Summary: A sermon on the inclusiveness of God in Christ.
“An Outsider from the Beginning”
by: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN www.eastridgeumc.com
How many of you have ever thought to yourself, “I am not good enough to play a part in God’s unfolding history.”
“I have led too sinful of a life.”
“I just don’t have the right education.”
“My family background is just too messed up.”
“I don’t have the right kind of job, nor have I lived the kind of life through which God can use me to bring others to Christ.”?
“Who am I to invite others to church?”
“Who am I to tell people about Jesus?”
And, “Does God even accept me, warts, failings and all?”
How many of us have thought to ourselves, “I am just not good enough to be a part of this!?”
God’s answer to our self-doubts and questions can be found in the first paragraph of the first book in the New Testament.
The average person who thinks, “Maybe I’ll read the New Testament” is probably puzzled to find, on the very first page, a long list of names he or she has never heard of.
But this list isn’t a waste of time.
For in reading this list and studying the persons named in this list—we may find that the term “inclusive” is not just a modern politically correct buzzword; it is a deep message to you and to me about Who God is and what God is about.
Here we have Jesus’ genealogy, as written in Matthew.
But it’s a funky genealogy for the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Chosen One of God!!!
For there are “outsiders” included in Jesus’ family line.
There are ordinary people and extraordinary people.
Also listed are persons of questionable character…
…persons who lived somewhat scandalous lives…
…and persons who no good Jew of the 1st Century would ever admit to having in their bloodline—not if they wanted to be considered pure, respectable and part of the “in” crowd.
In Jesus’ day, genealogies were the most natural way to begin the story of a person’s life.
So, we should not be surprised that Matthew’s Gospel begins with a genealogy.
But we should be surprised by some of the names included here.
The most amazing thing in Jesus’ genealogy is the names of the women who appear in it!
For one thing, it wasn’t normal to list women in your family tree.
But in Jesus’ genealogy five women are named:
Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “the wife of Uriah” who is Bathsheba, and Mary.
And when we look at who these women were, and at what they did, the situation becomes even more spectacular.
Tamar was considered a seducer and an adulteress.
Rahab was a prostitute.
Another woman in Jesus’ bloodline is Ruth.
Ruth was not a Jew.
She was a Gentile from Moab, and Moabites were especially excluded from the Israelite community.
They were major outcastes.
They were an alien and hated people.
“Uriah’s wife,” is mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy as well.
This was Bathsheba, the woman whom David seduced and whose husband he murdered.
I could go on and on…
And I’m sure you wish I would…
…but what do we get from all this?
Well, for one thing, we find that Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world had both Jewish and Gentile blood.
So, right here, even before the birth of Christ, Matthew shows us the essence of the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ…
…for right before our eyes God shows us barriers going down…
…barriers that normally stand in the way…
…barriers between people…
…barriers that cause division, hate, pain and war.
Already, the great truth is here for all to see—that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…” for all are one in Christ Jesus.
Right here at the beginning we are given a taste of the radical-ness of the Gospel of Christ.
God loves all people, and Jesus came to save all people!!!
No one is outside the realm of God’s love and forgiveness.
And there is no one whom God cannot and will not use.
God is “inclusive”…long before that idea or term was ever used.
And Jesus, was an “outcaste” by worldly and religious standards—right from the start, at birth even.
What does that say to you and to me this morning?
How does that effect your feeling of self-worth as it pertains to God’s ability and desire to use you in God’s work?
The names in Christ’s genealogy represent the persons, small and great, known and unknown, sinner and outcaste through whom God has already worked to bring the Messiah into the world.
This list of names is a testimony to the fact that God works through the nitty gritty of ordinary human beings to bring God’s divine purposes to fulfillment.