UNcensored & UNashamed: The Women of Christmas- A Sordid Past

uncensored-612x612-instagramUncensored and Unashamed:  The Women of Christmas
A Sordid Past: The Women of Jesus’ Family Tree
(Blog Adapted from Sermon notes)
In our home, the Christmas decorating comes a day or two after Thanksgiving.  We all work together to get the decorations up around the house (OK, my wife does most of the work) and then we come together to decorate the Christmas tree as a family.  As we begin pulling out and hanging up the ornaments, there is a familiar pattern. 
The ornaments everybody loves go front and center, the ones we are not crazy about go in in the back, and the ones that we don’t like at all, are embarrassed by or are broke, we just leave off the tree altogether. 
            At the time that the Gospel account of Matthew was written, genealogies or family trees were a big deal.  If you had the right genealogy, you were an
INSIDER.  Those from the right family were invited to all the best parties and into all the right social circles.  If you had the wrong genealogy, you were an OUTSIDER. Whenever land was bought or sold, the genealogical records were consulted to make sure that land belonging to one tribe was not being sold to members of another tribe. You couldn’t just buy the land. You also had to prove that your ancestors came from the same tribe.  Imagine not being able to buy a house or get a loan without being able to prove you were a part of “the right family.”  For the nation of Israel, genealogy also determined who could become a part of the priesthood.
According to Old Testament law, priests must come from the tribe of Levi (remember for later).
            In that time, when a wealthy or powerful person would hire someone to write their family history, they would knowingly censor the unsavory parts of their family history and overly focus on their successful family members, military conquests, or other notable accomplishments.  This was common practice among the rich and powerful.  If the family tree were a Christmas tree, they would put all of their success stories front and center, their minor accomplishments in the background and the failures and blacklisters would be censored out altogether. 
            What is so incredible about the Bible (in general) and the genealogy of Jesus (in specific) in Matthew 1 is that the Bible is completely
Uncensored and Unashamed
in its account of the people of God.  If you have never dug into the stories of the Bible, it would be easy to think the people of the Bible were these angelic, heroic people.  Honestly, much of the Bible is NOT suitable for children. The Bible is not always “positive and encouraging & safe for the whole family.”  The truth is, there are some nasty stories and jacked up people in the Bible.  While we may be tempted to skip over the genealogy because it seems like a boring list of names… we should give it a closer look. 
Read: Matthew 1:1-16

3 Reasons Why The Genealogy Matters:

  1. The genealogy establishes Jesus as part of the royal family of David. (2 Samuel 7)

            God had said 1000 years earlier that the Messiah must come from the line of David. Matthew and Luke both make special mention that Jesus was of the house and lineage of King David. To a skeptical Jewish reader, if Jesus was not from the line of David, that would be the ultimate deal breaker! Forget it. He can’t be the Messiah.

  1. The genealogy distinguishes Jesus as a historical figure.

            Matthew does not begin with, “Once upon a time…” like a fairy tale.  Jesus is not a fictional character and Christmas is not an inspiring fable.  The genealogy grounds Jesus in history by revealing His roots. If the Christmas story were merely an inspirational fable, the intent would be to give us an example of what we should do. The truth is, there is no “moral of the story” to the nativity. The Gospel of Matthew however is a historical account. The Christmas story is not God’s advice on what man should do, it is man’s account of what God has done. The Bible is not a helpful manual for self-improvement; it is a historical manuscript for God’s salvation of mankind.

  1. The genealogy is a resume of God’s amazing grace.

            A resume including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David and Solomon was strong.  Yet, Matthew did something totally counter-cultural- He included 4 women with a sordid past in the genealogy of Jesus.

A Sordid Past: Four Women with a Shocking Story of Grace

  1. Tamar (Genesis 38) Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judahà Er. Er married Tamar- An ethnic and religious outsider. Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord and the Lord took his life unexpectedly. Then Er’s brother Onan was forced to marry Tamar and because he selfishly refused to impregnate Tamar, God also took Onan’s life unexpectedly. Tamar was left both husbandless and childless— a terrible fate for a woman. In desperation, Tamar dressed up like a cult prostitute, seduced her father-in-law Judah into sleeping with her (which didn’t take much seducing on her part) and then became pregnant.  When it became obvious that Tamar was pregnant- Judah, the man who got her pregnant- ordered for her to be burned alive.  Tamar exposed Judah as the father by revealing the signet ring & cord & staff that he had given her while she was dressed as a prostitute.  Jerry Springer! No one looks good in this messed up story. That’s all we know about Tamar. No happy ending. Yet, out of this horrible and sinful story, a baby named Perez was born… and from THIS family tree Jesus was born.
  1. Rahab (Joshua 2 & 6) We studied Rahab in detail a few months ago in our series through Joshua. Everyone knew her as Rahab the Prostitute. Rahab was an idol worshipping Canaanite—the hated enemies of Israel.  If anyone was going to be spared during Israel’s conquest of the walled city of Jericho, Rahab the Prostitute seems the least likely. When Joshua sent spies into the city, Rahab hid them in her house. She placed her faith in the God of Israel. In exchange for safe passage out of the city, they promised to spare her and her household when the invasion took place. As a demonstration of her faith, they instructed Rahab to hang a scarlet cord from her window so the Israelites could identify her house. She hid the spies, and let them out of a window with a rope.  While Rahab’s faith is commended in Hebrews, she is most remembered by her sinful past… God orchestrated the marriage between Rahab & Salmon, from a prostitute into a Princess– and an unforgettable member of Jesus’ family tree.
  2. Ruth (Ruth) She, too, was not a Jew.  A Moabite. Back to Genesis 19 and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. On that dreadful day Lot escaped Sodom with his two daughters, finding refuge in a cave. His daughters were pretty messed after their time in Sodom and on successive nights they got Lot drunk and slept with him. Both sisters got pregnant and gave birth to sons – one named Moab, the other named Ammon. Those two boys—born of incest—evil nations, bitter enemies of Israel. The Jews hated and avoided the Moabites and Ammonites.  Ruth tells of the romance between Ruth the Moabite outsider and Boaz the Israelite insider.  Why did Boaz show such compassion for a despised outsider like Ruth? Boaz’s Mom was none other than Rahab the Prostitute.  Ruth and Boazà Obedà Jesseà David = Ruth King David’s great-grandmother and member of Jesus’ family tree.
  3. Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11&12) The last woman in Jesus’ family history is not even mentioned by name. Clearly identified as the woman “who had been Uriah’s wife.” Great political scandal– King David, saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof top… fully aware that she was married to one of his best friends and soldiers, David had an affair with Bathsheba and got her pregnant. After failing to trick Uriah into sleeping with Bathsheba while on duty (in order to trick him into thinking that the child was his), David intentionally sent Uriah into a deadly field of battle in order to get rid of him and to marry Bathsheba. David married Bathsheba, had another son—Solomon, dysfunctional family.
 Think about these four women- they can clearly be labeled as outsiders-
“gender outsiders”
– in ancient patriarchal societies a woman was virtually never named in a genealogy.
“racial outsiders”– 3 were Gentiles, considered unclean, not even allowed to enter the temple to worship.
“moral outsiders”– Prostitutes, liars, adulterers.
            Why would Matthew include these women in this list? We need to get to know Matthew.  Gospel written to the Jews. Yet, Matthew the 
LEAST likely person to write a Gospel to the Jews… Matthew was a tax-collector
! What’s the big deal about Tax collectors?  The 
Roman government would hire individuals to collect the taxes.  The Romans taxed for everything! The tax collector would add on an additional fee which he would keep.  The fee was arbitrary, so he could charge whatever he wanted and become very, very wealthy.  This made tax collectors a rich, but despised group of people.  The Romans got smart and started hiring Jews to collect taxes from fellow Jews.  To make matters worse, Matthew was a member of the tribe of Levi (the Priest tribe.)  So, this meant that Matthew was not only a moral outsider, but a cultural and religious outsider as well.  Nobody was more hated by the Jewish people than the tax collectors.  Read- Matthew 9:9-13 “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners
.” Matthew 9:12-13
We see Matthew’s intent for placing these 4 Women with Sordid pasts front and center in Jesus’ family tree-
Jesus came from sinners because Jesus came for sinners.
The message of Christmas-
Jesus came for Sinners
.  He came for the broken, the prostitute, the adulterer, the liar, the thief, the sick, the dirty, the labeled, the discarded and the outsider.  He came for you and He came for me. 
            Many of the religious leaders were self-righteous and judgmental toward others. If Matthew had only included David, Abraham and Isaac in the genealogy of Jesus the religious people then would have done the same thing religious people do now. 
What all religious people do- focus on their achievements and gloss over their sins.
The religious had grown accustomed to censoring David and Abraham’s stories, just as they would
censor their own sins out of their own stories.  But the women… were different… their stories could not be censored. Matthew sticks them front and center in Jesus’s messed up family tree.  You may feel like your family tree is pretty messed up.  Jesus understands. His family tree was decorated with sinners. If the Son of God came from THAT family tree… there is HOPE for everyone!  These sordid pasts of these women are uncensored and unashamed in the genealogy of Christmas so that we might believe and receive the Good News of Christmas.  As the angels proclaimed to the shepherds…“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
”  Luke 2:10-11
Jesus is the Star of Christmas. His grace is greater than our sin. No matter your past, Jesus can save you.  Jesus wants YOU to be a part of His family tree.  God wants to adopt you into His family and put you on full display.  If you turn from your sinful ways and place your faith in Jesus Christ, you can be saved, forgiven and adopted.   “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
.” Romans 6:23