God is not ashamed to call us His children
The most boring portion of the Christmas story in the Bible has got to be the list of Jesus’ ancestors. As it turns out, though, the most scandalous portion of the Christmas story in the Bible may also be the list of Jesus’ ancestors.
It has been said, “Shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out.”
That statement is certainly true of my family tree. I grew up hearing reports of my ancestors ruling a Scottish castle in ancient days. In fact, the castle is proudly featured on the cover of every Elliot Clan newsletter. When I traveled to Scotland, I made it a point to visit this family castle. When I asked the castle docent about my family’s report of owning the castle, he laughed and verified that my ancestors did, indeed, rule the castle, but only for a few hours—after my ancestors broke out of the castle prison and took control of the castle while brokering a deal for their release from the prison.
Our nation recently fell in love with the musical “Hamilton.” Well, it was a relative of mine who shot Hamilton to death…after fixing the pistols used in the duel.
Another relative financed his move to California by stealing the company payroll from the Confederate troop he had been assigned to.
More recently, an ancestor fled England after killing an opponent in a bare-knuckle boxing match.
Some people react to scandalous genealogies with shame, and they try to cover up the skeletons in their genealogical closet. For example, what do you do about an uncle who was sentenced to death for murder? According to an article in the Mayflower Quarterly, “The children of a prominent family chose to give the patriarch a book of their family’s history. The biographer they hired was warned of one problem. Uncle Willie, the ‘Black Sheep,’ had gone to Sing-Sing’s electric chair for murder. The writer carefully handled the situation in the following way: ‘Uncle Willie occupied a chair of applied electronics at one of our nation’s most famous institutions. He was attached to his position by the strongest of ties. His death came as a true shock.’”
Herod the Great shared similar worries about his own ancestry. Rather than hiring a creative writer, he destroyed his entire genealogical record so that his ancestry might not be compared negatively to anyone else’s.
The Bible includes no such cover-up when it comes to Jesus’ genealogy. In fact, Matthew almost seems to go out of his way to highlight the scandals in Jesus’ family tree. He points our attention to Perez “whose mother was Tamar.” Tamar was married to Judah’s son Er. When Er died young, Tamar was given to Judah’s next son, Onan. But Onan also died young. Judah blamed Tamar, so he refused to give her to his third son, Shelah. This left Tamar alone in the world, with no way to produce a legitimate child. She took matters into her own hands. She pretended to be a prostitute while Judah was passing by. He slept with her, and she gave birth to twin boys; one of whom was Perez.
And Matthew points our attention to Boaz “whose mother was Rahab.” Rahab was a Canaanite in Jericho and is identified in Scripture as a prostitute.
Matthew also highlights Obed “whose mother was Ruth.” Ruth is identified as a Moabite, which means she was a descendant of Moab who was a son of Lot by means of incest.
And he draws our attention to Solomon “whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” Uriah’s wife had been taken advantage of sexually by King David. David then arranged for the death of Uriah, hoping that no one would discover that David was the father of her baby.
Here’s the bad news: Jesus’ family tree is full of scandals!
Here’s the good news: If God is not ashamed to include such scandals in Jesus’ ancestry, we can know that He is not ashamed to include us in His family. We need not be scared away from Jesus by the scandals or failure of our lives. God welcomes us into His family not on the basis of how good or faultless we may be but on the basis of how expansive His love for us is! “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)