If you chose to read Matthew 1 this morning to commemorate the birth of Jesus, you may have skipped the first section. It’s a record of his genealogy from Abraham through Joseph and Mary—not quite the most interesting read for a Christmas morning. Or is it? After reading through this list several times, you’ll notice something different about it. Matthew emphasizes the names of five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Each of these women was an unlikely candidate to be remembered in the line of the promised Messiah.
Tamar was a young widow who pretended to be a prostitute so that she could become pregnant by her father-in-law. Rahab was the Canaanite prostitute from Jericho who rescued the spies during Joshua’s Conquest. Ruth was a Moabite widow who married an Israelite. Bathsheba bathed on a rooftop and later committed adultery with a king. Mary was suspected of having an illegitimate child. Why would the gospel writer emphasize the names of these women with such difficult backgrounds?
If you read through the four gospels it is clear that many were looking for a perfect Messiah with no baggage to embarrass them. Perhaps this explains Matthew’s emphasis of these imperfect women from the past. It is easy for us to “forget” our past and just how sinful we are. The truth is that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” None of us can claim to be perfect in God’s eyes.
Many people refused to believe that the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary causing her to conceive the Son of God. To most, Jesus was an illegitimate child who didn’t deserve to be heard. This inaccurate reputation was undeserved for the God who willingly became man. But it does underscore his humility in becoming one of us. During his life he was the “friend of sinners” spending time with the outcasts and loving sinners despite their past. How wonderful to think that Jesus knew our sinfulness and still was willing to give his sinless life for us!
Consider also that God included the names of these five women despite their “suspect” character. If you had the ability to plan out the ancestry of the Messiah, would you have included the likes of Tamar and Rahab? Probably not! But God is gracious and chose to work in the lives of these people. She later confessed her faith in God, underscoring God’s ability to change even the worst of sinners. Remember the words of Paul, “and such were some of you” and praise God for his love for sinful people like yourself.
In reality, all of us come from an imperfect line of sinners and have no ability to be good in God’s eyes. Thankfully, God knew that and still loved us.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:6-8
How wonderful it is to remember God’s love for sinful you and me! And it is available for all who repent and believe the good news. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, lived a perfect life, died for sinful man, and rose victoriously from death on the third day. All this he did for us, people who didn’t deserve his love. Now all those who repent of their sin and believe Jesus find the forgiveness and cleansing that only he can give. I’m happy to say that I have joined the unlikely list of those who have turned to Jesus. And I hope that each of my friends can understand just how much Jesus has accomplished for all who believe on this Christmas day.