A. Philip are I are also going to try out something different this morning. We are going to preach this sermon together.
B. Today is the beginning of advent. This year we will be focusing on the story of Christ’s birth according to the gospel of Matthew. And Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus.
1. Instead of skipping this and pretending it’s not here, let’s assume the Holy Spirit put it here for us for a reason. Let’s see what God might be saying to us through it.
2. There is nothing more Christmasy as cuddling up with a nice genealogy.
C. Now Philip is going to come up to read the passage and then preach the first half of the sermon, after which I will come back and preach the second half.
II. Philip’s part (unavailable)
III. The first thing you notice is that there are some world-class sinners on this list. The more famous ones, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah & his brothers, David and Solomon: most of us already know about their sins.
A. And then there’s the lesser-knowns, like Rehoboam, whose sin drove the northern tribes to rebellion, and his son Abijah, who continued in the sinful ways of his father,
B. Joram, who married the wicked Athaliah and caused Judah to worship Baal,
C. Ahaz, who sacrificed his own son to a pagan god,
D. Manasseh, the most wicked king who ever ruled in Jerusalem, who sacrificed his own son in the fire to the pagan god Molech, and his other son, Amon, who also worshiped idols,
E. Jeconiah (Jehoiachin), who, even in the face of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem, did not repent.
IV. Not only was Jesus the friend of sinners, He was the relative of sinners, the descendent of sinners
A. Jesus was willing to become a part of a sinful humanity. He willingly entered into a messed-up dysfunctional family known as the family of man. The genealogy of Jesus is enough to show us why Jesus had to come!
B. This prepares us for the story of the humiliation of Christ’s incarnation .
1. He wasn’t just born in a humble place surrounded by humble people. He wasn’t just laid to sleep in an animal trough. He wasn’t just born into a poor family. He didn’t just have lowly shepherds as the witnesses of His arrival. But He was also born into a very imperfect and very humble family tree, a motley crew, a sordid collection of characters.
C. Herod the Great had his genealogical records destroyed so that no one would know the characters he was related to. But Jesus was not ashamed to be identified with us.
1. He was willing to be put on the same list along with us in all our sin and shame. He entered into our humanity, into our distress, into our temptation, into our burden, into our cursed world.
2. He did not step back and say, “Ew! I’ll have to save these people with a ten foot pole.” He was willing to step down into the muck of our humanity. He was willing to climb down into the filth of our world and the stench of our corruption and place His holy hands upon our unholiness.
3. He touched the leper! With His holy hands, He touched the leper! Other people touched a leper and became unclean. But when Jesus touched a leper, the leper became clean!
4. And that leper is me. And that leper is you.
D. It may be too hard for some people to believe the holy Son of God could be kin to such a disreputable family. But here it is! The Lord’s genealogy beckons those who are broken by sin, who have made a mess of their lives: "Come and join the family of Jesus!"
1. We don’t make Jesus unclean by being part of His family; He makes US clean!
2. In Jesus’ family portrait, there’s room for you and me too!
E. He meets people where they are. He is still the friend of sinners. He still identifies Himself with those whose lives are a mess.
1. He didn’t come for the righteous, but for sinners (Matt.9:13).
2. “Come ye sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore. Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power. He is able, He is able, He is able, He is willing, doubt no more. He is willing, doubt no more...Not the righteous, not the righteous, not the righteous! Sinners Jesus came to call! Sinners Jesus came to call!” – Joseph Hart
V. The second thing you notice is four women on the list. Three charts
A. Four women inserted into the list, who didn’t need to be there in order to trace the line of Jesus
1. Tamar: Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar
2. Rahab: Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab
3. Ruth: Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth
4. Bathsheba: David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah
B. In three ways their presence on this list is surprising:
1. They are women: this is rare, though not unheard of.
2. Three of the women are associated with sexual morality: one was a prostitute (Rahab), one (Tamar) posed as a prostitute and slept with & bore twin sons to her own father-in-law, and then there’s Bathsheba, whose story isn’t pretty, as you know.
3. 3 were Gentiles by birth, the 4th (Bathsheba) Gentile by marriage (Gentile = not a Jew/Israelite).
C. So, we’re faced with the question of why Matthew mentioned these women in this genealogy.
1. If it were just about including women, Matthew could have mentioned many others, including great heroines like Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel.
a. Not only this, but Matthew shows no zeal in the rest of his epistle to promote women, in contrast with Luke who does go out of his way to exalt women in his gospel.
2. If he included them to highlight their sin, Ruth doesn’t fit.
a. And much could have been made of the men, some of whom were notorious sinners. If Matthew’s goal was to highlight the sin of this list, he didn’t need to add women at all.
b. And when Matthew wrote this, all of these women were heroes of virtue to the Jews, none was known primarily for their immorality.
3. It seems to me that Matthew included them to highlight the Gentiles having a place in the family of Jesus.
a. The gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews. And it seems to me most likely that Matthew is trying to help his fellow Jews with the idea of including the Gentiles. Here’s why:
b. If Matthew wanted to include Gentiles in the genealogy, he had to add some women, because all the men were Jews. So, the fact that they are women might be incidental.
c. These four women are the only Gentiles (that I know of) in the line of the ancestors of Jesus. The reason no other women are mentioned seems to be that they were all Israelites.
d. One of the four women he mentions, Bathsheba, wasn’t born a Gentile but was a Gentile by marriage. And instead of giving us the name she was given by her Jewish father, she’s referred to as, “the wife of Uriah,” Uriah being her Gentile husband. By using only her husband’s name, Matthew seems to be emphasizing her Gentileness.
e. If this is the reason why Matthew includes these women, this also connects with the next chapter, where the Gentile magi come to give homage to the newborn Christ, and then Joseph, Mary and Jesus depart from Israel and flee to Egypt.
f. And there are many other things in Matthew’s gospel which highlight the inclusion of the Gentiles: the stories of the faith of a Centurion (8:5ff.) and of the Syro-Phoenician woman (15:21ff.), and the parables of the two sons (21:28ff.), the tenants (21:33ff.), and the wedding feast (22:1ff.).
g. And the book ends with the great commission: to take the gospel to all the nations (28:18-20).
D. What does this mean for us?
1. As Gentiles, we were outsiders, but we were welcomed in by the grace of Christ: “You were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:12–13
2. And now we must be careful about how we treat others, especially others who are strange to us.
3. Woe to us if we become insiders who refuse to welcome others in because they’re not like us.
4. Only when we realize who we are and how far Jesus had to extend Himself to reach us will we begin to be willing to touch others in the spirit of Christ.
E. So, we see that the genealogy is a fitting beginning to the story of Christ coming. It roots Jesus in His ancestral and historical context; it vividly portrays the corrupt human context into which He came; it prepares us for a gospel that is designed to cross barriers and bring people together who are separated by things like language and ethnicity and culture.