The Original Christmas Tree
Do you believe that every word in the Bible is important? That every word is inspired by God? I do. And if you do too, I’m going to test your belief by walking us through the family history of Jesus – and the HOPE that it brings to ordinary people like you and me!
Genealogies are those parts of the Bible that seem to matter only to God – and a maybe to a mother (“Oh, look! My son got his name in the Bible!”). Genealogies are the last place most of us would expect to discover a message of HOPE – but it’s there. At first glance genealogies seem boring and kind of meaningless. To us they’re extra long lists of unpronounceable names of descendants and ancestors. But to the average Jew, knowing your ancestry, and being able to “climb your family tree,” was a pretty big deal. The family tree of Jesus Christ is masterfully put together. It’s like a work of art – and as the original Christmas Tree – it teaches us two hope-filled truths.
FIRST, it teaches us that God Controls the Flow of History.
Matthew 1:1-17 is a recitation of the OT history leading up to the birth of Christ – and it reflects a perfectly ordered, perfectly planned, perfectly controlled flow of history. At the end of the list of Jesus’ family tree in vs. 17 it says: “All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.” What Matthew is saying is that Jesus’ birth is the climax of 3 groupings of fourteen – 42 generations.
It helps to know that Matthew wrote his gospel to a primarily Jewish audience. He wanted them to understand the significance of the coming of Christ. And to a Jew the number seven (7) or any multiple of seven (7) symbolized perfection! Three (3) is also a symbolic Old Testament number, because it signifies fulfillment. It’s even carried on in the New Testamant. Just read the book of Revelation and see how many times the numbers seven and three pop up.
My POINT: In the Old Testament especially, the numbers three (3) and seven (7) were divine numbers of perfection and fulfillment.
And, if you couple that with the mention of the number of generations from Abraham to Christ as being three sets of fourteen – fourteen (14) being a multiple of seven – then we can see Matthew’s point: Under God’s control, the history leading up to the birth of Christ has been perfectly ordered and planned with meticulous care. And He fulfilled His purpose by making a way for us to find salvation in Jesus.
Galatians 4:4 says that: “In the fullness of time [another way of saying “at just the right time”] God sent forth His Son…” So, God actually planned the coming of Jesus Christ with mathematical precision. God was moving history along and He designed it so He could demonstrate HIS CONTROL of the flow of human history and that He will bring about His purposes in this life – no matter what happens in human history.
So the first thing the genealogy of Jesus shows us that GOD’S IN CHARGE & IN CONTROL OF ALL LIFE!
BUT that’s only half the story in Matthew 1. Not only does God control the flow of history in order to perfectly fulfill His purposes, He also Chooses Imperfect People to Accomplish His Purposes. And that’s another reason for hope!
You know, for PR purposes, I believe I would have kept some of the people mentioned in Jesus’ family tree off the list. It’s not a very flattering lineage. One of the problems in becoming familiar with your family tree is that you might discover a horse thief or a murderer – or something worse. Then it’s decision time. Do you hide the truth or do you try and cover it up. Some time back I Googled my name. I found a Daniel A. Clubb – in Missouri from where my family hails. It had to be a relative, albeit a distant one. When I took a closer look, I realized that I was looking at his mug shot! (It’s amazing what ends up on Google these days).
We see family skeletons as an “image problem” – but God didn’t see Jesus’ lineage like that at all. He chose to allow all the family laundry in Jesus’ ancestry to be aired in a public document for all of us to see – and it was for a very encouraging reason. Now…let me explain why I say that.
Jesus’ ancestry begins with Abraham. Abraham lied in order to save his own life and at the same time he put his wife, Sarah, in harm’s way. And he did it not once, but twice! So Jesus’ great-granddad (forty-two generations back) was a liar and a coward!
Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, is also mentioned. He was just as bad as his grandfather. His name means “cheater” or “trickster.” He cheated his twin brother out of his rightful inheritance. And his name is on the list of Jesus’ ancestors.
Then there was Judah – Jacob’s son. He had two sons, Perez and Zerah, by committing incest with his daughter-in-law, Tamar – who seduced him in the process! And their names are included in the list too. Judah was no saint. He was a hypocrite & an adulterer. This is not a morally pure family tree!
There’s also mention of “Judah’s brothers.” Out of jealousy they sold their little brother Joseph into slavery. How’d you like to have big brothers like that?
Jump down to verse six and it says: “And to Jesse was born David the king. And to David was born Solomon, by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.” I think Matthew could have left that little family secret unwritten, as well. Instead he reminds us that the great King David had Uriah murdered so he could indulge his sexual cravings. David, the murderer and adulterer is also part of the history leading to the Christ Child.
Listen to verse 5: “And to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth…” Now why do you suppose Matthew included the women Rahab and Ruth in the list? (It was very unusual to include one woman’s name in a list like this – let alone five, as Matthew does). I’ll tell you why he did it. He wanted us to know that Rahab was a prostitute and that she was still included in the line of Christ. Ruth is mentioned and she wasn’t even Jewish – she was a “schikza” – a gentile foreigner. And she’s included in the list. God is all inclusive when he picks people to be involved in accomplishing His plans.
Another person on the list is Manasseh. He was a very evil Jewish king who sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering to the demonic god Baal. He also consulted mediums and spiritists to predict the future – which was forbidden by God. He killed so many innocent Israelis that the Bible says he was a “terror to his own people” (2 Kings 21). And he was still included in the line leading to Jesus Christ. And his son, Amon, is on the list even though he rejected God!
My point is that even though this is a list of liars, cheaters, terrorists, sexual perverts, and idol worshipers – they’re all included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ! This is the list of the not-so-great-grandparents of Jesus Christ. And God used these really imperfect people as He carried out His purposes in bringing His Son, Jesus Christ, to us!
The big question is why did He use these people? He didn’t have to. He could have laid Jesus on Mary & Joseph’s doorstep in a basket. It would have been much simpler that way. It would have saved Jesus a whole lot of criticism later on in life. So, why does God tell us these stories? Why does God give us such flawed, wicked people in the line of Jesus Christ? It just doesn’t seem right!
Here’s my best answer to that question. God knew that you and I watched the news last night or we checked out the internet or we listened to the radio today – and we got wind of all the bad news and all about the evil things happening in the world. And He knew that we would probably be fretful over it. He knew that we would worry about the direction our society is heading, and He wanted us to know that when the world goes crazy – He stays calm! The proof is found in verse 16 of Jesus genealogy: “…and to Joseph the husband of Mary…was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.” That’s the end of the list of Jesus’ genealogy. There aren’t any other names listed, because no more names are needed!
In the genealogy of Jesus Christ God is making a very important announcement to our very desperate world. He’s saying: “See, I did it! I did it just like I said I would. My plan succeeded. I controlled the flow of history. I even chose flawed people, and it all led to the birth of my Son – the Savior of the world! The famine in Canaan couldn’t starve My plan. Four hundred years of slavery in Egypt couldn’t shackle My plan. Wilderness wanderings for forty years couldn’t stop My plan. Babylonian exile for seventy years couldn’t stifle My plan. Murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, cheaters, idolaters, liars in the very line of My Son couldn’t shut down My plan. I accomplished My plan – just like I said I would!”
God will not be defeated by evil! Ever! God works through flawed people like you and me. And He can use evil to work His perfect plan just like He did by moving Old Testament history forward to the perfect time that Jesus Christ would be born.
So, if you’re struggling with despair and discouragement OR if you’re wondering what’s going to happen next OR if life seems out of control…you’ve got to realize this Christmas that God has not abandoned you. He’s in control of life on this planet – and of your life in particular! Remember, regardless of your past, you have the hope of God’s eternal promise that He’s in control of the universe, and of human history, and of your individual life.
So, at times when you experience despair and you wonder what the world is coming to as it falls apart all around you, remember the family tree of Jesus Christ. It reminds us that God is still purposely moving human history forward as He moved it in the past to the coming of the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that there are two comings of Jesus Christ: (1) His first coming was at Bethlehem 2,000+ years ago; and (2) His Second Coming will be in Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives some time in the not-to-distant future. The world may still be full of evil people and it may appear to be going nowhere fast – but God’s still purposefully guiding history to Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. But God can make sense out of nonsense. And He will do it despite the devil’s best attempts to destroy His plan. Satan can’t stop where history is going – toward the Second Coming of Christ.
Merry Christmas! And we have a New Year to look forward to, because God is in control!