Summary: Matthew's mothers help us celebrate Mother's Day with lessons that challenge us, but bring us to deeper faith.
Happy Mother’s day! Today’s lesson will be a brief overview of the mothers listed in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew with a focus on the most prominent quality of each.
What would you say is the defining characteristic or quality in your own mother?
Of all the things that stand out in my mom’s life, the one feature that I see above all the rest is her Christian faith and also loyalty to the church. That central quality set has shaped and informed more of her decisions and deeds than anything else I can think of. I personally am beneficiary of her faith as are my brothers and sister.
If you read the books of Kings and Chronicles carefully, you will notice how often they name the mother of the king’s children and where each mother is from. This is not insignificant at all! Many good kings who were born of evil fathers have this in common, their mothers were faithful even as their faithfulness fathers stayed busy and absentee with kingdom business. The opposite is also true. Some good fathers raised up wicked boys due in part to their mother’s idolatrous influences.
While fathers may have the lion’s share of influence and authority in the home, if they use it, many do not use it, and thus lose it by default. The saddest thing is when both parents, moms and dads, give over their primary duty of raising their children to others and fail to be the influence God intended them to be, to shape little souls into servants who are godly and faithful. How often do your children hear you pray for them? How often do they see you reading scripture or discussing God’s word together? What primary characteristic or quality do your children see in you? Let me suggest that you ask your children about this and discuss with them how God can strengthen your influence for faith in their lives.
Matthew’s gospel lists five mothers in the lineage of Jesus Christ. All of them are caught up in some kind of deep plot, sometimes scandalous, out of which each builds a prominent identity in the Bible. Matthew mentions each one surely knowing that his readers will be aware of who they are and what each one did whether good or bad.
He didn’t have to mention them at all. Luke, who writes about the women in Jesus’ life more than any other gospel writer, gives his genealogy without a single women’s name mentioned. Matthew could have done the same. But the Holy Spirit guided Matthew to remind us of these, so let’s look at them as we celebrate motherhood today.
First in line is Tamar from Genesis 38. Little is known about her life except for this fully detailed story about how she came to be mother of Perez through Judah. It’s a PG13 story that many parents who read to their kids at night would pass over, and get back to Joseph. It is a very unpleasantly interesting story that reveals the moral weakness of Judah and his two oldest sons. Tamar is not Judah’s wife, but his daughter-in-law. Though she gets pregnant by Judah as an intentional act of deception by Tamar, Judah says that she is more righteous than he. If you haven’t read the story, I leave it to you to do so: Genesis 38.
Several things stand out about Tamar in this story. One is that she’s a Canaanite. In fact, all of the women Matthew mentions as mothers of Jesus’ line are foreigners to Israel, with the possible exception of Bathsheba, but she is married to a Hittite. Tamar is first married to Judah’s oldest son, Er. But Er is wicked and God puts him to death. Then Tamar is given to Judah’s second son Onan. He is wicked too, and God puts him to death. Judah sees Tamar as a sort of black widow. He has one other son, but will not give him to her to carry on the family line because Judah thinks he might die too. Interestingly, we never hear from this younger son again after Genesis 38, but we do hear of Tamar and how she got pregnant by Judah. By the way she even had twins!
Since Tamar was married to Judah’s oldest son, and her first son would have carried the family line. Perez, who was born to her from Judah, took this position.
Tamar’s chief characteristic might be her willingness to risk death to achieve what she saw as justice and family loyalty. You have to read the story to understand that. One might argue that in her case, the end justifies the means. Even Judah says that she more righteous than he because Judah failed to give Tamar his youngest son to maintain the family line.