Minister’s Letter – December 2019
1This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers…
5Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife…
12After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel…
15Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (Matthew 1 NIVUK, select verses).
We all come from somewhere. We all have parents, a hometown, a place to which we belong.
Although I have an interest in history, I must confess this has rarely extended to my family history. I know who all my great-grandparents were; I know that I am (supposedly…!) a distant relative of Rob Roy McGregor; I know that the surname “Love” is a sept of the MacKinnon Clan (again, supposedly – the history of Clans and names can get a bit dubious!).
I cannot trace my family line past a few generations. Indeed, few people can: bar those who put in a great deal of time, effort and energy. Even on programmes like, “Who Do You Think You Are?”, someone else has done all the work: the famous person just needs to turn up and be surprised by their family history.
This was not the case back in Ancient Israel. People were defined by their past. There was no such thing as a “surname” – it was your parentage that defined you. I would be known as “Stuart, son of Robin, son of Robert”. And my own reputation would not be enough: the reputation of my father and grandfather would also impact on me.
It’s why Matthew (and Luke) include in their Gospels the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew in particular was writing to a Jewish audience: he was saying to them “Look, this man called Jesus wasn’t some weird outsider: He is one of us! He can trace His family not just to King David, but all the way back directly to Abraham too! He came from God’s Chosen People to save all people!”
Today, with less emphasis on parentage, we perhaps lose the significance of Jesus’ genealogy. But it still matters – hugely! And here is why…
Someone from my days at college told me he had a friend who came to faith from reading Jesus’ genealogy. I was sceptical. He explained what his friend had seen, and what I had missed; “Look at the names. Jacob tricked his brother; Rahab was a prostitute; David was an adulterer and a murderer. If God can use such a bunch of wasters, think of how He can use me!”
If God can use such a bunch of wasters, think of how He can use us!
May you have a blessed Advent and Christmas when it comes.