Matthew 1 & 2
Jesus’ family tree and his birth. I would love to try and complete my family tree. It would take a lot of work and research and the little that has been done by another relative can usually – for peasants like my family – end with the 19th Century Census records. Yet it is still interesting to read names of people who I never knew and who never knew me – but yet are my family.
I notice that in Jesus’ family tree here that it’s not full of loads of familiar Old Testament names. You may expect to see a Noah, Moses, perhaps even a Joseph or a Jeremiah. Some are mentioned and mainly they are ones whose stories aren’t that covered in glory. We notice that unusually for a Jewish genealogy, that four women are mentioned – but each of these are not necessarily paragons of virtue and piety. Each have some dodgy elements to their story but yet they are included. But in the list too it is easy to overlook that fact that even amongst the ‘distinguished’ men who have the honour of being in the family line of the Messiah, loads of them were unfaithful, sinful mess-ups who went against God, followed other peoples’ gods, polluted Israel’s worship and perpetrated conditions of injustice and oppression. Hence why Israel ended up with a divided kingdom, exile and being ruled by pagan foreign powers. Yet at the end of this chain of spiritual mess-ups comes JESUS – the Messiah.
Apart from the amazing number of dream telephone calls from heaven in these chapters another thing that strikes me is naming. Naming a child is a really significant thing – today and even more so in Jesus’ time and tradition. Jesus is the GREEK form of a name – the actual name would have been JESHUA – a linguistically evolved version of another Bible name of note – JOSHUA. He is ‘The LORD saves’. It’s a reminder of that previous Joshua’s role in leading the people of Israel – God’s people into a new, promised and FREE land under God’s rule. Custom may have expected some recognition of Joseph’s family tree – perhaps naming the first child after his father – Jacob. But that remains for Jesus’ brother – being known by the Greek version of his name, James. Jesus – Jeshua – Joshua is the one with a mucky background and some dodgy aspects of his own birth circumstances (– an unmarried mum!). But he is ‘the LORD saves’.
Just take note of his name. ‘The LORD saves’. Not us; not our goodness, piety or religiousness; not our holiness, rightness or faithfulness; not our clever words to others, our convincing arguments or willingness to share the good news. IT’S NOT US WHO SAVES!
Joshua – Jeshua – Jesus – it is THE LORD who SAVES!
Have a think…
- Why may it helpful and encouraging to know that Jesus had dodgy relatives?
- Why do you think it is so significant that there are 4 women in this genealogy?
- We are so familiar with the name Jesus – does it help to remember what it actually means?
- How does it feel to be reminded – literally in the name of Jesus, that it is GOD who saves and not us?
- What does Jesus actually save from and save to?