Youth & Young Adult Pastor Brian Pell
If you’re being honest, how many of you have kind of jacked up families? And, I don’t necessarily mean your immediate family. I’m definitely including your extended family in the question.
I’m really thankful, because my parents managed to shield my siblings and me from a lot of the darkness and hurt that they went through as kids and teens.
My mom’s dad left her and her brother and her mom when she was still a baby, and eventually her mom developed a romantic relationship and marriage with a guy that really struggled to be a good father. My mom had to have a hand in raising her siblings.
My dad experienced a really good upbringing for the most part until his dad died while he was a teenager. That change really impacted his mom such that she wasn’t really equipped to care for him and his brother really well. So, they were kind of on their own for a bit.
Upon getting married, they hightailed it out of there and took me and my siblings to other places to create our own life. But, I kid you not, we still occasionally find out my mom has other family members that we had previously never known about.
Can anybody else relate to having kind of a jacked up family for whatever the reason?
Well, you’re going to notice some similarities as we read today’s text and unpack it…
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” -Matthew 1:1-17
- Broken People & Family
The reality is that it’s the easiest thing in the world to over-spiritualize or under-spiritualize stuff that comes from the Bible. We can read through the genealogy of Christ, if we even pay attention, and not think there’s anything of note going on.
However, the Bible is inspired by the God of the universe, right? So, we know anytime we see a genealogy it’s there for a reason…it has to be. God’s not trying to waste our time by creating a list of random names that most people across history wouldn’t be able to pronounce.
Well, it’s important to note that this is one of a couple different genealogies associated with Jesus. And, it’s not exhaustive. This list doesn’t encompass all of the people that have lived between Abraham and Jesus.
But, Matthew was intentional in choosing the people that he chose for a few different reasons. It was important that people see Jesus’ line to David and to Abraham. And, Matthew saying there were 14 generations was symbolic language to describe God’s perfect timing and control over the history of humanity.
There are two main things I want you to see today, though. To see them, we need to talk about a few of these names:
Abraham – you’ve all probably heard of him. He’s the guy that God initially chose. And, that’s where the people of God began. He walked in faith. But, it’s the same guy that lied to multiple political leaders to save his own skin. In the process he nearly got himself and his wife killed. Because he and his wife didn’t always trust God, Abraham had a son illegitimately in order to have an heir.
Jacob – he and his mother deceived his father, Isaac, in order to obtain the birthright that should have gone to his brother, Esau. Furthermore, God used his family to establish the kingdom of Israel. But, what do we see in Jacob as a father? He plays favorites. Really not killing it as a dad.
Judah – first of all, it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t come from the priestly branch of Israel through Levi. He came through Judah. And, what’s Judah known for? As an older man, he solicited a woman that he thought was a prostitute. But, he came to find out later that it was his daughter-in-law, Tamar, that had tricked him.
Nahshon – after we fast forward through a bunch of normal people, we get to Nahshon. We learn that he is the brother-in-law of Aaron. Yes, that Aaron. And Moses appointed him as the prince and military commander of the tribe of Judah. This guy was a pretty big deal.
Salmon – Nahshon’s son married a famous woman named Rahab. She was the prostitute that helped Israelite spies overcome Jericho.
Boaz – the son of Salmon and Rahab who was famous for marrying Ruth.
Obed, Jesse – the son and grandson of Boaz and Ruth.
David – famous king and warrior of the Israelites. He was called “a man after God’s own heart.” However, we know that this guy had some really, really jacked up moments. Like, lusting after a woman (Bathsheba), sleeping with her, having his husband killed, then taking her as his wife. But that leads to…
Solomon – the wisest man in history not named Jesus. But, somehow the wisest man had hundreds and hundreds of wives and concubines.
Then, there’s a list of kings of Judah that were related to one another through the generations. Some of those guys were good, noble people. But, that was pretty rare. The list included guys like:
Rehoboam – under whom the kingdom divided.
Jehoram – who killed his six brothers to take the throne.
Uzziah – who had a successful reign but got arrogant and was killed for not properly approaching God with humility.
Then, there are a few more bad and good kings and we get to…
Jeconiah – who loses the kingdom to Babylon, and suddenly the Israelites become prisoners of war and refugees.
Then the government positions shrink and shrink till we’re just talking about normal people with no particularly notable attributes. But, then there’s…
Joseph & Mary – two totally normal Jewish folks that are betrothed, and that’s how we get Jesus.
What does that group of misfits communicate to you?
I think it’s pretty clear. God knows and uses ridiculously broken people and families. So, if you’re one of those people where you can look at your extended family and think, “Man, we’re all in good shape.” Then, you’re weird. And, you’re immensely blessed.
Most of us have a bunch of squirrels in our family trees, if you know what I mean. And, my family sure does. I don’t even know all of the people I’m fractionally related to, but I know there are quite a few of them out there.
So, we’re given this incredible timeline of people that range in every imaginable way…we’ve got incomparably wealthy and powerful people. We’ve got middle-class workers. We’ve probably got some poor people. We’ve got a diverse group in terms of ethnicity. You’ve got Jews intermarrying. You see diversity in terms of worldview and religion. This family is surprisingly normal in that sense.
Let’s encourage one another, then. God uses normal and broken people. We don’t know much about some of the people in this genealogy. For some people the most beautiful thing about their lives is having kids and providing and raising them right. Look at me: you’re just kind of average, and so am I. And, your families are pretty broken. So, is mine. But, we know that God works in that, and it’s amazing.
That’s one of the most amazing things about Christianity – and one of the things that separates Christianity from every other major worldview. The God of the universe came down and lived a life among us with a broken and normal family, surrounded by broken and normal people, worked a broken, everyday job, and still loved all of us enough to do something about it.
And, in the genealogy, we land on Jesus…
- The Image of God
Born into a broken mess of people, we get Jesus. And, we’ll get to some of the gospel ramifications of Him being born in a minute. But, I want to hit on something kind of hard right now.
Jesus being born into this jacked up family validates the image of God.
The God of the universe, perfect in every way, enjoying wholesome community in the Godhead, gave up those things to come be one of us. And, He came to be one of us in a poor and broken family with normal people in it.
This genealogy is full of people of middle-eastern descent. Its full of people that are rich through poor. It’s full of women. It’s full of shameful men. It’s full of immoral behavior. And, Jesus steps in there. The God of the universe steps in there.
The image of God that we walk in was instantly validated when Jesus was conceived and born. So, what does that mean?
The image of God means that all of humankind was gifted with a certain likeness to God…we share some of His attributes, some of His power, some of what makes Him unique.
It means that every single human being on earth across history is of equal worth and dignity and value. Every single one of us. No matter what you think about them. No matter what your inclinations are as it relates to race and gender and socioeconomic class. No matter what your analysis is of other people’s work ethic. No matter what your view is on politics. Because Jesus became a human being like any of the rest of us, we became our brother’s keepers.
Because Jesus became a human being, we must…not, we should…we must pursue any means that we can to serve and love the people around us. Especially those at a disadvantage. And, I’d go so far as to say even more especially those that are at a disadvantage that express no real desire to get themselves out.
You and your experience in this life is not more valuable than others experience in this life ever.
I’ll be honest with you guys. In the aftermath of the election a few weeks ago, I was heartbroken. That was true for a variety of reasons, but one of the main ones was that almost universally people’s reactions were callous and dark. And, that absolutely included evangelicals.
I don’t care what your politics are. But, look at me, if your politics do not include a robust theology of loving other people right where they’re at because they’re made in the image of the triune God of the universe, then you’re missing the boat. If your politics do not allow you to love and serve everyone, including refugees and women and people of different races and people of different religions and people of different sexual identities, then you’re not allowing the gospel to breathe life into an important part of who you are. All of those kinds of people were in Jesus’ family line and are an important part of who He was and is.
This is not liberal or millennial ideology. This is good theology rooted in the imago dei and ultimately the gospel.
This whole idea of the image of God became real to me a few years ago while going through a situation with a good friend of mine. He shared with me some things that he was going through, and, quite frankly, those things made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to talk about them, and I didn’t want him to be wrestling with those things. But, he was.
So, we dived in. We discussed what he was going through and the right way to be thinking about it. We read all sorts of books and articles from different worldviews, trying to land at a place that made good sense for him.
Well, there were really two endings to that story. First, of course we landed at Christianity, right? All truth is God’s truth, so, as we engaged with high-level thinking, we eventually arrived at the Christian perspective of His issues, which he didn’t necessarily like. But, that’s where we got. Second, I gained every bit as much through this situation, because I was forced to engage with something that made me uncomfortable in someone that I cared about. And, it helped me to realize that there was no need to be scared. Like, this person is eternal. This person is of significant value, and I can’t just write that off. So, I began to have my little perspective of the world reshaped because this guy is made in God’s image.
But, how does that actually happen? Because no amount of effort within yourself is going to bring about a refreshed and real sense of the imago dei. It’s not really possible within ourselves. Look back at the beginning and the end of the text…
- Lord of All
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” -Matthew 1:1
“…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” -Matthew 1:16
It’s clear in this genealogy that Matthew is trying to communicate a few things…he wants people to see that Jesus is the covenant bearer of both the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, just like the Old Testament said would happen. He wanted us to see the brokenness of Jesus’s family. He wanted us to come to terms with being in the image of God.
He also mentions Jesus’s name at the beginning and the end of the genealogy:
Jesus – Iesous or Yeshua, meaning “Yahweh saves.”
Christ – Mashiakh or Christos, meaning “Anointed” or “Anointed One.”
Matthew is communicating that all of history is culminating in the person and work of Jesus. Everything comes from Him, and everything ultimately points to Him.
He is, in fact, the Lord of all. And, this is essential because it’s the basis for everything we begin to think and talk about with Advent and Christmas. Jesus, the baby born a couple thousand years ago, really was God in the flesh, come to save the world.
And, that includes every type of person based on His own family’s history. He came for the religious and the irreligious. He came for the poor and for the rich. He came for the refugee and the patriot. He came for those that actively oppose Him.
His love for us is that deep and that profound. It’s not dependent upon our meeting certain criteria. So, brother and sister, be encouraged today…Jesus came for you, because He loves you.
This includes you, if you feel too distant and too broken. The prodigal, as it were. Did you hear what happened in Jesus’s own family? He loves you. This includes the lonely intellectual that has drifted from traditionally-held Christian ideology. You’re not the one person in history that has gone too far. Jesus came for you, and He loves you.
This also includes you, if you’ve allowed “Christian” positions to overtake your love of other people. It includes you if you’ve been in the Christian and religious business so long that it’s become average and normal…to the point that it doesn’t even always feel like you need Him.
Jesus is the Lord of all. And, it’s His love for us that transforms us. We no longer walk in Christian circles and Christian thinking because we have to or because it’s the right thing to do. We walk in what Christ has for us because we want to, because we know that He wants what’s best for us. It’s entirely transformative.
Jesus, out of love for us, wages war on our selfish and sinful tendencies. He knows and wants better for us.
So, as we land the plane, I want to focus on something with you. We’re entering the holiday season, right? And, it’s going to be really easy to get wrapped up in the colder weather and commercialism of this whole thing. I’m already listening to Christmas music – my cards are on the table. I get it.
But, because it’s this time of year, I think there’s going to be a small growth in opportunities with your families. People are just a little more open to one another during Christmas time. And, I want to encourage and challenge you to be intentional this Christmas. Use the example of Jesus to show you what it looks like to have a broken family and love them right where they’re at. Don’t retreat into the commercialism, love your family and the people around you. And, let’s be a group of people that’ll help one another in this.