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A Devotional on Matthew 1:1–17

Family trees and ancestries seem to be all the rage these days. But if we look back far enough (or, more likely, not so far!) we’ll probably find some scoundrel we’d rather not be associated with. Can’t we just cut them out of our family line? Edit history a little?

Matthew begins his account of Jesus’s life with a genealogy. But why start with Jesus’s family tree? Why not jump straight into the action — you know, like with Jesus doing some kind of miracle or something? Why, Matthew, must you have to go digging around and uncover something that might embarrass Jesus?

I think Matthew begins his story with this prologue of sorts for two reasons:

1. Matthew wanted to show that there was a method to God’s madness. Matthew wrote his book primarily for a Jewish audience who were now trying to follow Jesus. They would have been very familiar with this cast of characters. Matthew is connecting Jesus to the Old Testament. He’s been part of God’s plan since the beginning.

2. Matthew wanted to show that Jesus came from — and for — broken people. The Old Testament is filled with stories that are… (what’s the word I’m looking for?)… Unsanitized. We read these stories and think, How can this be included in the Bible???

But the truth is, the Bible is filled with stories of broken people who mess up in massive ways. This fact is not lost on Matthew. Take verse 6, for example:

And Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon. Solomon’s mother had been Uriah’s wife.

King David was Israel’s greatest king. But Matthew airs his dirty laundry by including this detail: Solomon’s mother had been Uriah’s wife.

Uriah’s wife was Bathsheba. While Uriah was away at war, David used his power and position to sexually assault Bathsheba. Even as I type these words, I am chilled by this story in a whole new way. A man in power using his authority to abuse a woman. It’s ugly. It’s dark. And it hangs on Jesus’s family tree for all to see. Rather than hide it, Matthew reveals it.

Matthew begins his story by acknowledging how messy and broken this sad world is. But the lineage ends with a ray of hope: Jesus is here. He has come to set things right and redeem all things.

All things.

Questions to Ponder:

Why do you think Matthew began his story with Jesus’s family tree?

Are there any parts of your story that you wish you could cut out?

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