Advent: Women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ
Please read: Matthew 1: 1-17
In my earlier post, I pointed out the vital significance of the genealogy of Jesus and that it is so inviting and empowering for ordinary people like you and me. In continuing our reflection on the genealogy, today, I want to bring your attention to the women mentioned in the genealogy by Saint Matthew.
You see, Jewish society was a patriarchal society. Women did not enjoy an equal status with men. Therefore, with rare exceptions, only male line used to be traced in the ancestry as only the father’s line was considered vital for the lineage. According to the Talmud, “A mother’s family is not to be called a family.” This explains why only the names of men appear in most genealogies. Whenever the names of women appear, they’re mentioned in passing. However, Matthew, even though he wrote for a Jewish audience, breaks with the Jewish tradition as he mentions four women beside Mary in his genealogy in chapter one. The mention of these four women is conspicuous: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. I think Matthew selected these four women to offer his readers four case studies of the grace of God in action. All four of these women experienced the grace of God in a special way and show us examples of the justification and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s economy of salvation.
- The first woman, Tamar, seduced her father-in-law for an incestuous offspring (Genesis 38).
- Rahab, a Canaanite woman, was a prostitute from the city of Jericho. Due to her act of helping Joshua and the people of Israel take over the city of Jericho (cf. Joshua 2 and 6), she’s not only mentioned in Jesus’ ancestry but also included in “the hall of faith” in Hebrews 11: 31.
- Ruth, a virtuous Moabite woman, followed her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, to Israel after the death her Jewish husband. She got married to Boaz whose father Salmon himself had married a Canaanite woman (Ruth 1-4).
- The fourth woman, Bathsheba, was the wife of Uriah, a soldier in the army of King David and with whom David later committed adultery (2 Samuel 11).
The reference to these women in the genealogy of Jesus is to show us that God’s grace is abundant and available for sinners and saints alike. No matter how wicked, sinful, and ignoble our past may be, God’s mercy can make us part of his Kingdom. God’s mighty work of grace can make life beautiful for us as well as for others. God’s forgiveness and abundant grace can save women like Rahab and use them for the sake of his Kingdom and make them part of his Son’s genealogy. This should encourage many of us today who might be in a similar situation or had a dishonorable past life. Trust in God’s forgiveness as you turn to him today in nothing but repentance and faith. Matthew insists that if prostitutes and children of adultery, harlots, and incest can be forgiven, justified, sanctified, and used by God for his purposes; then, certainly God can use you today for his glory if you are available for him. Glory to God!
Advent: Genealogy of Jesus Christ is inviting and empowering
Please read Matthew 1: 1-17 and Luke 3: 23-38
Two Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke give us the genealogies of Jesus Christ. They have different approaches; therefore, their genealogies differ from each others. The Gospel of Matthew makes a great deal of the genealogy of Jesus Christ before describing his birth in Bethlehem. Matthew, in fact, is quite comprehensive in relating the lineage of Jesus Christ. If you are honest, you may confess that more often than not you have skipped the reading when it comes to the genealogies. Come on, who is interested in reading about begettings and who wants to know who was the father of whom? These genealogies are, however, very significant to the birth narrative of Jesus. The gospel writer wants to show us that in the birth of Jesus Christ, God is acting in accordance with his past actions in the history. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is consistent with God’s dealings with historical people such as Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, and David. The incarnation of God in Bethlehem in the form of a baby is not an abrupt action of God out of his desperation to save the world. Rather, this narrative of Jesus has a beginning even before his birth and has a sequence, too.
The beginning and the sequence of the story of Jesus are both very interesting and insightful. To relate just one example, the beginning of the story has all sorts of people who make the ancestry of Jesus—both saints as well as sinners. God has used in the past both scheming as well as noble people, the righteous and the not-so-righteous people, the blue-blooded Jews as well as the not-so-pure a bloodline. This is what makes these genealogies “good news” for the gospel writer and their immediate audience as well as for us today! This story of Jesus, which has a beginning, also has a sequence in the same way. God the Father has continued to work through the same mélange even after the birth of Jesus. This is clearly visible in the gospel narratives about disciples with whom Jesus worked and who carried out the mission of Christ to the ends of the world in those days. They were the same kind of people as we notice in the beginning of the ancestry of Jesus. They were real people with successes and failures…with great love and passion for the Lord as well at times when they botched up everything. You might also notice that toward the end of Matthew’s genealogy included are some people conspicuous by their insignificance and ignobility. This, in fact, is very encouraging to me in this Advent season. I believe, we should deliberately include a reading of the genealogies in our Scriptures readings in the church as well as in our personal devotions during the Advent. It is because of these genealogies that we have hope and assurance of our place and role in the salvation story of Jesus Christ. You and I, who may be unknown to the world and feel ourselves insignificant, are the very essential part of the sequence of the story of God. You may feel today that you are too insignificant and too riffraff to contribute anything to the continuing sequence of the ever-expanding story of Jesus Christ. But the past beginning of this wonderful story proves otherwise. The past beginning provides us hope, confidence, destiny and an opportunity to get involved in what God is doing in and for the world. It is an empowering and enabling genealogy and it invites you to come and get involved with God than watch and wait on the sidelines. May you heed to this invitation of the Holy Spirit in your life, today.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.