This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: … Judah was the father of Perez … (whose mother was Tamar). Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth) … David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah) … Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.—Matthew 1:1-16
Genealogies played an important role for the Jewish people, just like they do for many people today. They tell us where and who we came from. Through the stories they tell, they preserve a record of our families’ values from generation to generation. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus carried precious memories of his family. As children of Abraham, God’s envoy, the family of Jesus remembered they carried the destiny to bless all other families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). Like all the Jewish people, they confessed that their patriarch Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live as a foreigner in Egypt (Deuteronomy 26:5). As descendants of immigrants, the family of Jesus loved foreigners. The fact that four of the five women mentioned in this genealogy married foreigners—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, y Bathsheba—proves their affection for them.
Another look at the women in this list reveals that they all suffered from a bad reputation. The Canaanite Tamar had to prostitute herself to Judah in order to get what he owed her. Rahab, also a Canaanite, left a life of prostitution to join the people of God. Ruth, the Moabitess, offered herself to Boaz in a risqué story that could have ended in disaster. The tragedy of Uriah the Hittite still casts a shadow on the character of his wife Bathsheba. Mary became pregnant in conditions that appeared shameful before her society. One thing remains undeniable: despite their apparent errors, the family of Jesus—an immigrant family preserved by the grace of God—loved these women and remembered them in honor.
Immigration tends to wipe away the memory of previous generations, although some descendants of immigrants make an effort to recoup their lineage through genealogical research. People want to know who and where they came from and what values their ancestors held dear. The constant migration of the Jewish people throughout history has resulted in the reality that no family today can prove its membership in the family of David, even though it is mathematically probable that all Jews carry at least a few lines of his genetic code. Spiritually, all Christians are children of Abraham and members of the Family of Christ. Among our family values we still hold dear the love of foreigners and the priority of grace, which has rescued us all from our imperfect reputations.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry. All Rights Reserved. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He is the author of The New Pilgrims: How Immigrants are Renewing America’s Faith (forthcoming in August 2015, Worthy Publishing). Follow him on Twitter @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.