Family trees are full of fascinating people with stories. Most of us come from humble stock, ordinary people with ordinary lives. The interesting stuff comes out in the stories that get passed from generation to generation. The stories reveal who was either noteworthy or notorious!
Jesus’ family tree was no different. He had noteworthy relatives and quite a few notorious ones! That should give all of us hope! It also reveals that God works with, in, and through anyone!
Jesus’ family tree is delineated in Matthew 1:1-17. Knowing your family tree was essential and was an important part of your identity. Of course, there are a few interesting tidbits in Jesus’ family tree.
We notice right off that Jesus’ roots go all the way back to Abraham. But not far into his line we come across a woman, quite unusual for the patriarchal culture. Not only is a woman mentioned, a notorious woman is highlighted! Tamar posed as a prostitute with the intent to seduce her father-in-law, which she did, bearing twins, Perez and Zerah. An auspicious start of the family tree suddenly becomes an intrigue.
Not too much further down the tree, and we come across another woman, Rahab. Rahab is not only a prostitute – a real prostitute, not a posing prostitute – but from an idolatrous people. She wasn’t even an Israelite! We also find Ruth, another foreigner.
When we reach the section of kings, we are first confronted with David. The famous, adulterous King David. David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah. And then we come across a bunch of terrible, wicked kings.
Ahaz was irresolute and impressionable, easily succumbing to the religion and politics of the Assyrians. When in Damascus, swearing homage to the Assyrian king and his gods, he took a liking to the altar there and had one like it made in Jerusalem. This brought about a corresponding change in ritual, which he made a permanent feature of the Temple worship. Ahaz fitted up an astrological observatory with accompanying sacrifices, after the fashion of the ruling people. It’s also recorded that he offered up his son for fire sacrifice. You can find his riveting story in 2 Kings 16; Isaiah 7-9; and 2 Chronicles 28.
Manasseh was the son of the popular, righteous king, Hezekiah. He ruled the longest of any of the kings, 55 years, but reversed many of the reforms his father had made. He re-instituted polytheistic worship, the free adoption of foreign cults, and the bitter persecution of the prophetic party. Another notorious branch on the Jesus family tree.
While we learn some about the notorious and noteworthy people in Jesus’ family, we learn even more about God. God is gracious to everyone, even prostitutes and adulterers. God may have had a covenant relationship with the Israelites, but that did not preclude God from working with and through foreigners and strangers, aka immigrants! God uses unlikely people and unlikely circumstances to bring about God’s purposes. A God who is truly with us and for us.