1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.
David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife[a] of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.[b]
8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon,[c] and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.
As I said last week, this week we are looking at the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. And when we look at this particular passage, it is easy to jump to conclusions. And what is that conclusion: Yaawn (act out).
I went to a college in Kansas in a small town of about 2000 people. In many ways Sterling was a lot different than Fowler. It was in Kansas, and in many ways Kansas is different than Colorado, especially the closer you get to Wichita. Most of the crops here I have seen are corn and melon. Most of the crops in that part of Kansas are wheat related. Sterling had 500 students living on the edge of town from August to June, and a disproportionate number of Ph. Ds in town. Instead of four Baptist churches in town, there were two, but there were two Presbyterian churches and two different kinds of Methodist churches to make up for it.
In some ways it was the same. It was a town on the Arkansas River. Neither town had a stoplight. It had been the size it was since it was founded for the most part. It had one grocery store about the same size as Jack's, although the meat was not nearly as good of meat as we have here in our little Fowler market.
The most popular church in town was the Evangelical Mennonite Church. They actually had a bus that went around and picked people up from the school and brought them out to their rather large church in the country. Or at least I heard it was large. I never went.
I went to a small Baptist church a half a block from CMART in the middle of town. The church ran between 20 and 40 on a Sunday morning, and had a series of part-time pastors. I came to the church and wanted to get plugged in with ministry. The church let me do the children's messages and teach Sunday School. Since I was the one college student that attended their church, they kind of adopted me as their own. There was a group of three couples that were the core of the church. And they went out to eat Sundays and Tuesdays. And they would usually invite me along. And they would fight over who would get to buy my dinner. It was all very nice.
Anyway…to my point. I would sit in those diners and restaurants with them for week after week, listening to them visit. And most of their visits with one another would run a similar course. They would talk about stuff going on with the church or their families for the first five minutes. Then, someone would walk out of the door and they would recount their stories. Some might call this gossip. Sometimes it was. But many times it not done with any sort of destructive quality. It was done with caring. Caring about each person's well-being. Each person's story.
At first, my reaction to recounting each person's name and story was the same as yours might have been when you heard this geneaology. Yawwwn. But slowly, as I sat and listened. Listened to how one person has lost his wife tragically. How another's wife is really his second wife, even though a lot of the new folks in town did not know that. How yet one more person was a hard worker, even though they recently lost their job. You know how it goes. You have been at those tables, in those restaurants and around those tables.
The stories were important. Because each other person's story was a part of their personal history, and their community's history. When I first heard them tell the stories, all I heard was names. Names that meant nothing to me. Names that bored me. As I lived in that place longer, and heard the names more and more, the names that helped me understood who my friends were, and who the people in their community were.
If this is true of people in a diner in the middle of Sterling, KS, then surely it is true of a family tree. I have talked to many of you about your family trees. Some of you have had seven generations of Fowler people here that have been born here and lived in the area. Some of you have relatives that were military commanders in the civil war. Some of you are children of Russian Jewish immigrants. Why are you interested in your history? Because it tells you a lot about who you are, where you have come from, what you are about.
And just like our web of relations and our family trees tell us something about us, Jesus' family tree tells us something about him and his mission. And Jesus' family tree is really more than just a bunch of names. Because of his bloodlines, and because of who he is as the personification of all the hope and dreams of Israel….because he is the King of Kings and the Messiah, his bloodlines in many ways is our spiritual family tree as well.
Now, if your family tree is like my family tree…well…there are some branches of the family tree that are something to be proud of, and there are some that are …well….a little more colorful. Jesus' family tree is like that. There are a little more colorful parts of his family tree as well.
One of the tell tale signs of where the unique stories are in Jesus' family tree is that there are certain parts of Jesus' family tree where the women are mentioned as well as the men. Let us look at those specific stories.
The first woman mentioned is Tamar. And actually one of her sons is mentioned who was not a part of Jesus' direct genealogy. Matthew Tamar had her children through Judah. It is an interesting story how Tamar had Judah's children, since Judah was Tamar's father in law. You see Tamar married Judah's eldest son. His eldest son died. Because his eldest son died, the custom was to make the next youngest brother marry the same wife, and father at least one son as the dead son's heir. Well, the middle brother did not like this arrangement and refused to impregnate Tamar. God allowed him to die as well. Judah, thinking Tamar was jinxed, sent her back home to her birth family. Tamar was shamed by Judah and his family in front of the whole world. She came up with a plan. So she decided when she knew Judah was coming through town that she would disguise herself, and present herself as a prostitute along the road. Judah came through and solicited Tamar as a prostitute. Tamar got pregnant and gave birth to twins. Those twins are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, and one is in his direct bloodlines. There is a prostitute in Jesus' family tree. What's more, Jesus is here on earth as a direct result of this immoral event.
After Tamar we meet a woman named Rahab. Rahab was from Jericho, and she was known as a prostitute as well. When God told the Israelites to enter the land after having them wander in the wilderness for 40 years, He led spies to Rahab. Rahab gave shelter to God's people, and made an alliance with them that allowed her family to be saved, even though they destroyed the rest of the community in Jericho, they saved Rahab. Rahab became a part of God's people, even though she was of another race and a prostitute. She committed treason against her own people to side with God's people. This woman, who was a prostitute and a heroine at the same time, is a part of Jesus family tree. The Israelite people were dependent on her to begin their entrance in the promised land. They could not have entered the land without this woman of poor reputation. This woman, with a colorful past, is also a part of the direct lineage of Jesus.
The next woman mentioned in Ruth. Many of you are familiar with her story. She cared for a mother-in –law she had no obligation to stay with. She moved with her mother-in-law back to her homeland of Israel, and helped her mother in law support herself. Eventually, Ruth marries a man named Boaz, and gets grafted into Jesus' family tree. The interesting thing about Ruth is that she was not an Israelite, she was a Moabite. She was a foreigner. A person of a different ethnic background. A different race. A person who at one time had worshipped other gods. There was an outsider in Jesus' family tree. Scandalous.
The woman we meet after Ruth is so scandalous she is not mentioned by name. She is simply mentioned as the wife of David and the mother of Solomon. The next woman that is mentioned in Bathsheba. Bathsheba, was married to a man named Uriah in her first marriage. At one point, David lusted after Bathsheba, coerced her into coming into his home and having sex with him. She got pregnant with David's baby. So, King David had her husband Uriah killed, and then married Bathsheba. Bathsheba miscarried. Later she gave birth to King Solomon. Who is in Jesus' family tree. Jesus has a murderer and an adulterer in his family tree. His birth is the direct result of this immoral relationship that spawned this murder of Solomon's mother's first husband.
Then there is Mary. Who is the faithful servant of God, and the mother of Jesus. Not much to say there, except for she was a teen mother without a biological father in the picture. A poor girl from the outskirts of the nation of Israel.
What are we to make of all of this? Of all these whores, adulterers, and foreigners in the bloodline of the Messiah..the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?
Last week we discussed how Jesus is our deliverer. This week I want us to take us the next step.
Not only does Jesus deliver us from our sin, he takes all of our mistakes, sins, peculiarities, and failures and makes them a part of a story of his love and his grace.
God does not simply forgive us our sin. He is much more powerful and amazing than that. God takes our sin-sodden lives, and transforms them into monuments of His grace and His love. Often using those very points of brokenness, failure and sin as centerpieces of his power and strength to heal, transform, and redeem.
Pastor Fred Allen, who was here as Pastor from 2000 to 2006, wasn't a Pastor for his entire life. He did other things for years. Actually, for many years he was an alcoholic. Or to be more direct and less politically correct, a drunk. Then, in an encounter with Jesus, he told the Lord that if God would help him quit drinking, because he believed he was powerless to do it otherwise, that God would deliver him from his battle with alcohol. Miraculously, God healed him. And Pastor Fred became a pastor.
And a lot of the power of Pastor Fred's ministry with you, as well as with many others, was as Velma says, "Because of the power of his testimony". You see, God was able to deliver Pastor Fred. He was able to do more than that. He was able take the tragedy of his sins, and transform them from tragedy to testimony.
Testimony to God's power to take our sin and shame, even our worst moments and biggest secrets, and make them a part of HIS STORY OF LOVE and GRACE.
As we come to the table this morning, we come to remember Jesus. To remember Him and to proclaim him until he comes again.
We come to remember we need him. We need him like we need the bread we eat and the liquid we drink.
We come and remember that it is not only this table that is a signpost to God's grace. It is the lives of the people that partake of this bread and this fruit of the vine that are the signposts of God. And as we come, rededicating ourselves to follow Jesus, let us know that nothing we have done or will ever do is outside of the scope of his redemption—if we will surrender our lives to this One who has come to earth to make us whole. This Jesus.