Matthew 1: A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah….
Blah blah blah blah blah…
It is not wrong, I don’t think, to maybe expect the story the story of Jesus Christ, son of God, savior of the world, to start off with just a little bit more of a bang, is it? These are the first words of the New Testament, and as dull as they may at first glance be, they are important. Because they are about a journey through time that will, 28 generations after Solomon, begin to converge in a whole series of journeys across time and geography- journeys that include the chapters of our own lives right here, right now.
The genealogy I just read covered 14 generations, from Abraham through Solomon- about 700 years. Another 14 generations would take the genealogy of Jesus into the time of Israel’s captivity in Babylon. And then another 14 generations later, a total now of almost 2500 years from the time of Abraham, the birth of Jesus would happen. It was 2500 years of Jewish history in the making, and it’s been 2000 years of world history in the remembering.
But first, buried within that seemingly dull list of names, there were four surprises, planted there by Matthew like warning flags to tell his readers that what they would be reading was going to be a very unusual story. Normally, a Jewish genealogy was about one thing- the line of patriarchs- the honorable and pious men who passed on their legacy- I guess- in spite of all the women in the way.
Now, the surprises placed in this family tree, however, were exactly that- women! Something had happened in the mind of some very Jewish, culturally patriarchical men like Matthew, that had caused them to open their eyes wider than they had ever been before. Something had caused Matthew to acknowledge the personhood, the importance of women at a time when that just wasn’t done. There was no reason to, after all! Women weren’t men, and in the thinking of the time, men were what mattered. Men, and the number of donkeys they owned.
So when Matthew sneaks the names of Tamar and Rahab, prostitutes, and Ruth, a conniver, and Bathsheba, a woman who took baths on her roof in full view of King David..when Matthew makes sure the reader knows that Jesus has these women’s blood pulsing through his veins, Matthew is saying, without shouting it, that everything, as it has been known, was being turned upside down.
The doors to a relationship with God, being a co-creator with God in the Kingdom of God, had just been opened a whole lot wider than they had ever been before.