Genealogy of Our Savior

Matthew 1: 1-17
Gn 49:2.8-10 / Ps 72

Of her was born Jesus, Who is called the Messiah.
(Matthew 1:17)

Forty-two generations are but
A short span to the Maker of time.
And although sinful scions begot
The God-man, ‘twas part of His design.

In today’s Gospel of Matthew, he outlines the genealogy of our Lord, Jesus Christ in the lineage of King David, starting from Abraham down to His father Joseph, the husband of Mary. The Gospel writer divides this genealogy of forty-two generations into three spans: from Abraham to David, from David to the exile in Babylon, and from the exile to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. (Read Matthew 1:1-17)

Reflection

In writing the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew wanted to prove to the Jews that Jesus was truly the Messiah, and the descendant of King David (Isa 11:1-2). For the Jews, genealogies were important, to trace one’s lineage as well as tribal affiliation. In this way, Matthew was able to show the genuine “royal pedigree” of the Messiah. But it must have been a long and tedious effort for St. Matthew to trace the lineage of our Lord. Why did he go to so much trouble? One reason perhaps was because Matthew wanted to show that time was of no consequence to the Maker of time. Jesus had already existed as far back as the time of Abraham (“Before Abraham was, I am” – John 8:58). God had made a covenant with Abraham and the fulfillment of that promise would come in God’s good time. There is something profound in the way God made 42 lifetimes elapse before the realization of His divine plans. In the context of God’s infinite nature, generations of man’s earthly history are but a few days. God wants us to understand that this single lifetime is but a very short passage that we shouldn’t take too seriously—including the things here that we treasure. Instead, we must always keep our focus on the eternal. Time is gold? Only when spent with God.

It is also strange to note that along the genealogical tree, Matthew included the names of four controversial women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. And even stranger still, after naming forty generations of fathers, Matthew ends his genealogy with a mother, the Virgin Mary. “Of her was born Jesus, called the Messiah.” (1:17)

Who was Tamar? We encounter her in the book of Genesis ch.38. She was the daughter-in-law of Judah, one of Jacob’s children. She was given in marriage to two of Judah’s sons, Er and Onan, who both died because they offended Yahweh. As Judah was afraid that his third son might befall the same fate, he did not allow him to marry Tamar. Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah, her father-in-law in order to have an heir by him. She bore the twins Perez and Zerah.

“Salmon begot Boaz, whose mother was Rahab…” (1:5). In the book of Joshua (ch.2), we meet Rahab, a prostitute in Jericho. As a Canaanite, she was considered unclean, an outcast. In order to save herself and her family from the invading armies of Israel, she made a treasonous pact with the spies of Joshua, whom she hid in her house in Jericho. And yet this prostitute bore Boaz, who was a God-fearing man. Boaz married Ruth, who was another Gentile from the tribe of Moab. Although Ruth was known for her fidelity, piety and moral integrity, (Book of Ruth), nonetheless, she was a Moabite, the descendants of the incestuous relationship of Lot with his daughters. “The elder daughter bore a son, who was named Moab” (Gen. 19:37). Finally, who doesn’t know Bathsheba, the beautiful wife of Uriah, one of the generals of King David? He lusted for her when he spotted her bathing from his rooftop, and because of her, King David committed two great sins of murder and covetousness. He caused the death of her husband in order to have her. From her came the great and wise King Solomon, who, in spite of his great wisdom also fell from God’s favor.

So the Messiah was descended from two prostitutes, one from a tribe produced from incest, and from an adulteress. What does this tell us? Simply this: that Jesus Christ, the King of kings in heaven and on earth, was truly human, and the friend of sinners. He Himself said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt.9:13). And being also sinless, He was born of a sinless Mother, by the grace of God, His Father.

Thank You, Father God, for giving us Mary, the sinless Mother of Your Son, to be our Mother. May our generations be blessed through her loving intercession. Amen.

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