If you were to shake your family tree, who would fall out? Chances are, there would be an assortment of characters, right? There might be the odd hero, the odd villain, but most would be average people. Matthew’s gospel starts with an account of Jesus’ family tree, and it is very similar to ours except for one thing. Shake his family tree and only villains fall out. There are no real heroes!
A look through Genesis will prove that. Abraham is a model of faith. It was to him that the grand promises from God to his people that echo throughout history are first made. He trusted in God for those promises. Sometimes. Much of the time his life displays a series of choices that show a distinct lack of faith. As the promises still ring in his ears, he lies about the nature of his relationship with Sarah out of fear that the Egyptians “will kill me” (Gen 12.12). His eyes fall from God’s promises that he will be a father of a multitude to a deep fear that he will be killed well before that happens. Twice Abraham uses deceit out of fear that God won’t come good with his promise. His wife Sarah is hardly a heroic example of the faithful woman of God. She also disbelieves God’s promise, laughing openly at it. It is Sarah’s idea to offer Abraham her servant to sleep with because she doesn’t believe God can give her conception in her old age.
And the line of ordinary, flawed individuals continues in Isaac. Not much is said about Isaac, because he seems a totally unremarkable character. However we do know enough about him to see that his Father’s lack of faith is mirrored in him, almost identically when he lies about the nature of his relationship with Abimelech (Gen 26.7).
Jacob is most well known for his deceitful nature first with his brother Esau and Father Jacob, but also in with his equally cunning Uncle Laban. He gives birth to a bunch of sons who continue the horror run, including Simeon and Levi who commit mass murder (Gen 34.25).
In fact, of all the main characters in Genesis, Joseph is the only one who comes out looking decent. In fact, Joseph looks pretty incredible. But then, Joseph isn’t in the family tree - his big brother Judah is. Judah is the guy who sold Joseph into slavery. Judah is the guy who slept with his daughter in law thinking she was a prostitute.
Thus starts the family tree of Jesus, and it continues in that vain throughout. The thing that struck me while looking through that line in Matthew is how amazing it is that God chose such rabble to bring about the birth of Jesus. We have a saying - you can’t choose family. But God did. He specifically chose an unlikely bunch like that. And he continues to choose his relatives amongst foolish individuals like us. “but god chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”.
Two things jump out at me about this. Firstly, God doesn’t change. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New. He has operated in grace throughout history, just as humans have operated in sin. Secondly, we must humble ourselves. Christianity isn’t the strong and wise who have chosen God, but the weak and foolish who have been chosen by him. Praise him!