Summary: Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus displays the scope of God’s grace. Matthew’s genealogy is unusual in that it contains the names of four women. Four unlikely women at that; three are gentiles, three are involved in some kind of sexual immorality, one is a pro
A Genealogy of Grace
Matthew 1:1-3, 5-6, 16-17
By now you have no doubt turned in your Bibles to Matthew chapter one and if you did not already know you have noticed the complete chapter is a long genealogy – a list of names, most of them unpronounceable, at least for me. Because of that it is a portion of scripture that we tend to overlook. Let’s read verse one, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”
I have to admit that the study of genealogy fascinates me and scares me at the same time. I think it is fascinating to find out who your people are and where they come from. But it also scares me a little, you never know what you are going to dig up. There are some family skeletons you would just as soon remain in the closet. I am afraid, knowing a bit about my family that they may not all be fine upstanding citizens. How about you?
There are in fact two genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament, one in Matthew that traces his legal lineage to be king through Joseph. Yet when Matthew gets to Joseph (v. 16) notice that he changes the formula and states that Joseph was “the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born.” The “whom” is feminine in Greek, showing that Joseph was not the physical father of Jesus. (We will talk more about that in the next message.) But there is another genealogy in Luke that traces his lineage through his mother, Mary.
Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus does at least three things. First, God had said some 1,000 years earlier that the Messiah must come from the royal lineage of David (2 Samuel 7). Matthew proves that Jesus is qualified to be the King by being a physical descendant of David. Secondly, the genealogy establishes Jesus as a historical figure; our faith is rooted in history not in myth or legend.
And third, it displays the scope of God’s grace. Matthew’s genealogy is unusual in that it contains the names of four women. Four unlikely women at that; three are gentiles, three are involved in some kind of sexual immorality, one is a prostitute, one is an adulteress, and yet all four are in the line that leads to Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind. As read through the verses I want you to underline the names of these four women.
(vv. 1-3) “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: (2) Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. (3) Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar…”
(vv. 5-6) “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, (6) and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah (Bathsheba).”
(vv. 16-17) “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. (17) So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.”
I think that at least most of you understand that the term “begot” means “the father of.” Now I want to look at each of these four women and note why they are such a picture of Grace.
First, Tamar (1:3) Sinners Need Jesus.
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: (2) Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. (3) Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar…”
Tamar’s story is told in Genesis 38. Tamar was a Canaanite woman married to Judah’s son named Er. This son died without children, so his brother (Onan) married her, but he died and she was still childless. When Judah was reluctant to wed his third son to Tamar, she became impatient and unwilling to wait for God’s timing. She hatched a scheme to get her father-in-law Judah to sleep with her. By the way it is always a mistake to think that we need help God make His will happen.
She seems to have known her father-in-law well for she disguised herself as a prostitute and stationed herself along a route she knew he would travel. She dresses herself as a prostitute and seduces Judah (her own father-in-law) to sleep with her, and she becomes pregnant and gives birth to twins, named Perez and Zerah. This is sordid enough that it would make it on to the “Jerry Springer Show. The truth is no one looks good in this story; it literally reeks of greed, deception, sexual lust and even a hint of incest. There is no happy end to this story.