in Matthew 1:1 starts with “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, and the son of Abraham.” Both Abraham and David were considered men of faith, seeking after God’s heart (Romans 4:11; 1 Samuel 13:14). Yet both committed sins and great mistakes, just like any of us. Abraham out of fear for his life lied to pagan kings presenting his wife Sarah as his sister and failed to honor God and protect his spouse. The second part of David’s life was marked with sin once he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then murdered her husband to cover his back. Yet in God’s grace, He chose these two men, Abraham as a father of Israel, and David as King from whom the Messiah would come from! God gave them unmerited favor and included them into this lineage.
5 disgraced and outcast women
To the Jewish reader this genealogy is exceedingly scandalous for various reasons. First, by tradition only men should be included in these generational records, yet Matthew draws attention to 5 ladies who were disgraced due to their actions or circumstances, or just for being gentiles. Also, in Jewish and Hebrew culture women “were stashed at the bottom with slaves and Children” (203, Kraybill). By including these women into Jesus’ historical lineage, God is demonstrating that men and women are equally important to Him.
Tamar – A Canaanite who deceived her father-in-law, Judah, disguising herself as a prostitute to bear sons. Her husband had died and not having children would be considered as a divine punishment (204, Kraybill). Despite this messy situation, God’s grace over this family was abundant, and Tamar’s sons, Judah, and herself were chosen to be part of Jesus’ story and lineage (Genesis 28).
Rahab – A Canaanite and professional prostitute. She saw an opportunity to protect the two spies coming into Canaan, Joshua, and Caleb, and put her faith in the God of Israel. Through His abundant grace, God ensured her and family’s livelihood by sparing their lives when Jericho was destroyed (Joshua 2:1-21; 6:22-25). Rahab became King David’s great-great-great grandmother!
Ruth – A Moabite who married into a Jewish family and end up losing her husband and her father-in-law, which left her to be an outcast in society. Instead of staying in Moab, she decides to follow her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, back into God’s land, and by God’s grace is welcomed to remain, marrying a godly husband, and becoming the grandmother of King David.
Bathsheba – She was the wife of Uriah, one of King David’s lead soldier, and victim of an unsolicited affair with King David. Bathsheba most probably did not have any power to refuse King’s advancements given the lower status ascribed to women during those times, and the great power of the King. They both conceive a baby as a result who later died. God’s grace was evident after this affair, and David’s repentant heart. They bore Solomon who is part of Jesus’ Messianic lineage.
Mary – An ordinary young woman, chosen by God to bear the Messiah by the Holy Spirit. To the outsiders and Joseph, before receiving a dream from God, it would have been a disgrace for her to be pregnant before being married, though betrothed to his fiancé. God bestowed upon her such great grace with privilege to bear Jesus as the savior who would take our sins to give us freedom (Matthew 1:16).
What a wonderful trace of the Grace of God through history and imperfect people, messy lives, and scandalous reputations. You might identify with Jesus’ relatives in his family tree, or perhaps you wonder if the skeletons in your family’s closet precludes you from God’s love. The good news is that the same grace is available to you and I – the unmerited favor of God, where He takes initiative to pursue us despite our sins, and expresses his love in the action of sending Jesus to pay for the penalty of our wrongdoings. His grace remedies our inability to become righteous and allows us to be born again as new creature in Him. Grace has a name – His name is Jesus who came to this earth through a very human lineage so he can identify in our weakness but redeems for eternity.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
1 Kryabill, Donald B. “The Upside Down Kingdom”