Thursday 17 December 2015

Bible Book:

"An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac ..." (vv. 1-2)

Matthew 1:1-17 Thursday 17 December 2015

Psalm: Psalm 72


The BBC genealogy series - Who do you think you are? - takesfamous people and delves into their past to discover the storiesand scandals hidden away in their family tree. Actor Kevin Whatelyuncovered an 18th-century ancestor who was a turkey trader, andchef Rick Stein travelled to China in the footsteps of his greatgrandfather - a 19th-century Methodist missionary. 

This can all make for very compelling TV, but does where we comefrom really have anything to do with who we are today? With thislong list of Jesus' ancestors, the author of Matthew's Gospel seemsto think so. 

But how many of us are really interested in reading long lists ofnames that may or may not be familiar to us? When I get to any partof the Bible that features a list, I tend to either skip right overit, or just skim the words - not really taking anything spiritualfrom it at all. So why does Matthew choose to open his Gospel withjust such a list? 

Most scholars agree that the author was Jewish, and was writing fora predominantly Jewish audience. In order for this audience to bepersuaded that Jesus was the Messiah, they had to be reassured thathe was descended from David, with the royal blood of KingSolomon. 

But the list of names that we recognise as real people from thebiblical text also emphasises Jesus' full humanity - he was a fleshand blood person, born to a real family, with all the complexitythat being part of a human family brings. 

It is in this context that Matthew wanted people to read the restof the Gospel knowing that Jesus was both the Messiah (the one sentfrom God, for whom they had been waiting) and a full human being,born of a great long line of interesting people. 

Out of the four women included in the family tree, three areGentiles (non-Jews), something that a 1st century Jewish readercan't have expected. Perhaps in this gentle way Matthew hints atthe inclusion of Gentiles in the kingdom of heaven, as well as thefact that the working out of God's purpose doesn't always fit withwhat we might expect. This inclusion of gentiles in Jesus'genealogy means that we can all be a part of this holyfamily. 

To Ponder

  • Matthew's account of Jesus' geneaology is different from theone that can be found in Luke's Gospel. Do you think thismatters?
  • To what extent is Jesus' family tree still relevant to ustoday?
  • Does where we come from - our family connections and hometerritories - really matter? Why, or why not?
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