The Family Tree
The LORD said, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:17-18
What kind of people would you expect to find in Jesus Christ’s genealogy? Saintly paragons of virtue? There aren’t any of those. In fact, some were people you’d want to hide, those proverbial “skeletons in your closet”! Our merciful God used ordinary flawed people (like us) to bring about the extraordinary birth of His Son.
Genealogies seem boring—all those names, many unpronounceable. But Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is definitely not boring when you study it. On close examination, you’ll see that it’s not a typical family tree with branches from both sides of the family and twigs that represent all the siblings. This genealogy is a straight line from Abraham to Jesus, from father (and sometimes mother) to one child to one child, and so on.
Unlike most ancient Jewish genealogies, Matthew includes the names of five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife), and Mary. And the line of descent doesn’t always run through the oldest son.
Matthew’s genealogy begins with a miraculous birth. Abraham, who was a hundred years old, and Sarah, who was ninety, produced a child. Impossible! But they received a promise, “Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:14). Isaac was born nine months later just as God had promised.
God had told Abraham, “I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you” (Genesis 17:6). Abraham only had one child with Sarah; Isaac was the child of God’s promise, the heir that began the Messiah’s line of descent from Abraham.
At the end of Matthew’s genealogy, by an even greater miracle, a virgin named Mary conceived a child by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus.
But God’s family tree doesn’t end there. By another miraculous birth—a spiritual birth—believers become children of Abraham, God’s children (Galatians 3:6 -7). That fulfills the promise to Abraham that all nations on earth will be blessed through his offspring, that is, through Jesus Christ.
This year don’t skip over the genealogies in the Christmas story. Read them and rejoice! Then celebrate your placement in God’s family tree.
Read Romans 9:1-8 and Galatians 3:6-9.What does Paul say about the children of the promise, God’s children?
Does it surprise you to find ordinary, flawed people in the genealogy of Jesus? Why should that please you? Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.
Luke also gives a genealogy of Jesus. Read Luke 3:23-38. How is his different from Matthew’s? What do you think Luke is trying to emphasize?
Nancy J. Baker