Anyone working on his or her family lineage is excited to reach back to the fifth, sixth, or seventh generation. Highly unlikely, even with today’s technology, is reaching to the tenth generation. The combination of Matthew’s and Luke’s writings, however, produce the unprecedented account of Jesus’s family tree going back seventy-four generations and covering 4,000 years—and this account was written without today’s technology, some 2,000 years ago! The New Testament begins with Matthew in chapter 1: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1, NIV). Beginning with Abraham, Matthew then lists the fathers in chronological succession all the way to verse 16: “and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matt. 1:16, NIV). Matthew begins with Abraham and follows the line of Solomon to reach Joseph. Luke follows the line of Heli (Mary’s father) back to Nathan (Solomon’s brother) and then back to Adam. Matthew, different from Luke, inserts a few additional characteristic of the progenitors: Jacob was “the father of Judah and his brothers” (v. 2); Judah was “the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar” (v. 3); Salmon was “the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth”; “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (v. 6); and Josiah was “the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon” (v. 11, NIV).
Most of us would prefer to see a clean heritage when we look at our own genealogy—no bank robbers, swindlers, murderers, or horse thieves. And, if any did exist in our past, I doubt we would want to highlight the sins of our fathers. Matthew, on the other hand, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, does exactly the opposite when it comes to Jesus’s genealogy. Our attention is deliberately directed to these specific references: the sons of Jacob retaliated against Hamor and Shechem, killing everyone in their city; Judah slept with his son’s wife, Tamar, who posed as a prostitute, and sired Perez and Zerah; Salmon is married to Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho; King David slept with his underling’s wife, Bathsheba, and then had the underling, Uriah, killed in battle; Jeconiah was involved with the exile of Judah as a nation and the capture by Babylon. The husbands and wives and families that make up Jesus’s genealogy do not comprise a list of pure, unadulterated citizens. Highlighted in the opening chapter of the New Testament, there are horse thieves, swindlers, murderers, bank robbers; there is deceit, lying, incest, prostitution, and even the loss of a nation on the hands of the rich and famous, including kings and rulers. Why does the Son of God deserve such infamous recognition of His earthly genealogy? Perhaps it is because of what John the Baptist said in John 1:16–18: “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (NIV).
Each of the fathers listed in Jesus’s family tree were born before Jesus and, consequently, were born in the era of BC (Before Christ). The existence of Jesus begins the era of AD (Anno Domini—in the year of our Lord), which starts exactly on the eighth day of his life, at his circumcision, as told in Luke 2:21. Your family tree and my family tree will go all the way back to the beginning of AD even though we cannot trace it. In each of our genealogies stretching back 2,000 years in the AD period, there surely exist all of the atrocities committed by Jesus’s family throughout 4,000 years in the BC period. Our own lives are not without fault either—there is none righteous, no not one! Standing alone at the center of the world’s timeline of BC/AD is the one, perfect Lamb, the one sinless Man, the one holy Redeemer, the one crucified Savior, the one full of grace and truth from whom all blessings flow. The stain of sin is great and consistent on the entire world’s family tree. From Adam’s race the blot of sin is cleansed by one and only one agent—the cleansing and powerful blood of Jesus Christ. He came by grace and truth. Truth exposes who we really are with all our red-stained faults; grace covers the faults and makes us white as snow. Start this new year in AD full of the grace and truth provided by the Author Himself! Live for the Master and Maker of all things by abounding in love and service to one another! Live in His family tree where all blessings flow!