Genealogy Matters: Ordinary People Who Resulted in an Extraordinary Genealogy

The whole genealogy thing is really popular right now. People are looking at their DNA to see where they came from, what their genetic makeup is. Apparently there are hidden clues for each of us that can help us understand who we are!
Well, if that’s so, think about this: have you ever wondered who Jesus of Nazareth really was? Where he came from? If you’ve ever read his teachings, you know he was something special, but I find it fascinating that his ancestry was preserved with such passion and detail. Look into it, and you will find Ordinary, Everyday People. And an Extraordinary Genealogy.

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, NIV) Mathew (also known as Levi, the former tax collector) begins his biography of Jesus in a logical Hebrew fashion: he recounts his genealogy. This makes sense because patriarchal lineage was incredibly important in Israel, and every schoolboy could tell you who his father’s father’s father was, going back through multiple generations. Patriarchal Lineage was important. “Who’s your Daddy?” was important in Jerusalem two thousand years ago…

genealogy tree

In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, however, there is something very surprising. Read it and see if it stands out to you: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother (Bathsheba) had been Uriah’s wife…” (Matthew 1:3, 5-6 NIV)

What do Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and then Mary have in common? If you read Matthew 1, you’ll find they are the only women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. It’s not an aberration that there were so few; what is remarkable is that a Jewish genealogy mentioned ANY. Luke’s genealogy doesn’t mention females. Hebrew family trees were usually only traced back through the fathers, so they did not normally include any women.

Matthew, whose gospel was written for a Jewish audience, presented Jesus as the Messiah who had been foretold in the Scriptures, as the promised King who would lead Israel… Yet he departs from Hebrew tradition in the opening stanza of his narrative. It might be instructive to look at their stories and ask, why does Matthew include females in a patriarchal list normally populated with only men? Why do these women stand out? Why are they mentioned specifically and centrally in the most amazing story within the best-selling book of all time? Why are these women, normally marginalized and relegated to the kitchen in ancient Middle Eastern culture, placed upon center stage in Matthew’s Jewish gospel?

As we enter the season of Advent, it is worthwhile to consider the circumstances around the birth of Jesus. Matthew’s unique introduction gives us something to ponder as we look at the arrival of the baby whose birth in an obscure place in a relatively primitive time has absolutely changed all of human history.

As you read the story of Jesus, never forget that God often chooses unlikely and little-known candidates to change history. Never forget that the next candidate might be YOU. Perhaps your influence in the unfolding drama of history is even now being scripted and will yet bear fruit beyond your wildest expectations. After all, it happened to Mary and Joseph. It could happen to you or one of your children’s children. Remember: you read it here first.

Genealogy Matters

The mystery of history is that the genealogy
Of Jesus out of Galilee defied conventionality,
The cultural philosophy, and practice of philology.
Matthew’s careful document somehow put several women in it!
The genealogy was bent, a thing which he could not have meant
To prove the Christ was heaven-sent!
Yet there they are, genealogical sleuth:
Bathsheba, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, recorded in the book of Truth!
Perhaps, if this was meant to be, it means God changes history
With folks who aren’t celebrities, but people just like you and me.
Within your genealogy, what changes will yet come to be?
What names will people someday see, and what will be your legacy?
They say the truth will set you free: investigate this, friend, and see…

 

My book contains a full month of Advent reflections and interesting facts about the birth and life of Jesus. To purchase Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

From Publican to Apostle: the Scandalous Invitation That Shocked the Whole Nation

The Gospel of Mark recorded a scandalous invitation which must have shocked everyone who heard about it: “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” (Mark 2:14 ASV)

On the surface this verse doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but there are several things that make it noteworthy. First, look at Levi the son of Alphaeus. He is known to us as Matthew, who was probably the brother of another apostle, James the son of Alphaeus (who was known as James “the less” to differentiate him from James the son of Zebedee). He was identified as a publican or tax collector, and was sitting in the toll booth extracting fees from his fellow Israelites when Jesus called him.

Matthew was not the kind of guy who would have received an invitation to any of the church socials at the local synagogue… Nobody in Jewish society liked the guys sitting in the tax booths! Because they worked for the Romans, tax collectors were among the most despised of all Hebrews. In Luke 18, when Jesus compares the self-righteousness of a Pharisee’s prayer to the lowest sort of man imaginable, he picks someone who all of his Jewish listeners would have agreed was the worst kind of human: a tax collector.

scandalous invitation

That’s exactly how a good Jewish citizen would have thought of Levi, sitting there in the toll booth collecting taxes—and yet that’s who Jesus called and gave an invitation to follow him. By calling Matthew, he demonstrated that his followers don’t have to be perfect; in fact they can be FAR LESS than perfect…

So Jesus called this tax collector to be a disciple, but understand that Matthew made good money and had a lot of friends; they just weren’t the kind of folks acceptable in the local churches. When Matthew throws a party for Jesus (Matthew 9), the Pharisees are quick to condemn Jesus for hanging out with “tax collectors and sinners”, since in their eyes those people were one and the same.

The calling of Matthew tells us that there is often more to someone than meets the eye, that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge, and that Jesus did not call his followers based on status, position, or religiosity. He calls anyone and everyone who will repent and follow him. His startling recruitment of a lowly publican sent shock waves through the Jewish world; it also ultimately gave us the book of Matthew, a historic work of epic proportions.

The second noteworthy thing in this verse has to do with Matthew and his response to Jesus’ invitation. As a tax collector, he was probably wealthy. He lived in a nice house, and apart from the social ostracism he endured, probably had a pretty nice life from a material point of view. The latest fashion, lots of parties and plenty of friends. He had running water, a patio with a view, a nice car, a 70” HDTV, and a good sound system. (Ok I am probably stretching a little here). But leaving his job to follow Jesus, (a relative newcomer who was really not connected with the powers that be in Jerusalem), meant that Matthew had to leave his wealth and security to answer Jesus’ call.

Now think about this: This was BEFORE everything about Jesus had been revealed, before everyone knew who Jesus really was, and Levi (Matthew) the tax collector just up and left his job to go with him… He didn’t yet have proof about Jesus being the Son of God, but he saw potential, and he responded immediately to the invitation.

What if Jesus asked you today to leave your high paying job and your future and your place in society to follow him? What would you think? Do you see potential? What if Jesus gave YOU the invitation: “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”? (Matthew 16:24)

Guess what? He already has…

The Jewish world was shocked to find
That Jesus must have lost his mind,
Or deviated from the truth by calling Matthew from his booth!
Why, such a man was less than scum!
A traitorous, tax-collecting bum
Who helped the Romans get their tax. Why, such a man deserved the axe!
Yet Matthew went and shocked them all
By stepping out to Jesus’ call,
And leaving all his worldly wealth to go pursue his spiritual health.
He threw a party for his friends
To join a world that never ends!
But Matthew followed Christ. And look! We have his really awesome book
That helps us understand and see
“Take up your cross and follow me.”
Jesus called Matthew on the way;
He’s calling you and me today.
When he calls you: what will you say?

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread